Tag Archives: writing groups

Writers and a Writing Community

Writing, for the most part, is a lonely and often frustrating business. So it’s a good idea to surround yourself with like-minded people who will support you during the low times, critique your work honestly, help you to promote your work once it’s published, and just offer a sense of camaraderie to buoy you up during the dark bits. And, let’s face it, to hit you smack between the eyes with the truth about your writing when that’s what is really needed. So, whether it be live-and-in-person, through a professional association, a writing or critique group, conferences and retreats, a coffee klatch, or even online through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., it’s always a good idea to surround yourself with a support group – and to offer support to those people right back! Here are a few articles I’ve collected to show why building and being part of a writing community is always a good idea.

From Writer Unboxed: Good Company by Barbara O’Neil

From Talking Writing: Self-Doubt: The Worst Distraction for Writers by Tarn Wilson (Talk with other writers about this and you will find that you are not the only one who has suffered from self-doubt.)

From Rachelle Gardner: Living in Paradox

From HuffPost Books: Success in Writing: How To Win the Game by Writers’ Relief Staff

From terribleminds: An Email About Writing And My Response and a response to the response from SFEditor.ca: Advice to Redacted (This is why it’s good to have a community that discusses all the possibilities, because there’s not always one true answer.)

(This post is dedicated to my own valued writing community. Too many of you to name – you know who you are!)

What about you? Are you part of a community and have you found that it’s helped you become a better writer? Please comment below and describe your own community.

Clearwater by Kim McCullough – an accomplished debut novel!

Kim McCullough has published her first novel, Clearwater, with Coteau Books of Regina!


I met Kim a number of years ago at the first Fernie Writers’ Conference I attended and we have been friends since that time. I have read pieces of this novel while it was still a work in progress and have heard Kim read from it on a couple of occasions, so I have followed her progress with great anticipation – not only her progress with completing the novel but in finding a home, a publisher, who would be most suitable and do a good job of publishing Clearwater. I had the great pleasure of reading this as an eBook recently and can’t wait to get my hands on the final printed copy.

Kim has already received a glowing advance review and Joseph Boyden has said of McCullough and Clearwater: “McCullough’s an emerging writer Canadians should be keeping an eye on” and “such clarity and grace that the reader doesn’t so much enter these familiar yet foreign worlds as slips into them.”

Calgary and Regina readers are fortunate! Clearwater will be launched in both cities over the next couple of weeks.

Calgary Launch – Tues. Oct. 8 at Shelf Life Books

Regina Launch – Oct. 17 at The Artful Dodger

Attend if you can and help Kim celebrate the publication of her new novel. More importantly, buy a copy (or borrow it from the library) and read Clearwater. I highly recommend it!

I will be there in spirit, Kim! Best of luck with this book!

From the archives – I met my best friend for the first time … – Feb. 9, 2010

This is a repost from 2010. I’m posting it now, because I’ve noticed that, after “pizza ovens,” “meeting my best friend for the first time” is the second-most popular phrase entered as a subject into search engines that brings readers to my blog. Curious, I thought. Then I checked the stats and this post has garnered 816 views since it was first published on Feb. 9, 2010. There must be a lot of other people out there who are meeting their best friends for the first time!

Monday was a very good day – an historic day, I should add. In the same way as the meeting between Livingstone and Stanley, Lennon and McCartney, Lewis and Clark – okay, maybe I’m stretching this a bit here, but bear with me… For me, this was definitely a significant turning point in my life, to finally meet, in person, the person I’ve long considered my best email writing friend, but had never had the opportunity to actually meet.

Darcie Hossack and I “met” online for the first time on the Humber student discussion board. Those early exchanges involved talking about food, specifically white chocolate and berry scones and an exchange of recipes, if I remember correctly, Firefly – oh, yes, and writing, too. We quickly realized that while we come from different backgrounds, are separated in age by a couple of decades and (at that time) several thousand miles physically – not to mention that Darcie’s writing is leaps-and-bounds more accomplished than mine, we definitely clicked, and became fast friends all those years ago. During the past four years (now seven!!), we’ve offered each other advice, editing, encouragement, connections, and confidence that what we write, and the way we’re writing it, is not only good, but will eventually be published. I’m so proud that Darcie is first this fall with a collection of short stories, Mennonites Don’t Dance, to be published by Thistledown. **Update – Here’s Darcie’s book on a playdate with mine, which I have since published, as well!


And read this terrific review by Jim Bartley Of MDD that appeared in The Globe & Mail.

But we’ve also been collaborating all this time on another idea. I don’t think it’s stretching things too much to say that we complement each other. And that’s what best friends should do, right?

So meeting Darcie, finally, yesterday, was just a matter of putting a physical presence to someone I felt I have really known all along. And now I have the added bonus of being able to hear her voice when I read emails she writes to me. She’s no longer my imaginary friend. But she is still my best writing friend!

Thanks, Darcie!

An un-interview between two authors

During 2006, I was enrolled in the Humber School of Creative Writing online program. The very best part of the eight months was that we were given access to the school’s student discussion board, and had the opportunity to “meet” and chat with our fellow classmates who were situated across Canada, with one – me – living in the Caribbean. Many of us were quite vocal on that board, in the days before Facebook and other social networking sites, and we discussed all manner of ideas and concerns, and sometimes even talked about our writing. By Sept. when the program came to an end, a group of us (and we were all women – there were a few men in the class but most chose not to take part in our online discussions, but that’s another story) decided to organize an email group, and we’ve remained in contact ever since. We’ve lost a few people along the way, and picked up some other emerging writers and one bookseller friend, but that core group has remained the same since 2006. We decided early on that we would not critique each others’ work, although some have offered to help privately with editing, etc. Mainly what we do is exchange information on writing and publishing, share advice and informative articles, and provide the best support system an emerging writer could ever want to have. These women are always there to cheer, to fume, to laugh, cry and commisserate, to suggest, and to help.

It was believed at the time that Darcie Hossack would be the first of our group to actually publish a book. This has turned out to be the case, and Mennonites Don’t Dance will be published in mid-Sept. But hot on her heels is Teri Vlassopoulos with her new book, Bats or Swallows, and Other Stories from Invisible Publishing, being released a month later. The two women sorted out time zone differences (something we’ve all become accustomed to over the years, although Darcie has always been last to arrive at every online party, living in BC and an hour behind Calgary), and managed to have a conversation in which they sort of interview each other. Read the entire un-interview, as they call it, either at Teri’s blog or Darcie’s.

Terrific job, you two! And a hearty congratulations on the two new books – ya done the group proud!

My day with writing pals…

I was the self-designated photog of that auspicious day when Dacie and Vicky and other writing pals and I all met, so here is the photo essay of My Day With Writing Pals – a day filled with much coffee, chocolate and laughter.

Darcie & Daphne

First I drove to the Starbucks at Crossiron Mills to pick up Darcie, who I had never met before in person. Then we met with Darcie’s sister so that the two could say goodbye.

Darcie & Vicky

From there, Darcie and I drove to the airport to pick up Vicky. Darcie was Vicky’s big surprise. Her flight was early giving us time to kill before our lunch date, so I took them to Inglewood

for coffee at Caffe Rosso…

where we had perfect lattes.

I didn’t tell my friends where I was taking them next, so they were totally bowled over by Choklat on 9th Ave. S.E., and we all got right into it, ordering and eating the very special chocolate prepared and sold in this shop.

one even draping herself across a stack of sacks filled with cocoa beans

All of this frivolity made us a bit late for our lunch date at the original Good Earth Cafe on 11th St. S.W.

where we met Betty Jane, Judy, and Athene.

Betty Jane, Darcie, Judy, Athene, Vicky

After lunch, the plan was to drive Vicky up to Banff where she was going to be doing a writing retreat for two weeks. We still had time, though, so I took them to Pages on Kensington for a quick visit. Then we hit the road, with a stop along the way in Canmore at Beamers, another great coffee shop…

and where I had made arrangements for Hazel Hutchins to join us!

I think we were all downright giddy at this point, but I agreed to allow Hazel to take a picture of the three, by now, old and familiar friends, as long as we had a mountain backdrop…

We said goodbye to Hazel and drove off to Banff so that Vicky could check-in at the Centre. The last person we were scheduled to meet was Susan Calder who greeted us at reception.

Darcie and I had to hit the road immediately after that in order to get her back to the airport in time for her early evening flight. We drove through a very surreal fog along the way, but managed to keep talking right up until we waved goodbye to each other at the terminal. The only coffee shop we didn’t manage to visit that day was the Wild Flour in Banff where we had hoped to see one of the authors registered in the Coffee Shop Author contest. So, a week later, I drove up to Banff again, this time with Kim, and we went out for lunch with Vicky at the cafe.

And that was that! A whirlwind day in Feb. when I not only met my best friend, but was also able to introduce her to many more best friends!

Writers, writers are the best!

I am fortunate to belong to a great community of writers that has its roots in the Humber School of Creative Writing, on the student website where we all chattered throughout those 8 months in 2006. A group of us decided to continue email contact, rather than suffer the serious consequences of withdrawal, and the main part of that group has stuck together ever since. Along the way, we have picked up various other interested, and emerging, writers I’ve met through courses I took in the Ryerson Publishing Programme and Creative Writing Dept., through my membership in Mystery Ink, last summer’s Fernie Writers’ Conference, and my long-time friendship with a Calgary bookseller (the lone non-writer amongst us, but in my opinion, the best bookseller in the world!). As a group, we all generally share information, discuss ideas, and help each other with our careers as writers. But the best part of all is that we each have this great squad of cheerleaders, congratulating, encouraging and supporting us every step of the way. No one could ask for a better group of women in this journey through life. And yet many of us have only ever met in cyber-space.

Take Darcie Hossack, ferinstance… An excellent writer whose first exchange with me on Humber’s student web-board concerned food, and not our writing at all. Ever since, we’ve exchanged emails regularly, sometimes 5-6 times a day, and yet we have never set eyes on each other, in the flesh, and have spoken on the phone less than a dozen times in all these years. Yet we might as well be living right next door to each other. When we finally do meet, we believe that historic occasion will provide us with a fitting conclusion to the cookbook on which we’re collaborating. In the meantime, though, Darcie did exactly what we all expected she would do – in being the first of our group to land a book contract! Now she’s blogging about the experience of having her first book published. Check that out here, and make sure to read her post of Jan. 5th about her experience of belonging to this writing group.

As well, other members of our group, Teri and Lisa, have also recently been contracted, or contacted by an editor, to publish books in 2010. They too have begun posting to their blogs about this experience. Vicky is finishing her thesis in the UBC MFA programme this spring, and I have no doubt that she will soon be following the others’ lead in having her novel picked up for publication. She “promises” us that she’ll be updating her blog on a regular basis… soon. (Get with it, Miss Vicksters!!)

It will be very interesting to follow these four women as they head towards the finish line that the rest of us are still dreaming of for our own writing – publication. You go, Writers! Congratulations to all!