Writing Life: Annual Conference Trip Report OWC 2014

Each year, in early May, I attend the Ontario Writers’ Conference (OWC). An annual weekend of camaraderie among fellow writers, where we talk, eat and commiserate. At the venue, people I see only once a year, from Durham region, Toronto, Cambridge and Owen Sound, arrive and greet one another with hugs.

That May weekend, we arrived in Ajax as a small Ottawa contingent (we’re known as “The Ottawa Contingent”) of three: me, Kelly and Jeff.

My personal highlights included:

Wayson Choy, as always. He’s the conference’s honorary patron and attends every year, always delivering a stirring speech, and sometimes teaching a workshop or master class. This year it was a master class about daring to write your personal truth. He told those us who were privileged enough to be in attendance that truth is not fact but, instead, is a matter of perception.


The Master Class learns from the master, Wayson Choy.

“If I tell you my truth, you will add yours. You cannot help it.” ~ Wayson Choy

I was looking forward to, again, driving Wayson on Saturday morning from the hotel to the conference venue. This would be my third year and I value the one-on-one time with the master. That morning, however, when I asked him if I was driving him, he was unsure. He thought perhaps another person was picking him up. I told him I’d wait around for a few minutes and if no one came to get him, he could drive there with us, the Ottawa contingent. He agreed.

Ten minutes later, another woman who was attending the conference and staying in our hotel came through the lobby, spoke to Wayson, and off he went with her. “Hey, I said to my companions while he and the woman drove off, that’s my Wayson. That bitch stole my Wayson!” Ah, well, you snooze, you lose, I suppose. There’s always next year. To be fair, I later attended a workshop with the woman who stole my Wayson and she was not, in fact, a bitch.

No matter. There were people to meet, books to buy and workshops to attend.

Allyson Latta spoke about finding the courage to share your personal story. She also had some great tips for editing our work. I wish we’d had more time to absorb her wisdom.

Aside from emcee Dorothea Helms, aka The Writing Fairy (who did a fabulous job), my favourite lunch speaker was Andrew Pyper. We’d met recently at an event at the Rideau Street Chapters in Ottawa and I read his latest novel, The Demonologist. Now I’d become all fan-girl and I bought The Guardians and got him to sign it. Also, if you’ve never heard Andrew speak, know this: he’s gut-bustingly funnier than you’d expect a horror writer to be.

Back in December, when I was selecting my workshops, I realized I had a difficult choice to make, which happens when several workshops run concurrently. My good friend Allison Baggio was giving a talk about overcoming insecurities at the same time as Sam Hiyate, the literary agent, was scheduled to speak about writers, agents and the shifting landscape. Dang it! I’m horribly insecure, but I also don’t have an agent and I really want one (any agents reading this, I’m available). And tips about how to approach agents in the digital age are more than welcome. Sadly, I chose to miss Allison’s talk, although I heard it was awesome. Oh, and buy Allison’s books.

Priscila Uppal spoke about how to turn your obsessions into books. She talked about some of the things she’s obsessed with and how those translated into her work. She read excerpts from her published poetry, novel and memoir (impressive? yes!). I’m looking forward to reading her memoir, which sounds fascinating. And I learned that poetry does not, in fact, have to rhyme. Who knew (eh, Kevin)?!

The closing speaker was novelist Terry Fallis. If you plan to hear this man speak and you experience bladder leakage from sudden bursts of laughter, wear your Depends.

And then I won a raffle prize and another thing, which put a smile on my face!

As always, OWC 2014 was a joy. The organizers seem to get it running more smoothly every year and I can hardly wait for OWC 2015. Thank you, all!!

And now, here are some bad selfies:

MeandAllison MeandJeff MeandKelly MeandLori MeandME


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