Treat yourself to renewal and writing this June at the Strawberry Creek Lodge at the WGA’s 2012 Spring Strawberry Creek Retreat! This self-guided retreat is open to participants at any stage of their writing career.

Strawberry Creek Lodge is a spacious log building on the edge of a tranquil valley, about a half hour’s drive west of Leduc. A map will be provided on registration. For more information about the Strawberry Creek Lodge, visit www.strawberrycreeklodge.com.

The retreat includes four nights’ accommodation in your own room (with a desk) and all meals from Wednesday supper through Sunday lunch.

The retreat begins Wednesday, June 19. Check in anytime after 3:00 PM. Supper is served at 6:00 PM. Try to arrive in time for supper—it’s worth it! The retreat wraps up after lunch on Sunday, June 23.

Because of the unique nature of Strawberry Creek Lodge, not all rooms are the same. Rooms are assigned through a draw on the first day of the retreat. The WGA does not guarantee room selection.


$495 for WGA members

$565 for non-members (includes one-year WGA membership)

Maximum 11 spots available. Register early to avoid disappointment!

Download the Registration Form

To register with VISA or MasterCard, phone 780.422.8174 or 1.800.665.5354 (toll-free in Alberta)—or fax the registration form to 780.422.2663 (attn: WGA). Please do not fax credit card numbers.

You may also mail the registration form and cheque to:

Writers’ Guild of Alberta

11759 Groat Road

Edmonton, AB  T5M 3K6.

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations make prior to and on May 19, 2013 will merit a full refund less a $50 administration fee. Refund requests made after May 19, 2013 will be considered on a case-by-case basis and are not guaranteed. Refund requests must be made in writing to the Writers’ Guild of Alberta.

For more information, please contact the WGA at mail@writersguild.ab.ca.

Call for Submissions – Writer in Exile

Sorry folks, just heard about this: http://www.epl.ca/writer-in-exile

The Edmonton Writer-in-Exile program is seeking applications by culturally diverse writers for its 2013-14 Borderlines Writers Circle.

Selected candidates will work in a small group environment on custom-designed activities aimed at advancing their writing career and increasing their connection with the local community. The writers will also be featured in public performances throughout the year, as well as be matched with professional writers for mentoring and one-on-one support.

The program will run from June 2013 to March 2014. Participation in the Borderlines Writers Circle is free of charge, and writers will be remunerated for public readings when possible.

To qualify for this project, candidates must meet the following criteria:

1. The writer comes from a culturally diverse background and is not yet established in Canada’s mainstream literary scene.

2. The writer has a working knowledge of English.

3. The writer is a Canadian citizen, refugee or landed immigrant, living in or around Edmonton, Alberta.

4. The writer is available to attend evening meetings/activities on a regular basis (average of two per month), and to present/perform at events a few times throughout the year.

Applications must be received by May 30, 2013, at 9 pm (please note that this is not a postmark deadline).

Interested writers should send a completed copy of the application form (available here) by email to writerinexile@epl.ca.

Online applications are preferred, but for those unable to apply online, paper applications can be returned to:

Rita Espeschit
Writer-in-Exile Program
Room 604, Stanley A. Milner Library
7 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 2V4

Performance Poetry

Write, rewrite, and learn new poetic techniques by sharing with others and learning from poetic examples provided. In addition to writing instruction and exercises, classes will help prepare you for a reading of your work. You will find simple and creative ways to improve or enhance your reading style.

WRIT 0245-W001  
Saturday, June 8
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Instructor: Mary Pinkoski
$154, noncredit

The Ins and Outs of Travel Writing: Popular Misconceptions

Photo from The Writing Bar

Among journalists and writers, travel writing is probably the most desired and enviable job.

It sounds too good to be true – you board a plane, stay in swanky hotels, eat fantastic food, dine with celebrity chefs, go for a round of golf, climb a mountain, see a Picasso – and, you get paid for it?

The truth, of course, is not so simple. How do you tell the story of a place with limited room? And how do you tell it like it’s never been told before? How do you capture the essence of place? How do you illustrate culture and discovery in words?

And who, really, picks up the bill?

What to take with you and what to leave behind are the least of a travel writers’ worries, but luckily you’ll have the chance to hear from two of Edmonton’s finest, Judy Schultz, author and former Edmonton Journal travel editor, and Curtis Gillespie, author and semi-regular contributor to enRoute and WestworldJoin them May 26th at Stanley Milner at 2:30 pm for my next installment of the Writers’ Corner — all about travel writing.

In the meantime, let’s dispel a few misconceptions.

The magazine/newspaper/publisher will pay for all my expenses. It depends on the publisher. Some have the budget and others can only give you an assignment if you’re already headed there on your own to accomplish your personal adventure on your own dime (they should still pay you for the story, of course). Sometimes they cover some expenses, like accommodations and travel, but not others, like food. Many times they allow a third party to pay for your expenses, such as a marketing company working on behalf of the city or province/state you’re visiting (which comes with a host of ethical questions we’ll answer at the Writers’ Corner).

Once I’m there, I get to do what I want and go where I please. Simply not true. Travel assignments are often tightly scheduled and many are done as press junkets with several writers travelling and touring together. The itinerary is firm and often homogeneous for all of them. This can make finding a unique angle for your story very tough, and not to mention become an impediment on your personal space.

I’m going to Vienna, so I’ll just write about it. What about Vienna, exactly? The architecture, the food, the art? If so, what architecture, what food, what art? Vienna is not the story. It’s the destination. No self-respecting editor sends a writer somewhere without so much as a focus, so know your story before you get there.

All you need is curiosity and writing experience to be a travel writer. It’s a good start, but you also need expertise. Editors must be confident that writers will come back with a story as authoritative as it is adventurous, so write about what you know. If you’re a camping aficionado, write about great camping spots. If you’re a foodie, write about the boldest chefs. If you love to fish, then fish and tell us about it.

I have to travel to be a travel writer. Actually, you don’t. A lot of publications in Canada and the world are waiting for you to write about adventures that readers can back in your backyard. If you can write about your own city well, then that broadens your chances of getting sent outside of it, so consider your home a great place to start!

For more tips on travel writing, read these articles I gathered:

  • The Guardian: Tips For Travel Writing – “If you fancy entering this year’s travel writing competition, launching tomorrow in Saturday’s Guardian – or just want to improve your work – check out these handy tips from the Guardian Travel team.”
  • Journeywoman: 10 Terrific Travel Writing Tips – “Lori Beattie is the director of Artistic Adventures a company dedicated to teaching the art of documenting travel. As one journey woman to another, she shares her travel writing know-how…”
  • The Writing Bar – “How I became a travel writer”
  • The Matador Network: “How to become a travel writer (seriously)”
  • You can also complete Matador U, a  popular online education program dedicated to travel journalism.

FREE Grant Writing Boot Camp Workshop

Whether you are an established or emerging writer, a writing grant can provide you with the support you need to get your project off the ground. Support is available for almost all tasks related to the writing life, including honing your craft, marketing your work and conducting research. At this workshop, you will learn about finding the right program to apply to, how to make useful and productive contact with the grantor as well as tips on developing a proposal and budget, and completing a final report. We guarantee you’ll leave this workshop with a clear understanding of the grant application process.
Hosted by representatives from the Edmonton Arts Council and Alberta Culture. This workshop is free and open to the public. To register http://grantwritingbootcampworkshop.eventbrite.ca/
Sunday, May 26, 2013, 2 PM– 4 PM
Grant MacEwan University
Robins Health Centre
Corner 109 Street and 104 Avenue
Room 9-103

Guest Post – Publicist Rachel Sentes

What the heck is publicity!

When someone asks me what a publicist does I think for a moment about my elevator speech. You know, that situation where you have 30 seconds to explain what you do before you get to the next floor.

In simplest terms I will reply “ I put people on T.V”  It’s short, it’s sweet and it’s essentially what I do.

These days it’s becoming easier and easier for writers to publish their work. On the positive side, it’s giving writers, who might never have had a shot in the traditional publishing realm to publish their work and release it to the public in under 6 months.

On the negative side is that in the rush to publish, authors are missing key components in the process of selling their books. And the result is that they are getting lost midst the millions of books released daily online and in the stores. So an author needs to be aware of all aspects of selling. It is a business.

There are 3 main aspects in the business of book promotion ( and they can overlap a little)

1) Marketing

2) Advertising

3) Publicity

1) Book marketing is generally defined as implementing and utilizing tactics to promote, sell, and distribute your book. This can involve using direct selling emails, newsletters, gathering endorsements, and testimonials, and utilizing social media postings (facebook and tweets). The emphasis is on finding lucrative sales funnels and channels using websites, retailers, online stores, and libraries. It is usually paired up with the word promotions.

2) Advertising (or a media buy)  is paying for a spot in print, on television or a radio spot, and can be delivered via direct mail or emails, as well as positioned online where results are measured by a specific call to action- something is redeemed or followed through to track results. Usually an advertisement sends the audience member to one sales funnel- perhaps a specific page on a website or to a sales page.

3) Publicity builds awareness of a product utilizing media. It builds name recognition and awareness about your product because media has the power to influence buying trends and spreads the word about an author or book. The tactics and strategies include creating and utilizing media kits, approaching press for reviews, creating personal pitches, news releases and direct calls to members of the media that can persuade audiences to check out your product. It is different than the term press relations ( and often confused with) which is managing an organization, stakeholders and employees to maintain a particular point of view about their product. So a publicist is not necessarily a PR (press relations) person. While they work with the press, it’s in a different capacity. It’s important to know the difference between the two.

What a publicist does.

Every publicist is going to have a different style of working with the press, but for the most part they will all approach the press via the writing of news releases, personal pitches, phone calls, and social media ( tweets/facebook) to gain interviews and reviews for their clients. In my case, because my background was book selling, I also offer tips for contacting retailers and distributors, and consult in the process of publishing, but it’s rare that you’ll see that with other publicists. The focus is strictly spending time in direct contact with reporters, producers, freelance writers, and bloggers. A publicist will contact the media, and if the result is favourable they will then set up a time for the interview with the client, send over a booking sheet, then a reminder of the date for the interview and then follow up after to garner clips of the interview ( gathering MP3’s for radio/print/articles etc). If they do a news release they will either distribute it via their own database of personal contacts, or utilize paid distribution services such as PR Web, or CNW group, depending on the scope of the project. They will spend a great deal of time reading requests from reporters for clients that fit their stories, reading the papers and online magazines for trends, and writing hooks and ledes that are going to capture the eye of the media. The average reporter/producer receives upwards of 300 news releases a day. A publicist’s job is to cut through those and make their client’s work stand out to get the booking.

Publicists write news angles that will pique the interest of the public and their strength is in understanding the nuances of selling the story behind the book. Not direct selling- that’s marketing and advertising. They are always looking for what the audience will want to know about.

So how do I find the right publicist?

The first step is to start researching freelancers, agencies, and firms online, and talking to other authors about their experiences. Forget about everything you read that tells you publicists only charge huge sums of money. Yes there are many that do, but there are all kinds of publicists out there, so do your due diligence and spend some time on this.  Publicists build their business on referrals, so feel free to check out their sites thoroughly, see what books the represent, and then send them some questions. For an example of questions you can visit this site: http://www.get-your-message-out.com/questions-for-book-publicists.html   or this one http://www.beneaththecover.com/2010/06/15/questions-to-ask-your-publicist/ . Put a list of questions together that you feel are relevant to your plan for your book.

It’s a good idea to request their rates to see if it will align with your budget, and if it does, set up a phone meeting to discuss it further. But remember that publicists are not going to give you free advice. They are happy to discuss the possibilities for your book, but they are experts in their field, and they need to get paid for that. Not every author or book will be a right fit for their style and process. So even if you want them to work with you, there is a chance that they pass on the project for whatever reason. Don’t take that personally, it’s simply because that publicist doesn’t feel they can reach your goals. And you want a publicist to be up front and honest. When looking for a publicist you want someone who is going to kick down the doors to the media, not quietly knock and slink away.

The best advice I can give to finding a publicist is to take your time, outline your goals and talk to them. You’ll know when you find someone that you relate well with who can get excited about your project.

And when you do, then it can be a long and fruitful arrangement.

Rachel-and-DogRachel Sentes is a professional writer and full-time publicist/CEO of gal-friday publicity, based in Vancouver, B.C. Her clients include actors, sports figures, publishers, top tier businesses and dog rescue associations. She specializes in building publicity platforms and garnering media bookings for authors,helping them negotiate their way through the ever-changing maze of the publishing world. Rachel has booked clients on CTV National, BNN, The Seattle Times, Global, Shaw, City TV, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, NewsTalk 1010, TSN, Bloomberg Radio and The Vancouver Sun, to name a few. Rachel helps authors who are planning to publish (or have just published), and need help with everything from deciding the right publishing path to e-book conversion, to ghostwriting and getting your book on store or virtual shelves. www.gal-fridaypublicity.com

Writing Friends to Meet!

Writing Friends meets the 2nd and 4th Thursday morning of each month at 10 AM – location: meetings will be held at the Strathcona County Library – 401 Festival Lane. Check with Karen for meeting and location details. *MEETING VENUE: BOOKED IN THE BIRCH ROOM*

The planned format will be to meet and then have a prompt or a mini-workshop item to start us off.  Then for the rest of the time we will write – something new, something previously started but not yet complete, something old that we want to revamp.  It will be companionably quiet.

For further information you can contact Karen at karen@lumevision.com

Guest Post – Lauren Nguyen

How do you know when to walk away from a writing project?

It’s natural to want to see something to the end. But sometimes an ending doesn’t emerge the way we’ve imagined it. Sometimes we have to learn when to throw in the proverbial towel and move on.

In my case, I had been ghost-writing as a style journalist for a fashion website for about 4 years. Landing the role was incredibly exciting, probably the closest I would ever get to being a part of the fashion industry. I was grateful for the chance to hone my writing skills in this dramatic context.

Time, however, has a funny way of eroding things. Each assignment began to feel like the last and adjectives were being reused. It felt like I was writing the same piece over and over again. The world of fashion eventually lost its dynamic allure for me.

It gradually felt like my post-secondary days, pulling all-nighters to finish essays at the last minute. My initial excitement was replaced by a sense of dread with yet another assignment and deadline. Balancing the role with a full-time job, there wasn’t much free time, although it was more about a lack of challenge and passion than stress. I wondered

“Why am I still doing this if I’m not fully enjoying it anymore?”

I knew then that it was time to move on. I feared the negative feelings which replaced my enthusiasm for fashion writing would spread to my love for writing overall. After all, writing should lift you up, not drag you down. Occasionally it sucks and causes us to question our own intelligence, but writing should ultimately bring us joy.

I also firmly believe that everything we do contributes to our individual growth. If the challenge is gone and you are no longer learning, it’s time to move on. Sometimes we need to walk away from a writing project to find another, one with new challenges and fresh opportunities. It’s not giving up, but rather taking the chance to find something new to develop our skills. And after that, the sky’s the limit.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERALauren Nguyen graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology. After writing as a style journalist for 4 years, she decided it was time to look for a new adventure. When not pursuing new interests or battling writer’s block, she works as an administrator in the energy sector. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Do you know a young storyteller?

The Edmonton Public Library, Edmonton Story Slam and I are collaborating on a fun storytelling event for teens on May 18 and 19, and I could use your help.

I am looking for young storytellers with a healthy sense of sportsmanship and enough confidence to speak in front of an audience in the name of Story Slam.

Story Slam, for those who don’t know, is a monthly event where people tell a compelling story before an audience and judges, and the person with the best tale under five minutes wins.

Edmonton Story Slam has been a staple of the local arts scene since 2008 but it’s never before been opened to youth. This special collaboration marks the first time teens have had the stage to tell the stories that matter to them.

In this two-day free event, I – the 2013 Story Slam champion — will teach them the craft and invite them back the next day for a public presentation of their stories and cash prizes. What’s great about story slam is that it’s all oral, so even if readers aren’t confident in their writing and reading, they can still dominate the stage with an engaging story.

Please encourage the young people you know – sons, daughters, cousins, neighbours, clients — to come to this event at the Strathcona branch (8331 – 104 St., 780-496-1828), held over May 18th (workshop) and 19th (public presentations). It is free, fun and, as I mentioned, there will be prizes.

And, please come out to the public presentation on May 19th.

If you have any questions or want to send my contact to someone who might participate, my email is omouallem@epl.ca and phone number 780-496-5999. Or, just forward this link: http://metrowir.com/2013/04/22/youth-story-slam/