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Learning from the experts

I just got back from the best learning experience I’ve ever had. This weekend my friend Amanda and I hopped on a bus to Kingston to visit the city’s annual Writersfest, which hosted such big authors as Cordelia Strube and Joyce Carol Oates. Since my friend and I both love to write and hope to be published someday, we eagerly gobbled up every piece of writing advice shared to us from those who have gone before us and made their dreams come true.

Our first workshop was with Cordelia Strube, the author of several books including Lemon and Blind Night. Her novels explore the very real difficulties we experience while lacing each line with humour. Her characters’ outlooks on life are often transformed once they confront their problems and come out stronger in the end. Cordelia Strube taught us about going into your writing with no high expectations. Every writer’s first drafts are really crappy and sometimes writing what you think is garbage leads you to writing something you love. For example, when you are beginning to write a story or start a new journal page, don’t worry if what you write doesn’t make sense.  Just get all of your ideas out on paper and let your thoughts flow freely. You can edit your work later on, if you choose to. And in journal entries, there is no need to edit, ever! Everything you journal about is an honest description of how you feel in the moment. We aren’t perfect so our journal writing especially does not have to be perfect.

Other workshops and readings my friend and I attended included an interview of author Joyce Carol Oates by author Jane Urquhart, poetry readings by today’s hottest spoken word performers, and a workshop on how to incorporate your own life experiences into writing fiction. Hearing Joyce Carol Oates speak was my favourite. Her writing is known for tackling the hardest topics, such as death and sexual abuse, and helping the reader understand how they would feel in such a situation themselves. She’s written over 50 novels! I highly recommend checking her work out. The spoken word performers at Writersfest incorporated music and movement into their poetry pieces and spoke about how poetry has evolved over the past few decades. Do a search for “spoken word poetry” on YouTube and check out just how many great writers there are out there. Later on, author Michael Winter held a workshop where he talked about his learning experiences in turning real life stories into fictional writing. We all have so many stories from our own lives and writing them down can honour what we’ve been through.

I left the Kingston with armloads of signed books and a notebook full of ideas. Those three days at Writersfest were more inspiring than any writing class I’ve taken through school – real life experience can teach us so much! I am so glad I searched online for writer events in my area. What are you passionate about? Seek them out! There’s nothing more motivational than realizing that those idols we hold in our minds are actually real people and started just like us, amateur and overwhelmed. Looking at the writers before me over the past few days showed me just how possible it is to make my dreams come true, one day at a time.