A couple of months back, UK-based CWC treasurer, Elizabeth Ducie, spent a week in Toronto. It was a working holiday with a fair mix of writerly activities and more leisurely pastimes as well. In this week’s blog post, she tells us something about the work-related aspects of the trip.
“The purpose of the trip was primarily to accompany my husband as he was attending a conference. This meant I had to occupy myself during the day, but be able to ‘switch off’ in the evening. Via some casual internet searching, I came across the Toronto Public Library system and the wonderful programme of events it supports. Most days there are writers’ groups running in at least one branch. They all said “no need to book; just drop in”, so I decided to take them at their word. And I found two delightful, and very different, groups as a result; both of whom welcomed me with open arms.
Scarborough Seniors grew out of a writing course for the over-55s which ran a few years ago. When it was finished, several of the writers decided they wanted to continue meeting and writing together. Although there were a couple of published authors, most of the members were writing for their own pleasure. During a busy couple of hours, we wrote to four separate triggers given to us by the day’s leader (this role rotates each week). We read each piece out and there was an element of critiquing. Many of the pieces also generated memories and more general discussion. It was a most relaxing afternoon.
High Park writing group contained a much wider mix of ages and all were aspiring to be published authors. Each writer brought with them a piece they had worked on at home. Several were working on novels and the group had obviously been with them along the journey so far. Each person had a slot, and the time was apportioned equally. The critiquing was brilliant; fair and empathetic, but without pulling any punches. I read one of the pieces I had written at the previous group; we workshopped it – and I now have the start of a character for novel #5.
The other formal writerly activity during the week was a visit to the Kobo headquarters. Kobo is the Canadian equivalent of Amazon/Kindle, and for anyone, like me, who has chosen ‘wide’ ebook distribution instead of granting exclusivity to Amazon, Kobo Writing Life (KWL) is an important piece in the picture. I have written a full report on this visit, which can be accessed via my Business of Writing group on Facebook, but the key conclusions were as follows:
- They made me feel very welcome; gave me a tour of the building and introduced me to several people, including the CEO and CCO.
- I got the impression that authors were important to the process and that KWL is as interested in selling our books as we are. (In contrast to certain other platforms we might think of.)
- We discussed my current portfolio and future plans; and I came away with a clearer idea of what is possible, plus some specific suggestions and tips.
Finally, being in a city far from home, with no-one to talk to during most of the day, allowed me to run my own mini-retreat; and I got a lot more work done than I would have done back at the office, in a much shorter space of time. And still had time for the fun aspects of the trip in the evenings and once the conference was over, as this shot of a rather cold but still spectacular Niagara Falls demonstrates.”