My highlights from: Talking Fresh 2018

Talking Fresh is an annual event hosted by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. I try to make it to the event each year, though I can usually only be there for the Saturday discussion sessions. This year was no different; while I missed Friday night’s panel, I was able to take in the talks given by each of this year’s featured writers.

Today, I want to highlight some of what I learned at Talking Fresh 2018. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

What I learned

  • Language is essential to the mode of how we survive.
    • This could be as small as surviving boredom, or as large as surviving life.
  • The imagination is boundless, but we have to be responsible with that power.
  • In songwriting:
    • Verses add context.
    • The bridge introduces change. It presents a situation and provides or states an epiphany.
    • The chorus is the hook. It acts as emphasis for the theme.
    • Start with stream-of-conscious writing on a subject. Then go back and pull out the bits that speak to you.
  • Be gentle with yourself when writing. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t push it.
  • Read like a writer.
    • Examine the works (even just the sentences) that strike you. Pull them apart.
  • Our patterns are great, but it’s also great to break them.
    • Try new things.
    • Push against the form you like so that you can see what else is in you.
  • If you’re stuck, try an exercise.
    • Relate the subject to your senses (for example, “Grief is the sense of…”)
    • Write a letter to your character or subject. Have them write a letter back.
    • If your character or subject were an animal, what animal would they be? Write an encounter between you and the animal.
  • A lot of the work of writing is submitting.
  • If you want to write, you have to read. But you also have to listen to people.
  • If you’re not writing something that matters to you, your reader will know and won’t engage with the piece.
  • Get tactile with your writing.
    • Include the senses.
    • Engross yourself in a moment as you write it, so that you feel it as you write it.
  • Your job is to tell what’s normal and true and real to you. Make the subject that way for the world.

The speakers

Catherine Graham is the author of six poetry collections and the debut novel Quarry. Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and CAA Award for Poetry, and The Celery Forest was published this past fall. Winner of IFOA’s Powetry NOW, she teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies where she won an Excellence in Teaching Award, and at Humber College’s Creative Book Publishing Program. Published internationally, she lives in Toronto.

Beau Dixon is a multi-award winning actor, playwright, composer, director, and producer. His writing credits include Once A Flame, From Here To Africville (Factory Theatre), Beneath SpringhillThe Maurice Ruddick Story(Thousand Islands/Firebrand Theatre/Lunchbox Theatre/Theatre Collingwood), which received three DORA nominations and was awarded for best new play and best individual performance, two Calgary Critic’s nominations (winning for best solo performance), and a Betty Mitchell nomination. Dixon is also a KM Hunter Award Finalist. He has four solo albums and was recently inducted into Peterborough’s Pathway of Fame for his leadership in the arts.

Tracey Lindberg is a citizen of As’in’i’wa’chi Ni’yaw Nation, Rocky Mountain Cree, and hails from the Kelly Lake Cree Nation Community. She is an award-winning writer for her academic work and teaches Indigenous law at the University of Ottawa. Birdie was a finalist for the Kobo Emerging Writer Award, the 2016 edition of CBC’s Canada Reads, and was also long-listed for the 2017 Dublin International Literary Prize. She was a juror for the 2017 Rogers Trust Fiction Prize. Lindberg currently lives on Algonquin Territory.

Ins Choi was born in Korea, grew up in Scarborough, and now lives in Toronto with his wife and two children. As an actor, he has worked with such companies as Fu-GEN, Canadian Stage, and Stratford. His debut play, Kim’s Convenience, premiered at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival. It then launched Soulpepper Theatre Company’s 2012 season, toured across Canada, debuted in New york City last summer, and just finished season two as a CBC TV Show.

Canisia Lubrin is the author of VoodooHypothesis (Wolsak & Wynn, 2017) and Augur (2017). She is consulting editor at Wolsak & Wynn and poetry editor at Humber Literary Review. Lubrin also serves as an advisor to Open Book and teaches college english. In 2017-2018 she is Poet in Residence with Poetry in Voice.

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