Back from the land of sunshine – refreshed.

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Back from the land of sunshine. Although beds were lumpy and the food left something to be desired, Cuba was fantastic. No Internet. Just total rest and relaxation. Music was great. Margot and I have returned refreshed although not quite ready to meet the cold of Canada. Still, spring is not far off.

a sacred place

If you intend to be a serious artist, whether graphic artist, painter, sculptor, composer or writer, it is essential that you set aside your own sacred place where you may think and work creatively. The following quote has been shared on a number of creative blogs:

“To have a sacred place is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody or what they owe you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.” (Joseph Campbell)

Old Writers never die. They just get shelved. “Passing the Torch”

The following is an article I passed on to the Federation of British Columbia Writers entitled “Passing the Torch”.

Those of us who take our writing seriously spend days, weeks, months, even years in the writer’s cave. It would be easy to become myopic without a support community. The best sources of stimulation for writers are good books and peer networking. The ultimate encouragement comes with that first acceptance by a publisher. However, the road to publication is strewn with pitfalls.

Having struggled for ages to find a publisher, despite numerous conferences and workshops, and despite having self-published a handful of books, I had all but given up hope of ever being professionally published. How I found two publishers for four books in three years is everything short of a miracle. Now, I’m delighted to share my good fortune with other struggling scribblers.

My strongest advice is Get Involved. Become an active member of the Federation of BC Writers. Volunteer. Share your talents. Attend readings and launches. Attend writers’ conferences.

Another very important piece of advice is to find a good editor. Grammar and spelling editorial skills are not enough. Try to find an editor who understands your specific genre of writing. If you write for children, find an editor who deals with YA Literature. If you’ve written a novel, find a story editor. It was necessary to find an editor for my poetry. She knew what would be a marketable style.

Editors can be expensive. Since it’s your name that will be before the world, how much can a good edit be worth to you? Might as well bite the bullet. If you’re writing to get rich, quit trying to get published, but don’t stop writing! You may improve, get recognition elsewhere, and eventually get published.

Through one of my workshops, I advise writers towards good Query Letter writing. The query letter is generally a make or break introduction to a publisher. That letter has to be nothing short of perfect.

A concise précis is a must. The précis is sometimes called an elevator speech. How much can an eager writer tell a prospective publisher between the parkade and the first floor of the Sheraton Hotel?

When all else is ready, ask an established author to read at least part of your manuscript and write a blurb for the book jacket. If the author is fairly well known, this blurb will also serve as an excellent piece of information for a publisher. Some authors, although very busy with their own work, are very happy to encourage an aspiring author.

Another skill I pass on to fellow poets and authors is the ability to read a work in public. Many authors are a delight to listen to. Some, however, despite being excellent writers, are dull and almost inaudible. As a trained actor and having taught voice for many years, I’m able to pass on the advice and skills that help participants to quickly learn to overcome shyness and anxiety to become dynamic and exciting presenters.

Quite a few established authors offer workshops in Memoir Writing, Characterization, Poetry, Developing Setting, Dialogue. Each of these is always an excellent investment.

My final piece of advice to all is: Keep Writing. A gift to two of my grandchildren was a set of hardcover notebooks with pen attached. Writers learn to write by writing. Even in the primary grades.

WRITE and KEEP WRITING  –  WRITE SOMETHING EVERY DAY.     Ben

Christmas and Holiday Greetings

Choristers 15 1:2%22 X 19 1:2%22 mixed media on canvas

Dear fellow Scribblers, 

This is my Christmas Greeting to each and every one of you. I realize there are many among us who do not recognize Christmas. Some of you celebrated Hanukkah November 27th to December 5th. Margot and I lit the first candle of the menorah with friends, as I also celebrated my mother’s side of the family. For others, I wish you a joyful holiday season, whatever your persuasion.

Foremost, I wish to thank you for your many kindnesses to me during the past year, especially when the load began to wear on all of us volunteers. I am so very grateful for David, Mickey, George, Coco, Ann and those of you who so willingly helped with workshops, the retreat, our 2013 A.G.M. and those who greeted us and assisted with workshop visits to Vernon and Haida Gwaii. I’m also very thankful for those who went before, holding the torch even for brief periods of time.

Volunteering, no matter how tiring at times, has been a major blessing for me. I’ve learned so much and am still learning. I’ve been blessed with having books published even though I would like to see some publishers able to do more to promote their writers. Still, publishers do show a certain amount of faith in us and deserve our respect and support.

No matter where you are in your own writing career or hobby, do keep sending out those poems and short stories to “bonafide” contests and Canadian magazines as well as query letters to Canadian publishers.

With an Executive Director taking much of the weight from my Federation duties, I have finally begun to find time to get back to painting and even sketching. Now Margot and I need to plan a trip or two to foreign shores – the inspiration for much of my own writing.

I wish you and all your loved ones a very Happy Christmas and a fantastic 2014 with abundant blessings. Please keep your ears and eyes open for volunteers willing to help carry the Federation of BC Writers into 2014 and beyond.   

Ben Nuttall-Smith  

President 

Federation of British Columbia Writers

The Soccer Game 20″ X 24″ Mixed Media on Canvas

The Soccer Game 20

Between writing projects, I read good books and fellow poets. Sometimes, time and other obligations permitting, I’ll travel with Margot. When all else gives me spurts of free time, I paint.
The Soccer Game was inspired by watching my grandson’s soccer game in South Surrey a couple of weeks ago.
To see more paintings, see below. Cheers.

My Weekend in the Nunnery.

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about our 2nd Annual Federation of BC Writers’ Retreat.

On Thursday, November 14th, six ardent scribblers were warmly welcomed to the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre in South Surrey.  http://www.rosemaryheights.com

Built in the 1960’s as Saint Euphrasia School For Girls, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd soon converted the school to a home for unwed mothers.  Next it became a school for vulnerable children. And finally a retreat centre under the auspices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Our rooms for the weekend in the Saint Joseph Wing – once the Sisters’ Convent – were pleasant and up-to-date with comfortable beds, desks with lamps, and en suite bathrooms. We had the use of a cozy sitting room – and a dining room – for small gatherings. We enjoyed a kitchen with coffee, tea and snacks, and a spacious meeting room with tables, chairs and white board.

All the meals were delicious, and served by a friendly staff in a downstairs dining room. Special diets were accommodated. For those who desired the distraction of computer-messaging for research, wi-fi was available throughout. I discovered a fully equipped exercise room and, of course, the grounds provide contemplative walks.

Nine additional writers joined us for Friday and Saturday workshops.

Past President George Opacic presentated Writing for Film and Digital Publishing.

Yours truly provided workshops in Dynamic Presentation, and on Getting Published (the pitfalls and dangers in selecting a potential publisher as well how to write an effective “elevator speech”, how to write a synopsis and a query letter).

Lois Peterson gave four fabulous workshops on Character, Voice, Point-of-View and Show vs Tell. Lois and Ben also provided Blue Pencil sessions on request. Lois kept everyone hopping by instigating various writing challenges, and discussions, throughout the weekend.

All in all this was a fabulous weekend.

A spiritual retreat? What activity could be more spiritual than writing?

Our most sincere thanks go to the friendly and helpful staff at Rosemary Heights.

Bravo and bless every one of you. You were angels. 

Ben Nuttall-Smith, President   Federation of BC Writers         president@bcwriters.ca