Workshops for Women

Vancouver women writers are in for a treat! Facilitator Marn Norwich has some wonderful new events on the horizon that you can check out for free 🙂

Free intro to Women’s Writing as Healing workshop

Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020, 6:30 PM


9 Writers Went

Are you seeking a safe, supportive + creative community in which to grow and flourish? Would your writing benefit from inspiring themes and prompts? Are you working through a trauma or circumstance? Do you long to deepen your spiritual connection? Join an intimate circle of women for a journey of empowerment through written expression. This is a fr…

Check out this Meetup →

Free intro to Women’s Writing as Healing workshop

Thursday, Feb 27, 2020, 6:30 PM


4 Writers Went

Are you seeking a safe, supportive + creative community in which to grow and flourish? Would your writing benefit from inspiring themes and prompts? Are you working through a trauma or circumstance? Do you long to deepen your spiritual connection? Join an intimate circle of women for a journey of empowerment through written expression. This is a fr…

Check out this Meetup →

Literary Writes Judge Jude Neale in Conversation with Cynthia Sharp

Cynthia: There are so many thoughts on what is or is not poetry. What is poetry in your view?

Jude: Poetry to me is the distillation of feelings, thoughts and ideas into the fewest words possible. A good poem does not lie. It is an imagist painting written equally from the heart and the brain.

Cynthia: You’ve published seven books of poetry, with your eighth forthcoming, and have already started work on your ninth. You’re an incredibly accomplished poet and performer, travelling around the province and world for readings. How did you become a poet? When did you first know the value of poetry in your life?

Jude: Thank you Cynthia for your kind words.

How did I become a poet, well it’s always been part of me, of my life. One of my earliest memories involves my grandfather, Herbert William Bilton. Grandpa and grandma lived in a village of 150. He was the Justice of the Peace, Postmaster and raconteur. I remember sitting with my twin on his lap and he would recite Robert Service to us. He memorized all of Service and did all the voices. I loved the meter and the dynamic language. I don’t know when poetry wasn’t important to me, as I was marinated in it. 

Cynthia: You’ve mentioned that in some of your books like Splendid in its Silence, you’ve given each poem twenty or more hours of editing. Could you elaborate on the role of editing in securing your best work? 

Jude: I was mentored by the great Canadian writer, Elisabeth Harvor. She took no prisoners when it came to editing. She would ferret out the cliches, the sentimental and the maudlin. Get rid of duplicate words, unoriginal language and uncreative metaphor. I still have her on my shoulder when I write today!

Cynthia: What can Literary Writes contestants do to take their work from a first draft to a solid, polished poem?

Jude: Write your first draft. Leave it for a day or two. Go back, listen for your voice. Concentrate on line breaks, the breath of a poem. Read it out loud looking for cadence and sound. Edit again. Don’t be afraid to chop! Repeat the process a couple more times. 

Cynthia: What is the mark of a great poem?

Jude: A great poem will take your breath away. It will allow you to connect with another reality. 

Cynthia: I love that you come from a collaborative arts background and in particular opera. What is the relationship between music and poetry in your experience?

Jude: I love this question, Cynthia. I first was an opera singer three careers ago. This attention to rhythm and silence has transferred over to writing. For me, breath is everything. My entire use of line breaks depends on this, which I believe makes my poems different. It gives the poem room to expand. 

Cynthia: In your  essay “Sum of all parts” for The League of Canadian Poets Feminist Caucus in their publication Women and Multimedia, you say that “Authenticity in collaboration is absolutely critical.” That really struck a chord with me, since you live authentically in all the ways that you work, both independently and with other poets and artists in performances large and small. How can poets bring authenticity to their voice and work?

Jude: I really do believe we should be writing from our own reality. Nothing is so insignificant it can’t be turned into a poem. Love, pain, loss, joy and death are not small and we all recognize this as the human condition. It is something we as poets need to affirm, that no life is so small it can’t be written about. That is what I shall be looking for in this competition. 

Cynthia: Who are your favourite poets and influences? 

Jude: My favourite poets are Gary Geddes, Leonard Cohen, Lorna Crozier, Rachel Rose, Sylvia Plath and Mark Doty, to name a few.

I was a child of the sixties and because of this I was able to hear some pretty amazing lyrics. I know I was influenced a great deal by Cohen, Dylan and Mitchell.

Cynthia: What poems either classic or contemporary have most resonated with you and what was it about them that captured you?

Jude: “A Display of Mackerel,” by Mark Doty, is my all time favourite poem. In such few words Doty describes death, singularity and common goals using the example of frozen fish. A perfect poem! 

Cynthia: You’ve been a tremendous mentor in the writing community, lifting others up and helping them establish trust and confidence in their unique voices, whether one on one informally, through Pandora’s collective Poetic Pairings, school classroom visits or community workshops. We’re incredibly grateful to have you as this year’s contest judge. What advice do you have for our members composing for Literary Writes?

Jude: Share your poem after you’ve edited it to death, and ask your listener or reader which words or phrases they loved the most. It is really important to have a sounding board, another eye and ear.

I’m so looking forward to receiving this year’s poems. I will treat each one gently! 

Cynthia: Thank you so much for your time!  

Jude: You’re welcome, it’s been a pleasure.

BC Writers can submit to Literary Writes at this link. The rules are posted here too:

Cynthia Sharp with Literary Writes Judge Jude Neale

Ben Nuttall-Smith Offers Free Memoir Workshop

Our former president Ben Nuttall-Smith is an outstanding workshop leader! If you’re writing a memoir on the Lower Mainland, you’ll want to sign up for his December 10th free session co-facilitated with Elizabeth Wallace. There’s an opportunity to be published in a chapbook, in addition to taking part in a wonderful creative session.

Two More Weeks Till The BC Short Deadline!

Hi Writers,

Remember to get your stories in to the BC Short! Members get a discount on the entry fee.

This year’s judge is JJ Lee, author of The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit, published in 2011 and shortlisted for the 2011 Governor General’s Award.

We’re looking for original, previously unpublished stories. Writers can enter 1200-2000 word short stories at Submittable until June 1, 2019:

Happy Writing!
Cynthia Sharp, FBCW Director & Greater Vancouver Regional Rep

Sensory Writing Workshop

Happy Summer Everyone!

Craig Spence has done a wonderful job providing cutting edge, current information for writers through the Federation of BC Writers Blog. He’s left some big shoes to fill as we wish him well on his next endeavours. 

I’m looking forward to facilitating the blog in my years on the board and would love contributions from members and anyone in the book world with helpful tips to share. We aim to share information in navigating the book industry from setting up a daily writing practice to negotiating publishing contracts and update on the 15th of the month. If you have a non-fiction blog story 750 words or under on a pertinent theme related to writing, editing or publishing, please email me at Blog contributions are on a volunteer basis.

For today, I thought I’d let you know a little more about me. I’m a BC poet who runs sensory writing workshops. This is an adjustable template of one of the introductory level workshops we bring through the province for beginning writers, ESL schools and at readings, that you’re welcome to use in your communities. All the best, Cynthia Sharp

Nature Poetry Writing Workshop

Materials (adaptable to what is locally available)

birch bark, beeswax candle, blooms, candlelight, flower, oak leaves, Himalayan salt rock, seaweed with lime, sugar pinecone,  prickles, rainbow, ridges, rock, stone, tea tree oil, quartz


The instructor welcomes participants. We go around the circle with each person introducing himself or herself. 

The group brainstorms answers to the question, “What is poetry?” on a whiteboard so that the instructor gets a sense of how much people already know.

Then, a volunteer reads the opening poem about paying attention to the beauty of nature.

Breathe Deeply Nature’s Inner World

Breathe deeply

moments in the stillness,                  

what the moss on the maple tells us,

or each angle of sunlight reveals,

and remember                             

to let the trees and flowers 

and colours speak

Discussion about slowing down, relaxing in peaceful places and observing details. Good writing uses details. Parts of nature have a story to tell us and it’s our job to listen and write it down.

Part 1 Nature Vocabulary –Writing from all the Senses 

In this workshop, we write from all our senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. To get started, examine objects from nature in the baskets and describe them.

For an ESL group, it can be helpful to provide vocabulary:


coarse, cool, furry, grainy, honey-scented, jagged, large, light, medium-sized, ocean-washed, pink, prickly, pungent, rainbow-coloured, rose, round, salty, sharp, small, smooth, soft, sour, sun-warmed, tiny, warm 


bark, beeswax candle, blooms, candlelight, flower, fur, hedgehog, Himalayan salt rock, leaf, pinecone, prickles, rainbow, ridges, rock, seaweed, stone, tea tree oil, quartz

Part 2 

The group makes notes together to describe a beach. The phrases and vocabulary from above, along with new ideas are all welcome.

example: “ocean-washed stones” could go into the sight category for the beach

The instructor fills out the columns below on a whiteboard, while participants contribute imagery and take notes if they’d like. Then the instructor moves the group’s imagery into a poem, adjusting grammar and placing phrases in a logical and powerful order.


extra adjectives: crowded, empty, moonlit, tranquil, wet

extra nouns: moon, moonlight, reflection, sand, seawall, shore, waves






Now, we will use the images to create a poem. We’ll choose our favourite images and arrange the word pictures to become a poem. If a word or idea doesn’t fit, we can leave it out, or turn it into a simile, which is a phrase using “like” or “as”.


Waves invite me to play,

like the wind on a holiday weekend,

the breeze as soft as a baby hedgehog’s fur.

Part 3  Your Personal Poem from a Favourite Place

example: Stanley Park

Write the name of the place:

How do you feel in that place?

examples: relaxed, peaceful, free

How you feel in the place is the mood, or feeling of your poem.

Imagine yourself in this place. What time of day is it? Is it morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night?

What do you see? Do you see any animals? Squirrels, chipmunks, seals, otters? Deer? Eagles?

Keep looking around your sanctuary. What colour are the flowers? When you touch the grass or sand, how does it feel? Is it warm? Cool? Refreshing? Soft?

What do you like about this place?

examples: clean air, trees, the feeling of the wind

What does the wind tell you?

examples: breathe, relax, be

Fill in details from the picture or memory you are describing:

Your Place






Now, you can turn your images and details above into a poem. Choose your favourite words from above and arrange them however you would like. You may add in, take out, or change anything.

Verbs to help with your poem: abandon, appreciate, release, remember, savour, treasure

Part 4 Editing

You can make your first draft stronger by replacing average words with less common ones that enhance the mood of your piece:

The names of precious metals, flowers, fruits and desserts are enticing synonyms for colour:

apricot, peach, tangerine for orange

lavender, lilac, plum for purple

lemon, honey, or golden for yellow

lime, forest green, jade for green

rose for light pink, cherry for dark pink

silver, pearl

cream for beige

tan, coffee, chocolate for brown, milk chocolate for light brown, dark chocolate for dark brown

turquoise for sea blue

and conversely for darker themes, 

blood, mud, steel, etc. 

When you are finished your draft of your poem, you can ask the facilitator for suggestions to improve grammar, punctuation and flow and then write a final copy. If there is time in the workshop, each participant who wishes to reads his or her poem to the group.

Copywrongs need to be righted


When I asked George Opacic, publisher and Fed resident expert, about the current state of affairs with regard to copyright in Canada, he rattled off a dismal synopsis of blundering and betrayal that I couldn’t quite digest, so ill-informed was I about the law that is supposed to ensure writers’ rights.

So, with World Book and Copyright Day upon us, and the federal government launching into its mandatory five-year review of the Act, I decided it was time for this newbie Indie to get up to speed. Hang on! I won’t be slowing down for bumps or potholes, and there’s plenty along this road paved with dubious intentions to jar the bones of live authors and dead poets alike.

World Book and Copyright Day emerged out of UNESCO’s – that’s the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, for those of you who had forgotten – 1995 Paris General Conference, and is held every April 23. On that date the hub of joyous celebration is in an annually chosen World Book Capital – Athens, Greece in 2018.

While that doesn’t quite equal New Year’s Eve in Times Square as a party venue, we could honestly proclaim that we’d still be celebrating NYEve in mud huts outside the castle keep without the benefit of plumbing or central heating to help us deal with the aftereffects, if it weren’t for books and copyright laws… so there!

“The city of Athens was chosen for the quality of its activities, supported by the entire book industry.” says UNESCO’s WB&CD web site. “The aim is to make books accessible to the city’s entire population, including migrants and refugees.”

Let’s zoom in and check out the fireworks a little closer to home. To begin at the beginning, copyright in what would eventually become the founding, colonial heartland of Canada, was first proclaimed in 1832 according to my Wikipedia sources. The first full-fledged edition of the Copyright Act of Canada was passed in 1921, when we shirked off the last vestiges of colonial, literary protection.

“The 1832 Act was short, and declared ambitions to encourage emergence of a literary and artistic nation and to encourage literature, bookshops and the local press,” says Wikipedia. From those original, noble intentions, let’s skip forward few exhilarating beats, 180 years to 2012 and something called The Copyright Modernization Act, also known as Bill C-11.

What has transpired since 1832? Well, a few things that flashed by as our literary chariot whizzed inexhorably toward the future-present: phonographs, photographs, telephones, offset printing presses, radios, televisions, binary code, the Internet, the World Wide Web, globalization, Amazon, Facebook, and selfies.

Authors, we tend to take a bookish view of the Copyright Act, a tome whose index waxes to biblical proportions. In fact, it covers as much ground in its excruciatingly tedious progress as we did in our mercurial arc from colonial roots to the troubled and troubling here and now.

Some things to think about:

Amazon, that literary double-edged sword of damocles hanging over all our heads. On the one hand, it offers an enticing venue to get books into the hands of paying readers; on the other, it’s a self-eating viper, that murders sales before books have shed their new skins.

Fair dealing. Now there’s a misnomer if ever there was one. Concocted in the true spirit of modernization, and only in Canada, we have the disgraceful, not to mention Machiavellian, not to mention self-contradictory display – despite hands-on-hearts-fingers-crossed-behind-their-asses promises not to do so before Bill C-11 passed – of the education sector reproducing ‘hundreds of millions of pages’ of copyrighted materials without paying authors and publishers a modest tariff.

The transformation of publishing, and the book industry as we’ve known it. Ever noticed that Chapters is looking more and more like a gift boutique than a book store these days, a place where you can buy knickknacks and thingamabobs, and carry on to the book shelves afterward… if you aren’t lured into Starbucks for a slurp from the caffeinated Fount of Lethe?

That’s syptomatic of the seismic changes confronting authors and publishers – even authors and publishers who haven’t noticed that the good-old-days are going, going…

Books are in competition with a tsunami of entertainment options. Video games, 3D goggles, Netflix, naked bungee jumping, social media, we are swamped by tittilating choices, heavily marketed in ways books never have or can be, that are inevitably going to squeeze literature’s market share of mind-space.

How can books compete? What’s so special about curling up with your eReader and immersing yourself in a novel, instead of flicking on the big screen and letting the deep-base speakers thunder dazzling realities into your head with the impact of a hundred jackhammers?

There’s lots to celebrate this World Book & Copyright Day, but increasingly we are going to have to work very hard and really smart to make sure the celebration doesn’t turn into a whistful wake for an antique mode of entertaining, informing and changing the world.

So, after having peed on your welcome carpet, I say: “Cheer up, have a good one, and stay tuned!” Between now and April 23, 2019 Canada will be reviewing its Copyright Act, and that’s something every writer should get in on. I hope to have a better informed message to wing your way in a year’s time.

Craig Spence