2020 North Island Writers Conference


  • January 24, 25 & 26, 2020
  • Co-hosts: Comox Valley Writers Society & North Island College
  • Sponsors: Peninsula Co-op Comox Valley, Island Blue Print Co Ltd,
    Comox Valley Record, Federation of BC Writers
  • Location: North Island College – Comox Valley campus
  • Any questions, please email [email protected]

North Island College – click on map to enlarge











Friday night – January 24, 2020          Stan Hagen Theatre in Komoux Hall

Reception: 6:30 – 7:00 pm
Featured speaker: 7:00 – 8:00 pm; Eden Robinson
Social: 8:00 – 9:00 pm

Open to public – free (No registration required)

Eden Robinson is a Haisla/Heiltsuk author who grew up in Haisla, British Columbia. Her first book, Traplines, a collection of short stories, won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1998. Monkey Beach, her first novel, was shortlisted for both The Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction in 2000 and won the BC Book Prize’s Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Her novel Son of a Trickster was shortlisted for The Giller Prize. Her latest novel is its sequel, Trickster Drift.

Saturday – January 25, 2020         NIC campus    Tyee Hall
3 hour workshops      Fee: $30.00 each

8:00 – 8:45: Late registration, book sales, networking
9:00 – 12:00: Workshop sessions
12:00 – 1:00: Lunch break – brown bag, restaurants in area, books sales
1:00 – 4:00: Workshop sessions
4:00 – 5:00: Wrap up, book sales, networking

Sunday – January 26, 2020         NIC campus    Tyee Hall
5 hour workshops      Fee: $50.00 each
Blue Pencil Café         Fee: $60.00 / 30 minute session

9:00 – 9:30: Late registration
9:30 – 12:00:  Workshop – morning session
12:00 – 1:00: Lunch break – brown bag, restaurants in area
1:00 – 3:30: Workshop – afternoon session

Blue Pencil Café: One-on-one session with Paula Wild
9:00 – 3:30

Saturday – 3 hour Workshops:

Morning Session: 9 am – 12 pm:

Building Your Story’s Emotional Terrain                             (9 am – 12 pm)
Presenter: Jennifer Manuel
Description: Learn how to map and deepen the emotional terrain of your fiction or non-fiction and use three methods to inform, evoke, and provoke emotion.

Even the greatest story idea can fall flat if there is a lack of emotion on the page. In this workshop, you will learn how to map the emotional terrain of your fiction or non-fiction. You will also learn how to inform, evoke, and provoke emotion in your reader. By examining how your work varies in its narrative distance, you will start to shape how these distances affect the emotional terrain. This workshop offers many specific examples as well as several techniques you can apply right away to your own manuscript.

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Flash Fiction is Fun!                                                              (9 am – 12 pm)
Presenter: Traci Skuce
It’s energizing! Exciting! Fun! Think of your page as a net in a pond of silvery fish. Throughout this workshop we’ll scoop up flashy ideas by way of writing exercises and transform them into bite-sized narratives. Then we’ll cast around for where we find the most energy and excitement, and we’ll consider ways to open that energy up through revision.

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Producing a Great Book & Mastering Your Fears of Marketing
Presenters: Craig Shemilt & Greg Salisbury                       (9 am – 12 pm)
Craig Shemilt has been involved in the printing industry for more than 40 years. His company, Island Blue Book Printing, represents more than 3000 authors and 200 publishers. Island Blue also has more than 14,000 book titles archived to their system. This presentation gives a wealth of information on what it takes to produce an excellent book and marketing strategies. He will discuss why authors are turning to self-publishing, giving his expertise on book publishing, printing, editing, design, formatting, e-books and the book market. Anyone writing a book does not want to miss this talk.

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Social Media for Authors: Building Your Online Community
Presenter: Michelle Simms                                                  (9 am – 12 pm)
You may have heard that it’s important for authors to be active on social media to sell books. This is partially true—an online presence can benefit those who are committed to it. In this workshop, you will discover the most valuable social media channels for authors, learn how to build and engage your online community, and create a plan for using social media that is simple, intuitive, and above all, useful.

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Tips and Tricks to Writing Fantasy                                     (9 am – 12 pm)
Presenter: Jo-Anne McLean
The fantasy genre includes a wide range of sub-genres, tropes and magic, and can be a challenge to write. In this interactive workshop, you’ll learn how to meet that challenge with tools and techniques to help you build your story so it captures your readers’ imaginations. Join JP (Jo-Anne) McLean as she shares her tips and tricks for writing fantasy that’s as much fun to write as it is to read.

Afternoon Session: 1 – 4 pm

A Conversation Path on Cultural Appropriation                        (1 – 4 pm)
Presenter: Chief Wedlidi Speck                                           

Description: Chief Wedlidi Speck will host workshop participants to explore the complexities connected to writing, storying and navigating indigenous worldview, relational practice and indigenous innovations. In our time of reconciliation, decolonization, new relationship building, knowing the cultural boundaries, the impacts of privilege and what is safe to use in order to support success is important. Join Wedlidi in this conversation.

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Energize Your Book Club                                                              (1 – 4 pm)
Presenter: Marlet Ashley
Are you tired of showing up at your book club ready for an in-depth discussion only to be met with comments such as, “I liked the book,” or “I hated it,” and little else? Set the tone for your next meeting by launching into a rich analysis that will lead to more satisfying dialogue.

Please read John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums for this workshop: http://mspachecogdhs.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/2/0/13206998/the_chrysanthemums_by_john_steinbeck.pdf. We will use it as a model for dissecting, labelling, and thoughtfully analyzing literature for a more enriched and lively book-club discussion.

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How to Tell Your Story                                                                   (1 – 4 pm)
Presenter: Terrance James
Part one considers the psychology of memoir writing. Why is memoir writing more difficult than writing fiction? What is motivating you to write?  What is the story you want to tell? Can you tell the truth? Do you know your own biases? Have you considered the risks? What will you do if …. ? Participants will learn from the experiences of others.

Part two explores the pragmatics of how to publish. What do publishers expect? What are the costs, benefits, timelines of traditional and self-publishing? Where does social media fit in? What are your goals? Where do you go from here?

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Research Tips for Nonfiction and Fiction Writers                      (1 – 4 pm)
Presenter: Jeanette Taylor
 Writing about the near and distant past, whether it’s memoir, nonfiction or fiction, requires research. Enter the research labyrinth armed with tips on sources and techniques to guide your quest for authentic details about people and locales.
Jeanette Taylor, author of five books on BC coastal history and a former museum curator, will lead this hands-on workshop, which includes some internet search exercises. We’ll talk about sources (including interviews), ways to verify details, honour your interviewees, and organize data. Emphasis for history sources will be on BC and Canada.

Bring your laptop or a device for internet searches. Taylor will supply several handouts, including a source list and tips for finding and using research details in creative writing.

The past is a foreign place. They do things differently there.
L.P. Hartley, from The Go Between

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Writing Crime in the 21st Century                                                (1 – 4 pm)
Presenter: JE Barnard
From villains to victims, clues to red herrings, inciting incident to action-packed climax, this course introduces the essential elements of modern crime fiction and shows you how to manipulate them for maximum impact on readers. You’ll distinguish between cosy and noir, thriller and suspense, capers and police procedurals. Get into the guts of your characters. Lay out plots and subplots. Experiment with concealing vital clues and misleading your readers. Raise tensions to a breath-taking finale.

Sunday – 5 hour Workshops: 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

From Whose Voice & From What Distance – POV: Narrative Study
Presenter: Judy LeBlanc                                              (9:30 am – 3:30 pm)
Writers generally put little or no thought into point of view choices and their management. Writing intuitively may be necessary in early drafts, but in the end a grasp of this fundamental narrative technique, complex as it is, enables the writer to use it to its greatest advantage.

The phrase point of view in its common usage implies a person with an opinion which by definition suggests a static state. Choosing a point of view to tell a story involves deciding on grammatical person within a similarly static hierarchy: first, second, or third (I, you, she/he). The common writerly advice is to stick with this throughout the narrative. But point of view isn’t only a pronoun any more than a person is only a pronoun. Point of view is voice propelled by its own life experience expressed through diction and syntax, and it is perspective, a concept in writing that is as shifting and elusive as it is in life. Point of view is more about degrees of distance between narrator and character than it is a choice of pronoun, and it is the quality of movement within this variance that lends nuance and momentum to prose. David Jaus says the purpose of point of view is “to manipulate the degree of distance between the characters and the reader in order to achieve the emotional, intellectual, and moral responses the author desires.” No wonder it’s so challenging and, at the same time, so full of possibility.

In this workshop, I’ll draw from Jaus and from James Wood’s description of “free indirect style” to show how point of view is employed. We’ll read examples from literature. Participants will do writing exercises in which they experiment with various points of view.

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Poetry & the Music of Language                                 (9:30 am – 3:30 pm)
Presenter: Jan Zwicky
 What is free verse? How does it differ from prose? How is it related to formal verse? These questions form the foundation of this workshop. Its aim is to activate and develop sensitivity to the musical potentials of language, and to assist you in listening to your own voice.

Through exercises and examples, we will explore rhythm in poetry, punctuation, aural resonance, and the nature of the line. In the last hour, we’ll focus on how to lift a poem off the page into the living voice.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience, from beginners to established writers who feel their ear could use a tune up. Please bring paper and a pencil!

Note: January 4th – There is only one spot left in this workshop. Once full, you can add your name to the wait list: [email protected]

Blue Pencil Café – 30 minute one-to-one session           (9 am – 3:30 pm)
Paula Wild
Are you stuck? Not sure if your writing is ready to be published? Or maybe you need help figuring out where to submit your work? If so, take part in a Blue Pencil Café with award-winning author and journalist Paula Wild.

“Paula’s words are in my mind as I write each morning. She gave me excellent and pertinent instruction on how to write to my best abilities and helped bring my memoir to a whole new level. I am thrilled!” says Yvonne Maximchuk, whose manuscript was later published by Caitlin Press.

Participants will submit four pages of typed text plus a separate page containing three questions relating to their writing and stating their goal for the project (i.e. self-publish for family and friends, find a commercial publisher/publication or self-publish and market for a commercial audience).

They will receive written comments regarding the content, style and strengths/weak areas of their submission, as well as answers to their questions and suggestions for ways to achieve their goal. On the last day of the conference, they will have a private 30 minute session with Paula to discuss their work.

Adult or young adult nonfiction or fiction only.

Submission guidelines:
Text: Submit up to four pages of your story double-spaced and in Arial font size 12.
Questions: On a separate page include up to three questions about your writing project.
Goal: On the same page as the questions, please state your goal, i.e. self-publish for family and friends, find a commercial publisher/publication or self-publish for a commercial audience.

Deadline for submissions is Monday, January 13. Please send submissions to [email protected].




Presenters: Saturday – January 25, 2020

Chief Wedlidi Speck:
Chief Wedlidi Speck is a member of the Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay. Culturally, he is Kwaguł Gixsam, Island K’omoks and Namgis and Tlawitsis. He holds several titles and responsibilities in the cultural system he belongs. He is a storyteller, artist and cultural historian. Currently, Wedlidi is employed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development as the Director of Indigenous Recruitment and Cultural Safety. He is happily married and has several children and grandchildren.

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Craig Shemilt:
Craig is an Owner in the Island Blue Print Company and Printorium Bookworks. He has been working the past 42 years in Retail, Wholesale, Production and has an extensive background in Marketing and Sales. Craig has run the Book Printing division for the past 17 years and has a client base of over 4000 self publishing authors and 200 Publishers across Canada.

Craig lives on Cobble Hill mountain on Vancouver Island with his wife and they have 4 grown children together. He still plays masters Soccer, golfs, fishing and enjoys relaxing at their summer cabin on Shawnigan Lake.
Craig has done many seminars and lectures over the past 10 years on what it takes to produce a Great Book. Craig brings a wealth of information about the book industry and will make the process enjoyable.

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Greg Salisbury:
Greg ran his own web-design business for many years before becoming a publisher.

Greg has incredible work experience in the publishing industry as a traditional publisher and as a publishing service provider. With his experience as a publisher sending books to distributors to sell the books, he knows what works and how to implement a better strategy for the clients.

With years of knowledge and experience, this naturally led to the purchase of Red Tuque Books, allowing his clients further distribution of books across Canada.

Red Tuque Books is a Canadian distributor of quality books by independent authors with both Amazon online listings and distribution to Canadian bookstores. Red Tuque focuses on getting books to market that authors cannot reach.

Being discerning about finding quality books with interesting stories and well written content is part of who we are. Finding good writers with books that have a message to give, smiles to generate, or lessons to be learned, is not difficult. Good writers and books are everywhere and all you need is to introduce yourself.

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JE (Jayne) Barnard:
Comox Valley crime writer JE (Jayne) Barnard has two series in print, the Maddie Hatter Adventures (Tyche Books) and The Falls Mysteries (Dundurn Press). She’s won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur and the Alberta Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for Canada’s Prix Aurora, the Alberta Book Publishers Award, and the UK’s Debut Dagger. Jayne divides her time between Comox and the Alberta foothills where her most recent book, Where the Ice Falls, takes readers on a bone-chilling Christmastime journey of murder, medically assisted dying, and ghostly whispers in the night. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at jaynebarnard.ca

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Jeanette Taylor:
Jeanette Taylor has taught fiction and nonfiction courses and weekend intensives for over a decade, introducing all the elements of a writing project. She first presented her scenes workshop at a national nonfiction writing conference.

Jeanette is a historian and writer whose work in museums lead to four books, including the BC Bestseller Tidal Passages, A History of the Discovery Islands. Her current projects are creative nonfiction books, including a biography, and a regional history. She is also working on a novel for young adults. Jeanette is the co-ordinator of the cooperative The Scribes, Comprehensive Writing Services, providing manuscript reviews, and mentorship. She writes a monthly blog for the website, www.thescribes.ca.

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Jennifer Manuel:
Jennifer Manuel is an award-winning author of both literary fiction and children’s fiction. She has mentored writers from around the world.

Jennifer Manuel has received acclaim for her short fiction and her novel, The Heaviness of Things That Float won the 2017 Ethel Wilson Prize and has been optioned for a television series. She has been a Western Magazine Finalist and CBC named her a Writer to Watch. Her first children’s novel, Dressed to Play, came out in Fall 2019. She has taught many years in Sarah Selecky’s Writing School and her own online course, Reimagine the Page, offers an effective, original approach to the revision process. She lives in both Duncan and Kyuquot, where she teaches high school.

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JP (Jo-Anne) McLean:
JP (Jo-Anne) McLean writes contemporary fantasy thrillers that readers describe as imaginative, original and addictive. She is best known for The Gift Legacy series, which sells internationally and has been featured on indie blogs around the world. Her debut novel earned honourable mention at the Whistler Independent Book Awards. In 2018, the first book in her Gift Legacy series, Secret Sky, won Kobo’s Best Cover Award in their Science Fiction and Fantasy Category. It went on to win second place overall. JP makes her home on Denman Island, off the coast of British Columbia. Visit her at https://jpmcleanauthor.com.

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Marlet Ashley, B.A., B.Ed., M.A.:
Marlet taught creative writing at the U of Windsor and literature at BC’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University.  Her publications include The Right Kind of Crazy, a novel (2018), a series of five children’s books in Revelry on the Estuary, also Must Be Christmas, and Robin and Ruthie Ride the Bus. She is the Canadian author of Literature and the Writing Process, Pearson Prentice Hall.  A finalist for the 2012 John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award and the recipient of an honourable mention in the Lorian Hemmingway 2018 Short Story Competition, she is a member of the FBCW.

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Michelle Simms:
Michelle Simms is the Web Manager at Orca Book Publishers and an instructor at North Island College. She developed Orca’s first “Social Media Strategy for Authors” and has worked with many bestselling Canadian writers. Michelle loves that social media rewards those who can connect with their communities in a genuine, personal way. She tries to keep her two little boys off social media (at least for a few more years) and thinks that @MerriamWebster—yes, the dictionary—is the funniest account on Twitter.

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Terrance James:
Dr. Terrance James is a graduate of the Rehabilitation Studies Program at the University of Calgary. He was a career public education teacher and administrator, college and university sessional instructor, and a rehabilitation consultant specializing with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). He has written books of memoir, biography, local history, education and on PWS topics. In retirement he is heavily invested in supporting seniors. For a decade he has operated Poplar Publishing as a ministry to assist local first-time authors to get their books into print. He is past President of the CVWS.

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Traci Skuce:
Traci Skuce lives in Cumberland, BC, with her husband and son. Her work has appeared in several literary journals, including The New Quarterly, Prairie Fire, New Ohio Review, and Grain.  She was longlisted for the 2019 CBC Short Story Prize, and a runner-up for the 2019 Prism Short-short fiction prize. In April 2020, her short story collection, Hunger Moon, will be released by NeWest Press. She’s been teaching creative writing in the Valley for twenty years and continues to feel passionate about language and craft.

Presenters: Sunday – January 26, 2020       

Jan Zwicky:
Jan Zwicky is the author of nearly twenty books of poetry and prose including Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, The Experience of Meaning, and, with Robert Bringhurst, Learning to Die: Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis. Her most recent poetry collection, The Long Walk, which bears witness to environmental and cultural cataclysm, has been described as “moving, capacious, and profound”. Zwicky’s many honours include the Governor General’s Award and the Dorothy Livesay Prize. She lectures frequently in Europe and North America, and publishes widely as an essayist on issues in music, poetry, philosophy, and the environment.

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Judy LeBlanc:
Judy LeBlanc moved to Fanny Bay from Victoria in 2012. She’s worked as an outreach counsellor for youth and families and an ESL teacher in an immigrant settlement program. These experiences inform her stories as does her deep attachment to the landscape of Vancouver Island where she’s lived most of her life. She began writing between work and single parenting, and in 1999 she was selected as a writing delegate to the Festival of the Arts in Prince George. Later that year, Other Voices published a story and Reference West, a chapbook collection of her short stories. This was soon followed by a publication in Grain.

In 2011 Judy completed a MFA in creative writing at the University of Victoria with Bill Gaston as her supervisor. Since then her short stories have been published in numerous literary magazines including Geist, Malahat Review, Prism, Antigonish Review, Filling Station. She won the Islands Short Fiction Award in 2015, the Antigonish Review’s 2012 Sheldon Currie Fiction contest, was longlisted for the CBC short story prize in 2013 and was a runner-up for the Malahat 2011 Open Season Award and the Room Short Forms contest in 2018. Her reviews have been published in The Coastal Spectator and the Malahat Review. In 2017 Oolichan Books published her collection of short stories, The Promise of Water. She currently has a novel under consideration at a publisher. In 2019 she received a BC Arts Council grant to write a collection of personal essays conflating grief from her mother’s death and the loss of connection with a Coast Salish ancestry on her mother’s side.

Judy is the founder and former artistic director for The Fat Oyster Reading Series and has taught all genres of creative writing at North Island College since 2014.

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Paula Wild:
Paula Wild is an award-winning author of seven books. Return of the Wolf: Conflict and Coexistence won a Silver Medal in Environment/Ecology at the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Based in the USA, the annual award honours the best independently published English language books from around the world. The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous was shortlisted for the Bill Duthie’s Booksellers’ Choice Award in Canada and was the Gold winner for Foreword Review’s Nature Book of the Year in the USA. Sointula Island Utopia received an award from the BC Historical Association, which cited the book as “a significant contribution to history.”

Her more than 1,000 articles on topics as diverse as ladybugs, teen suicide and con artists have appeared in British Columbia Magazine, Canada’s History Magazine, the  Vancouver Sun and other publications. Many were cover stories with several being nominated for the National Magazine Awards. “On a Mission for Life” received the John Alexander Award.


This form is closed for submissions.