2021 North Island Writers Conference


  • January 8 – 29, 2021
  • Co-hosts: Comox Valley Writers Society & North Island College
  • Location: virtually via Zoom










January 8th, Friday – Opening Night

  • 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Welcome from CV Writers Society & NIC
  • Federation of BC Writers representative
  • Guest speaker: Jennifer Manuel, award-winning author and teacher
  • Free and open to the public but must register to receive invite

January 9th & 10th, Saturday & Sunday – WORKSHOP IS NOW FULL

  • Scenes: Inject Life into Fiction & Nonfiction
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. both days
  • Presenter: Jeanette Taylor
  • Registration: $30.00

Specific details that evoke readers’ senses, and scenes (or half scenes) bring stories fully alive—but both can be hard to achieve in real-life accounts. Jeanette Taylor will share tips for drawing upon the drama of sensory details and ways to layer them into your fact-based account. She’ll talk about the use quotes; and ways to recreate scenes from shards of evidence, while staying true to nonfiction’s promise of truth.

Taylor’s workshop will include discussion and exercises, allowing you to sample concepts using your current project as a test case. She’ll also provide follow up handouts and a reading list.

Bring your notebook or device, and ideas for writing a passage about a significant event in your subject’s life.

January 11th – 15th, Monday to Friday

  • Reimagine the Page: Transform Your Page with Deep Revisions
  • Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. each day
  • Presenter: Jennifer Manuel
  • Registration: $50.00

Learn four transformative strategies for seeing your fiction through a new lens. By the end of the workshop, you will have concisely identified areas in your fiction that need work using simple yet powerful mapping techniques. Through examples and hands-on practice, you will learn to: survey narrative space; map emotional terrain; measure narrative distance; and mark places of narrative energy. Once you have re-visioned your work, you will then learn how to: boost narrative energy in four ways (friction, torque, magnetism, and illumination); use proportion to set the perfect pace and to signal significant story moments; vary the “camera lens” to make the reader feel intensely close to the story; and shape the emotional terrain on the surface and below it, using subtext. Suitable for writers of fiction, memoirs, and other forms of creative non-fiction.

January 16th & 17th, Saturday & Sunday

  • The Lyric Essay: Creative Nonfiction’s Outlier
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. both days
  • Presenter: Judy LeBlanc
  • Registration: $30.00

In this introductory workshop you’ll discover and explore the possibilities of the lyric essay. You will gain a better understanding of this creative nonfiction form described in its simplest terms as a hybrid between poetry and prose. Not so easy to define, it is generally understood that a lyric essay attends to language and metaphor as in poetry but shares much with the personal essay in that it is given to introspection and digression. What further makes it distinct is its use of juxtaposition, segmentation and white space. We will discuss the lyric essay’s unique qualities and read from examples. You will be guided in how to use some of the techniques behind the form such as mosaic and braiding. Writing exercises will give you an opportunity to try out these techniques.

“We turn to the lyric essay – with its malleability, ingenuity, immediacy, complexity, and use of poetic language – to give us a fresh way to make music of the world. But we must be willing to go out on an artistic limb with these writers, keep our balance on their sometimes vertiginous byways.” Deborah Tall

January 18th – 22nd, Monday to Friday – WORKSHOP IS CANCELLED

  • Defying Writer’s Block for Poets
  • Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. each day
  • Presenter: Lynne Knight
  • Registration: $50.00

These workshops are for those who suffer from writer’s block, for those who have never had it, and for those who might one day find themselves facing it. In other words, they will offer ways to avoid writer’s bock altogether. Each of the workshops will revolve around a technique for accomplishing a daily, thirty-minute exercise.

All of the exercises will involve a particular form of poetry, from found poems to erasure poems, from haiku to haibun, from acrostics to verse letters, from corrupted forms to curtal sonnets, from ekphrastic poems to response poems, and from abecedarians to prose poems. We will of course mention the more familiar types of formal poetry such as the ballad, rondeau, sestina, sonnet, and villanelle, but because they require more time to achieve than our one-hour workshop will allow, we’ll focus on forms more conducive to our time constraints—and on reinforcing the idea that the surest way to defy writer’s block is to exercise your writing muscles for thirty minutes a day.

All poets, no matter the level of expertise, are welcome.

January 23rd & 24th, Saturday & Sunday

  • Finding the Write Word
  • Time: 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. both days
  • Presenter: Rachel (R.J.) McMillen
  • Registration: $30.00

The English language has just twenty-six letters, but those letters have been used to create over one million words. Which of those words should you choose to bring your story to life? Which words will connect with the reader?

Words are a writer’s only tool, and how we choose them determines whether our stories will be avidly read or will languish on the shelf. As Virginia Woolf once pointed out, each word we use has been “out and about” and has collected ‘baggage’.

In this workshop we will learn not only how to put that baggage to good use, but also how to select the words that can make our stories sing.

We will examine examples from some well-known books, and work on several short exercises designed to increase your ability to choose the best word to portray your story.

January 25th – 29th, Monday to Friday

  • Building the House of Fiction: Fundamentals of Craft
  • Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. each day
  • Presenter: Judy LeBlanc
  • Registration: $50.00

Alice Munro says a story is like a house and when she writes a story she wants “to make a certain kind of structure.” In this way fiction is not linear and the writing of it not particularly methodical. A house, says Munro, “encloses space and makes connections between one enclosed space and another and presents what is outside in a new way.”  Ultimately, the materials the writer brings into this space (memories and anecdotes drawn from a life, made up stuff, facts) builds a story. According to Munro these materials should evoke “a feeling” or take the reader to “the soul” of the house.

In this workshop we will examine the craft elements necessary to create this fictional space Munro calls a house. Specifically, we’ll consider how to make the best decisions about character, predicament, setting and point-of-view and how they interact with one another. In each of the five sessions you will be given a short writing exercise, and during the last session you’ll have an opportunity to share your writing. You will complete the workshop with a fresh piece of writing that can be applied to either a new project or to a work-in-progress. This workshop is suitable for those writing novels or short fiction and for beginners or more experienced writers in need of a recharge.

Trial program with Jordan Peters’ English 10 & 11 classes at
Mark Isfeld Secondary School
(These workshops are only available to students at Mark Isfeld.)

  • The Art & Craft of Storytelling
  • Presenter: Rachel (R.J.) McMillen
  • Poems That Whisper / Words That Explode
  • Presenter: Derek Hanebury


Derek Hanebury

Derek Hanebury is a Vancouver Island writer of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. His first book of poetry, Nocturnal Tonglen (Ekstasis), will soon be followed by his second collection, Voluntary Blindness. He just launched a book of short stories called Both Sides Now (RCN Media) with a solo collection coming out in 2021. His poems and stories have been published in many magazines and broadcasted on CBC radio; and his first novel, Ginger Goodwin: Beyond the Forbidden Plateau, (Arsenal Pulp) went to a second printing. He has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from UBC and taught writing at North Island College on Vancouver Island until his retirement in 2017.

Please note: Derek Hanebury is only presenting his poetry workshop to the English 10 & 11 students at Mark Isfeld Secondary School. Stay tuned! We may feature Derek in a future CVWS Zoom event. Sign up to our CVWS News on the sidebar to stay informed.

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Jeanette Taylor

Jeanette is a historian and writer who formerly worked at the BC Archives, the Museum at Campbell River, and latterly as the executive director of the Campbell River Art Gallery. She has five nonfiction books in print, including the BC Bestseller Tidal Passages, A History of the Discovery Islands. Her current projects are in the emerging genre of creative nonfiction, and include a biography. Her most recent book, a history of Twin Islands, BC, received accolades for storytelling and design in a recent Writers Digest Magazine self-published book competition. Taylor is the co-ordinator of a writers’ cooperative The Scribes, Comprehensive Writing Services, providing editorial reviews, draft manuscript consultations, and one-on-one mentorship. She writes a blog about writing, posted on her website, www.thescribes.ca.

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Jennifer Manuel

Jennifer Manuel’s literary 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 for short fiction and CBC named her a Writer to Watch. She has published two children’s novels. Her first Young Adult novel is out in February 2021 and her next literary novel, The Morning Bell Brings the Brokenhearted, is out Fall 2021. Jennifer’s innovative approach to deep revisions has helped many writers achieve publishing success.

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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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Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight is the author of six full-length poetry collections, three of them prize winners, and of six chapbooks (three of them also prize winners). Her work has appeared in many journals, including Poetry and Southern Review. Her awards and honors include publication in Best American Poetry, a PSA Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, a RATTLE Poetry Prize, and an NEA grant. In 2018, she became a permanent resident of Canada.

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Rachel McMillen

Rachel (R.J.) McMillen, was born in England, raised in Australia, and spent three years in Greece before moving to Canada in 1968. She is the author of the popular “Dan Connor” mystery series published by Touchwood Editions, which includes Dark Moon Walking (2014), Black Tide Rising (2015), Green River Falling (2016) and Gray Sea Running (2019).

Previous work, including non-fiction, (Driving Baja – 2005), poetry and freelance articles, have appeared in such publications as Write, WordWorks, Pacific Yachting, B.C. Outdoors, Greyzine and Seasons Magazine and Ojo de Lago. Her short stories have been included in All My Words Needed Saying and What But the Music.

She is currently working on the fifth Dan Connor novel, Pale Mist Drifting, due for release in the fall of 2021, and has a literary novel, The Colour of Love, due for release in early 2022.

“For me, writing is an expression of my personal beliefs and, in many ways, a form of political and environmental activism. I am opposed to racism. I believe we can and should embrace and learn from every culture. I believe that we are a part of nature. I am opposed to destructive industries such as open-pit mining, fracking and fish-farming. I believe in kindness and friendship. I am honoured when people read my books and tell me they have learned from them and been influenced by them.”



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