Flash Back Fridays


The Campbell River Courier, Thursday, August 8, 1985

The first annual Strathcona Summer Writing Workshop and Festival Weekend held at Strathcona Park Lodge got off to a good start last weekend. Organizer Jane Sellwood PhD did an excellent job of mixing an informal, relaxed approach with a busy, full, and intense schedule of events. Novice writers and educators interested in creative writing attended workshops, readings, and discussions directed by B.C. poets, novelists, and playwrights.

Poet Tom Wayman got things rolling by discussing “Writing About Work”. He said the writer looking for material that is both human and largely ignored should consider writing about work.
Wayman claimed work is a taboo subject in most modern writing. The movies portray every exotic, lurid, and perverse human activity but almost never show anyone working. Novels and TV shows about policemen or doctors ignore truthful accounts of routine police work or day-to-day medical practice.

Veteran freelancer Arthur Mayse talked about the tough times and hard-won joys of writing for a living. He traced his career from writing short stories for the old ‘Saturday Evening Post’ to brainstorming with his wife Win a series of TV scripts for ‘The Beachcombers’. Generous and forthright, Mayse has learned how to survive in a profession that offers few rewards and one only one promise: write for 20, 30, or 50 years, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of who you are.

Anne Cameron, author of ‘Daughter of Copper Woman’ and the most renowned screenwriter this country has yet produced, gave a reading of her poems, stories, and fables. Her writing has an exciting, refreshing balance of the tough and the supple, of hard-nosed experience and tender-hearted innocence.

The singer and songwriter Louise Escalier, a familiar nightspot performer up and down Vancouver Island, did a workshop on writing song lyrics. Accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, Escalier has a sweet and clear voice.

On Sunday, Howard White, poet, author, and founder of Harbour Publishing and ‘Raincoast Chronicle’, gave an honest, informative talk on ‘Getting Published’. Not as simple as walking across the street, getting published, even in the 1980s, is still easier than putting a man on the moon.

White urged the novice writer to learn patience, persistence, good work habits, professional care and attention to manuscripts. The study of market trends and new developments is essential if you want to get published.

Tom Wayman and Howard White gave a poetry reading. Despite his interest in writing about work, Wayman’s poems are wide-ranging in both form and content. He has lately developed a style best described as metaphorically anecdotal.

That may sound a bit high-faluting, but in practice it renders poems of well wrought power and compassion. His poem ‘Paper, Scissors, Stone’ argues that the work we do, when shared across the board of society, is and ought to be our dignity.

Howard White’s poetry, collected in ‘The Men There Were Then’, deals with his experiences and collecting of tall tales working in the bush of B.C. as both logger and miner. His poems have the droll good humor of the province’s workforce and deal with such grim realities as accidents and unemployment.

Anne Cameron returned for a discussion of ‘Writing and Personal Commitment’. Her message was blunt and straight ahead: unless you’ve got something to say and are willing to make every sacrifice finding a way to say it, then forget about being a writer. Her best advice to the young writer willing to make this sacrifice is” get a job”.

Charles Tidler, the writer of this article, lectured on writing plays for radio, ‘Create a World ASAP.’
Jack Hodgins closed the weekend festival portion of the Strathcona Summer Writing Workshop with a reading of his fiction.

He read ‘The Chainsaw Wedding’ episode form his novel ‘The Invention of the World’, as well as the first chapter of a novel-in-progress, ‘The Master of Happy Ending’.

Hodgins then remained behind at Strathcona Lodge to direct a five-day fiction writing workshop.