It’s time to sharpen your pencils. The Fernie Writers Conference is making its return to the Elk Valley after a nine year hiatus.
With fresh new energy and ideas, this year’s conference is bringing many new things to the table. First and foremost is the addition of several mini conferences throughout the year.
The first mini conference took place in November and there are upcoming ones in January, March and May. This coming weekend, from January 31 to February 2, writers will gather to workshop and fine tune their various projects in the first mini conference of the year.
Jayme Moye, who was the 2019 recipient of the Banff Centre’s Mountaineering Article Award for Mountain Literature will be a part of the writing-filled weekend. Moye is an accomplished writer who has had bylines in National Geographic, Outside magazine, Adventure Journal, Travel + Leisure and many more.
The mini conference will kick off on Friday evening and resume at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. According to organizer Keith Liggett, “the mornings of Saturday and Sunday are left open (for skiing) with the workshop sessions starting in the afternoon.” There will also be a breakfast with Moye on Sunday morning at Cirque Restaurant where she will read and answer questions about her work. This breakfast, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. will be open to the public.
Liggett said that he received a ton of support with breathing life back into the writers conference. In fact, the amount of support from the writing and local community is what made him pick up the torch and launch the conference once again.
Another big change to this year’s conference is actually a first for Fernie. According to Liggett, he has always wanted to bring in a writer in residence. Now, that dream is becoming a reality.
“We have a place for them to stay for three weeks. They’re going to be a part of the May mini conference,” he explained. “Then they’ll do an adult workshop which will have tuition to it and we’ll give that back to them as a stipend and then they’ll do three or four sessions with the high school kids. And then they’ll do a beginning reading and last reading. But for those three weeks, they’ll only have 25 hours of work they have to do and it’s all going to be for existing projects.”
Liggett added that “It’s going to be a really valuable experience for whoever comes in and for the community.” Although the writer in residence hasn’t been selected yet, Liggett has some theories about the type of writer he might want to bring in.
“I got a lot of grief at the first conference [in 2007] because I didn’t hire local writers,” he said. “The idea of this is to bring people you can’t normally study with in for a week or two and add new blood to this and not do the regular people.”
Between the mini conferences throughout the year, the writer in residence and the week long conference in August, local writers are definitely going to have a chance to engage with fellow writers in a productive and challenging environment.
It is also worth nothing that the conference isn’t just for established writers. There are sessions aimed towards “emerging writers” which are for people who aren’t currently working on anything.
“The idea is to get them, through exercises in poetry, prose, and non-fiction, headed in a direction so that they have something to start with,” said Liggett.
There are also a fair amount of youth involved in the conferences. Liggett said the aim is to integrate the young writers into the group of adults so that they are all on an equal basis and can talk writing and improve upon their work. He also noted that some local youth writers are extremely talented.
Although the workshops are open to everyone, Liggett noted that “most of the people who go to the longer sessions have a longer work that they are working on… and they are looking for a real solid critique on maybe plotting or characterization or conversations.”
Whether you are an aspiring writer, are currently working on the next great Canadian novel or are just looking to learn some new writing techniques, there’s sure to be a writers conference experience for you.
“The most common comment when people come out of it is that it is transformative and it is an extremely effective way to build critique and build skillsets and self-editing,” explained Liggett.
Anyone interested in signing up for one of the mini or full length conferences can visit Ferniewriters.org. There are also scholarships available to help cover the cost of tuition to the conferences. Further information on scholarships is available on the website.