Writers on the train making stops in Thompson and Churchill

Readers, writers and anyone interested in the writing process will have the chance to hear from Winnipeg writers Anita Daher and Ariel Gordon in Thompson April 2 and in Churchill April 5 during the 2016 Manitoba Writers on the Train tour.

The pair will be reading and holding a question-and-answer session in the basement of the Thompson Public Library at 2 p.m. April 2 and reading at the Churchill Public Library at 7 p.m. April 5 with a reception to follow afterwards. Daher is also doing a presentation at Thompson Public Library’s story time April 2 based on her Itty Bitty Bits book and there will be an evening reading at Northern Spirit Manor in Thompson as well. Gordon and Daher will also give presentations to Duke of Marlborough School in Churchill and host a creative writing workshop at University College of the North Churchill Regional Centre from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 9.

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The author of more than a dozen books for children and youth as well as an actor, Daher is no stranger to Manitoba’s north, having lived in Thompson from 1989 to 1998, where she hosted the “Afternoon Delight” show on CHTM and co-hosted the “Saturday Night Party” with Kenneth Lloyd. Gordon has written two books of poetry published by Windsor’s Palimpsest Press as well as poetry chapbooks published by publishers in Edmonton, Vernon and Saskatoon. She is currently working on a manuscript of creative non-fiction about Winnipeg’s urban forests.

Gordon’s love of poetry comes from a couple of sources.

“I’ve trained myself to see the world as poetry and I like the form, but if I’m being completely honest, it’s also because I sometimes find 5,000 word essays intimidating,” says Gordon. “But I’m trying to work with that fear, to make it work for me. I also regularly write articles on books and writers for a variety of publications.”

Daher also has a complicated relationship with some forms of writing.

“I’ve always believed that writers have an emotional age they go to naturally when they tap into their most creative space,” Daher says. “For me that has always been about age 12, give or take a few years depending on the story idea. Writing middle grade fiction is my most natural fit. I also write picture books, teen novels, short stories, book reviews, articles and (now) screenplays. Each has its own set of challenges, and, when they are working, beautiful rewards. I suppose articles are most difficult for me, especially when I need to call someone up and interview them. Social anxiety and all that. I’m a bit shy.”

Anita Daher
Winnipeg writer Anita Daher will be hosting readings and question-and-answer sessions in Thompson April 2 and in Churchill April 5 during the 2016 Manitoba Writers on the Train tour. - Anita Daher

Both have done presentations and appeared on panels for a variety of audiences before.

“If I am on a panel I am quite comfortable speaking from experience, answering questions,” says Daher. “For anything else, I prepare—a lot! My school presentations combine props, photos, and interaction with the audience as well as readings from a featured book. For my picture book, Itty Bitty Bits, I even learned how to play the ukulele, and commissioned talented family entertainer Curtis Wiebe to write a song.”

Gordon has given presentations and workshops to everyone from elementary school students to ad agency copywriters.

For writers, attending events like this can provide inspiration as well as nuts-and-bolts information.

“Our collective expertise ranges from picture books to YA novels to collections of poetry to essay collections,” says Gordon. “Writers and readers attending our events can expect to feel encouraged. Because we all need a little encouragement from time to time, don’t we? We all need to know that we’re a part of a community of writers and readers, that we’re connected to each other and that what we’re doing is important.”

Daher echoes those thoughts.

“Because I was an editor at Great Plains Publications for many years, and Ariel works in marketing and publicity at University of Manitoba Press, we are able to answer a wide range of questions about the publishing industry,” she says.

Connecting with readers and writers benefits the presenters as well.

“It is a joy to take time to focus solely on our creative selves, connecting with fellow writers and readers, all lovers of ideas and written expression,” says Daher. “Also, story isn’t born at a desk. It comes from life. We need to get out in it, find and catch our threads of idea and inspiration which, if we are lucky, we can then distill into something more focused once back in our solitary writing spaces.”

Face-to-face interaction is a different kind of dialogue than writing, Gordon says.

“Publishing books is one way to be in dialogue with the world, but it’s at a remove,” she says. “Getting to talk to people, to share your writing and discuss the ideas and images it contains, is much more immediate.”

As for the question that aspiring writers always pose – what advice can you give to someone starting out? - Daher and Gordon agree that carving out a place to pursue the passion is essential.

“When I began writing with the intent to be published there was was no social media—only the trilling bell of an occasional email would pull me out of a story (I went willingly),” says Daher. “Today’s e-distraction is much more invasive and hard to resist. A few years ago I finally downloaded a program to ‘lock’ my Internet for time period of my choosing—including email. I was surprised at how often I would write a bit, then click on my browser planning to check a fact or image. Or write and exhausting bit, then click on my browser for a Facebook ‘rest.’”

Contrary to what writers often decree, Gordon doesn’t think you have to write every day.

“I certainly don’t write every day,” she says. “But I think that to be a writer you have to consciously make room for writing in your life. You have to schedule it in, the same way you schedule shifts at your job or classes at school.”

The 2016 Manitoba Writers on the Train tour is sponsored by University College of the North, Via Rail, the Manitoba Writers’ Guild, the Manitoba Arts Council and the Churchill Arts Council.

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