Bursting balloons, step-dancing and open-mic readings celebrate authors
How does an organization celebrate 30 years?
Gwen Martin, executive director of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick (WFNB) says it should be with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture accompanied by a full volley of cannons. But since the May 22-24 anniversary event was held in Moncton, which like all municipalities has noise bylaws; cannons were nixed and replaced with balloons.
Orchestrated by Martin, members popped balloons at one minute intervals, keeping time with the soaring overture that filled The Four Points by Sheraton hotel for Friday’s opening of WordSpring, setting the tone for book launches, storytelling and the reading of ‘purple-ish prose’ from the Moncton Times of 1890, a nod to the city’s own anniversary. On Saturday there were professional skills-based workshops, roundtable discussions, a Blue Pencil Café where writers brought their work-in-progress for one-on-one sessions and the annual general meeting.
While annual general meetings are typically boring at best, this was an exception with groundbreaking initiatives announced including plans to publish an anthology of writing by youth and a mentorship program, which outgoing president Rayanne Brennan says she “truly believes will help create the next generation of New Brunswick authors. When I became president five years ago, I went on road trips and asked members how we could be of service and over and over again I heard how important mentorship would be to them, how they would like an opportunity to learn from an established author. So it’s taken a few years but this past winter we had our first pairing between established poet Alan Cooper and emerging writer Jane Simpson.”
Highlights of Saturday’s Literary Soirée included author Anne Emery on writing mysteries (Lying for a Living); the high energy fiddling and step-dancing of Martha Pitre and readings by first and second place winners of the 2015 WFNB Writing Competition. “Of the total 177 entries received, 51 were from youth when previously we only had eight or 10,” Brennan noted, paying credit to WFNB’s Writers in the Schools Program, funded by the province’s education department, “and growing by leaps and bounds.”
When events wrapped up with Sunday morning brunch and open mic readings downtown at the Olde Triangle Irish Alehouse, members agreed the quality of the 2015 edition of WordSpring was unsurpassed and WFNB stronger than ever. But seven months ago it was a different story when both the newly appointed part-time executive director and the recently elected president resigned – the executive director to accept a full-time position and the president because of an over-loaded schedule.
Stepping into the void, past president Rayanne Brennan took charge and with the board of directors’ blessing, invited director Gwen Martin to accept the executive director’s position. “And it was Gwen who righted our ship and set her on course,” said Brennan at the annual general meeting where her words were drowned out by applause. Although everyone was clapping, no one was clapping louder than founding member and novelist Nancy Bauer who has watched membership grow from 10 in 1985 to an all-time high of 268. With that kind of strength she, newly elected president Warren Redman and all New Brunswick writers can now face the future with confidence.
Editor’s Note: In the interests of disclosure, we would like to note that the author of this piece is a member of the Writers Federation of New Brunswick and the Professional Writers Association of Canada.