A sail’s triangular tongue banters with the rocks. Waves toss thoughts and fragmented sentences against a sandy shore. I concentrate on the shared words. In this resort community known as Winnipeg Beach, each sound, each scent, each writer’s voice matters.
That’s one of several treasured lessons I penned into my notebook while attending the May 20th workshop of the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group.
As a stranger, I wasn’t sure what to expect at this gathering but I inhaled the fresh air of an opened window and smiled as each writer entered the room. We met inside a quaint cottage adorned with original Manitoba art and we sat in a circle like friends telling stories around a crackling campfire. This casual atmosphere definitely enhanced the exchange of literary voices and chatter.
Richard, the only male in attendance, started the evening by reading chapter 13 of his novel in progress. His writing flowed smooth like beer from a bottle and soon his main character was faced with the discovery of a dead friend. His addition of believable dialogue kept the story moving. I enjoyed his use of sounds: “bang the lid”, “cough, cough”, and “clanging noises”. A lively discussion followed with other writers in the room offering suggestions and words of encouragement.
I relaxed and settled deeper into the soft folds of the couch.
One by one, we shared our work, sometimes pausing to sip tea or nibble on an offering of homemade cake or a slice of juicy watermelon. Ruth read her submission to the Contemporary Verse2 Two-Day Poem Contest, Olive shared a technical piece written for an educational market. Jeanne read a character sketch. Helme presented an ekphrastic poem based on an artist’s manipulated photograph. Tyra shared a sci-fi piece while Linda read a shocking short story about a woman involved with a male character who had eyes “the colour of blue jeans”.
After focusing on poetry for over a decade, I welcomed the variety of genres with each writer presenting his or her own style. Sometimes when our feedback crossed the line, we were reminded to respect the writer’s voice and to not influence our writing style onto someone else.
What a magical moment to have met such a warm community of gifted writers. I thought about my friend who gave me a Special Edition copy of Voices in December 2012 and who encouraged me to become familiar with the Manitoba authors who published in this biannual anthology. At first I hesitated to contact the group, but years later when my schedule took me to this Canadian prairie province, I decided to venture out.
I still recall the muffled hum of van tires as I travelled north along Highway 8 towards cottage country. A storm had passed through the area a few days earlier. Ditches swelled with run-off and rainwater. A chorus of frogs serenaded me into the Winnipeg Beach area. Their voices were loud yet inviting as if these amphibians sensed my unease as I inched my way towards the meeting location. What was I doing here?
Arriving over an hour early, I drove passed the workshop location and parked my car along the beach where two fishermen cradled fishing lines beside the dock.
I took a deep breath, listened to the waves splash beneath my shoes as a sail boat glided along Lake Winnipeg.
Writers sometimes speak about the muse or hearing voices in their heads. I’m glad my inner voice nudged me towards this group. I hope many of the members will stay in touch.
As Ruth Matlow Asher, co-editor of a previous issue of Voices wrote: “Sincere thanks…to you, reader, without you our voices are not heard.”*
May we all find the courage to share our unique writing styles and may we appreciate those writers’ groups and readers who support us in our literary goals.
For more information about the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group, check out their website here.
For more information about Voices: Journal of the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group, see here. Volume 15, Number 1 was launched Sunday, May 3, 2015 at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
For more information about the group’s past and future contests open to all writers see here.
Visit here for more information about the community of Winnipeg Beach.
This resort area also houses many artists. Several will be participating in the 14th Annual WAVE Interlake Artists’ Studio Tour to be held on two weekends: June 13 to 14 and September 5 to 6. For more information, check their website here.
*This quote by Ruth Matlow Asher appears in Voices, Journal of the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group, Special Edition, Volume Eleven, Number One, an anthology she co-edited with Richard Koreen in 2010-2011.