Everyone has a dream.
For many, it’s to write the Great Canadian Novel. Or a best-selling collection of short stories or poems. Or an award-winning nonfiction book.
Sometimes it seems like everyone wants to be a writer. And while the starving artist in the garret is likely more myth than fact, there’s no denying that writing is a solitary pursuit.
But if you live in the Comox Valley it doesn’t have to be.
Aside from a few years here and there, the Valley has been home to an active writing club for nearly half a century. Now called the Comox Valley Writers’ Society, the organization has approximately 20 members.
Although they all love putting words to paper — or computer screen — their interests are varied. One writes about a rare medical condition, another has published a memoir and a third is fascinated by Sasquatches.
At the moment, the group has more nonfiction writers and slightly more female members and the age demographic ranges from the mid-20s up.
Some members have experienced success with traditional publishers, others have chosen the self-publishing route and many are interested in exploring the world of e-books. And a few write for purely personal reasons.
Meetings take place the third Thursday of every month at Valley View Elementary School. After the business component and announcements are finished, those wanting feedback on their work can read it aloud.
When Susan Ketchen, author of Born That Way and Made That Way (Oolichan Books, 2009 and 2010) started her first novel, she wasn’t sure if readers would find it funny or even interesting.
“I took a few chapters to CVWS meetings,” she says. “The group was great. They laughed at all the right spots, were totally engaged and wanted to hear more.
“They’ve been very encouraging and supportive and hosted both my book launches. I never felt like I was writing in isolation.”
“We all belong to the club for the collegiality,” says John Bindernagle. “It’s very encouraging.”
The real connections, however, happen after the meetings when everyone adjourns for coffee at Tim Horton’s. That’s where people with similar projects or interests pair up or form their own small groups.
“The club is a good place for beginning writers,” notes Terry James. “It’s very inclusive and supportive. People take an interest in what others are doing and offer help and suggestions as needed.”
The original Comox Valley Writers Club was founded in 1964 by Phyllis Long, Ben Hughes, Bill Des and a few others. And while everyone had their own manuscript on the go, once the entire club chipped in to co-author a Harlequin Romance.
“It was more of a challenge than you would think as there’s a very rigid formula to follow,” Long said in a 1983 interview for a Comox District Free Press article.
And even 28 years ago, emerging writers complained about how much more difficult it was to get published than in the past.
“Newspapers and magazines are turning more and more to feature writers who already have established names,” said Long. “It’s extremely difficult for an amateur to make a dent with markets being so tight.”
The writers club existed under one name or another off and on in various forms throughout the years.
Des Lindo, now president of the society, joined the group in 1996. “The club folded a few years later as the young woman that was president moved because of work and Matt Hughes, the vice-president, and myself, treasurer, had other things to do, like write a couple of books,” he explains.
“Then, finding myself in possession of a bank account for which I was the only extant holder of signing authority, I had no recourse but to revive the group, find new officers, and hand over a bank account which, because of inactivity, had been drained of its funds by monthly bank charges.”
Lindo had no trouble finding enthusiastic members and for the past three years the club has once again become a vibrant part of the Comox Valley’s cultural scene.
Workshops on a variety of topics such as self-publishing, memoir writing and making a chapbook are held periodically and monthly public readings take place at the Comox Valley Community Arts Council Muir Gallery on the second Tuesday of the month. Last year the club also participated in the Local Colours celebration.
“I really like being part of the group,” says Terry James. “It’s stimulating and widely divergent. And everyone is passionate and has something to share.”
And the cost of all this writerly camaraderie? An easily affordable $15 a year. An additional donation of $1 is suggested at meetings to pay the rent on the room.
For more information, or to become a member, contact Des Lindo at 250-338-0965 or deslind@