September has always felt like the beginning of the new year for me. It’s fitting to announce a major change as the calendar clicks over to month nine. Here’s a letter I sent to the participants at Thursdays Writing Collective. In the last 24 hours I have been the recipient of tender, supportive responses from the people who have helped me hone my writing skills. I cannot speak highly enough of the participants – or their new director!
Dear Thursdays Writing Collective writers,
When I started writing at Carnegie Community Centre in February 2008 I didn’t expect to become so deeply knit into the literary community of the Downtown Eastside. I thought I was co-facilitating a four-week course!
Now just shy of nine years later, we have spent thousands of hours of writing together. We’ve made eight publications, and collaborated with scores of international writers and artists. We have solidified Thursdays Writing Collective as a vivacious, knowledgeable and creative group with a strong reputation not only locally but nationally, too. Writing and talking with Thursdays Writing Collective has made me a better writer, a better editor, and it has taught me how to teach. It has also brought me the connections and friendships that are the best part of everything good.
Thursday afternoons have been a favourite day of mine since that first class in February 2008 – no matter what is happening in the world, I leave the third floor classroom feeling better about things – about life, about writing, about creativity. My kids have grown up knowing the reason I’m not picking them up at school on Thursdays is because I’m part of something much bigger than myself. They have seen me squeeze email answers, financial planning sessions, board meetings, runs to the printers and late night readings into our lives and they know how important and joyful this work is to me.
We have created a special magic together and thanks to all of you, the ripple continues to surge outward. We have a really exciting year planned of writing about “Visualizing the Word” and we have the support of Canada Council for the Arts to make it happen in a beautiful way.
Thursdays Writing Collective has thrived on two main rules: the first one is about the writing prompts and you have probably heard me say it a million times: “there is no way to do it wrong.” The second rule speaks to the why and the how of involvement in the Collective: “work to your joy level.” Focussing on what serves us each best in regards to our time together ensures our collective success. How do we make the experience joyful, even if we are doing hard or painful work? How do we structure our efforts to support each other rather than sap us emotionally or time-wise?
My time inside the classroom writing with everyone is a blast. The amount of work and administrative tasks that happen outside our time together, not so much anymore. In thinking about “the joy level” several things became clear to me this spring. I need a change. I want the Collective to continue full force. I want to continue to be connected with it, and all of you. It is time for me to hand over the day-to-day direction and the facilitating.
I’m delighted to let you know that what I wrote out as my “dream scenario” is happening, and happening in a way that will leave the Collective better, faster and stronger. Beginning in September I will be stepping down as Director of Thursdays Writing Collective. I will remain as a board member and continue as an active writing member, when I am able to attend.
The new Director is Amber Dawn, an award-winning, multi-genre, multi-book author who has years of experience teaching inside and outside of university settings. Amber Dawn wrote with us in our
LETTERING project two years ago and as a board member has been engaged with all sorts of support for our organization. Most recently, she MC’d our Literary Verses and Courses event at Heartwood Community Café with Cease Wyss.
Here is her bio:
Amber Dawn is a writer living on unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver, Canada). Her memoir How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir won the 2013 Vancouver Book Award. She is the author of the Lambda Award-winning novel Sub Rosa, and editor of the anthologies Fist of the Spider Women: Fear and Queer Desireand With A Rough Tongue. Her newest book Where the words and my body begins is a collection of glosa form poems. She currently teaches creative writing at Douglas College and the University of British Columbia, as well as volunteer mentors at several community-driven art and healing spaces.
When I say I can’t imagine a better Director, I mean it. Amber Dawn is a committed DTES community member with a wide-range of interests and literary connections. She is also uniquely attuned to the characteristics of our group and knows how to enhance the spark, rather than smother it. Amber Dawn’s intellect, gentleness and sense of fun are going to be a huge boon to TWC. I can’t wait to see things take off.
I hope you all understand how excited I am about this change for all of us. I will have much more open time to spend with my kids and to write (I have two more books coming out!) and I’m looking forward to recharging my batteries. TWC gets to have a fluid hand-off from me to Amber Dawn – I’ll be around at sessions, events, and so forth. And Amber Dawn is really energized about connecting with this committed, talented group of writers.
In the past few months I have seen you stretch and reach and try new things, both in your writing and off the page. This growth reassures me that TWC will adapt and evolve in all the best ways – some will be familiar and others will be surprising.
I won’t say goodbye – we’ll stay in touch – but I will say hello to Amber Dawn as she begins leading TWC’s regular Thursdays classes from 2pm – 4pm beginning September 15, 2016.
Please update your address book with Amber Dawn’s contact info:
amberdawn (at) thursdayswritingcollective.ca
To each of you I send warmth and gratitude for the past experiences and in anticipation of the new ones!