Workshops continue annual tradition of discussing compelling topics
Creative minds got little rest during Reading Week as the third annual Writers Workshops invited the community, students, and U of G faculty and staff to participate in a wide range of seminars on everything from blog writing and grammar, to publishing research and writing for an internet audience.
The workshops took place all day Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 in McLaughlin Library, and were free this year, which has been the goal of Jodie Salter, the chief organizer behind the event, since her take-over of the event last year.
“That was something I fought for,” said Salter, adding that the resulting community outreach from the workshops will hopefully help to bring people from on and off campus into the library.
“I think it’s important for the university and the library to make itself more accessible, but also to make itself accessible to faculty and staff who may only think of this building as a repository for databases that they access online.”
The change in admission pricing wasn’t the only development from last year’s event. Elsevier, a publisher of science, technical, and health-related work, sponsored the event, which according to Salter, allowed the workshops to have more promotion behind them and be “a bit fancier.”
Of course, the main focuses of the event were the seminars themselves, which were organized in a way that let attendees follow the same or different streams throughout the program schedule.
“I’ve tried to create streams, so creative writing streams, academic streams, digital communication streams, so hopefully if someone [was] interested in that, they [could] follow it through the two days,” said Salter.
The digital communication stream was particularly present in the workshops, with attention given to writing for the Internet in multiple seminars, even ones that were not directly related to the web. For example, Salter told The Ontarion that writing for the net came up in “Plain Language Writing Strategies” presented by Kim Garwood and Andrea Karpala as “accessibility to broader audiences” was discussed. Social media use was also explored by several workshops like “Managing Your Reputation Using Social Media” led by Stuart Robertson and “How to Please Both People and Robots with Your Digital Content” by Colleen Tully.
Other presenters included Calantha Elsby, the local persona behind the food blog piecurious.com, Nicholas Murphy, a U of G grad student working towards his PhD who moonlights as an award-winning filmmaker, and creative writing pros like Sandra Sabatini and Kilby Smith-McGregor, to name a few of the many talented individuals who took the time to lead dynamic and absorbing seminars.
Whether digital content discussions will continue to be a significant part of the workshops depends on the attendees’ reception of the workshops, says Salter.
“I’m curious to see how the numbers are for those [workshops] in order to think of how we’ll shape it for next year.”
Based on some of the feedback from the event, a variety of the seminars and streams were well-received, and people enjoyed the low registration fee.
“I’m really focused on trying to hone in on research skills and research writing skills, and it was free,” said Telesphore Marie, a first-year agriculture student, on why he attended, adding, “I think it’s a great thing to share these ideas and this information with people like myself.”
Kasia Zygmunt, a community member, agreed, commenting on the wide range of writing “tools and different views” that were made available through the event, and the free entry, which was a “huge contributor” to her presence at the workshops. Anjelica Abarra, a second-year English student used the workshops “to gain more knowledge from professionals.”
For Salter, the event was meant to show the library off, and break “unconscious barriers” between the surrounding community and the campus, as well as the barriers between the library and people who regularly visit the campus. Networking and promoting other writing programs were also key parts of the event.
“We have Creative Writing at Guelph here this year,” said Salter, “[So we can] get the community educated on what’s being offered,” adding that she sees the workshops “as a space where you start to create dialogue and networking on a multitude of levels.”
Salter’s vision for the future of the workshops is clear.
“It would be great if it becomes a network for different writers to create community outside of work place.”