National Conference recap

A message from PWAC Quebec Chapter President Ian Howarth:

PWAC Quebec recently hosted the National Conference and AGM at Concordia University. We can say it was an unqualified success with over 100 attending including speakers, delegates, PWAC members and outside guests. The National Conference featured two days of professional development (Friday’s session, Writing is a Business, was an all-day affair dealing with writing contracts and negotiations) and on Saturday a full line-up of eight PD workshops on a range of subjects close to the heart of freelance writers.

This conference that helped PWAC celebrate its 35th year, was somewhat historic as members decided at the Sunday AGM to join MagNet in Toronto for the next three years. PWAC Quebec, along with Executive Director Sandy Crawley, Associate Director Lauren Stewart, the PWAC Board of Directors and a host of our membership and volunteers helped steer the ship in the right direction.

Our President, Tanya Gulliver, stepped down after an unprecedented three year term, and our own Craig Silverman was acclaimed as the new PWAC President. Doreen Pendgracs was elected Vice President. No doubt we will be hearing more from them soon.

We have put together an array of photographs and a summary of some social events (Kathe Lieber as host) and Bruce Wilson’s bike trip as well as some other PWAC members’ impressions of the conference. A special thanks to Jocelyne Kilpatrick, Kathe Lieber, Doreen Pendgracs, Sarah Sookman, and Bruce Wilson for contributing to this recap!

Enjoy. This is for you who were there as well as those who weren’t.

Ian Howarth
PWAC Quebec Chapter President


Doreen Pendgracs of PWAC Manitoba writes in her blog that Friday’s “Writing is a Business” session “was well worth the $100 additional cost…to hear Claude Brunet explain the components of a freelance/publishing contract and Warren Sheffer talk about small claims court. Both men are lawyers and [offered] tremendous insights on how to negotiate, when to back away/off and understanding copyright law.”

Later that afternoon delegates got down to the serious business of reviewing the proposed changes to PWAC’s constitution. Some tempers had to be held in check, but everyone felt much better at the Welcome Reception, and then downright fabulous during dinner (when the wine flowed alongside the pasta).

PWAC board member for the Prairies and the North, Cynthia Dusseault, facilitated the Friday afternoon information session for delegates. In front of her is PWAC Executive Director Sandy Crawley and PWAC legal counsel Marian Hebb of Hebb & Scheffer.
PWAC Executive Director Sandy Crawley welcomed PWAC delegates and members at a reception Friday afternoon. Giancarlo La Giorgia (RD for Quebec), Kathe Lieber (conference social coordinator) and chapter president Ian Howarth also warmed up the crowd.
PWAC delegates and members sampled some of Montreal's famous cuisine at various restaurants near Concordia University. PWAC Quebec president Ian Howarth lead a group to an Italian restaurant located in the old Montreal Forum (home of the Montreal Canadiens for so many years and now an AMC cinema among other things).


The day got off to a smooth start, thanks to the super-organized Lauren Stewart, who spent a good part of the time staffing the registration desk while the rest of us got our hands dirty at the PD sessions.

PWAC Executive Assistant Lauren Stewart (left to right), volunteer Jessica Howarth and Kim Stewart handled some of the 75-plus registrants attending the 2011 PWAC National Conference and AGM.

Speaking of getting dirty, Jean-Benoit Nadeau, co-author of 60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, passed on some fresh advice during his Write to Live session on the art of negotiation: “You have to swallow shit,” Nadeau counselled, “If it’s sweet it’s not good.”

Shit and all, there are some sweeter fields opening up for professional writers. Besides chasing the big conglomerates for contracts, have you ever thought about writing for the Canadian Grocer? Your local grocer not only has a magazine, they may be desperate for good writers, informs Suzanne Boles, as she led the session on writing for trade magazines. Also, consider medical writing. As Giancarlo La Giorgia, editor at STA HealthCare Communications, proves—you don’t even need a science degree.

Jean-Benoit Nadeau (right), co-author of "60 Million French Can't Be Wrong" and "The Story of French" explained what to do after you've hooked an editor and publisher, including the delicate issue of copyright and negotiation.

And when you have that fabulous idea for a book that only you can write, it’s time to put a plan behind the words; Julie Barlow, co-author of of 60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong, explained the essential elements of the book proposal, and how a good one is an indispensable tool that will help you snag not only an agent, but a publishing contract.

No freelance writing conference would be complete without some editors in attendance, and 3 of Montreal’s most important editorial chiefs weighed in during panel discussion about the industry.

PWAC Quebec's Regional Director Giancarlo La Giorgia moderates the editors panel with Maisonneuve editor-in-chief Drew Nelles (left), Susan Nerberg, deputy editor of enRoute Magazine and Carmine Starnino, senior editor for Reader's Digest.

Rounding out the PD sessions was Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneur, a panel discussion with Hugh McGuire, Craig Silverman and Ben Yoskovitz,  that gave entrepreneurial-minded freelancers advice on how they can take their business and brands to new heights. Alexandra Forbes, Food Editor at GQ Brazil served the ups and downs of Travel and Food Writing. And Concordia University journalism instructor Elias Makos guided workshop participants through the maze of the technological social media tools at their disposal in the session Computer-assisted Reporting.

Hugh McGuire was one of the featured panellists in a session dubbed Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneur.

Saturday (still)

After an intense day of scribbling notes, it was time for a bit of relaxation, so the PWAC delegation strolled a few blocks west to the Pepsi Forum (referred to us locals as simply, the Forum) for PWAC Gala Awards and Dinner. The keynote speaker was Carole Beaulieu, editor of L’actualité magazine (some call it the MacLean’s of Quebec). Beaulieu is a graduate of Carleton University’s journalism program and was a journalist for L’actualité from 1989-1998 before becoming editor. She addressed the challenges of journalism in a digital world, but maintains hope that the specialized, long-form “bookazines” that are starting to appear in Europe will make their way to this side of the Atlantic.

The top PWAC brass also announced the winners of this year’s PWAC writing awards:

  • Georgie Binks won the Barbara Novak Writing Award for Excellence in Humour/Personal Essay Writing for “Brace Yourself: The Upside of Midlife Orthodontia” (More)
  • Melissa Martin won the Features Writing Award for her story “La lang di Michif Ta-pashipiikan” (Winnipeg Free Press). The runner-up was Stephen Kimber for his story “Is Corey Wright the Wrong Man?” (The Coast)
  • Beverly Akerman won the Short Articles Writing Award for her story “Woman’s murder exposes need to raise age for gun ownership” (The Toronto Star).  The runner-up was L. D. Cross for her story “How to Get the Money You’re Owed” (PROFIT Magazine)
Beverly Akerman of PWAC Quebec accepts the Short Articles Writing Award.

And last but not least, the gala dinner also recognizes the efforts of regional volunteers who go the extra mile for PWAC. This year awards were given to Alison Finnamore and Kym Wolfe of the Atlantic and Ontario Regions, respectively. George Butters received the 2011    Lawrence Jackson Outstanding Achievement Award.

A stunned Kym Wolfe accepts her Ontario Regional Volunteer Award.
George Butters reflects on recieving the Lawrence Jackson Award.

Party Time (or what happens when writers eat too much chocolate)

Kathe Lieber took on the extraordinary task of making sure the PWAC delegation would get the most out of Swinging Montreal. Our social butterfly made sure a swell time was had by all, whether at the Irish Embassy Pub for the pre-show, or during a more “cultured” evening of Shakespeare (a PWAC tradition). It would be unfair to chop her notes to squeeze it into this post, so you can read it all here. And pictures are worth thousands of words, so let’s thank Rusti Lehay for making these public!

Party at Kathe’s house.


The Biker Gang

PWAC Quebec member Bruce Wilson organized a post-conference cycling adventure in the fabulous Laurentian Mountains, just north of Montreal. Again, the full travelogue can be read here. And more photos courtesy of Rusti.

That’s all folks!

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathe Lieber says:

    Thanks for putting this together, Ian! A great summary of a terrific conference…

    Are you going to post a link to the L and the Biz lists and to the PWAC page on Facebook?

  2. Kathe Lieber says:

    I’ll do it while I’m thinking of it, Ian. Link duly posted.

  3. Thanks for the excellent recap, Ian, and to linking folks to my writer’s blog for further reflections on the conference. Drop in & read Tracey’s reflections there as well.

    The conference and AGM was a perfect blend of professional development, professionalism and fun!

  4. Thanks Ian – well recorded! You did forget to mention you hosted a great walking tour on the Monday – and arranged spectacular sunshine for the event!

  5. This is great! Thanks for doing this.

  6. Cynthia Dusseault says:

    Ian, this is such a great idea. The event was fabulous, right down to the rather fiery AGM.

  7. Tracey Arial says:

    Great roundup to an inspiring conference, Ian. Can’t wait to see what you’ve got up your sleeve next.

  8. Stan Taylor says:

    Its look ans sounds like you all had a blast as well as informative sessions. I wish I could have been there. I look forward to seeing many of you in Toronto for next year’s conference.

    Stan Taylor

  9. I read this in June when it was posted and have just enjoyed reading it again. It was a wonderful conference–kudos to all involved in organizing a great event, and herding the PWAC cats so well.
    I will direct my members in ON to read this so they get a sense of what happens at a PWAC conference. It will be different in Toronto as we are part of MagNet but the elements will still be there: great PD, excellent networking opportunties (to perhaps make a pitch to a publisher or editor), and above all–wonderful camaraderie and fun! Thanks Ian for a great summary.

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