Federation of BC Writers calls writers out of their caves and into the village

Federation of BC Writers members at breakfast

“I’m a tribal person by nature,” says Sylvia Taylor, Executive Director of The Federation of BC Writers.

Which explains, in part, how she got involved to begin with, over 12 years ago. In those days, she lived in the Fraser Valley, and as part of her commitment to her emerging career as a writer, she joined the Federation.

“I knew I needed to connect with other writers,” she explains. “I needed support for my career choice—resources. I wanted to find out how this world worked.”

It wasn’t long before Taylor was asked to fill the newly vacant role of Regional Director, which she did gladly, she says, eager, “to help develop and grow membership in that region.”

Writers tend to be solitary beings. We’re used to being alone. Many of us need long periods of solitude, and we get testy when others encroach upon that time. We also hunger for community. And organizations such as the Fed provide writers with that—and a good deal more.

The Federation of British Columbia Writers emerged from the Canadian Authors Association 35 years ago, Taylor explains, in order to answer the needs of writers in the province on a grass roots level and to provide “more of a western perspective.”

The Federation has grown steadily since that time, and, according to Taylor, it has “weathered many a storm. It has survived on passion and commitment.” In fact, the Fed has become the largest provincial writers organization in Canada, with nearly 800 members—the envy of other provinces. “The President of the Quebec Writers Federation said he was stunned by the scope of what we offer,” says Taylor. “Never had he seen so much done for so many with so little.”

“It’s about the western sensibility,” she continues. “How does living here inform us as writers? We’re deeply connected to the physical environment here, which is so dramatic and intense, it infuses you with the power of mountains and tides and winds.”

Membership in the Federation of BC Writers is open to everyone, “from prominent published authors to the kid who always wanted to write and is taking a step forward. Membership does not require a portfolio. We support people at any point in their writing life,” says Taylor.

When I ask her what her best day at the Federation has been, she pauses and says, “the day I knew in my heart that the Federation of BC Writers was going to survive the funding crisis.”

Within hours Taylor and the board of directors “had come together and were already planning to thrive,” she says. “Brainstorming. No frantic running around or freaking out. Calm and mindful. It was all about going to the grassroots and keeping it simple, keeping it about people and focusing on what was important. Everybody did something more or let something go. We reduced our hours to half, whatever it took to ensure the Fed continued. And it worked, it really worked—it couldn’t have happened without everyone working together collectively and here we are now stronger than ever.  

Her worst day?

“The same day,” she says, chuckling. “That morning at 10:30 when I opened the letter from the BC Arts Council that said we’d lost 80% of our funding.”

In addition to a monthly e-newsletter, The VOX, the Federation publishes a quarterly literary magazine, “WordWorks,” with articles on the writing life, along with calls for submissions and regular notices of contests and competitions.

As part of its mandate to connect the literati to the greater community, the Fed sponsors “Off the Page: Writers in the Schools Program,” which each year sends 29 published authors to schools all over the province to present workshops and to talk to students about writing.

What’s more, the Federation has recently updated its website, which is accessible to everyone. “Nothing’s locked away,” says Taylor. Whether you want to hire a writer or you’re in search of writing tips or up-to-date information on competitions, the Federation’s website is where to go.

“This is the village,” says Taylor. “This is the tribe that is here for writers—to support them.” 

To become a member or to learn more about The Federation of BC Writers, visit: http://www.bcwriters.ca/

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