This year’s Okanagan Food and Wine Writer’s Workshop is April 28 to May 1, 2013 in Kelowna, British Columbia. You can register here. The workshop is open to all food and wine writers – newbie to thoroughly nuanced. I attended last year for the first time and got a lot out of it. I’m going back this year.
People often talk about gifts that keep on giving. Sending myself to the OKFWWWorkshop was that kind of gift to myself. I went with an open mind. I did not know what to expect. I have been freelancing for about six years and have worked with some great editors and producers that have made my writing stronger. I have two regular columns; one on must-have kitchen and pantry ingredients for City Palate magazine in Calgary and an ongoing CBC Radio One food column for Alberta at Noon. I have had many food and travel articles published across Canada and have written for an online magazine in Paris. Still, I had been feeling blind as a writer. I had been feeling my way. I wanted to shed some light on the processes involved in professional food and wine writing. The workshop added a lot of wattage to the dim lightbulb over my head.
I have no formal writing education. I was a nurse. I have a Master’s degree and had written many professional policies, procedures, papers and courses. To write well as a nurse you have to be concise, descriptive and action-oriented. Turns out that translates well to food, wine and travel writing. The trouble with translating though is that you don’t achieve fluency that way. You have to immerse to become fully fluent. I don’t want a halting conversation with writing; getting by with a little knowledge of its language, I want to be fluent. The OKFWWWorkshop was a baby step towards immersion. I went and spoke nothing but “writing” for four days.
I accessed workshops on social media, e-magazines, new media, photography, pitching to print media, magazines and cookbook publishers. I was delighted to spend a session with Liane Faulder on the marriage of creative writing, prose and food writing with time to put that into practice. Jennifer Cockrall-King, the workshop founder and organizer, worked with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association to provide exciting excursions so we could meet the food and wine producers and chefs that prepare the food and wine masterpieces that became our muses for writing. You can learn more about that food and wine here.
I learned a great deal from the other writers at the workshop. Our conversations on “how it all works” were really the vehicle to gaining a gestalt of the writing world. I made several new friendships and deepened some others. I’ve heard it said that writers are competitive. This was not my experience. Writing can be solitary. The chance to be with other writers and to talk, joke and laugh with them only seemed to bring out our sharing and cooperative natures. I came home with role models, colleagues, consultants and sore stomach muscles from laughing. These are the gifts that have kept on giving. They are the gifts that I will treasure over my lifetime.
Here’s a gallery of the writer’s I met at the 2012 OKFWWWorkshop. I’m looking forward to meeting this year’s vintage. Maybe you’ll be one of them? We’ll all be there to learn from this year’s offerings and to savour our food (and wine) in one of Canada’s most glorious settings.