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Workshops seek to douse the demons of writing

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You won’t find it scribbled down on ancient parchment or locked in a vault as if it were the 11 spices for KFC’s original recipe chicken or the syrupy formula of Coca-Cola.

That’s because there’s no secret formula to writing, says Katherena Vermette, a point she’ll repeat at a series of workshops for youth she’ll lead at the West End Library beginning Thurs., Nov. 8.

"Writing is very daunting for people," said the 35-year-old West Broadway resident.

"As we age, we start to accumulate hesitation with art and expression, we second guess ourselves.

"It’s fun and it’s easy, and I think we start there. Everything else comes after."

During the six evening workshops, which are aimed at individuals between the ages of 15 and 29, Vermette will explore the creative process, along with storytelling forms from poetry and fan fiction to graphic novels.

With in-class writing assignments, and a little bit of homework, Vermette wants to strip away the mystery of writing.

"It’s going to be a really fun-filled six weeks and they’re going to go by fast," she said.

Writing is a cathartic experience, Vermette stressed, and the earlier individuals start putting pen to paper — or, in this generation, fingers to keyboard — the bigger impact it can have on developing our ability to communicate and express ourselves.

"It’s a means of developing ways to articulate what you’re going through to develop that resiliency and have the ability to grow," said Vermette, who recently led a youth writing workshop in Fernie, B.C.

Vermette, a member of the Aboriginal Writers Collective that has partnered with the library on the workshops, has been writing since her youth. She started writing "seriously" about nine years ago after joining the collective, and began actively trying to get her work published, along with performing around the province.

She released her first full book of poetry, North End Love Songs, in September.

A collection of both new and old poems, the book deals with her experiences as a teenager in the North End in the early 1990s, and her experience moving back following the birth of her first child.

"(Writing the poems) was exactly the same thing — a survival skill, something that helped me deal with things that were around me and to make sense of them," she said.

Writing Workshops for Youth takes place each Thursday from Nov. 8 to Dec. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. Call 204-986-4677 to register.

Meanwhile, the Manitoba Association of Seniors Centres continues to roll out its Life Writing Group program.

MASC executive director Connie Newman said only 25% of the organization’s member centres had writing groups three years ago. Today, that number is around 75%, she said.

"Many seniors have awesome stories to tell and share with the rest of the world," said Newman, noting how cost-effective self-publishing has become.

"We need to get those stories on paper before they disappear, and why not share them beyond the family… in some cases, even share them with the family."

The Charleswood Senior Centre is currently registering participants for a writing group looking to launch in January, while the St. James-Assiniboia 55+ Centre has been running a similar group for years, she said.

The groups operate on a no-red-pens and no-criticisms philosophy, Newman added.
"Writing is a life fear," she said.

"We just want to get them in the door and hear that there’s nothing wrong with anything they write so people don’t have that fear of sharing their work."
Twitter: @metroWPG

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