WestWord magazine has unified writers across Alberta for nearly three decades, building a community from what is often a solitary exercise. Initially conceptualized as a newsletter for members of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, WestWord was formally established as a magazine in 1990, and has become a valued source of connectivity among writers in Alberta.
Today, WestWord holds a consistent readership with its nearly 1,000 members.
Ellen Kartz, the magazine’s communications lead, says the Writers’ Guild’s rural community members in particular look forward to the magazine as a “tangible” reminder that they are not alone and that they are “part of something bigger.”
“The act of writing can be so isolating.” The WGA founders built the organization out of that spark, seeking “to provide a space within a community,” says Kartz.
Executive director, Carol Holmes says the Writers’ Guild has sustained as the communal voice of Alberta’s writers for so many years in part because it has “a very active board made up of writers from different parts of the province.” The unique experiences of a diverse set of writers have been integral to the building of a writers’ community.
As part of its mandate, the Writers’ Guild also supports and guides young writers. Five years ago, it created a community for emerging writers by hosting activities and summer camps intended to inspire youth and offer them the opportunity to be around like-minded people. Kartz says it’s inspiring to see the passion and fearlessness young writers bring, and how they approach their writing with so much energy and intent.
“The writing they produce is so fierce and raw,” says Kartz.
Yet Holmes says there is still hesitation for an emerging author to make the shift from identifying as a hobbyist to stating: “I am a writer.” The dream of being a writer frequently arises from a love of words beginning in childhood, and it can be a “tough thing to own that moniker,” says Kartz. The magazine and the Guild work to support writers through that transition.
“They write about what matters to them, they write about what they care about. It’s a fine line for us to walk – making sure we are current to where people are, yet also understanding who they are,” says Kartz.
“The questions, ‘where are we at, where do we want to go and how will we get there?’” are on the agenda for this year, according to Holmes.
2018 promises numerous professional development opportunities with an upcoming conference from June 1 to 3 in Calgary. Including a Writing for Magazines panel discussion sponsored by AMPA, the annual conference will be a full three days of writerly exploration. To register for this celebration of Alberta’s vibrant words of the west, go to www.writersguild.ca/conference-gala-2018-registration-form/
Interviews conducted and spotlight written by AMPA Intern, Janaia Hutzal.