Shannon Webb-Campbell – September 9th RoundTable

Shannon Webb-Campbell at the September 9th RoundTable & Mini-Workshop!

Shannon Webb-Campbell photograph
Shannon Webb-Campbell

RoundTable Discussion: The Power and Hazards of Story, and What it Means to Write What We Know in Our Bones, Bodies and Hearts

Writing is powerful medicine. Stories are a means of passing down knowledge. Stories are sacred witness and ceremony and thus come with a sacred responsibility.

A story isn’t merely a story; it’s a telling and retelling, a living and breathing entity. All stories are acts of ceremony and harbour responsibility. Stories belong to particular cultures, peoples, lands and spirits.

Cultural appropriation is about consent, or the lack thereof.

This past spring, Twitter blew up over the “appropriation prize” debacle, fuelled by Hal Niedzviecki editorial called “Winning the Appropriation Prize” in Write Magazine, a quarterly published by the Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC). As some of the top editors and journalists of Canada’s media outlets lauded the idea of creating a literary prize-celebrating writers who seek to explore people, culture and narratives that are not their own, CanLit exposed its colonial underbelly.

As writers, how can we hope to understand profound experiences from another cultural group if we haven’t even bothered to ask whether it’s appropriate to share their stories in the first place?

In this Roundtable discussion, we will acknowledge the power and hazards of story, and what it means to write what we know in our bones, bodies and hearts. As writers, we carry our ancestors and generations of voices. Stories are transformative. Stories are complex, and at the heart of the problem with appropriating stories and voices are knowledge of location: where a story belongs; and ownership: who it belongs to and who is the rightful teller.

Every storyteller has a responsibility to their stories, where they come from, and whom they belong to. Questions we need to ask ourselves as writers include: Who am I to write this? What are my intentions writing this story? Who is my intended audience? Am I the appropriate teller for this story? What is my responsibility to my writing?

Easy answers are not the end game. Questions are the things – and often what propels writers to commit words to a page. This conversation invites writers to question, reflect, and expand the conversations around cultural appropriation, all the while finding their own voices, and treating the power of story with the respect it deserves.

Mini-Workshop: The Infinite Power and Responsibility of Storytelling

Writers will explore first person storytelling and poetics, the dangers and excitements. This is a chance to share truth in a personal way – as a form of criticism with poetic veneer. We will dismantle truth, discuss the importance and healing power of telling untold stories, the responsibility of storytelling, and how to be careful not to appropriate. Register for the Mini-Workshop when you register for the RoundTable.

About Shannon Webb-Campbell

Shannon Webb-Campbell is a mixed Indigenous (Mi’kmaq)-settler poet, writer and critic. She is the author of Still No Word (Breakwater, 2015) and Who Took My Sister? (BookThug, 2018). She was Canadian Women In Literary Arts critic-in-residence 2014, and is a board member. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from University of British Columbia, a BA from Dalhousie University, and currently is working towards a MA in English Literature at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. Her play The Landless Band opens at LSPU Hall in St. John’s, Newfoundland Spring 2018. She is a member of Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.


RoundTable Recap: December 2013

Curious to know what went on at our monthly RoundTable meeting? Please enjoy this RoundTable Recap (prepared by Susan Croft, in charge of public relations for the WCDR). Also, look for more of these recaps after each RoundTable meeting!

Tony Jenkins entertained Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) members with facts about writing and cartooning at our annual Holiday RoundTable.

Tony Jenkins speaks!

“Cartooning isn’t just about funny pictures,” Tony Jenkins began. “There’s writing involved … it’s married to the images.” The difference is that cartoonists have a very limited amount of space for their words, so word choice is vital. “They have to be concise, precise.” As an example, he cited Dashiell Hammett, who described a beautiful seductive woman by saying simply: “This woman had a look that would make an arch bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.” “He could have gone on for pages and pages,” Jenkins pointed out, “but he kept it short … Sometimes you make your point by stomping, sometimes you tap-dance.”

The average editorial cartoon is read in six seconds, but since they stand out from the rest of the paper, they tend to attract criticism. “Cartoonists are encouraged to be sensitive,” Jenkins said, “but sensitivity is the mortal enemy of the cartoonist, and a cartoonist who doesn’t offend anybody isn’t doing his job.” The role of a cartoon is to make people laugh and to start a debate. With respect to creating something that might upset someone, Jenkins declared that it’s “better to go over the line sometimes and know where the line is, than censor yourself and be bland your whole career.”

Unlike novelists, who tend to stick to one genre, Jenkins said that cartoonists’ genres, voices, and styles are changing on a daily basis, as the subject of their cartoon changes. It’s all about the idea: “you have to know a little about a lot.” Since “ideas are paramount,” and “you’re an idea man first and an artist second,” Jenkins used to worry that he would run out of ideas, but after 38 years at The Globe and Mail he can definitely say, “It doesn’t happen. You don’t have the same brain at 25 as you do when you’re 45. It’s not a bucket, it’s a well.”

To finish off his RoundTable presentation, Jenkins showed caricatures of famous writers, and asked members to guess who they were. Highlights included William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Graham Greene, Stephen Leacock, LM Montgomery, Northrop Frye, and Alice Monroe.

Other Highlights:

As always, Blue Heron Books was on hand with a variety of books for sale—including Tony Jenkins’s collection of caricatures, A Fine Line—and a special holiday offer and gift for WCDR members who made purchases.

M-E Girard announced the winner of the Member Forums raffle: Calgary member Barb Baker. Congratulations, Barb!

M-E also announced the addition of two new books to the Pay it Forward Scholarship: The Negative Trait Thesaurus, and The Positive Trait Thesaurus donated by co-author Angela Ackerman. Thank you Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi!

Sherry Loeffler handled our library as she does at every single RoundTable meeting. Thank you, Sherry!

New selections for the Pay it Forward Scholarship!

Phil Dwyer reminded WCDR members to sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily prompts, and to check the WCDR website for contest information. The deadline is coming up in March, 2014, and you can’t win if you don’t enter!

Jenny Madore spoke about the WCDR Grants and Scholarships program. This year, we have more than $3600 to give to members writing at all levels and, like the contest, you can’t win if you don’t submit. For more information, check out our Grants & Scholarships page (which should be updated shortly with application information).

As part of our Holiday Roundtable, attending WCDR members received a small gift from the organization (a “book of ideas” featuring quotes and prompts to stir up some inspiration for the year to come), and got a chance to participate in the “Ten Days of RoundTable,” with lucky attendees winning one of the following: 10 Christmas cacti, 9 Chocolate Santas, 8 blue pencil sessions, 7 mini-workshops, 6 jumpdrives, 5 Starbucks gift cars, 4 chapters gift cards, 3 full-day workshops, 2 Kobo Touch eReaders, 1 fifteen-minute pitch session with literary agent Sam Hiyate, and 1 Kobo Arc tablet. Karen Scott was the winner of the free pitch session, and Mona Blaker was the lucky winner of the tablet; here’s what she had to say after the event:

Mona Blaker and her WCDR gift!

Mona’s How-To Guide for Operating the New Kobo Arc Tablet:

1. Open box.

2. Hand tablet to husband.

3. Get glass.

4. Pour wine.

5. Drink wine.

6. Await direction.

Thanks WCDR for my new tablet! I’m thrilled to have won it! Merry Christmas <3

(Originally posted by Mona Blaker on facebook; reprinted with permission).

Artist Leif Petersen’s 2nd visit to the WCDR.

We also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books; a “Delightfully Yours Basket,” donated by Purdy’s Chocolates; a print from our visiting artist, Leif Petersen; a delicious selection of holiday popcorn from Deb Rankine, The Fridge Whisperer; Thelma James’ new book, In the Land of the White Pine; Dale Long’s new book, The Good King; Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, and The Reasons from Kevin Craig; a collection of bookmarks, donated by Sally Moore; and Janet Stobie’s book, Fireweed.

Erin Thomas led our mini-workshop: “Approaches to Story Architecture,” which covered a lot of interesting points. The workshop was sold out. Next month’s mini-workshop will be “Agent Queries: It Starts Long Before Pressing Send,” led by M-E Girard.

December 2013 WCDR RoundTable

Our January speaker is WCDR Short Story Contest judge Sarah Selecky. Register early!


December 2013 WCDR RoundTable Slideshow (as a PDF download)
Happy holidays, WCDR!


MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Croft, PR Coordinator −



Note: Please remember to register! We hate having to turn people away, and the mini workshops fill up fast, so registering early ensures that you can get a slot. We are not able to let you in at the door without registering in advance. If you pay by PayPal, verify that you get an email from PayPal confirming your registration. If you don’t receive the email from PayPal, contact Dawn Riddoch at and we will look into it. Thanks for your cooperation.