PWAC 2011 National Conference and AGM in Montreal, Quebec

by PWAC Vancouver President Michelle Clough and PWAC member Kim Van Haren

Michelle: “Attending the AGM drove home to me why I became a member of PWAC in the first place. Not only did we have the opportunity to receive some fascinating and informative professional development training, but we were able to forge some deep and lasting connections with our peers. Everyone we met was friendly, welcoming and encouraging to new attendees and new PWAC members alike. Whether you’re an old hand at professional writing or a fresh new enthusiast just starting out, the PWAC AGM is definitely worth attending.”

 Kim: “PWAC’s National Conference & AGM in Montreal was a rewarding experience both professionally and personally. We were able to learn and hear from other writers, who provided practical information we could put to immediate use, as well as forge new friendships. Every day was well organized and flowed seamlessly. Carole Beaulieu (Editor-in-Chief, L’actualité), the keynote speaker at PWAC’s Gala Awards Ceremony & Banquet, was brilliant. She was warm and confident, had provocative ideas, and gave a room full of writers hope for the future. We look forward to seeing you at next year’s conference.

Friday: Business of Writing and Bylaw Discussion

This past June, PWAC Quebec hosted the 2011 National Conference and AGM. This conference that helped our national organization celebrate its 35th year, began on Friday with the first day of professional development.  Entitled “Writing is a Business,” the session was well worth attending and provided a great start to an all-day affair. Claude Brunet focused on contracts and copyright law while Warren Sheffer talked about small claims court. Our presenters, both experienced lawyers, helped navigate areas of concern for professional writers.
From negotiating contracts to determining when to back away/off, Claude and Warren provided much needed insight and guidance.

Later that afternoon delegates reviewed the proposed changes to PWAC’s constitution. Many of you are already familiar with the key by-law
amendments that have been made. Here’s a recap:

Two new categories of membership have been introduced:

Honorary Lifetime Membership is awarded by resolution of the Board of Directors to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the writing or publishing industry. This category will carry no annual membership fee.

Emeritus Membership is available to members who have reached “Factor 90,” which means that the applicant’s age (expressed in years) plus the number of years the applicant has been a professional member of the association must result in a total of at least ninety (90). Members must
apply for emeritus membership; it will not be automatically granted when a member reaches “Factor 90.” At the AGM, members passed a motion that that the annual fee will be 75% of the annual fee paid by Professional Members of the association. This fee reduction will be reassessed in a few years to determine its financial impact on the association.

The Student Member category now allows individuals who graduated from a post-secondary within the past 12 months to qualify for this category of membership, thereby allowing them some time to build up a writing portfolio after graduation so they can quality as Associate or Professional members.

Two-year terms for Board positions have been introduced. The old by-law provided for one-year terms. Eight consecutive years now constitute the maximum time an individual can serve on the Board. This was previously six years.

Residency requirements for Board members have been introduced.

The election processes for RDs and other Board members are more clearly outlined, as is the process for filling the ex-officio position of
Past President, and the process for filling any vacancies that occur in between AGMs.

The processes for calling meetings (Board meetings, AGMs, and special general meetings) are more clearly defined, as are quorums for meetings.

A “duty of fairness” clause has been introduced. It applies to all decisions made by the Board and the members of the association in terms of the dealings/business of the corporation.

In addition to the above, many minor amendments were made in order to clarify wording and to create a document that is easier to read and understand. PWAC looks forward to receiving approval from Corporations Canada, and to implementing the new by-law.

After that, it was out to enjoy the cuisine of Montreal in Restaurant Roulette as PWAC members grouped off with local chapter guides to
try a variety of ethnic restaurants, from Vietnamese to Italian to French. Once bellies were full, we joined with Kathe Lieber for an impromptu performance of A Comedy of Errors and a lot of wine and song.

Saturday: Professional Development Sessions and the PWAC Gala

Saturday was dedicated to a series of useful professional development sessions:

Editors Panel with Susan Nerberg (Deputy Editor, enRoute), Drew Nelles (Editor in Chief, Maisonneuve) and Carmine Starnino(Senior Editor,
Reader’s Digest)

Writing for Trade Magazines: Breaking In and Staying In* with Suzanne Boles

Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneur: Panel with Hugh McGuire, Ben Yoskovitz, Craig Silverman & Geeta Nadkarni

Medical Writing* with Amanda Strong and Giancarlo La Giorgia

Computer-Assisted Reporting in 2011: A Journalist’s Guide to Twitter, Facebook, and New Mobile Tools* with Elias Makos

The Pitch of your Life: Writing Book Proposals with Julie Barlow

On Solid Grounds: Write to Live* with Jean-Benoit Nadeau

Travel & Food Writing with Alexandra Forbes

We attended the same professional development sessions (*) and both agreed that, by far, the best one of the day was Elias Makos’ session
on social media and other digital tools. It was informative and broke these huge topics down into manageable bites that made us want to hop onto Twitter. All of the panels had useful information, however. For those who are interested in learning more about trade magazines, medical writing, social media tools and writing negotiation, Michelle has typed up some rough but detailed notes that can be found here; while not in polished form, they provide useful links and overviews.

The evening’s Annual Gala recognized the efforts of regional volunteers who go the extra mile for PWAC. Awards were given to Alison
Finnamore and Kym Wolfe of the Atlantic and Ontario Regions, respectively, while George Butters received the 2011 Lawrence Jackson Outstanding Achievement Award. The winners of this year’s PWAC writing awards were Georgie Binks, Melissa Martin and Beverley Akerman who were recognized for their outstanding humour, feature and short articles respectively.

The keynote speaker was Carole Beaulieu, Editor-in-Chief for L’Actualité. She discussed the issues facing the magazine industry as digital replaces traditional, but expressed a lot of hope for the future. She pointed out that her own magazine, like many others, are finding ways to adapt to the digital marketplace and carving out niches on iPad, iPhone and others. She also pointed to the rise of “bookazines” in Europe, magazines designed to function as luxury items or “coffee table books” and featuring high quality photographs and several long features (10,000 words plus). Perhaps, she suggests, magazines will find a new niche as a speciality market, one that writers will be able to work with once more.

Sunday: Annual General Meeting

Members decided at the Sunday AGM to hold our National Conference and AGM in conjunction with MagNet in Toronto for the next three
years. PWAC Quebec, along with Executive Director Sandy Crawley, Associate Director Lauren Stewart, the PWAC Board of Directors and a host of members and volunteers worked tirelessly to help steer us in this direction.

At the Annual General Meeting, our President, Tanya Gulliver, stepped down after an unprecedented three year term, and our own Craig Silverman was applauded as PWAC’s new President. The following members form the 2011/2012 National Board of Directors:

President: Craig Silverman

Vice President:  Doreen Pendgracs

Treasurer: Rusti Lehay

Atlantic Regional Director: Ross Mavis

British Columbia: Heidi Turner

Ontario: Christine Peets

Prairies & the North: Michelle Greysen

Quebec: Jenn Hardy

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