Monday 26 September 2011

Full Circle: my Quebec Writers Federation Success Story

Recently, everyone who had taken a workshop or mentorship through the good offices of the Quebec Writers Federation (QWF) was invited to write them of our recent successes. These sorts of missives help to demonstrate to our generous funding agencies--such as the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec--the value of the programs supported.

This blog post is based on the letter I was delighted to provide to the QWF:

Below is my history of literary training with the Quebec Writers Federation (QWF):


Workshop Subject

Program Duration



Investigative journalism

1 day

Guy Lawson


Short fiction

8 wks (+16 wks outside QWF)

Neale McDevitt


Science journalism

1 day

Robin Marantz Henig


Short fiction master class (competitive admission)

8 wks

Tess Fragoulis


Humour writing

8 wks

David McGimpsey


Short fiction

8 wks

Mikhail Iossel


Writing the first chapter

8 wks

Joel Yanofsky


Young adult fiction (novel)

8 wks

Lori Weber & Monique Polak


Fiction Mentorship

4 months

Robyn Sarah



2 x 8 wk

Colleen Curran

It is no exaggeration to say that through the QWF, I have availed myself top caliber teaching, on a par with a university program in creative writing. In fact, most of the QWF instructors I have had teach similar courses at Concordia University.

I’d also like to salute them for their compassion, humanity, and companionship on this shared journey of literary discovery.

This year has seen the launch of my first book, the David Adams Richards Prize winning fiction collection, The Meaning Of Children. Most of the stories therein benefitted from valuable feedback generated at QWF workshops. Reviewer response to my book has been, gratifyingly, good to excellent. Selected comments:

Loved your book--read it in one sitting.

~Mutsumi Takahashi, Anchor, CTV News

Your book The Meaning of Children is great and so are you!

~Anne Lagacé Dowson, CJAD Radio journalist, on Twitter

A keen, incisive vision into the hidden world of children as well as intimate knowledge of the secret spaces that exist between the everyday events of life. A work with a brilliant sense of story…Magical, and so refreshing for me to read. I absolutely loved it and I hope it goes on to do marvellous things. Yours is a luminous talent.

~JoAnne Soper-Cook, author and 2010 David Adams Richards Prize judge

This isn’t the invented childhood of imagination and wonderment…[here] children both corrupt and redeem: each other, family relationships and the female body.

~Katie Hewitt, The Globe & Mail

Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others.

~Anne Chudobiak, The Montreal Gazette

Akerman engages with dichotomies. Childhood is that safe, magical, carefree time and place — but it’s also risky, threatening, ominous and dangerous — full of impenetrable mystery around things seen and experienced, but beyond understanding. And if it’s not too much of a simplification or stating the obvious, life and the world are not gentle on children simply for being children…If, as Dostoevsky once remarked, and as is quoted on the collection’s frontispiece, “The soul is healed by being with children,” it is the tragedy of adulthood that we become so isolated from childhood — and what children offer us. Artfully, evocatively, Beverly Akerman’s The Meaning of Children reminds us of that.

~Darrell Squires, The Western Star, Corner Brook NL

Beverly’s background as a scientist, MSc and twenty years as a molecular researcher, inevitably spills into the stories…characters, the settings and her style. Intelligent, objective, open-minded but not clinical, her prose is refreshing and unprejudiced. Her characters are frank and genuine...With The Meaning of Children, we get a beautifully written exposé on the meaning of life.

~Francine Diot-Layton, The Rover

Your book is filled with insight and wisdom and gorgeous moving stories...You are dazzling. (I had read “Pie” long ago. It is just as moving the second time).

~Hal Ackerman (no relation), UCLA Screenwriting Area Co-Chair and Author of Stein Stoned and Stein Stung

A life-altering read is so rare for me, and I imagine for many writers, with a critical eye often hard to keep closed while hoping to get caught up and swept away while reading fiction for pleasure...Her stories are as diverse as her changing career path and yet string together a theme as connected as a genetic chain…Children weave their way through every tale…always sparking the reader to question where in all these stories sits their own story.

~Michelle Greysen, Writer, Editor, and Blogger

Just finished “Like Jeremy Irons.” That was a tough one. Saying I loved it feels contrary to the agony I'm feeling right now. (Perhaps I shouldn't have settled into it with a glass of wine?) Awesome writing - even if my uterus is cramping!

~Lisa Dalrymple, Winner, The Writers Union of Canada’s 2011 Writing for Children Competition

In Fall 2010, I had the pleasure of seeing my first theatrical piece, the monologue “Chelle,” professionally performed by Nan Fewchuk at Sarasvati Productions’ FemFest 2010, in Winnipeg, MB. I am very grateful to have been awarded funds from the Canada Council and the Playwrights Guild of Canada to attend the festival, where I was also a featured reader during the national Culture Days program.

Another highlight of the past year was being invited to teach my first QWF workshop, on short fiction, bringing me full circle. One of my workshop participants asked me to write a reference letter in support of his application for graduate studies in creative writing at UBC—I’m thrilled to say he was accepted.

As I write my latest appeal to the Canada Council for my next writing project, and embark on yet another ego battering roller coaster of submissions, and long and short lists, I can’t help but be moved and grateful for the guidance and support that the QWF has made available to me, and to all the other aspiring writers of Quebec.

Bravo, QWF, for doing what you do, and for doing it so well!

Thanks so much for being there for me when I needed you. Not that I don’t need you still…

(And special appreciation to Executive Director Lori Schubert and her right hand woman, Julia Kater!)

The Meaning Of Children is available in fine bookstores across Canada and online at, Chapters, and through Exile Editions.

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