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The Ontario Writers’ Conference Gang Through the Years! – LIsa Craveiro, Deborah Rankine, Barbara Hunt, Sherry Hinman, Rosalyn Cronin, Cynthia Rattey, Sylvia Chiang, Dorothea Helms, Cathy Minz, Collette Yvonne, Lana Cutrara, Sandra Clarke, Janet Kopp Boccone, Jessica Outram, Karen Cole, Kevin Craig, Naomi Mesbur, and, last but not least, Wayson Choy. (missing from the picture, and unable to attend last night, is Anne MacLachlan)

Last night the members of the various Ontario Writers’ Conference planning committees and Boards of Directors assembled in one place to celebrate the legacy that the organization has become. And, of course, we brought our Wayson along for the ride!

We met at the lovely Nice Bistro in Whitby, just north of the four corners. The din in that restaurant was quite staggering, considering it was a closed gathering comprised only of those you see in the swarming selfie animation above. All were excited to see one another and catch up on life in general as well as our various writing lives.

Missing from the collage of selfies above are the hundreds and hundreds of attendees who made the conference the success it was, as well as the amazing array of workshop presenters and speakers and readers the organization has amassed over the years of its existence. Each and every person who moved through the conference served to make it what it was—a thriving nurturing hotbed of creativity inspiration.

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When the opportunity for speeches arose, Wayson Choy was soon front and centre. He has always been mesmerized by the vitality of the OWC. Once again, he spoke to the passion involved in assembling such a space for the growth of creativity. He was all gratefulness and grace, as always.

As organic as the conference was, though, it was also a well-oiled machine run flawlessly and with a constant drive and desire of making it better. Attending the Ontario Writers’ Conference had become the must do event of every spring and the reason to leave the house after another long cold Canadian winter. Upon the arrival of the 2016 conference, it was announced that there would be no more conferences. And a collective sigh rose up against this sad news. An event that connected its participants year after year was no longer going to be an impetus to create, and impetus to meet, an impetus to discover an impetus.

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OWC – Friends!

Some of the patterns of attendance at the conference throughout the years spoke to its vitality and strength. What I affectionately referred to as the Ottawa Contingent seemed to pick up more writers along the way each year, perfectly demonstrating the they’ll-tell-two-friends-and-they’ll-tell-two-friends-and-so-on-and-so-on phenomenon first acted out in the old Faberge Organics Shampoo commercial. And we also saw workshop presenters become attendees as they looked around themselves at the conference and recognized the value in it.

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A Selfie with Wayson.

The jewel in the crown was always the Honorary Patron, our very own Wayson Choy…with the conference from beginning to end. Wayson always delivered inspiration in his talks…an inspiration that would lift attendees’ souls and give them motivation to continue, to accept themselves on their individual paths, and to reach for more. In his caring and nurturing Wayson way, he reached down into the hearts of each of us and said, “It’s okay to write, to be a writer…tell your story.” Everywhere I go, I hear stories of how Wayson touched people who had been present in the audience at an Ontario Writers’ Conference event. He gave himself freely to all those in attendance, with grace and wit and light.

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It will be sad not to have this annual meeting of like-minded creative people assembling in celebration of this thing we love. But from the ashes of the fire rises the phoenix. The OWC is not gone…it is merely changing. No, there won’t be a yearly conference like there was in the past. But keep an eye out for announcements. I’m sure they’ll come. The OWC promises more…

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Keep your eye on Naomi Mesbur – The Future of the OWC Organization is Coming!