First blog post

Spoke Fest 2016: Friday, August 19-Sunday, August 21


The Art of Dialogue: From Page to Stage with Jeremy Beaulne

In the world of the theatre, perhaps more than in any other literary genre, characters reveal themselves through dialogue. They reveal themselves through what they say and what they do not say. They reveal themselves through their word choices, their speech patterns, and their vocal rhythms. Given the centrality of dialogue to theatre, playwrights need to take particular care to ensure that the words that come out of their characters’ mouths are emotionally and psychologically authentic. Actors can bring a great deal to a script, both with their presence and their delivery; however, in order for dialogue to come alive on the stage, it must first come alive on the page.  In this session, participants will explore some of the crucial elements of effective, character-driven dialogue. After discussing dialogue written by playwrights ranging from Oscar Wilde to Michel Tremblay to David Mamet, participants will plan, draft, and workshop their own short scenes of dialogue.

Feel the Fear and Write Anyway with Hannah Calder & Kerry Gilbert

We have so many excuses not to write.  What are we afraid of and why do we let fear get in our way?  Maybe we’re afraid of judgment.  Maybe we’re afraid to reveal our secret inner selves. Perhaps we’re afraid that what we write won’t be ‘good enough.’ In this workshop we explore fear from all angles and at all stages of the writing process.  We also attempt to dispel some of the myths around so-called ‘writers’ block’ by viewing the writing practice as unique to the individual writer, rather than as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ process.  By the end of the workshop, you’ll have a clearer idea of how to set and reach some of your writing goals. In this talk Calder and Gilbert discuss their process of writing and how it ultimately is both a precarious balancing act and an act of overcoming fear. This is both a discussion and a hands on workshop.

Lurking in the Belly of Poetry with Garry Gottfriedson

In this workshop we will explore the useful art of imagery in poetry.  This workshop is intended to allow participants the opportunity to play with the imagination using images to construct enticing metaphors.  We will play on the sound within words, vowels, and consonants critical to poetic expression.  In addition, we will explore how sounds create rhythm in poetry to channel tone and enhance other elements within poetry.

Misdirection and Intuition with Sean Johnston

The most engaging writing requires active, intuitive reading and gaps in the narrative are one way to do this. Flannery O’Connor claims the writer’s surprise while writing is essential to producing the reader’s surprise. Working by intuition is the best way to do this. Intuition is something that guides us all, but it is often in danger of being ignored as we become more proficient at dealing with the mechanical concerns of writing. Despite our best efforts, we cannot entirely silence the inner editor that limits our imagination in the early stages of writing. This workshop is about producing work that startles you as a writer and about preserving that surprise for the reader. The workshop’s focus on sentences will make it useful for writers in any genre.

Novel Exploration with Laisha Rosnau

In this workshop, we explore the driving creative force behind a novel or novel-length memoir. By exploring your artistic process, personal history, knowledge, interests, and obsessions, we will discover not only your central characters and their stories, but the pivotal themes, most resonant ideas and biggest questions asked by your work. All of this drives both your writing life and your story and becomes the voice and the vision of your work. Each workshop participant will leave with a personalized Novel Blueprint to help jumpstart, guide, and expand your creative process and provide waypoints along the journey to writing a novel.

Plot Plus What Else? with Adam Lewis Schroeder

This lively workshop features exercises in describing people and places, how details define characters which in turn define plot, and exploration of how narration itself defines character, and how we can make any or all of these characteristics deliberately misleading. Plus chats about the writing business.

Poetry Workshop:  Lyric Energy with Sharon Thesen

In this poetry workshop, based on American poet Pater Campion’s “Lyric Energy” workshop, we will be drafting a fairly substantial poem through a series of steps that will bring certain levels of “energy” into the poem.   In the two hours that we have together, we will be writing, talking, looking at examples, and sharing our drafts in roundtable discussions.  The goal of the workshop is for everyone to be inspired, chuffed, and eager to plant their tray of seedlings when they get home.

Story Alive:  Four Flash Lessons with Natalie Appleton & Michelle Doege

The stories we write about our own lives are deeply personal and meaningful, but how do we make them engaging and interesting to others?  In these four flash lessons, discover concrete tools and techniques to give your memoir writing depth, meaning and a universality that will come alive on the page and impact your reader.  Natalie’s two sessions will focus on how to get beyond the me, me, me in your writing.  Learn how to weave your experiences with often overlooked details and perspectives to give your true story dimension and life.  In Michelle’s two sessions, writers will explore and learn how to write a fragmented narrative – using thematic layering and repetition to rub up against each other and add spark – while assuring a center of meaning rises out of the unique and distinct parts.




NATALIE APPLETON graduated from the University of Regina’s School of Journalism and went on to work for several newspapers across western Canada. When the recession struck, she turned lemons into London and began an MA in Creative Writing (Narrative non-fiction) at City University London (UK). Now back in Canada, Natalie continues to pursue her love of short and long-form narrative non-fiction as well as explore other genres. Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including The New York Times and The Globe and Mail. Learn more at


JEREMY BEAULNE teaches literature, composition, and film at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College. He is also the artistic director of the Red Dot Players, a theatre troupe for Okanagan College students, employees, alumni, and community members ( Jeremy has directed several community theatre productions, including Dracula, Arsenic and Old Lace, Krapp’s Last Tape, The Beaux’ Stratagem, Blithe Spirit, Les Belles-Soeurs, and The Government Inspector. In addition, he has written two plays: A.K.A. Fangirl, a comedic drama about a group of teenagers attending a comic book convention, and Special Guest, a satire of the James Bond films. A.K.A. Fangirl won “Best Full-Length Play” in Theatre BC’s 2014 Playwriting Competition.


HANNAH CALDER is the author of two novels, More House (2009) and Piranesi’s Figures (2016), both published by New Star Books.  Her poetry and fiction have also appeared in various journals, including West Coast Line and The Capilano Review.  Hannah’s interest in writing for therapeutic purposes led her to start her own business, The Writing Well (, in 2015.  Through The Writing Well she offers writing workshops, editing, and mentoring.  She lives in Vernon, B.C., where she teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at Okanagan College. 


MICHELLE DOEGE is a writer of poetry and creative non-fiction, an educator, and an engaged member of any literary community where she has found home. This summer, she graduates with an MFA in Creative Writing from Augsburg College, where she studied poetry and mixed genre writing and wrote her first collection of poetry entitled Tonewood. A teacher for twenty years, she has taught writing, literature, and women’s and multicultural studies at colleges and universities in Canada and the U.S.  In her life and in her writing, she always tries to listen closely – to the deep truths at the center of things – just beneath and beyond all the noise.


KERRY GILBERT grew up in the Okanagan. She has lived on Vancouver Island, in South Korea, and in Australia. She now lives back in the valley, where she teaches at Okanagan College and raises her three children. Her first book of poetry, (kerplnk): a verse novel of development, was published in 2005. Her second book of poetry, Tight Wire, was published April 2016 by Mother Tongue Publishing.


GARY GOTTFRIEDSON (M. Ed.) is from Kamloops, BC.  He is a self- employed rancher from the Secwepemc Nation.  Gottfriedson is strongly rooted in his cultural teachings. He holds a Masters Degree in Education.  In 1987, the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, awarded a Creative Writing Scholarship to Gottfriedson where he then studied under Allen Ginsberg, Marianne Faithful and others.  Gottfriedson has nine published books and has read from his work across Canada, United States, Europe, and Asia. His work has been anthologized and published nationally and internationally.


SEAN JOHNSTON’S most recent books are the short story collection We Don’t Listen to Them (Thistledown 2014) and the novel Listen All You Bullets (Gaspereau, 2013). He lives in Kelowna, BC, where he co-edits Ryga: A Journal of Provocations, teaches at Okanagan College, and has just finished his 3rd novel, The Whole Show.


LAISHA ROSNAU is the author of the best-selling novel, The Sudden Weight of Snow (McClelland & Stewart), and three acclaimed collections of poetry, Pluck, Lousy Explorers, and Notes on Leaving (Nightwood Editions). Her work has been published in journals and anthologies internationally, has been nominated for several awards, and she was the recipient of the Acorn-Plantos Poetry Award. Rosnau is completing her second novel, Other Stars, based on the storied history of the Caetani family. She lives in Coldstream, BC, where she and her family are resident caretakers of a wild bird sanctuary.


ADAM LEWIS SCHROEDER lives in Penticton with his eight and ten year-old boys and teaches Writing the Novel at UBCO.  He is author of the historical-fiction novels Empress of Asia (2006), which was a finalist for the Ehtel Wilson Fiction Prize as well as the in Canada First Novel Award.  In the Fabled East (2010) was a finalist for the Commonwealth Regional Writers Prize.  His literary zombie novel All-Day Breakfast was selected by’s editors as one of the Best Books of 2015.  Adam is a former tree-planter, youth hostel desk staff and CBC Radio columnist.


SHARON THESEN grew up in small towns across western Canada, mostly in B.C, and has had a long career in Canadian poetry, as a writer and a teacher.  She is currently Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at UBC’s Okanagan campus, where she co-edited, with Nancy Holmes, Lake: A Journal of Arts and Environment.  Prior to 2005, when she began teaching at UBC Okanagan, she taught English and Creative Writing at Capilano College (now University) in North Vancouver, where she was also an editor of The Capilano Review.  She has published many books of poetry, most recently A Pair of Scissors, The Good Bacteria, and Oyama Pink Shale.  Her edited works include a Governor-General’s award edition of Phyllis Webb’s poetry, The Vision Tree, and two editions of The New Long Poem Anthology.   Her most recent publications have been in Arc Poetry Magazine, the 2014 Best Canadian Poetry anthology, Canthius, Dispatches (online), and Brick Magazine.


About Natalie Appleton

Natalie Appleton's writing has appeared in newspapers around the world, including the The New York Times, the Globe and Mail, and the Bangkok Post.
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