Convergence writers' weekend chronology
The Convergence Writers' Weekend Chronology covers the history of the event from its first year in 2012.
Convergence: Writing as if Compassion Mattered
Sean Arthur Joyce
Introduction to Convergence Chronology
“Stories are the sacred wood where our ceremonies of belief take place.”
—J. Edward Chamberlin, at Convergence 2016
“Just like a series of smaller streams that feed into one great river, Convergence brings together writers who care about the state of the world and believe writing is a tool to envision and articulate a new future. This weekend Convergence offers presentations, workshops, and dialogue to help writers effectively craft poetry and prose, moving from despair and dystopia to a re-imagined world.” —early Convergence brochure
In a few words, the above paragraph is what Convergence Writers’ Weekends are all about. Even more succinctly, the idea behind Convergence, is “writing as if compassion mattered,” borrowing from E.F. Schumacher’s classic book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. When I envisioned the idea for Convergence, I wanted an event that would go beyond the standard writers’ conference and delve deeply into writing that has the capacity to inspire and motivate people for positive social and environmental action. That can come in a well-crafted poem, a moving passage of fiction, an investigative work of non-fiction, and even a rant, with its ancient echoes of theatrical performance. Fortunately, we were sowing seeds on fertile ground: one of the primary capacities a writer must have is a sense of empathy, the ability to imaginatively put yourself inside the ‘other.’
In order to create a new future, we must first be able to envision it. That’s where our writers and artists come in. But having a vision is one thing, realizing it is something else altogether. As can be appreciated from the daily flood of dismay that floods into our lives through the media, it can be a monumental personal challenge to stay committed to social progress. Beyond the technical tools of the writer’s trade, what is equally needed is a spiritual dimension which aids writers to overcome the malaise and despair that often makes it difficult for them to continue believing in the value of their work in this field.
It’s in this context that another critical element in Convergence came into play: the role of Rev. George Meier and Dr. Therese DesCamp, United Church ministers with a decidedly unconventional, progressive approach to spirituality. Therese’s studies with cognitive linguistics expert Dr. George Lakoff gave us a deeper foundation for training writers in the effective use of language. George Meier’s training in conflict resolution and other pastoral skills gives him the keen sensitivity to the role of spirituality in everything humans do. When we first met they were owners of Heart’s Rest Retreat Centre in New Denver, a beautiful, custom-built home designed with a cathedral-like space for community events. It was the perfect fit for the Convergence vision until the time came for us to move to other community venues.
As so many environmental writers have said before, we are not apart from nature, we are nature. Being in an idyllic location on the mountainous shores of Slocan Lake is a constant reminder of this fact, an immersion that can’t help but foster renewed creativity in writers. And George and Therese’s experience in community building made clear to us that unless the heart and spirit are engaged, the motivation to tackle momentous issues can easily collapse.
Having renowned Canadian poet, teacher and author Tom Wayman on our team has been an asset beyond price. His nearly 50 years of experience mentoring aspiring writers in universities and colleges in Western Canada grants him an acute insight, not just into language, but into what makes people tick. Tom’s administrative experience and skill as a fundraiser has given my original vision the nuts and bolts it needed to succeed in the real world. Anne Champagne, with her peerless abilities as a copy editor, secretary and all-around well-organized person, has also kept the wheels on the wagon. Her experience as personal assistant to the late Colleen McCrory, winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, has proven invaluable to Convergence. It was Anne who first brought my idea to a community brainstorming session hosted by George and Therese. A vision is only as good as the people that serve it, and in the case of Convergence, we are well served indeed.
(The attached Convergence Chronology brochure gives you a play-by-play history of our events from the first one to the most recent.)