Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

20 Years an Ifwit

by Rob - July 20th, 2016.
Filed under: McCharles, Milestones, RJS Books.

Twenty years ago this week, my life changed in a big way. I did my first-ever stint teaching science-fiction writing. Hayden Trenholm, who lived in Calgary then, had been charged with finding a leader for the first-ever workshop run by a professional writer for Calgary’s Imaginative Fiction Writers’ Association (IFWA), and since I’d won the best-novel Nebula Award earlier in that distant year of 1996, Hayden reached out to me.

Out of that workshop came an annual tradition of facilitated Calgary SF&F writing workshops that continues to this day (with my former Penguin Canada editor Adrienne Kerr running this year’s workshop).

Out of it also came my close association — two decades now — with Calgary, a city I visit several times each year, and all the great many friends I have there now.

And out of it came my teaching career, which has seen me teach writing at the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, Humber College, and the Odyssey workshop, among other places (as well as IFWA having me back twice more to lead workshops for them).

But, most important to me, I met for the first time some great people, including some who have gone on to be amongst my very best friends.

The ten participants in that 1996 workshop were:

    Renee Bennett
    Katie Harse
    Tony King
    Valerie King
    Danita Maslankowski
    Randy McCharles
    Glenn McIntyre
    Al Onia
    Hayden Trenholm
    Liz Westbrook (later, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm)

Many of the writers in that workshop have gone on to significant publication success. Carolyn and I bought work from two of them [Katie and Hayden] for the anthology Tesseracts 6 we were editing at that time; I published a novel under my RJS Books line by one of them [Danita, who publishes as Danita Maslan]; three others have also published multiple novels each [Randy, Al, and Hayden], and two each have won multiple Aurora Awards [Randy and Hayden].

I haven’t seen Glenn for some time, but the others I do see often, and I was a houseguest in Randy’s place last week, and Hayden and Liz were houseguests at my place the week before. And, of course, I’m a proud Ifwit (as members of IFWA are called) to this day.

Teaching that workshop was one of the major turning points in my life — I can’t imagine what my life would be like today without the wonderful friendships and other good things that came out of that fabulous trip to Alberta all those years ago.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

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