The Origins of the Comox Valley Writers Society

Word-lovers unite




For over 5,000 years, the written word has carried knowledge and information to readers, supporting the development of humanity and the history of civilization. The penning of facts and ideas demands sublime concentration, which is achieved in a solitary state. Yet the gathering of material requires stimulation from others. This is the conundrum of the author’s craft.

Our Valley, with its deep appreciation of arts and culture, has long supported authors who seek communal inspiration. The Comox Valley Writers Club was launched in 1964 with a dozen members, who mainly wrote local history and event articles for the Comox District Free Press, Islander magazine, and other publications.

Comox Valley Writers Society history

By the 1980s, the group—now a non-profit society named the Comox Valley Writers Group (CVWG)—was flourishing; it sponsored a local series of events as part of the annual National Book Week Festival, including author readings, poetry contests, and book launches.

In 1989, to celebrate its 25th-year anniversary, CVWG published Clam Diggers, an anthology of local writing; a second anthology, Sunrise, followed in 1993. Membership grew, and toward the end of the 1990s CVWG hosted two major North Island Writers Conferences (NIWC). The focus of the group shifted from journalism to fiction.

In 2005, after a brief period of declining activity, the group reformed as the Comox Valley Writers Society (CVWS) and monthly meetings resumed. A dramatic growth in activities and membership happened in 2010, with public book launches, genre group, author readings, and poetry contests in local secondary schools. The society produced Writers and Books: Comox Valley 1865-2015 to celebrate the lengthy history of literature in the Comox Valley.

Comox Valley Writers Society membership

CVWS attracts new, emerging, and published authors as members; with over 90 members currently, the group’s focus is helping authors complete and publish their books. Meetings and author readings continued during the pandemic over Zoom, and during that time, nine members successfully published books—a testament to the ingenuity and persistence of local writers, and to the vibrance of the Valley’s literary community.

As membership grew, the board of directors revived the NIWC, this time in partnership with North Island College. The first conference, in 2018, was an enormous success and the event has  become an annual affair, attracting participants from all over Vancouver Island and the mainland and beyond.

NIWC runs on a cost-recovery model. It contracts local authors as presenters to showcase island talent. To keep the sessions affordable, the cost to the participants is modest, and there is a focus on youth participation in the conference: senior-secondary and North Island College students attend for free, thanks to the generous support of Peninsula Co-Op. A Recreation, Arts and Culture grant from the Comox Valley Regional District will also support the 2022 conference, which will take place from January 7 through 23.

Workshops will take place at North Island College and online; topics are inspired by emerging trends and suggestions from the membership and the organizing committee. Past workshop presenters include poet Jan Zwicky; fiction writer Judy LeBlanc, non-fiction history writer Jeanette Taylor; west-coast mystery author R. J. McMillen; humorist Jack Knox and novelist Jennifer Manuel.

There are those who believe authors live in another world, one where they fall in love with their own words. Perhaps this is true to some extent. But I ask you, dear reader, where would we be without them?

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