Articles By Heather Conn

An honour to host and organize Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program

JR LaRose with kids low res

Former BC Lions player J.R. LaRose (back row, centre) joins grade 10 and 11 students at Mentors in Violence Prevention event in Sechelt, BC

I was honoured to organize and host Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program in Sechelt, BC on May 5. Here’s a story that I wrote for the local media:

 

A former B.C. Lions player, open discussions and hands-on scenarios recently helped about 40 local high school students learn what words and actions can lead to violence against women.

 

Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS), in collaboration with School District No. 46, hosted a Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Student Summit May 5 at Seaside Centre in Sechelt. Grade 10 and 11 students from Chatelech, Elphinstone and Pender Harbour Secondary School, Sunshine Coast Alternative School and the Aboriginal Program attended, along with about 20 school administrators, SCCSS staff, and RCMP members trained in MVP strategies.

 

“I’m not OK with just standing by and being silent when someone is being abused,” keynote speaker J. R. LaRose, a former BC Lions and spokesperson for Be More Than a Bystander, told the group. “It’s time we speak up and be a voice for those that have been hurt and abused. Speak up and break the silence.”

 

This event marked the first time in Canada that high school youth have participated in an MVP program. Developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, this peer leadership model, using trained student leaders, strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations where bullying and violence is unfolding.

 

“We are so proud of the youth stepping up as leaders and change-makers at the MVP Student Summit,” said Keely Halward, director of SCCSS’s Together Against Violence Services. “Gender-based violence is not just a statistic, but the reality for hundreds of women and girls on the Sunshine Coast. Almost half of our Police Based Victim Services files relate to domestic violence, and research tells us that most domestic violence goes unreported.”

 

In scenarios that ranged from verbal abuse to sexual harassment, and from dating violence to sexual consent, students learned practical ways to communicate that violence and abuse are not acceptable. They discussed related issues as a whole group, and in male-only, female-only and fluid-gender groups.

 

The ongoing MVP initiative is possible thanks to funders including the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Department of Justice Canada, RCMP National Crime Prevention Initiative, the Sechelt Indian Government District and donors. For more information about this initiative and to learn about services addressing gender violence, please go to the Sunshine Coast Community Services website at www.sccss.ca or contact Heather Conn at hconn@sccss.ca.

To see story and photo in The Local, click this link: Tackling violence against women.

Screening of “Salam Neighbor” prompts $887 in donations

I was honoured to organize and host an April 15 screening of the documentary Salam Neighbor in Sechelt, BC. This by-donation event, held at St. Hilda’s Church, raised $887, which will go to the Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Committee and two other groups on the Lower Sunshine Coast working to bring Syrian refugee families to this area.

The 75-minute film, by twenty-something director/producers Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, reveals inspiring stories of individuals rallying against huge odds to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbours in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, only 11.5 kilometres from the Syrian border.  Embedded in the camp for a month, the two filmmakers form compelling connections with refugees of all ages, like street-smart imp Raouf, 10, whose almost-constant smile hides lingering trauma. Women like Um Ali struggle to overcome personal loss and cultural barriers. A Syrian husband learns to confront and release anger when his wife launches a successful microbusiness within the camp.

Raouf, 10, felt too traumatized to attend school in the refugee camp. While in Syria, he was at school when it got bombed.

The filmmakers and refugees share food, music, tears, laughter and companionship. These are only a handful of the 85,000 Syrians trying to restart their lives in Jordan. More than 4 million people have fled Syria to escape the atrocities of war.

This film, a 2015 AFI Docs official selection, is released by 1001 Media. The filmmakers created the documentary Living on One Dollar  For two months, they subsisted as radish farmers in rural Guatemala to understand life in extreme poverty.

Many thanks to Clarence Li for providing the venue for the screening and to all the local people who volunteered to help with promotion, set-up etc. Thanks to Tugg for assistance with the film’s promotion, reservations, and online donations.

Author to host Banff workshop April 23: The Power and Pitfalls of Creative Nonfiction Onscreen

What can happen to a nonfiction story when you add a fictional narrator? Discover the pitfalls and benefits of this approach while viewing the 20-minute documentary A New Way: An Organic Garden Changes Lives.

I’ll be hosting a 1.5-hour seminar April 23 at the Banff Centre in Banff, Alta. It’s part of the 2016 conference hosted by Canada’s Creative Nonfiction Collective Society.

This workshop will reveal how creative nonfiction techniques on the page translate to the screen: what works, doesn’t work, and why. What are the similarities and differences in storytelling? I will screen three short films, including a five-minute personal essay and 4.5-minute inspirational poetic piece, and encourage participants to analyze and deconstruct them. The use of dialogue, structure, tone, voice, visual detail, and other elements will be examined. In addition, the workshop will include a short in-class written exercise.

My mixed-media collage from Joni Mitchell exhibition sells in early December

Delma and I with collage

Here I am (left) with Del Lobo, who purchased my mixed-media collage “No Regrets, Coyote.”

I am thrilled that my mixed-media collage, entitled “No regrets, Coyote,” has sold to Gibsons, BC resident Del Lobo. The collage appeared in the recent juried exhibition Both Sides Now, which ran from Nov. 12 to Dec. 6 at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery. The show, inspired by the musical repertoire of Joni Mitchell, featured works from dozens of B.C. Sunshine Coast artists.

My collage incorporates magazine pictures, photos, rope, thread, and cigarettes. It was fun to start with a visual concept and let it unfold.

For me, Joni’s song “Coyote” evokes the call of the open road and reminds me of my early hitchhiking days. Joni is a huge popular favourite among locals on the Sunshine Coast; until her recent hospitalization following an aneurysm, she spent half of every year at her home in this area.

Gibsons book sales and signing Dec. 5

BC author low-res
I will be signing and selling books at Sunnycrest Mall in Gibsons on Saturday, Dec. 5 from noon to 2 p.m. Look for my author banner and display table outside the Windows on the Water Gallery. The following sale items will be available:

  • Vancouver’s Glory Years hardcopy book
  • Gracie’s Got a Secret picture book
  • Emails from India anthology
  • Raincoast Chronicles 22 anthology.

Please note that the finger puppets of animals featured in my Gracie book are SOLD OUT.

If you can’t make it Dec. 5, the Gallery carries my books and DVD A New Way: An Organic Garden Changes Lives. Hope to see you there.

Book sales & signing Nov. 28 at Roberts Creek Legion

Summer & Christmas 2014 239 lowres
I’ll be selling and signing my books on Saturday, Nov. 28 at the Roberts Creek Legion’s Christmas Craft Fair. You can choose from two anthologies, a photo history book, and my picture book Gracie’s Got a Secret. I’ll also have copies of the 20-minute DVD A New Way, which Ivy Miller and I created, my photo cards of the rare white kermode bear, and SoulCollage(R) cards on display.

The fair, held at 3064 Lower Road in Roberts Creek, BC, runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature wandering minstrels, food by Dylan, a 2 p.m. visit with Santa, and a raffle package. Lots of free parking available. It’s a fun, family event so come on by. 

My collage No Regrets, Coyote in juried show

I’m delighted to have my mixed-media collage No Regrets, Coyote in the current Joni-Mitchell-themed art exhibition in Gibsons. The juried show called Both Sides Now runs Nov. 12 to Dec. 6 at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery.

Joni Mitchell, who lives half the year on the Sunshine Coast, had planned to attend the event but could not, due to her recent aneurism and stroke. Instead, her manager sent a signed poster featuring three of Joni’s self-portraits. This is the first thing that Joni has signed since her stroke, she said.

Check out the gallery’s website for more information regarding music and poetry events related to the show.

Word Vancouver contest winner announced

The winner of my free two-hour editorial consultation is Tanja Scott. She wants to write about father-daughter relationships in the Balkans. I look forward to working with Tanja and helping her make her writing and publishing dreams come true.

Many thanks to all who entered my contest at this year’s Word Vancouver event outside the downtown public library on Sunday, Sept. 27.

I enjoyed hearing everyone’s writing dreams and encourage you all to pursue them. Don’t let rejections stop you; they’re a normal part of the process.

Remember: I offer free 15-minute phone consultations, so please feel free to contact me if you’d like some ideas on a writing project. I also providing one-on-one writing coaching and mentoring.

Register now for my new Oct. 5 course on writing historical nonfiction

Have you always wanted to write a family history but felt overwhelmed? Thought of writing a memoir but didn’t know how to start? Would you like to document the highlights of your organization’s past?

I’ll be sharing both practical and inspirational tips — and how to avoid research pitfalls — in my new Vancouver School of Writing workshop Writing History: Passions, Pitfalls & the Process (Non-Fiction).

This is a 90-minute to 2-hour LIVE and LIVE VIRTUAL course so you can be in class or have access to it anywhere and ask the instructor questions. Can’t make the date? All Vancouver School of Writing workshops are recorded; you can receive a link to view the course later, or access it in a few weeks in our archive of courses.

Here’s just some of what you’ll learn:
• Posing questions you don’t have the answers to
• Researching: where and how
• Getting beyond myths and stereotypes
• Handling conflicting opinions and sensitivities
• Making smart choices for structuring
• Discovering the hidden stories

The class begins at 6:30 PST in downtown Vancouver. Cost is $59 + GST.

To register and for more information, see Vancouver School of Writing.