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Writing your own story

Charlotte Gill teaches memoir and personal narrative at Writers Adventure Camp at The Point
Creative with non-fiction Award-winning writer Charlotte Gill is an instructor at The Point's Writers Adventure Camp on June 6 and 7. photo submitted

Creative non-fiction is a genre apart.

Not fiction, not straight journalism, it has won awards for Vancouver writer Charlotte Gill.

Her book on tree planting, Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe, was awarded the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 2012.

She is bringing this experience to share with workshop students at The Point Artist-Run Centre on Alta Lake during its first Writers Adventure Camp on June 6 and 7.

"We have to tell a true story; it has to be a factual story, but it can also be very voice driven, very creatively told. It can be very narrative driven. It could be a story that while true could read like a novel," Gill says.

"I find it really exciting as a reader but also as an instructor of the form. People really love reading it. I love feeling as if on the first page I am being swept away into another world. You meet fascinating people and learn something. By the time I close the book I feel like I've visited another country."

Gill has been online, meeting participants for her course, Personal Narrative and Memoir.

She teaches non-fiction a lot and finds people get involved with the genre for different reasons.

"They come at it from different angles. Some are journalists and have never written about themselves, some write about themselves extensively but haven't written more public kinds of non-fiction that involve research and reporting," Gill says.

"I'm really excited for this weekend."

Gill is joined as an instructor by fiction writer and weekend organizer Zsuzsi Gartner, humourist and Leacock Medal winner Mark Leiren-Young, and songwriter Geoff Berner, who will be running their own classes.

There are formal workshops for participants and opportunities to meet individually with the instructors.

Stephen Vogler, the artistic director of The Point, had been talking about such a writers' retreat over several years with Gartner, with whom he'd studied writing at the University of British Columbia.

"At The Point we always try to offer arts instruction at as high a level as is happening anywhere. This is a way to bring it to Whistler and allow people to benefit from great writers in various genres," Vogler says.

"Zsuzsi has taught all over the place and she wanted to start something of her own and it very much dovetailed with what I wanted to do with The Point. It was a perfect falling together of things."

He says participants are coming from Calgary, Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island and the Vancouver area, along with some Whistler and Sea-to-Sky locals.

As part of the writers' camp, The Point is also hosting a dinner cabaret on Saturday, June 6, at 7 p.m. Tickets with dinner are $20, $10 show-only and are available at

Vogler says that since registration to the writers' weekend is now closed, the cabaret is the best way for non-participants to check out the writers.

"It's a good night and a glimpse of the writers' camp and experience the entertainment by our national award-winning instructors," Vogler says.

"And some of the participants will perform from things they've been working on over the weekend."

A few spaces are still available in the Memoir, Humour and Songwriting workshops. Late registrants can contact