Dear Stella,

You've never been able to understand the one basic rule of life: some things just can't be done.

So, you'll stick an ad in the local paper because, hey, why not? How else do you build a community of writers? Before Facebook and all that tweeting are around, there will be your tiny ad. "Interested in Starting a Writers Group?" You will believe, despite the clutter of all the other ads, the right people will see it and they will come. Against all odds, in a town filled with adrenaline junkies, 26 writers will show up at your door for a first meeting. The Vicious Circle will be born. And it will grow and change and become your community, just as you knew it would.

A year later, you'll get an idea. This has always been dangerous for you and the people willing to jump in alongside you. Why not have a writers festival? Right here in Whistler! There will be those who try to dissuade you. This isn't the place for that sort of thing, they'll tell you. If it doesn't involve skis, a snowboard, a bike, the mountain, wine or a film, no one's going to be interested. People will come, you'll say, naïve and starry-eyed. We'll put on killer workshops and readings, we won't have to travel to the city for these things, and we'll be able to showcase our own local talent.

You'll pour your time, energy and passion into this thing. You'll keep at it even when grant providers reject your ideas, when potential sponsors don't see things your way, when some sought-after author rejects your multiple invitations.

You will have guest authors go MIA, have your heart broken more than once, get into long discussions with some who don't understand your vision and pour over 10 page contracts for festival space wondering why this can't be done on a handshake. You will feel like a salmon fishing up-stream, but you will write the grants, schmooze the money people, sign contracts, and keep holding your breath because you believe you can create something great here. And you will.

You will start planning the following year's festival before the current one is done. You'll meet and make lots of friends, people who will care deeply about what you're doing and will give of their time, energy and cold hard cash to your cause. You'll feel the pride of a mother hen when the local writers in your group go on to publish their work or get paid work. You'll break bread and share your home with some of the authors you have read and admired. And many of the naysayers will come on board too. In the end you will build the kind of community that embraces your tiny little festival and makes room in its heart not only for your festival, but also for you.

So maybe you're not smart enough to know it can't be done. And maybe that's not such a bad thing. Great things are always started by those who don't know any better, those who don't realise they can fail and fail in spectacular, very public ways. They don't understand the work that will be involved, the will that needs to be called upon to succeed, the perseverance needed, and the many tears that will be shed along the way.

I wish I could give you a heads-up about some of the tough lessons, learned the hard way, but what's the point? You're going to do whatever it is you want to do. And maybe you're right. Maybe you know what you're doing even when you don't know what you're doing.

Good luck. You're going to need it, young lady. (Actually, you won't be so young in 10 years but take it from me, you'll be as naïve and starry-eyed as ever, which might be the biggest accomplishment of all).

Your older, but no wiser, Self

 

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