October 09, 2016

Star-studded Conferences - Shirley S. Tye

I have attended some amazing writers’ conferences and festivals in Ontario.  They were amazing to me because of the celebrities who attended.  The writers’ group (WCDR - Writers’ Circle of Durham Region) that I was a member of in the Durham region (east of Toronto – Pickering, Ajax, Oshawa, Whitby, and Clarington) was honoured with high profile guests at several of their conferences and meetings.

The guest speaker at the 1997 writers’ festival held at Pickering Pioneer Village was Ben Wicks.  It’s a good thing Ben didn’t toss in the towel when told by an art teacher that he ought to take something else up.  Even after becoming a successful cartoonist, he agreed with the teacher that he couldn’t draw.  Yet his cartoons and sense of humour brought him much success and fame.  His cartoons were published in many newspapers across Canada and the United States.  He also developed his own television show, wrote several books, and drew cartoon characters for various children’s and teen’s books.   

In 1999, I had the pleasure of hearing Phil Callaway speak at a Christian Writers’ Conference in Guelph (God Uses Ink).  Now there’s another fellow with a great sense of humour and a wonderful outlook on life.  Phil has 25 books to his name (at last count), numerous articles, and is in great demand as a speaker.  Check out his schedule on his website.  He already has speaking engagements right through to April 2017.

At Words in Whitby, another conference held by WCDR, in 2002 was hosted by Ted Barris.  Ted, a broadcaster, journalist, author, and professor, interviewed Pierre Berton.  Many of us remember Pierre from the CBC television show Front Page Challenge which ran from 1957 to 1995.  Pierre was an award winning writer, columnist, editor, broadcaster, and host of several CBC programs.  At the age of 82, his love of Canada showed clearly as he passionately spoke about his writing and experiences. 

For comic relief during the Words in Whitby, there was Dave Broadfoot, comedian, actor, and author with several awards.  You might remember him from the CBC television show Royal Canadian Air Farce. His performance on stage was hilarious.  My sides were sore from laughing.  Afterwards, he sold all his videos, signed many autographs, and posed for photos.     

These were just some of the celebrities I had the pleasure of meeting when I was a member of WCDR.  (Now I live too far away to be a part of that group.)  Why did meeting these well-know people impress me?  They stuck to their work, enjoyed their work, and made a living with it. That’s what impressed me and still does.  Now if only I could get that passionate about my work.    


  1. I remember each of these people. How fortunate you are to have met them! Phil Callaway was at Inscribe a few times. Dave Broadfoot is one of my personal favourites. Hilarious!

  2. Thanks for sharing some favourite people from conferences you've attended, Shirley. At InScribe, we too have had great moments with keynote and other speakers--Phil Callaway, Lucy Shaw, Rudy Wiebe, Kathleen Gibson, Grace Fox, Gordon Korman, and many more. This isn't a complete list, but I don't think we've had anyone who disappointed me or other attendees.

    Thanks for sharing these memories, Shirley.


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