Writers Donating Their Talents

by Elizabeth McCallister

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Some of you might remember how I discussed in the blog a while back about how writers can speak the truth to power. I thought that I’d expand on that idea.

The most famous way of doing this is by becoming a member of the national PEN organization. PEN is a worldwide association of writers working to advance the rights of writers to free expression and for readers to have the right to read whatever they please. PEN champions writers who are attacked for what they write or the positions that they hold. PEN hosts benefit readings. PEN Canada published a fundraising travel anthology in 1994 and PEN America publishes a journal. If you are interested in joining this organization, their website is: http://www.pencanada.ca.

Writers also participate in benefit readings for a variety of causes. I participated in one of a series of readings held in London England to benefit the homeless. There was a small admission fee for the readings and poets submitted their work for publication. Cinnamon Press published the best of the submissions in an annual anthology. I checked their online catalogue and there is also an anthology by young writers benefiting Oxfam.

Those of you who write prose might think that aside from PEN that I’m not giving you any examples of prose writers working toward any greater good. However, this winter I read an anthology that had both prose and poetry. The anthology was titled Shine On: Irish Writers for Shine. It was published to support people affected by Mental Ill Health. One of the best pieces in the collection was the short story at the beginning “I Have Only Ever Loved” by Alex Barclay.

There are so many issues out there that many of us feel strongly about and we have the talents to try to make the community that we live in a better place. The old adage, “the pen is mightier than the sword” is certainly true. We can wield that sword to work for positive change in society. I did try googling poetry benefits in Canada but I just got a bunch of pages of how positive it can be to belong to certain organizations or to write poetry. I’m sure some of our more web-savvy members can find events out there where we/they could donate their time.

Writing can be a curiously ego-driven endeavour. We all believe that we have something worthwhile to give and yet we can all be sensitive about that gift. It’s a strange mixture of egotism and shyness. Perhaps that’s why it’s good to remember that what we have to offer can be used to highlight causes and benefit others.


Elizabeth McCallister is currently a member of the Cambridge Writers Collective and the Brantford Poetry Workshop. Her poetry has appeared in Streets and Ascent Aspirations Magazine Anthology Four Fall 2007 – Borderlines. She was also one of the judges for 2010 Cambridge Libraries’ Poem a Day contest.

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