WordStorm: Society of the Arts

12 years ago a group of Nanaimo writers pursued the creation of an incorporated society that would facilitate a traditional reading event combined with an open mic. They called it WordStorm.

Since its beginning in 2007, WordStorm has reimagined their society to hit the needs of the community; as live art so often requires. Part of this process included establishing a monthly event. Thus, in 2017, 15 Minutes of Infamy was born. The society’s new vision was to do four special events a year, as well as 15 Minutes of Infamy, and a pilot project.

In the past year, WordStorm has brought in poets and authors from the surrounding area for the special events. Three well-known slam poets flocked to Nanaimo for WordStorm’s first Poetry Slam in April (poetry month). The Society is hoping to continue the tradition into the upcoming year.

“15 Minutes of Infamy is different from what a reading would be because it’s focused on performance,” said Carla Stein, Artistic Director of the event. “We try to have as many local people as possible as opposed to featured readers that a traditional reading would go. We have hosts that we invite that often have a lot of experience in various fields concerning writing, but everyone is on an equal playing field.”

Wordstorm’s first event was on September 18 and was hosted by travel writer and poet Bill Arnott. The evening included performances by Michael Averill, Nicole Potvin, Susan Warner, and Winter Darby. 15 Minutes of Infamy will continue on the third Wednesday of each month until August.

One of the newest projects for WordStorm is called Metaphorically Speaking and starts on October 3. The series will take place at White Rabbit Coffee Co. on Selby Street. Being entirely open mic with the occasional feature performer, the stage will welcome performances 3–5 minutes long in any genre: poetry, prose, drama, monologue, dialogue, slam poetry, and spoken word of any type.

“That’s different from what WordStorm was before, which was pretty well always focused around poetry. We’re not by any means wanting to take poetry out of the picture, but we’re also wanting to acknowledge that there’s lots of people doing amazing things around writing—and they’re not writing poetry, so why leave them out?”

Another WordStorm venture is their upcoming flash fiction contest. It is the first time they have hosted this type of event, which is entirely accessible to the local community.  They are looking for solid writing submissions under 250 words; there is no theme. The deadline to enter the contest is October 28, 2019. The Nav spoke with Shelley Stein-Wotten, a freelance journalist, humorist, and judge for the flash fiction contest.


How do you approach writing short fiction?

It’s not dissimilar to writing longer pieces. I think about what I want to say and how am I going to get there. When you know what you want to accomplish often times the story—the vehicle—reveals itself to you. The key with short fiction is making sure you’re not taking on too much story-wise. Sometimes something you set out to be a short piece becomes bigger than you initially thought, so you either have to claw it back or let it become a full monster and let a new, short-form idea come to you.


What stories that you’ve read have taught you something about the craft of writing short fiction?

Sometimes seeing or reading something that has drawn out a storyline or plot point excessively—like a soap opera—can teach you that something can be said in a way shorter fashion. I’m also a journalist and in that field you learn quite quickly to cut back your words so you meet your word count. Reading poetry can also help you write tighter prose.


A tip for a writer finessing a micro of two hundred and fifty words or under?

There’s no time to mess around when you only have 250 words so make sure you’re going at it with a clear vision and choose words that are expressive. For example, maybe you don’t need so many adverbs if you’re choosing great verbs.


What are you looking for in this year’s contest? What sort of micros would you love to see among the entries?

I’m looking for a unique, complete story, compelling characters, and a point of view. Let your voice shine through because that’s your most valuable asset.


What are you reading these days?

I’m re-reading a non-fiction book, American Lightning by Howard Blum. It’s a true-crime story set in 1910 that ties in the birth of Hollywood. I’m also reading bits of Bulfinch’s Mythology, a resource I find myself dipping into from time to time.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m doing a compilation of apple reviews—that would be the fruit, not the tech company. They’re short comedic commentaries that I’ve been dabbling at over the last couple years. I’m also working on a play that takes place in ancient Persia and circles around the hopes and dreams of the eunuchs and women living in a harem.


Aside from the variety of events that WordStorm hosts, they also have a $10 membership that helps to support the program and offers members a discount on any workshops they host throughout the year.

If students are looking to get involved with WordStorm, the society is always looking for volunteers to help with feature events, monthly events, and workshops. Get in touch if you think this artist community collaboration is of interest to you. Practicing authors are welcome to join the WordStorm facebook page to find out about upcoming events and to connect with local creators.

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Features Editor Caileigh Broatch is a fifth-year creative writing major. She freelance edits for Broadview Press, managed Portal magazine in 2018, and was awarded the Pat Bevan and Myrtle Bergren creative writing awards for fiction. Her work has appeared Portal and The Nav.