“Writing With the Old Ones”

dreamcatcherHaving read several novels by Richard Wagamese, (Ragged Company, Indian Horseand Dream Wheels), I knew as soon as I found out he offers workshops, that I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from him. In the spring I registered for a workshop that was to take place in August, and was sent a copy of his handbook, “Writing with the Old Ones: From the Oral Tradition to the Printed Page”

After reading the handbook, I read two more of Richard’s books – compilations of essays about his life: One Native Life and One Story, One Song – and I felt, even more than I had before, what an honour it would be to work with this remarkable man.

A few weeks before I was to head to BC for the workshop, I received word that it had been cancelled. I was disappointed, of course. But the cliché that ‘when one door closes, another opens’ proved true. In the days I anticipated being in BC as part of a workshop group, I instead:

  • attended the last Sunrise Yoga class being led by my favourite instructor before she goes on sabbatical
  • hosted an impromptu lunch on our deck on a perfect summer day for a small gathering of friends
  • visited two photography exhibits at the McMichael gallery with my dad and my partner
  • had my stepdaughter and two grandchildren for dinner and an overnight stay
  • enjoyed dinner at the home of my son and his wife, which was a chance to see my daughter too
  • had my sister and her dog up for a weekend visit.
  • took in a movie at the Bookshelf Cinema with my partner.
  • headed to Nova Scotia earlier than originally planned, to take advantage of the chance to spend Labour Day weekend with my other stepdaughter and her family.

I really appreciated these opportunities to spend time with family and friends. Each in their own ways, they’re as important to me as writing is. (In some ways, of course, they matter even more.) But my writing life is important to me; so is becoming a better writer as I continue to practice my craft. So I do hope the chance to work with Richard Wagamese will present itself again, some day.

I also hope visitors to my blog have enjoyed opportunities to spend summer days in wonderfully satisfying ways too. And hey, it’s not over yet, is it!


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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Judy on September 22, 2013 at 10:54 am

    How did you like "Writing with the Old Ones"?

    Thanks for the post!


    • Kathy on September 24, 2013 at 7:53 am

      "Writing with the Old Ones" was a good addition to my collection of books about writing. What makes it different from others I've read is its emphasis on oral storytelling as a starting point for written stories. Richard offers useful step by step suggestions to help prepare a writer to get in what some would call "the zone". It would take patience to follow Richard's directions precisely. (Do this for 5 days before proceeding to the next step), but I don't doubt that pursuing his approach with patience would reap certain rewards. I certainly recommend the handbook, especially for writers still trying to tap into the wellspring of stories they have to tell. Hope that's helpful to you, Judy. Btw, I don't know where you're located but I saw on Richard's Facebook page that he plans to offer a workshop in Ontario next year.

  2. Judy on October 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Thank you so much, Kathy! Great website, BTW!


  3. Pam on July 23, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I would love to locate a copy of the handbook Writing with the Old Ones by Richard Wagamese. Any idea where I might be able to locate one?


    • Kathy on July 25, 2014 at 9:54 am

      I got it from Richard's website last year, but it wasn't there last I looked. You might try contacting him via his Facebook page. Hope this helps.

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