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Chelene Knight, CEO #LearnWritingEssentials & Breathing Space Creative 

“Sometimes being a leader means creating space by giving up your space.”

 

 

Chelene Knight knew fairly early on that she was a storyteller. “I was a really quiet kid, I wouldn’t talk a lot, but you could pull things out of me with a paper and pen. In school, there was always this fear of getting it wrong or saying things people didn’t want to hear. In my 20s, I threw that out the window and started to break some templates and get creative.” 

Once Chelene threw away her need for structure, doors started to open. She uses a variety of formats in her writing to address her own experiences with mixed ethnicity and belonging and often speaks about her desire to build community through authentic storytelling. As a mentor, teacher and entrepreneur, she encourages her students to think about their message before they focus on their structure. “I want them to think about what they want their community to take away from the book, how they will engage with it.”

Growing up, Chelene felt isolated. “I was shy, and my family wasn’t the closest. I didn’t have that close-knit community.” Yet, she found that when she attended SFU’s The Writer’s Studio in 2013, suddenly, she felt safe to explore the stories she wanted to tell. She also realized that there were conversations taking place behind closed doors and decisions being made that had restricted access. “I came into the publishing world really fresh. I had no idea what it meant to publish something. I just knew that the industry was really hard to break into without an MFA or someone leading you behind those closed doors.” 

Chelene started volunteering with Room Magazine, and that’s when she got a behind-the-scenes look at what was happening in the industry. “I was let into so many private rooms; I got to hear the conversations taking place amongst writers and publishers. I saw the gaps of what was missing and what was starting to take shape.” 

As Room’s former Managing Editor and now owner of her own writer’s boutique studio and author care consulting firm, she has that opportunity. She works with emerging writers to not only help them produce better work but also to better prepare them for the opportunities they’re presented with. “We have this huge responsibility to filter down what we’ve learned. It can be life-changing to bring someone into a community they didn’t know existed. My goal is to help bring people into worlds they’ve not seen before. Organizations like Creative BC help us try new things and connect with communities in different ways. They give us permission to explore.”

For Chelene, one of the most important things we can do in publishing is to take better care of our authors. For so many new authors, they’re asked to travel to new cities and speak on panels in rooms full of people they don’t know. Chelene wants to support emerging authors too, especially those from marginalized communities who might be too afraid to ask questions like she was. That’s why she started Breathing Space Creative, an author care consulting firm where artist care is rooted in building resilience, community, and trust through authentic communication (launches fall 2019).

“I remember sitting in front of an audience feeling like I was going to vomit, and being asked questions I didn’t want to answer. It’s so important to help writers navigate all of that, and prevent situations where they feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. Trust and safety are so important when you’re sharing your story.”

 

Learn more about Chelene and Breathing Space Creative.

Don’t Miss CUFFED – It’d Be a Crime

On the weekend of March 11 to 13 criminal minds from all corners of the country will descend upon Granville Island. Some of them specialize in constructing alibis for murders, while others take great pains in weaving intricate forms of blackmail, revenge or the silencing of secrets forever. No two think alike, but they all share at least one thing in common: they would love to meet you.

Later this month CUFFED: The International Crime Writers Festival will welcome 20 of today’s hottest crime fiction talent to Performance Works and the Granville Island Hotel. For three days some of the genre’s best-known Canadian talent will tell audiences how they craft relatable villains, ambiguous anti-heroes and tell richly dark stories of human failings that seem all-too-believable – and indeed, might also draw upon disquieting facts.

The lineup of assembled talent is impressive: Linwood Barclay (his novel “No Time For Goodbye” has been translated into nearly 30 languages), Gail Bowen (creator of the Joanne Kibourn book series), Terry Gould (investigative journalist and non-fiction author), C.C. Humphreys (creator of the French Executioner and the Jack Absolute series) and B.C.’s Owen Laukkanen (“The Professionals”) are just five of the 20 authors that will be speaking at CUFFED. Crime reporter Kim Bolan, who’s known for her coverage of the criminal underbelly in “The Vancouver Sun”, will also be a featured speaker and guest at CUFFED.

Ian Rankin CUFFED festival

Scottish crime author Ian Rankin created the character of Inspector Rebus and is a supporter of CUFFED. Rankin’s Rebus is one of the genre’s best-selling sleuths, appearing in more than a dozen bestselling novels and has also been adapted into television.

With a Little Help from Scotland’s Criminal Mastermind

While this is the inaugural launch of the CUFFED festival, it’s already got an internationally heavyweight champion behind it. Scottish author Ian Rankin, creator of one of today’s most popular fictional detectives (Inspector Rebus), helped raise funds for CUFFED’s launch from an event put on last year.

“Readers realize that along with a compelling narrative, crime fiction says important things about the state of the modern world and asks tough moral questions, making us think about our societies, our institutions and ourselves,” said Rankin. “Crime Fiction Festivals are springing up over the globe and I am positive CUFFED will prove to be one of the jewels in this crown – especially with Alma Lee in charge.”

Alma Lee is the Producer of CUFFED and the former Artistic Director of the Vancouver International Writers Festival. It was during her time spent at that organization Lee first saw growing appetite from audiences eager to explore the nuances of crime fiction. “When Lonnie Propas (CUFFED’s Artistic Director) approached me to help him produce a ‘genre’ festival it seemed like a good idea,” Lee explains. “When we decided to go forward we got nothing but highly positive response from everyone we spoke to – publishers, writers and readers all of which made us confident that we could pull it off.”

With votes in confidence from Ian Rankin – as well as letters of support from other influential crime fiction writers like Louise Penny and Quintin Jardine – the CUFFED team are hopeful that this will be the first of many more CUFFED festivals to come. Chances are good that they won’t be dead wrong.

 

Visit the CUFFED website: www.cuffedfestival.com

Purchase tickets for the venues.