March 2020’s Centre Stage with Dorothy Bentley
There has been a surge of awareness of the literary arts in Wood Buffalo over the past few years. It’s not that there are more literary artists in the community, but rather more literary artists are coming out of their writer’s dens to showcase their work and contribute to the local arts community.
One such artist is Dorothy Bentley. Since the 80’s, Bentley has called Fort McMurray home, and throughout her education, she excelled in creative writing. A high school English teacher noticed Bentley’s talents and pointed her toward courses at Alberta Arts and Culture. Bentley was also encouraged to prepare a children’s book manuscript to submit to an agent. That encouragement spurred her to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.
While her working life took her down the path of writing articles, columns, and producing web content, she wanted to focus on poetry and prose. “It has taken a large shift in my thinking to allow myself to write that which satisfies my own heart. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable. As a result, I am now an emerging writer of poetry, short stories, a children’s picture book, (and I have several unpublished novels in a drawer).”
When asked what it’s like to be an artist in Wood Buffalo, Bentley says, “allowing the landscape and the community to shape one’s artistic practice has been part of my writer’s journey, which is what my picture book, Summer North Coming, is about. The poetry recounts the seasonal changes and activities specific to this area. Part of what most creatives do, I believe, is find beauty and significance of place wherever they find themselves.”
Bentley boasts about the local literary arts community: “There have been and there continue to be some great things happening in Wood Buffalo for writers, such as calls, contests, and fairs through Arts Council, the Words in Motion Poetry Contest, the Library’s (WBRL) writing classes, the ongoing opportunity to submit to NorthWord Literary magazine, of course, and Multicultural Association’s upcoming offering (Western Perspectives Festival).”
Up until a few years ago, Bentley never had a consistent writers’ group or attended regular poetry workshops. Now she’s part of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta (WGA) and has been to several conferences outside of the region. She’s also a WGA advocate: “I found belonging to the Guild connected me to a larger, vibrant writing community.” Once a writer becomes a member of the WGA, they receive a bi-weekly newsletter with training and publication opportunities (many accessible online) and a whole range of other services such as help with manuscripts and the submission process. This brings connectivity and equipping to a new level.”
Bentley was recently appointed the Regional Facilitator for the WGA and will be hosting a variety of literary workshops in Fort McMurray, including weekly Write Nights on Tuesday evenings at the WBRL, which provides time and space for writers to create. Those interested in learning more about the upcoming workshops can connect through the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Wood Buffalo Facebook group and through the WGA website.
If you’re interested in connecting to the local arts community, follow Arts Council Wood Buffalo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn. Visit the website at www.artscouncilwb.ca.