Five housewives, wishing to fulfill their dreams of becoming authors, met on February 1, 1994 to discuss joining together to research, write, edit, market and sell a book about their area, and in the process learn the ins and outs about the writing and publishing industry.
Janelle Breese-Biagioni, Cindy Fortin, Yasmin John-Thorpe, Lorraine Pattison and Penny Smith agreed that day to co-found the Penticton Writers and Publishers (PWAP). The project was to publish Penticton and Area Secrets and Surprises.
Through the media the ladies sent a call out to other writers for stories and for ideas from resident on what to write about, which would showcase the surrounding hamlets, town, and village.
Within weeks the women discovered they each had a distinct role in the success of the group and project: Janelle managed the business, Cindy set out to interview and write stories, taking photos, Yasmin fundraised and marketed the project, Lorraine became a phenomenal fact finder and researcher, and Penny edited the works.
By marketing and pre-selling copies of the book before it was even printed the group raised enough funds for the books and gave birth to the first successful publication. Due to this rapid rise of the women as a group, other writers came forward asking for help. Penticton Writers and Publishers became known as WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.
PWAP published A Novel Approach to Self Publishing in 1995 to aid writers moving into that field.
Soon Cindy was offered a job with an area magazine and moved on from the group.
The four remaining cofounders visited schools to give students information on writing and getting published. Hosting writing contests for young emerging writers.
Five novella magazines, Lovescape, cowritten by Yasmin John-Thorpe, Penny Smith and two other romance writers’ works, were published between 1997 and 1998.
Due to the interest in a story about ghosts, haunted houses and the unexplained, in Secrets & Surprises, the group published Supernatural Stories Around British Columbia for Halloween 1998.
Earlier that year Penticton, British Columbia Silhouette of Four Seasons was published in July 1998, at the request of the Mayor of Penticton to use as a promotional tool for the city’s tourism industry. Again from pre-sells, this publication paid for itself and won the group the Community Service Award, on January 16, 1999, from the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1999, the Penticton Writers and Publishers group has been recognized in the Canadian Publication, Chatelaine’s Who’s Who of Canadian Women.
Early in the 2000s, Lorraine and Janelle moved on from PWAP to pursue their own goals, leaving Yasmin and Penny to continue running the group’s meetings and events.
In 2001, PWAP launched its first weekend writers’ conference, inviting international publishers, editors, agents and authors, instructing local writers to hone their creative talents. Conferences continued for the next three years. In 2005 registration was down and future conferences were halted.
Other publications followed, including To Hope and Beyond in 2006. Gems of the Okanagan in 2006, 2007 and 2008, featured the winning creative works of young creative writers and poets from the Okanagan Valley.
PWAP’s most recent publication is an anthology, An Okanagan Tapestry: Stories, Poems & Images from Okanagan Authors & Artists, published in September 2015. To see a list of authors in the anthology, click here: An Okanagan Tapestry poster3
In 2007, PWAP applied for and became a non-profit society in order to organize the Raise a Reader South Okanagan Programs.
Penticton British Columbia: Celebrating a Century was published in 2009 for the city of Penticton, in celebration of the centennial. In 2009, Mining for Crystal Gems was published featuring the work of PWAP members and other writers.
In 2012 Penny Smith moved on from PWAP but remains a lifetime member in good standing.
From July 2009 to present, PWAP continues to host the British Columbia Youth Writers Camp, a one-week day camp, for young creative writers 8–18 years from across Canada and the United States. PWAP publishes the works of those attending camp in the camp anthology, Gems of British Columbia.
Today co-founder Yasmin John-Thorpe is the sole cofounder still active in the group. Members continue to meet monthly, from 7 to 9 p.m. on the third Thursday from September to June, at Leir House, on Manor Park Rd. The public is welcome for a toonie ($2) drop in charge. Writers work on challenges, or writing and critiquing exercises, cooperating with a writing service, they listen to guest speakers and read two pages of their work in progress for a constructive criticism from the group.
PWAP members assist as volunteers with events and programs throughout the year.