Blog Post No. 498
Keeping the party going this week is Brittni Brinn. Not only is Brittni one of the most supportive writers in the Wrecking Writing Crew, she helps me to be more in tune with modern social sensibilities since her writing is always cognizant of the subject.
I don’t quite remember how or when I started joining Ben and the rest of the Writing Wrecking Crew for regular sessions—maybe it was after a reading or a book fair we each participated in. In any case, I started meeting the Crew at Tim Hortons around the city. I was the odd one out in some ways. For one thing, I didn’t have a car, which made far away sessions tricky to get to, and I didn’t have the established friendships the rest of the group had. Plus, before I joined the Wrecking Crew, I didn’t know that you could order Tim Hortons coffee in a ceramic mug. I learned that from Ben.
Writing sessions with a group are important in so many ways. Not only do they force you to spend some time writing (the procrastination struggle is real!), but they give you time with others who are also pursuing this weird and crazy dream that the rest of the world doesn’t always understand or respect. Respect isn’t why I write, but it gets old telling people “I’m a writer” and them replying, “No, what do you really do?” With a writing group, you know what you really do. It’s why you’re all there.
Some sessions with the Wrecking Crew involved all or most of the group. It took no time at all to feel comfortable with them, welcoming crew as they are! Sometimes, it was just Ben and me meeting up after work to get a few words in. Ben was one of the few science fiction authors I knew in Windsor at the time. Not that we write the same kind of sci-fi, as Ben will tell you! But it was a huge encouragement to have someone to write with who also had their mind up in the stars, dreaming about the future, trying to create societies unlike our own, like our own. Whenever I think of Ben, I picture him across a Tim Hortons table, on his laptop with his earbuds in, wearing a comfortable blocky-patterned hoodie. Writing.
What kind of writer is Ben? A dedicated one. A community-minded one. Ben may claim not to like people as a whole, but it’s easy to see from the events he’s organised, readings he’s participated in, workshops he’s hosted, collaborative projects he’s been a part of, and his dreams for future book events that he values gathering people together and sharing an experience. Most of what Ben writes features an individual surviving a dangerous city, legendary monsters, or corporate hitmen, but his stories are also about making connections with others, be they human or AI (no spoilers though!).
Ben is also one of the least pretentious writers that I know. He has strong opinions, but he knows the amount of work that goes into making a great piece of writing. He’s not afraid of his limits, but is constantly working to improve his craft. He’s delved into his own hopes and anxieties about the future and turned them into some compelling novellas and short stories. And perhaps most importantly, he’s willing to listen and expand his understanding of the world.
It’s rare to find a “serious writer” who can still hold their work loosely, be open to ideas, even treat their great calling as an author with humour. You just have to read Ben’s blog to see that he’s one of those rare gems. And with post 500 just on the horizon, it’s clear that Ben’s dedication to writing is the real deal. Posting once a week may not seem like a lot, but it’s a huge accomplishment that many of us writer-types can only aspire to. I say that about myself as well—no matter how much I try, I’m lucky if I get a blog post up once a month!
I don’t know if any of this has helped to highlight what a dedicated, encouraging, and inspiring writer and human being Ben is, but I’ve enjoyed looking back on our writing sessions. It makes me appreciate how lucky I am to have people in my life to laugh and share ideas with—especially wild ideas about spaceships, aliens, and the retro-tech of the future. With near-500 blog posts, a series of novellas, and some short stories in the bag, plus a novel or two in progress, the future is looking very bright for Ben Van Dongen.
Brittni Brinn (she/her) writes science fiction from a tower and sometimes a cottage in Nova Scotia, Canada. The third book in her post-apocalyptic Patch Project series is slated to be released with Adventure Worlds Press this summer.