Creative Citizen of the Decade: Karen Walton

Today marks the 10th anniversary of inkcanada, Karen Walton’s 24–7 virtual salon for “Canadian Screenwriters & their sketchy friends (*all* crafts, disciplines, fans, other artists are welcome!)”. That’s Karen right there — friendly, inclusive, unconventional.

Walty launched inkcanada (facebook edition) April 29, 2007. But truth be told, ink predates Faceboo

I met Karen at some writer thing in 2005 or 06. This was in the days of dialup before social networks were even a thing, so it was notable that Karen and I were both grappling with the intersection of the internet and art. I saw potential for telling stories in new ways but my much smarter virtual little sister Karen saw an opportunity to connect artists. In fact, she was already hosting a private online forum called inkcanada. People like Tassie Cameron and Semi Chellas were having online discussions about… I don’t know what, but I wanted in. I remember Wil Zmack was on the original ink too. Karen promised to send me an invitation. I kept checking my spam filter but nothing.

Then it was 2007. Facebook happened. No one I knew was on it except maybe Peter Mohan. I had no idea what to do with it. That’s when the invite finally showed up — for inkcanada (facebook edition). It was May 18th. I joined immediately and have been a member ever since.

ink has been integral to my Facebook experience. It made the social network relevant in my life. And as writers started migrating to the platform all of them joined ink. My friend list grew quickly. Not just people I’d met in person. ink introduced me to many of the writers I now consider friends. It continues to connect scribes from across the country and around the world. Professional writers and those who hope to be soon. The first thing I tell anyone who wants a career in film and TV is to join ink.

But as important as ink is for n00bs, it also manages to be an indispensable resource for working writers… and directors, actors, producers, agents and execs. Karen Walton’s Facebook group is a place for writers to meet, talk craft, gossip, exchange ideas, share information and resources, support, celebrate and subtly self-promote.

The last time I checked ink had 4650 members. It is growing as fast as Karen can personally vet each person on the never ending queue to join. Running ink takes a mind-boggling amount of time, energy and love. Karen hasn’t run out yet.

The discussions can get testy. But Karen is a troll tamer. Over the years she’s learned to deal quickly and effectively with disruptors of digital discord. This is Karen’s cocktail party. She sets the tone — with intelligence, optimism, generousity and insane amounts of enthusiasm.

Karen can’t possibly read all of the posts, can she? She’d never sleep. But she manages to comment on a helluva lot of them. She starts tons of conversations and launches initiatives designed to fuel conversation, build community, contribute to the larger social good and nurture writers who are young, diverse, indigenous, female and otherwise under represented in the industry and on our screens.

At ink drinks — Karen’s irl monthly cocktail party in Toronto — wannabes can mingle with working writers without fear or embarrassment. That’s what ink drinks are for. If you’re lucky you’ll show up on one of those epic nights when Karen is buying tequila shots for all.

Through ink, Karen has brought together and strengthened not only the community of screenwriters, but the whole industry. Maybe she’s made the country a better place; she’s certainly made it a lot cooler to be a Canadian screenwriter or their sketchy friend.

So @Karen Walton, for all you’ve done and continue to do, I nominate you as Creative Citizen of the Decade. Thanks for 10 great years. And if you promise us 10 more, I’m pretty sure I can convince community not to post anything contentious for a couple of hours so you can take a nap.