The Writer’s Studio

The Writers Studio Class 2019. Photo: Creative Writing Program Simon Fraser University

It took three months, an essay, an application, a resume and 20 pages of my own work, published or not, finished or unfinished, and works in progress. A month after the deadline, I got the email I hoped for:

I am very pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into The Writer’s Studio Vancouver at Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies for the 2019 year. Welcome and congratulations on submitting a successful application!

There was a large and talented pool of applicants this year and each of our mentors read all the applications to select who they were most drawn to work with in the coming year. You were accepted in the first round.”

This was a program I’d been eyeing for a few years – a year-long curriculum tailored for writers and working people to allow them to complete and receive a university credited creative writing certificate, and work with a mentor to guide them through their projects and/or writing life. It’s an exceptional program in that it not only focuses on structure, grammar, and genre but incorporates bi-weekly workshops that force us to write on a deadline for submission and have our work reviewed and critiqued by our peers. While there’s always something to learn in the obligatory classes, it’s in the workshop setting where I will face my deepest fears, find my audience, discover how to shape my work and grow as a writer.

I don’t believe that college or university is required to be a writer – after all, I’ve written and published the last six years without the coveted university degree, but I sometimes find being a student very inspiring. Over the years I’ve taken individual classes and writing workshops, and I always came away from them with new ideas and fresh motivation.

Writing is often thought of as a very solitary occupation, but I don’t believe that. I think we need a writing community, whether it’s through school or joining a local writing group. I think we need to be able to share our work, play with ideas, talk things out, discover new friends and resources that will help us become better writers. A scholastic setting is just one of many ways to connect with my community.

The Writer’s Studio promises to be a stimulating and exciting component of my writing journey. I look forward to uncovering what the year will bring and sharing my insights along the way.

Until next time, happy writing everyone.

The Pitch

You haven’t heard from me in a while. It’s because I’ve been writing. It’s the reason we embark on this journey – to write, to put our words out there, to tell our stories. I’ve been fortunate, in my short writing life, to connect with an audience early on and find opportunities to share my work. I’ve published fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and participated in a couple of magazine interviews. Amid all that, I am steadily working away on my own book projects.

One of the many challenges I have been working on is the magazine pitch. Back in the fall, I wrote about an experience choreographing a pantomime and contributed it to a website as a guest blogger. One of their public relation consultants suggested that this story be taken further and pitched to potential dance magazines. She took the lead by sending out her own pitch on my story and received a response by a local magazine in my city – but they wanted the pitch to come directly from me. I have five years of writing life behind me, but for all those small accomplishments, nothing prepared me for writing that first pitch to a magazine.

When I have an idea for a story, I write the story. I work it. I let it carry me to its eventual finish – and then I pitch it. I don’t always have to know where it’s going right from the beginning, because I know I will discover its course along the way and end up with a solid foundation to propose. A completed piece already has the points in place – the work is already done, making it easier to market. With the magazine pitch, I need to understand the groundwork before I write it. Instead of relying on the finished piece, I must convince an editor to consider an idea.

A magazine pitch takes research. It forces you to take the time to understand a magazines’ style and subject matter, to figure out how, or if, your story will fit. It’s a different sort of writing challenge, but one I think every writer should try. The pitch I sent did not work out for this publication – but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for another one. The story is there, it’s worth telling, therefore it’s worth the continuing effort to find it a home and practice the art of selling a concept before it comes to fruition.

In the meantime, I did find my way into my first magazine. I was fortunate to have my story featured in an issue of Arthritis Research Digest UK – and the only thing I had to pitch was myself.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Irreconcilable Differences

I used to believe that with a bit of talent and hard work, I could produce a flawless story in one draft. It didn’t take me long to learn that a perfect story on the first draft doesn’t exist, and in fact, was downright impossible to achieve – so I started editing while I wrote, thinking I could outwit my own fanatical desire for perfection, and during that time, I unwittingly acquired a new writing partner – she has several names but is most commonly known as “your inner editor”. She is a drifter who has worked for countless writers. We started working together, but I soon tired of the relationship. Editing while I wrote slowed the momentum of my story and it eventually burned out. My “inner editor” kerbed the flow of words that might have created a masterpiece (or at least a finished project) had they been allowed to fill the page without restraint.

I realized I had a bad working relationship with my “inner editor.” It was time to break the partnership or I’d run the risk of never finishing a story. Firing my inner editor was not easy. She wouldn’t leave without a fight. I had to learn to write without judgement, continually moving forward, resisting the urge to go back and re-read the last paragraph. It’s free-writing in all its glory – just sit and write and don’t look back until it’s finished. Let the words flow from your brain through your fingertips onto the page free from censure. It took weeks for me to stop listening to my inner editor and part of me will never truly be free. She’s still there, lingering in the shadows, taunting me from the sidelines, but I manage to ignore her unreasonable demands most of the time. Her opinions have become less important as the work prevails.

A year after I freed myself from my inner editor, I published my first story…and then my second…