creative writing

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By Carol Bruneau‘s eighth WFNS creative writing workshop, each student had a nice chunk of writing completed, so Bruneau dedicated her final class to publishing and making submissions.

Creative Writing with Carol Bruneau: Week Eight

When someone writes with the hopes of one day being published, s/he is writing with the intent to communicate to another person or a community of people. Carol Bruneau explains that publishing is a part of this process.

ON PUBLISHING:

If you’re interested in publishing your work Bruneau says you have to start somewhere. She explains that short stories are a good way to get your writing out into the world without having to make a huge commitment to a singular project. They also allow you to practice and develop your writing so that you can tackle something more substantial in the future (if that is what you hope to do). She recommends you look for literary journals in your region or country to which you can submit your work. When writing with the intent to publish, Bruneau suggests you keep in mind that “publishers look at books as products and at authors as product makers.” This isn’t to say you should write to cater to what’s popular, but to look for holes or markets that have yet to be filled. For example, if you’re submitting a novel, be sure to write a query letter that explains what your work is about, what you are trying to do with your writing, and why it is different from whatever else is out there. Also, keep in mind that publishers are becoming more and more competitive because the current economic climate has made book publishing a risky business (which is one reason why self-publishing is on the rise).

ON LITERARY AGENTS:

Hiring an agent has advantages and disadvantages, Bruneau explains. The main advantage to having an agent is that agents take care of the business end of writing and publishing, which will save you a lot of work. The main disadvantage, however, is that you have legal obligations to your agent, which means you have less freedom and fewer choices.

ON DEALING WITH REJECTION:

Bruneau says that rejections will happen, but if you’re lucky you’ll get feedback. She advises writers to treat a rejection like a “hot potato”: When you get a story back, turn around and send it back out there to another publisher. However, the most important thing, she says, is to “develop confidence in your own writing and what’s important to you and you will eventually find a reader.” I hope you found these blog posts about Carol Bruneau’s creative writing workshop helpful (please see the list below for links to each of Bruneau’s eight classes); however, Bruneau’s creative writing workshop was much more comprehensive and informative than I can possibly recount, and her exercises allowed me to do more than just think about my current project — they got me actually writing it. I highly recommend to anyone looking to improve and develop his or her writing skills to take a creative writing class from an established, published author. If you’re in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area (like me), check out the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Workshop page for upcoming classes. The NSCAD University School of Extended Studies has also started offering some writing classes, and of course you can find creative writing classes for audit or credit at your local university. Joining a writing group is also a great way to practice your writing and learn from other writers. If you know of any other institutions or organizations that offer creative writing classes in the Halifax region or online, or if you are part of a local writing group and are looking for additional members, please feel free to leave a comment.

WFNS CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP WITH CAROL BRUNEAU

Class 1 – Creative writing tips: Getting started

Class 2 – Creative writing tips: Creating characters

Class 3 – Creative writing tips: Developing dialogue & narrative voice

Class 4 – Creative writing tips: Creating dynamic settings and atmosphere

Class 5 – Creative writing tips: Developing a storyline – Plot

Class 6 – Creative writing tips: The architecture of fiction

Class 7 – Creative writing tips: Re-envisioning & revising your story

Class 8 – Creative writing tips: Publishing

For more information about Carol Bruneau and her works, please visit her website at carolbruneau.com.

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Last October/November I took a creative writing workshop at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia (WFNS) with published author Carol Bruneau. The workshop lasted for eight classes, and in that time I learned some great tips for writing creatively, and practiced my writing through various exercises. Not all of Bruneau’s advice or writing exercises (of which there were many) helped me get over certain stumbling blocks, and I’m sure that some of what I wrote during the workshop isn’t worth the page on which it was written, but Bruneau’s workshop was great because it got me writing and thinking about new ways to look at my novel in progress. I’d like to share some of Bruneau’s wisdom, what writing exercises worked for me, and why taking a writing workshop can help motivate you and improve your writing.

Carol Bruneau

Carol Bruneau

Creative writing with Carol Bruneau: Week One

Carol Bruneau says that writing is walking really slowly and looking at stuff. To write you need to take notice of the world around you and really look. She suggests carrying a notebook with you wherever you go and jotting down the quirky things you see, the funny expressions you hear, and any interesting or odd incidents that you come across. You may never feel the need to use these notes in your fiction or creative non-fiction writing, but writing these things in a notebook gets you into the habit of noticing what is going on around you and thinking creatively about your experiences.

Bruneau also says that good writing speaks to the reader; it draws the reader in so that s/he can relate to the story. She suggests doing this by capturing synesthesia in your writing — in other words, write all of the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Although this wasn’t the first time I heard about writing from the senses, and I know I’ve occasionally done this in my writing before (but not deliberately and without intention), Bruneau gave us the following exercise, which allowed me to put this great writing technique into practice:

Write about a colour as though you are explaining it to a blind person. What does it mean to you? What/who does it remind you of?

This writing exercise made me think about colour and description in a different way. Not only did I attempt to describe the sight, sound, touch, taste and smell of a colour — an intangible perception — but I also personified that colour (I chose blue because it’s my favourite) and gave it a personality. Writing the senses breathed life into my description of the colour blue and made it more dynamic. It also got my creative juices flowing because I had to shift the way I think about colour in order to describe it to someone who has never seen it before. I really enjoyed this exercise — it was my AHA! moment of Bruneau’s first class. I certainly feel that describing the senses (not by accident but with intention) has greatly improved my creative writing. Try it and see for yourself!

In my next blog post I’ll discuss my experiences during week two of the WFNS Creative Writing Workshop in which Carol Bruneau got us to work on creating and developing characters — an area that I seem to have difficulty with.

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Halifax’s Word on the Street did something a little bit different this year: they offered a couple of free workshops for the public. The writing workshop I attended focused on memory and memoir and was facilitated by three great local authors: Don Aker, a young adult author; Lorri Neilsen Glenn, a poet, an academic, and a memoir writer; and Julie Vandervoort, a creative non-fiction writer.

Each author provided three writing prompts to the workshop that I found very inspiring. The workshop was only about an hour long so each participant had to choose one writing prompt (and therefore one author) to workshop with and glean advice from. This, for me, was a very tough choice.

Don Aker

Don AkerDon Aker has written 18 YA books and has won numerous awards for his work. I’ll admit I haven’t yet read any of his work, but YA literature as a genre is something I’ve only recently started to become interested in; however, Don’s writing prompt intrigued me:

Think of a mistake you made in the past that continues to resonate with you now. Why does it still resonate? Allow your mind to return to the moment when you made this mistake, and list the details you remember about it. Don’t worry about their order — simply jot down as many details as you can recall about the time, place, people, situation, etc.

Who among us has not made mistakes? Sometimes mistakes can be haunting and they are a great topic on which to write. I almost joined Don at his writing station but felt, however, like I was being pulled by a string towards a different author. Nevertheless, Don’s writing prompt is something I intend to come back to one day.

Lorri Neilsen Glenn

Lorri Neilsen GlennI think Lorri Neilsen Glenn is one of my favourite people. I first met her three years ago while I was working on my Master of Arts thesis at Dalhousie University. She gave a lecture on the mixture of academic and creative writing during the English Department’s “Friday Speaker Series,” and I remember asking her how she balanced her creative writing life with academia, because at that time I found that academia (especially academia at Dalhousie) left me devoid of creativity. I can’t remember the answer she gave me (all I remember are the dirty looks I received from some of the professors in the room), but she came up to me after the question period and gave me some suggestions on how to find balance between my creative and academic selves. I really appreciated the advice she gave me and I felt hopeful that academia was no longer creativity’s enemy.

I met Lorri again the following year through my writing group. She was a guest speaker to our group and I found myself so moved by her poetry and advice that I ran out the next day and bought every one of her books that I could find. More recently I read and fell in love with her creative non-fiction book Threading Light: Explorations in Loss and Poetry.

Lorri’s writing prompt was right up my ally:

Lost and Found. We lose and find something every day: Friends, keys, places, gloves, pride, rings, health, houses, and our way. Make a list of 10 things, people, places you have lost or found over the years. Think of specific images (freeze frames) that remind you of that loss or that discovery. Think of sounds and smells, objects, specific places that remind you. Go back to who and where you were then. Then choose one or two of the ten you’ve listed, brainstorm details (in no particular order).

Loss is certainly one of the most impressive concepts humans deal with, and memories of loss can be very powerful. I also love Lorri’s idea of thinking in freeze frames. However, I’ve taken workshops with Lorri before (one of which was about memory and loss), so I figured I should branch out and workshop with a different author where I might perhaps get some different ideas and writing advice.

Julie Vandervoort

Julie VandervoortJulie Vandervoort, the author that the invisible string was pulling me towards, is a creative non-fiction writer. I had just recently won the creative non-fiction prize for the 35th Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Atlantic Writing Competition, but my winning story was the first creative non-fiction piece I’d ever written. I would like to write more creative non-fiction and I knew Julie would have some good advice.

Julie began her mini workshop by telling us that people often ask her, “What is creative non-fiction?” I often receive this same question when I tell people the genre of my winning AWC story. Julie explained that creative non-fiction has many definitions. It is personal journalism, memoir, essay. It is a fugue, a collage of pieces that stick together, of images and emotions.

Julie’s writing prompt was:

Think of an image, incident, memory, fragment or story that you can’t shake. Summarize it in a sentence or give it a title. What deeply held value do you associate or connect with that memory?

Julie suggested that if a piece is not working to draw a connection between it and a value that is close to your heart. “If you can’t find the value,” she said, “then that is probably why it’s not working.” This insight made me start thinking about a manuscript I’m currently stuck on. I’m certainly going to keep Julie’s advice in mind from now on when my writing stalls.

At the end of the workshop, the three authors came together to offer advice to all of the participants:

Don Aker: “Write more than one lead. You may find the second or third is better than the first.”

Lorri Neilsen Glenn: “Think in terms of scenes, small moments, freeze frames that move you in some way. Don’t worry yet about making it linear. Then, later, look at the big picture and organize it.”

Julie Vandervoort: “If you’re stuck, try writing a page or two by hand. Writing by hand activates a different part of the brain. Resist the urge to go back and edit.”

“Writing is hard,” they all agreed, and to quote writer Buffy Cram, “the only thing worse than writing is not writing.”

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Crystal Vaughan, Halifax Word on the Street, Atlantic Writing Competition Reading

Crystal Vaughan, Halifax Word on the Street, Atlantic Writing Competition Reading

When I was a kid I loved watching the children’s television show Fred Penner’s Place. My favourite part of the show was when the “Word Bird” stopped by to deliver the word of the day. Who knows, but maybe this is where my love of words first originated!

If Fred Penner‘s Word Bird had visited Halifax’s Word on the Street on Sunday, September 23rd, the word of the day would have been: Welcoming. I was amazed at how kind, warm, encouraging and supportive everyone was, not just the WOTS organizers and the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, but also the participating authors, the vendors and publishers, and even the complete strangers. The writing community in Halifax is really great and I truly believe this is a wonderful city to live in as an emerging writer.

I initially had quite a lot of anxiety to get on stage and read an excerpt of my winning Atlantic Writing Competition piece. But, although I was very nervous to read something quite personal in front of a bunch of strangers (and a few friends), the reception I received from the audience was wonderful. I also greatly enjoyed listening to excerpts from the winning manuscripts in the other categories.

The 1st place 35th WFNS Atlantic Writing Competition Winners

The 1st place 35th WFNS Atlantic Writing Competition Winners. From left to right: Sasha Dence, Roger Field, Patsy Clothier, Crystal Vaughan, Richard Levangie, and Ruth Morris Schneider

AWC winner Crystal Vaughan (right) with Clare Goulet, the creative writing professor at Mount Saint Vincent University

AWC winner Crystal Vaughan (right) with Clare Goulet, the creative writing professor at MSVU

On the left I’m pictured with Clare Goulet, the creative writing professor at Mount Saint Vincent University. My winning story was first born in her creative writing class back in 2007. From there I took her comments, edited it, sat on it, edited it some more, and then finally got the courage to submit it to the Atlantic Writing Competition. I’m so happy and touched that she came to hear me read, and I want to thank her for all of the advice and support she’s given me over the years.

I even had some Mount Saint Vincent University groupies attend my reading. I’d never met them before, but I appreciate their support.

Mount Saint Vincent University Word on the Street volunteers.

Mount Saint Vincent University Word on the Street volunteers. From left to right: Natalie Giovannetti, Jessalyn Burke, Katryna Hepditch

My Word at the Street fun didn’t end with my AWC reading. I met some great people and heard some great writing. I also found some awesome books for cheap (although I’m not sure where to put them since my bookcase is already overflowing to the max). And, of course, as a Mount Saint Vincent University alum, I had to stop by the MSVU table in the vendors’ tent to say hello.

Visiting the Mount Saint Vincent University table at Word on the Street.

Visiting the Mount Saint Vincent University table at Word on the Street. From left to right: MSVU volunteer Gillian McDonald, Crystal Vaughan, Dr. Anna Smol (MSVU English professor)

I was also excited to see Fierce Ink Press at Word on the Street with Kat Kruger. Kat’s newly published book, The Night Has Teeth, launched last week. I am so excited for her and I can’t wait to read it. Fierce Ink Press, a new Atlantic Canada publishing label, is taking the publishing industry to some new and innovative places with their co-operative publishing model. You can read more about it here. I wish Kat and Fierce Ink Press the best of luck.

YA author Kat Kruger holding her newly published book: The Night Has Teeth

YA author Kat Kruger holding her newly published book: The Night Has Teeth

In addition to my new pile of books, I met a mini RAWR Eep at the Fierce Ink Press table and she decided to follow me home. I just love RAWR Creatures and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give Sadie Cat a friend.

A Fierce Ink Press Eep made by RAWR Creatures

A Fierce Ink Press Eep made by RAWR Creatures

All in all it was a good day. I want to again thank the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, the Atlantic Writing Competition judges, and Word on the Street for their encouragement and support. Also, a big thanks to everyone (friends, past professors, strangers) who came out to hear me read.

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Back in 2007, during the final year of my undergraduate degree at Mount Saint Vincent University, I took a creative writing course in which I wrote a polyphonic non-fiction story. I was quite pleased with the outcome, and got a good grade with helpful constructive criticism on how to make it better. With some prodding from my instructor, I had planned to submit it somewhere — to a contest or a publication, but I just never got around to it. Partly due to laziness, I’m sure, but mostly due to fear.

I was going through some of my old writing last summer and came across my polyphonic story. I decided it was finally time to look at it with fresh eyes and edit it, making sure to keep my instructor’s comments in mind. The first place where I submitted my story was to a literary magazine, but I received a rejection letter shortly thereafter. So when I submitted it to the WFNS Atlantic Writing Competition in the creative non-fiction category, I didn’t do so with the expectation of winning (even though that hope was, of course, always there); however, I knew the Atlantic Writing Competition would be a good place to put myself out there in my local writing community, and I knew I would get feedback on my writing.

Then months went by and I kind of forgot about it, until I received notification that my story made it into the finals. I was excited that my story made it so far, especially since my poetry submission didn’t (see “Thoughts on criticism and praise”). But I’ll never actually win, I thought. I was up against five other writers who were shortlisted in the creative non-fiction category. And Halifax has so much talent, let alone all of Atlantic Canada. I barely allowed myself to hope.

So when Hillary Titley from the Writers’ Federation called to tell me I won first place in my category I couldn’t believe it. I’ve submitted a few things here and there for contests or publication, but so far I have only ever received rejection letters. Until now. Perhaps this will give me the push and the confidence I need to keep submitting my work.

As an Atlantic Writing Competition winner, I get to read an excerpt of my story at Word on the Street in Halifax on September 23rd. Details will be announced closer to the date, but I hope to see some friendly faces in the audience to help me celebrate my first victory as an aspiring writer.

I would like to thank the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia for sponsoring this competition that gives new and unpublished writers a chance to show their work. And of course I’d like to give a big congratulations to all of the other winners (click here for a list of all winners in each category). I can’t wait to meet you all and hear your work at Word on the Street in September!

The Writers’ Federation is now accepting submissions for the 36th Atlantic Writing Competition. The deadline is November 9th at 5:00pm. If you’ve been sitting on a piece of writing but you’re not sure if you should enter it, just do it. Even if you don’t think you can win, enter anyway. You might just surprise yourself. Like I did.

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Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” He was right. To write means to put pieces of yourself down into paper. I say into paper rather than onto paper because these pieces permeate the surface and bind with the threads. It is only with each drop of blood on the page that you can make way for new cell growth within yourself. You replenish so you can bleed again.

Lorri Neilsen Glenn from http://www.poetrymap.ca/profile.php?PoetID=17This weekend I attended a writing workshop at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia held by local author Lorri Neilsen Glenn. During the workshop, called “Carrying a Griefcase, Waiting for the Light: Writing About Loss,” Lorri led us into exploring how to write about grief and loss by providing us with various examples and writing exercises meant to open the “griefcase” we always carry with us.

I went to Lorri’s workshop for four reasons. First, she is an amazing writer from whom I know I can learn a lot. Second, the manuscript I’m trying to work on (and yet am barely working on) revolves around grief and loss, which can be a difficult and exhausting mindset to enter. Third, I hoped it would inspire me to jump back on the metaphorical wagon and once again start writing more creatively. And fourth, as with everyone, I am dealing with my own losses; writing is cheaper and often better than therapy.

We all encounter loss in life, whether it is the loss of a loved one, a hope or dream, or an opportunity. Therefore, “Our task in life,” Lorri says, “is to learn how to lose.” She referenced Murray Stein‘s In Midlife to explain how loss throws us off balance and places us in a liminal space — a space in between. In this space our identity is not fixed; it is hung in suspension. This is a place where we feel alienated and marginalized. And, yet, it is also a place for new opportunity.

In contemporary Western society, grieving is often sanitized. It is often locked away, hidden, and viewed as self-indulgent. People will ask the grieving, “Aren’t you over that yet?” This begs the question, how long is too long to grieve over a loss? Yet, Lorri claims that grief is something we carry with us always. We never get past it because it becomes a part of us. Suppressing or sanitizing grief doesn’t allow for the necessary responses to be able to comfortably carry grief with you as you move through life. Ignoring or suppressing grief is furthermore unhealthy for the body because rather than an emotional response it elicits a body response, inviting in aches and pains, and even disease.

Writing about grief and loss is important because it creates a response that allows for acceptance and consolation. It also allows us to see joy and beauty: “Joy and grief are intertwined and part of each other,” Lorri says. “When you remember that which you are grieving over you see the joy that caused such depth of grief. The gift is in there. It’s about learning to be present. It’s about learning about our own mortality. It’s about learning that we are everything and nothing in terms of significance at the same time. It is a process of distillation.”

As part of this process of distillation, one of the writing exercises Lorri suggests people do who want to write about grief or loss is to write down ten reactions or responses you’ve had, actions you’ve taken, and/or feeling you’ve felt with regards to your grief. In other words, make a list. She then invites you to ask yourself: “How can I change and rework this list in order to create poetry, prose, fiction, memoir, instructions, etc. Yet, even if you do not want to write about grief I suggest you make a list every time you want to write about something because it’s a great way to focus your thoughts on paper.

Although I’ll admit I was hesitant to take Lorri’s workshop because I, like most people, would like to suppress my grief and just forget about it, I’m very happy that I found the courage to go. I found Lorri’s writing exercises therapeutic and inspiring. Listening to the writing of others in the workshop, their struggles and griefs, was also inspiring. Although I was emotionally drained when I got home, it felt right and rejuvenating. I once again have the itch to write; I forgot how good and refreshing it felt to put myself down into paper. I forgot how good it felt to bleed.

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I didn’t post my usual blog entry yesterday because I just wasn’t feeling up to it. I’m too tired, I said to myself. But, really, I was just feeling discouraged and couldn’t bring myself to write anything.

Part of my discouragement stems from still being unable to bring myself to write creatively since early December, but even more so I’m currently discouraged by my letterpress abilities… or lack thereof. I stopped in to visit my favourite store, Inkwell Boutique & Letterpress Studio, the other day and realized that none of my prints can stand up against anything in that store. To make matters worse, I explored Etsy for letterpress items to see what else is out there for me to “compete” with. It didn’t take me long to realize I still have a long way to go regarding the quality of my prints.

Although I’m still feeling kind of tired today, and still a little discouraged, I have a better outlook after watching the video below by Danny Cooke: “Upside Down, Left To Right: A Letterpress Film” (Note: Watch to the end credits which are particularly well-done).

Videos like this remind me why I do letterpress printing: it’s zen. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, like when I damaged some of my type a couple of weeks ago (see “Letterpress learning curve“). It’s also time-consuming, and sometimes my back hurts when I’m done from bending over as I sit on the floor with my type case or try to figure out why I’m not getting the impression or the registration I want. If I’ve been printing a long time, my feet become sore, and when I lose myself in printing I often forget to eat or drink until I become nauseous from lack of food and my throat feels like sandpaper. I love the feeling of the ink on my fingers, but get angry at myself when I don’t notice I have ink on my hands and pick up a clean piece of paper or a finished card.

But despite all of these things, printing gives me a great sense of accomplishment when I’m done. And while I’m in it I enter a world all of my own, away from the stresses and worries of every day life. I lose track of time because time no longer exists. Only the ink and type and paper and my hands exist.

Although I don’t have any design experience and I don’t have the capital to invest in better letterpress machinery, type, cuts, and polymer, I’m sure the quality of my work will improve with time and experience. But I must first be patient and remember how much I enjoy the process, regardless of the results. And, of course, I must try not to compare myself to other people who have probably been printing for years.

I’ll be doing some more printing this weekend; practice, practice, practice makes perfect.

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The Mount Saint Vincent University Voices Project (website to launch shortly), which is a small collective of writers who workshop with local poets, novelists, and playwrights, has resumed for the colder months at the Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice. Local spoken word artist, poet, musician, and children’s writer Shauntay Grant facilitated the first workshop of the season.

Shauntay GrantShauntay’s workshop began with how poetry begins: speaking. She asked us to tell her how we were feeling that day, that month, or this year. We voiced our emotions, unsure of ourselves, and unsure in which direction Shauntay’s workshop was heading. When we were finished giving away pieces of ourselves, Shauntay said, “spoken word poetry is just speaking.” She echoed some of our words and reminded us how “everything that comes our of your mouth has the potential to be a poem.” The wisdom she imparted to us was that we should write the way we speak. Don’t run through the dictionary or the thesaurus looking for that intelligent word because the words in your mouth — the words that first come to your mind — are the best words to use; they are you, your voice, and poetry is about the expression of your voice.

Shauntay also told us to write our own stories: “know that your story is an important story,” she said. Never doubt that what you know is not good enough, or interesting enough.

Lastly, Shauntay told us to stop focusing on what is usual for us. Rather, she said, “focus on what is possible.” Writers need to step out of their comfort zone with what they write. Don’t always use the same form or style, but push yourself into unfamiliar territory and ask yourself: Where can I take this? How can I push myself further?

Shauntay’s workshop ended with us filling the room with our voices as we each took turns reading our work aloud, practicing the performance aspect of poetry and feeding off of each other’s energy. It was an amazing way to resume the sense of community between returning members of the Voices Project and to welcome new members into the fold.

Shauntay ended the evening with a public performance of her work. I’ve seen her perform spoken word in person before, but never in such a small and intimate setting. I found her workshop inspiring, but her performance was powerful and moving. She performed various pieces, many of which moved the audience to tears (myself included). Below is a video of Shauntay’s performance of “Life Lessons,” taken at another venue. As powerful as it is watch on-screen, it is even more so in person when her voice echoes in your ears and her energy — and the energy of those around you — is palpable.

I urge anyone who has the chance to see Shauntay perform in person do so. You can also hear some of her work on her MySpace page.

The Halifax arts-for-social-change project Poets 4 Change is hosting CommUNITY, a pay-what-you-can spoken word and open mic event on November 2nd at The Company House on Gottingen Street. Shauntay Grant will be there as well as local children’s author Sheree Fitch. A discussion panel will be taking place from 6:00-7:00 p.m., but the main event begins at 7:00 p.m.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Voices Project or are interested in joining, please contact MSVU creative writing professor and Voices Project Programme Facilitator Clare Goulet at clare.msvu.ca.

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Since September 2010 I have been involved in a pilot writing project at Mount Saint Vincent University called The Voices Project, which is spearheaded by Creative Writing and Editing Professor Clare Goulet. The Voices Project, a collective of women from various backgrounds, gathers approximately once each month to meet with established writers, workshop, edit, discuss, and be inspired to write. For this first year, The Voices Project focused on exploring–via prose poetry–an object belonging to an important woman in each of our lives who has shaped and inspired us (for instance, many of us–including myself–wrote about an object that belonged to our grandmother).

The Voices Project, which is wrapping up for the summer months, has always met in The Institute for the Study of Women (ISW). The ISW, however, “has recently changed its name to the Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice (IWGSJ) to reflect the contemporary realities of the Mount’s ongoing commitment to gender equality and Women’s Studies.

The Grand Opening and first Annual General Meeting for The Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice is being held on Thursday, June 16th from 6:00-8:00 p.m. During this time, members of The Voices Project will read a collaborative poem, which was inspired by Jan Zwicky‘s “You Must Believe in Spring” from Songs for Relinquishing the Earth. The Open House/AGM will also serve as the launch of The Voices Project’s annual chapbook publication, The Voices Project: Storied Objects, which will be on display in the IWGSJ with each of the objects that inspired the poems.

If you are a part of the MSVU Community and are interested in becoming a member of the Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice, please send an email with your contact information to Rita Deverell, Nancy’s Chair in Women Studies at MSVU: rita.deverell@msvu.ca.

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I wrote a non-fiction polyphonic story back in 2007 for a creative writing course I took at Mount Saint Vincent University. The piece was emotionally difficult for me to write and so, afraid of having something so close to my heart brutally rejected, I sat on it for almost four years before I got up enough courage to send it to a publisher about three months ago. I got a response back earlier this week:

Although we are going to have to pass on your work this time around, we truly appreciate the opportunity to read your submission and wish you all the best in your future writing activities. We hope you can find a home for your work soon.

Although I’m a little disappointed that my story didn’t get picked up by the very first publisher I sent it to (how often does that really happen anyway?), I’m not overly concerned; I know I’ll find a home for it some day. But trying to get your work published can be a little frustrating and soul-crushing. I imagine this is why many people are going the route of self-publishing. If you’re thinking of self-publishing you should read Anne R. Allen’s blog post, “Is the E-book the New Query?“, where she discusses the potential pros and cons of self-publishing much better than I can.

If you do decide to self-publish, you may want to check out the Publishers Weekly Select, which is a new quarterly newsletter and online database that lists and reviews self-published titles.

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