Thursday, November 1, 2012

Geist Magazine's writers' workshop notes by Leanne Dyck

This adventure began when I received an email from Geist Magazine...

Last Saturday I attended two workshops—back to back—in Vancouver. Yes, this little island gal went to the big city. Culture shock, anyone?

Vancouver is a pretty city. Being of size, it could be encased in concrete. It could be but it isn’t. City planners have made room for green spaces—trees, flowers, grass. My eyes danced merrily through the autumn colours. Add to this the backdrop of majestic mountains and picturesque ocean views. Now you know why I call Vancouver pretty.

Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre was the venue. Thankfully my volunteer driver was not only equipped to manoeuvre through the traffic but also could easily navigated through the city. We found it.

My next challenge was finding room 400. Room 400 must be on the fourth floor, I reasoned. So I took the escalator upstairs. I looked around and couldn’t see any room numbers, at all--none. The first workshop starts at 9 am. It’s 9:10 now. I need to find help and fast. I looked down at the first floor and spotted the Information booth. I’d walked right past it.

Escalators aren’t my thing. I have a reoccurring nightmare of stepping on and plummeting to my death. Admittedly it’s an illogical fear. But aren’t most fears? Time was ticking away and I had no choose, so I stepped on. Once again fate spared me.

Like a chicken with her head cut off, I flew to the booth. “I’m so late. Please you have to help me locate my room.”

The young uniformed man spoke slowly and calmly. “I’m happy to help you. What room are you looking for?”

“400. I’m here for the writers’ workshop.” Please…please…please…please…

“Well, you’re not late. In fact, you’re the first one here.”

Why has it been cancelled? That’s just my luck I came all this way and…

“The workshop starts at 10 am. But I’ll show you to your room.”

True to his word, he took me all the way there.

Flash forward in time to the workshop…

Getting It Into Print with Billeh Nickerson

This workshop was information rich. Here’s what I gathered…

Why submit to literary journals?

To fulfill a Canada Council grant requirement.
(Your stories must be published in four literary journals.)
(Or you must have written a book that was later released by a professional publishing house.)

Gets your name in front of editors/publishers

Why not to submit?

It’s not a good source of income.

Long response time—due to the number of hands your story must be passed to.


-Writers write so write—and then submit.

-Do your homework. Know what type of stories the literary journal is seeking. Know the name of the editor you’re submitting to.

-Don’t send simultaneous submissions to literary journals. Editors are pressed for time. They may plan an entire issue around your story. So when you phone them and say, “Ooops, someone else printed that story.” They won’t be pleased. What you could do instead is offer them the story exclusively for a short period of time (four months).

-Use the stamp of the country you’re sending to…
(USA stamp to USA) (Canadian stamp to Canada)

-Hire an artist accountant to do your taxes

-Practice writing your bio (around 3 sentences)

-If you write to the literary journal’s theme you will probably have more success at becoming published.

-You can’t publish your short story in a variety of venues (i.e. in print, online). Pick one.

Things to mention in your cover letter

-Where you live (i.e. what province)

-Every literary journal in which your stories have been published

-If you’ve received a personal note from them (the literary journal you’re submitting to) regarding an earlier submission, mention it

The Art of the Sentence with Stephen Osborne

Occasionally you’ll encounter a writers’ workshop that rocks you to your very core. The Art of the Sentence did this for me. I heard Mr. Osborne’s warning.

I heard him say, “Get out of your own way. Write simply. Write a 5 Ws sentence.”

I heard him but I wanted to wow all. So I didn’t listen.

A 5 Ws has the following elements: who did what, when, where and why

Now that I have a refreshed mind and a peaceful atmosphere, I offer…

The movie star swooned onto her bed after the leading man kissed her.

Who:  the movie star
What:  swooned
When:  after
Where:  onto her bed
Why:  the leading man kissed her

Sometimes it’s more important to listen than it is to wow. Lesson learned—I hope.

Oh, yes and among the eager attendees where the newly published...