November 24, 2008

how to become a (published) writer

When I decided to start a public blog, I spent some time thinking about what its focus should be, and I have to admit it wasn't initially obvious to me that it would end up being (at the very least tangentially) about writing. Generally, I've tended to blog mostly only about cleaning my apartment, and other things that fill me with an unwarrantedly large sense of accomplishment.

But lately I've fielded a couple of questions from friends and family about how to go about getting published, so I thought I would share my recent response to a friend of a friend asking on behalf of her friend's (!) father:

Q: "Do you mind my asking how you went about getting your book published? A friend's father might be interested in publishing something, but they're not sure where to start. I know we could just google it, but I was wondering if you'd be willing to share your story."

A: What kind of thing is your friend's father interested in publishing? All I can really talk about is my experience with Canadian literary fiction (rather than mass-market fiction or non-fiction). Generally, it goes something like this:

1) Send stories to literary journals (places like the Fiddlehead, Prairie Fire, the Dalhousie Review).

2) Once you have some sort of publishing record, you can query publishers with a sample of your manuscript. Big publishing houses (Random House, Penguin, etc.) do not usually accept unsolicited submissions (i.e. sans agent), so you would basically be writing to small literary presses (like Goose Lane, Coach House, etc).

3) If they want to see more, they'll tell you..and at that point, you send it!

You could also skip step 1, but it will help with grant applications and building credibility with editors and agents. Also, in step 2, you could also query literary agents to try and represent your manuscript. If you have a novel (rather than a short-story collection or poetry, which most agents will not represent), this might be a good choice. Also, the time in between sending stuff and hearing back from people is usually a minimum of 2 months and anywhere up to 8 months or you need to be patient. But please keep in mind I'm not an expert on any of this! It's all based on hearsay and my own limited experience.

Hope this helps!

November 13, 2008

Art Threat takes on National Portrait Gallery cancellation

The political art blog ArtThreat is sponsoring a contest in protest of the latest arts cut -- the cancellation of the long-planned National Portrait Gallery. They are soliciting portraits of the Prime Minister that best embody his attitude towards the arts, and their favourite will win a prize of $1000.

I'm looking forward to the planned exhibition of the works in Ottawa and Montreal (and hopefully in other cities across Canada, too). For more details, follow the link above. The deadline is January 31, 2009.

November 11, 2008

War (what is it good for?)

Always, on Remembrance Day, I end up thinking about poetry. I grew up in Ottawa, singing in choirs, and for a few years singing "In Flanders Fields" at the cenotaph during the official ceremony (and trying not to freeze! I think I managed to fit three layers under my white turtleneck). Then I went to a high school (Lisgar Collegiate Institute) where a lot was made of the fact that John McCrae was inspired to write his famous poem about the death of his friend and Lisgar alumnus, Alexis Helmer. So for a long time I thought the poem loomed large in my mind mostly because of where I was from.

It took me a little longer to realize just how huge this poem is, though it was somewhere in between graduating from high school and visiting the truly amazing and interactive In Flanders Fields museum (imagine, a war museum that doesn't glorify war) in Ypres, Belgium. (The museum also had a powerful interpretation of 'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Sir Wilfred Owen. Though it certainly seems to be true that people don't buy and read poetry very much anymore, the ability of a poem (or a song) to touch millions of people is pretty unbeatable.

I also remember the Remembrance Day in elementary school when I figured out that the poem was written during the World War I, which was so sad and incomprehensible to me at the time. (Something along the lines of "Why would anyone want to have another war after reading that poem?" Sigh.)

November 10, 2008

when technology is adorable - from BoingBoing

Look, it's a mini Penguin classic:

..digitized and put on a USB tricked out in miniature by artist Richard Shed. It's so wee and precious I'm having a hard time remembering my concern for the paperback.

November 8, 2008

by way of introduction

...I'll start with a book list or two.

Recently read:

Crabwise to the Hounds by Jeramy Dodds
City of the Mind by Penelope Lively
Open Arms by Marina Endicott

Currently reading:

Horse Latitudes by Paul Muldoon
Between Mountains by Maggie Helwig

Up next:

Not sure. I have a huge pile, full of Amazon orders, books of friends, and a bunch of things I picked up at the recent McGill Book Fair. I think it will probably be Cockroach by Rawi Hage (unfortunately, I don't already have this) because I feel out of the loop for not having read it yet.

November 7, 2008

Hello, internets. My excitement for the change going on in America has inspired me to believe that I might be able to keep a public blog that doesn't devolve into rants about people who don't queue properly at the bus stop or my continually failing quest to find a flattering pair of heart-shaped sunglasses.

(No promises, though.)