Canada: Writers’ Symposium

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is offering the Professional Development Symposium “Secure Footing in a Changing Literary Landscape” in Toronto, St. John’s, Montreal, Ottawa, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria, in February and March of 2011. The symposiums take place from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Authors Betsy Warland and Ross Laird will illuminate the new landscape of digital literature and publishing and discuss its impact on traditional modes of creation. Kelly Duffin, the Union’s executive director, will discuss authors’ contracts in the digital age.

This full-day event is designed to address the creative and financial questions that arise as writers navigate print-based and digital literary landscapes. The symposium also explores the importance of community and the need for writers to develop their own writing community.

The price of this symposium is $75.00 and covers costs, including lunch. For registration information on the city and date closest to you please go to www.writersunion.registration.pdf.

[Photo: Cwluc]


Places for Writers: Calls for Submissions

If you don’t know Places for Writers, do take a look. It’s a Canadian site that links to publishers and writers’ resources. It also lists calls for submissions by journals, magazines, and other publications. Some pay, some don’t. Some are prestigious, some are emerging. But visiting the site might give you hope on a day when you feel like you’re writing for no one and for no purpose. It may remind you that, even in your solitude in front of your notebook or computer screen, you are still part of a literary community.

Here’s a sampling of recent calls (with upcoming deadlines) for essays and creative non-fiction:

CALYX A Journal of Art and Literature by Women (US) is accepting submissions of poetry, short fiction, and creative non-fiction. Deadline: December 31, 2010.

Paragon, Memorial University’s student-run literary press, is accepting submissions for their fourth issue. Publishes poetry (max 3) and fiction/creative non-fiction (2000 words max). Deadline: January 1, 2011.

Vox Humana Literary Journal, an international literary venue, is accepting short fiction, poetry, and critical essay submissions for its Spring 2011 issue. Favours work related to the Middle-East — particularly Israel and Palestine.

Happy writing, happy submitting.

[Photo: έŁέ¢τяøиί¢ έγέ]


Five things I learned from writing an essay that got rejected over and over until it finally found its home

Since my most recent essay, “Pregnant Pause” came out in print, I’ve been reflecting on what I learned from the journey to its publication.

It was an incredibly hard road for that essay, for a variety of reasons. First, it’s a hybrid and relatively experimental piece of writing (part literary, and — I must admit — part academic) which makes it hard to place. Second, at 5,000 words, it’s lengthy — longer than many publications are willing to consider. And, finally, it took me ages to figure out what it was about, face what was wrong with it, and determine how to fix it.

So here’s what I learned:

1) Do what comes naturally. If first-person writing, haiku or journalism feel good and seem right, don’t fight it. In my case, I fought the first-person voice (where I feel most at home) for far too long, and wasted a lot of time.

2) Give your text to trusted friends and colleagues to read, and listen to what they say. If they are getting confused by what you’ve written, it’s probably not because they’re stupid, but because there’s something wrong with your text. Accept feedback about what isn’t working, swallow your pride, and fix it. At one point I was told that there were too many names in my piece and that it was hard to follow as a result. At first, I got my back up, then I tried listening, started paring, and things got better.

3) Sometimes, it isn’t you; it’s them. If you can see that the text is really good and it’s still getting rejected, the problem may be that you’ve been knocking on the wrong doors. I finally found a home for my essay when I figured out who its audience was, and which publications catered to those readers. I started to get positive (in some cases overwhelmingly positive) feedback and good advice once it began to land on the right editors’ desks

4) Don’t give up on a text just because it’s taking too long. Writing is a craft, and learning it takes time. My many-times-rejected essay took crazy long to write — as long as the book that grew out of it — but it represents a whole new level of understanding on my part about writing.

5) Shake off rejection as best you can. Don’t talk about it too much, don’t obsess, don’t let it kill your confidence and belief in what you do. Take what lessons you can from the experience, then get back to work.

Happy writing. Be courageous.

[Photo: Giovanni Spina]


Technological breakthrough! Pregnant Pause essay now up

A few weeks ago, my new essay on mothering, writing, research and on “my” librarian (the subject of my forthcoming book) appeared in Feminist Formations. I’ve finally figured out how to upload PDF files onto the site. So, here’s the essay for anyone who wants to read it. You can also find it under Publications on the right margin.

The essay is called “Pregnant Pause: On Ona Šimaitė, Research, Writing, and Motherhood.” I share it with the journal’s permission.

As the day goes on, I’ll use my new-found skills to link to more publications.

[Photo: loungerie]


Revisiting the question of titles

I recently joined a women’s writing network called Shewrites, and have been following a discussion on titles. People post their working titles, and the community reacts. On the one hand, it’s a great opportunity to get a lot of quick feedback. But on the other, it’s made me realize that we’re not all on the page when thinking about what makes a good title. So I wanted to raise the question here again.

There have been objections to titles put forth on the Shewrites list on the grounds that they don’t tell exactly what a book is about. It’s an objection I struggle with a lot, especially since I write non-fiction. But, as I look around my study and at some of my favorite books of non-fiction, here’s what I see:

The Year of Magical Thinking
Algerian White
Autobiography of Red

I, for one, like titles that hint rather than baldly declare what the book is about. I like titles that are evocative and a bit poetic. I like titles that reveal their meanings fully once you’re part-way through a text. But I may be in the minority in this respect.

I’m interested to hear what you think is important in a title. How much does a title have to tell you? How tolerant of the abstract are we when it comes to titles? What are your favorites, and why?

[Photo: sleeping sun]


Summer Literary Seminars Contest: Kenya, Montreal, Lithuania

Summer Literary Seminars is announcing its annual Unified (Kenya, Montreal and Lithuania) Literary Contest, held this year in affiliation with The Walrus Magazine. Jayne Anne Phillips will be judging the fiction, and Matthew Zapruder the poetry.

Contest winners in the categories of fiction and poetry will have their work prominently featured online in Canada’s premiere literary magazine, The Walrus, as well as published in print in a participating literary journal in the United States (TBA). Additionally, they will have the choice of attending (airfare, tuition, and housing included) any one of the SLS 2011 programs – in Montreal, Quebec (June 12 – 25); Vilnius, Lithuania (August); or Nairobi-Lamu, Kenya (December).

Second-place winners will receive a full tuition waiver for the program of their choice, and third-place winners will receive a 50% tuition discount.

A number of select contest participants, based on the overall strength of their work, will be offered tuition scholarships, as well, applicable to the SLS 2011 programs.

Read the full guidelines at:

[Photo of Habitat 67 Montreal: swisscan]


New essay on writing and mothering: Pregnant Pause

A while ago I wrote a post on failure and returning to the first-person voice. I told how I’d worked on an essay that got rejected countless times before it found its form and its home.

That essay has now appeared in the journal Feminist Formations, in an issue about the body.

Called “Pregnant Pause: On Ona Šimaitė, Research, Writing, and Motherhood,” my essay explores the riddle of being a writer and a mother. It’s a love story between a writer, her new baby and her biographical subject (a Holocaust rescuer and librarian).

If you have access to Project Muse through an academic affiiation, you can read the essay here:

If you don’t have access to Project Muse and would like a copy of the essay, feel free to send me a note via my Contact page, and I’ll get a PDF version off to you.

[Photo: Shutter Daddy]


And in other news…second book forthcoming

Though it feels like old news now, I realized this morning that I hadn’t yet posted the fact the my second book, a biography of the Holocaust rescuer, Ona Šimaitė, is now forthcoming. It’s official: the contract has been signed, sealed and delivered.

The University of Nebraska Press will publish my second book (as it did my first). I’m currently still using the working title of Beloved Profession, but can’t promise that it will stick.

September will be a busy month for me, what with whipping the MS into its final shape, but then it’s off to production as of October 1, 2010. Once I have a firm publication date, I’ll let you know.

Thanks to all who supported me while writing this book. There’s a special place for you not only in my heart, but also in the Acknowledgments!

[Photo of Nebraska landscape: viking_79]


Malahat Review — Creative Non-Fiction Prize

Creative Non-Fiction Prize

The Malahat Review, Canada’s premier literary magazine, invites entries from Canadian, American, and overseas authors for its Creative Non-Fiction Prize. One award of $1,000 CAD is given.

2010 Deadline

The deadline for the 2010 Creative Non-Fiction Prize is August 1, 2010 (postmark date).


The entry must be between 2,000 and 3,000 words. Please indicate word count on the first page. Please double space your work.
No restrictions as to subject matter or approach apply. For example, the entry may be personal essay, memoir, cultural criticism, nature writing, or literary journalism.

Entry fee required:
$35 CAD for Canadian entries
$40 US for American entries
$45 US for entries from Mexico and outside North America.

Entrants receive a one-year subscription to The Malahat Review for themselves or a friend.

Entries previously published, accepted, or submitted for publication elsewhere are not eligible.

Entrants’ anonymity is preserved throughout the judging. Contact information (including an email address) should not appear on the submission, but along with the title on an enclosed separate page.

No submissions will be accepted by email.

The winner and finalists will be notified via email.

Entrants will not be notified about the judges’ decisions even if an SASE is enclosed for this purpose.

The winner and finalists will be announced on the Malahat web site, with the publication of the winning entry in The Malahat Review’s Winter 2010 issue, and in Malahat lite, the magazine’s quarterly e-newsletter, in October 2010.

No entries will be returned, even if accompanied by an SASE.

Send entries and enquiries to:

The Malahat Review
University of Victoria
P.O. Box 1700
Victoria, B.C. V8W 2Y2

Telephone: 250-721-8524
Fax: 250-472-5051

Entrants wishing to pay by credit card may download and complete our Credit Card Payment Form then enclose it with their entries.

Previous Creative Non-Fiction Prize Winners:

2009  Judy Copeland
2008 Joel Yanofsky (Won Silver for Personal Journalism at the 32nd Annual National Magazine Awards)
2007 Vaia Barkas

[Photo: cgkinla]


What makes a good book title? Lulu can help.

Titles are my Achilles heel. I’m really, really bad at them.

One problem is that I favour the abstract and poetic: titles whose meaning becomes clear only once you’ve read the book. For example, I wanted to call my first book “Welcome to Elkader” (instead of “Silence is Death”), but that was roundly rejected at the press as being way too obscure.

So what makes a good title?

Judging from what’s floating around the interwebs, conventional wisdom boils down to the following (which, frankly, all seems pretty obvious):

1) A title’s got to be easy to remember.

2) It should be descriptive.

3) It should avoid all the usual pitfalls: cliché, sappiness, clunkiness, being overly literal. . . And apparently, it shouldn’t be a full grammatical sentence (oops).

That said, I do love internet tools when it comes to titles, especially those gimmicky generators, where you plug in a noun, verb, a gerund, etc.

There’s got to be some mathematical calculation or algorithm that will determine success, so when I came across the “Lulu Titlescorer,” I had to give it a whirl.

Here’s what Lulu does (from the website):

The Lulu Titlescorer has been developed exclusively for Lulu by statisticians who studied the titles of 50 years’ worth of top bestsellers and identified which title attributes separated the bestsellers from the rest.

We commissioned a research team to analyse the title of every novel to have topped the hardback fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List during the half-century from 1955 to 2004 and then compare them with the titles of a control group of less successful novels by the same authors.

The team, lead by British statistician Dr. Atai Winkler, then used the data gathered from a total of some 700 titles to create this “Lulu Titlescorer” a program able to predict the chances that any given title would produce a New York Times No. 1 bestseller.

How could I resist? I plugged in a few titles from my long-list in Lulu. (My book is about a Lithuanian librarian who saved Jews during the Holocaust by hiding them in the university library where she worked. It will require a descriptive subtitle not included in the options below.)

Interestingly, my working title, Beloved Profession (what I’ve been calling the book for about five years now), scored highest. And my current favourite, Ex Libris, scored lowest.

The results:

Beloved Profession = 69.0% chance of being a bestselling title

Margin = 63.7 % chance of being a bestselling title

The Good Librarian = 41.4% chance of being a bestselling title

The Librarian = 35.9% chance of being a bestselling title

Ex Libris = 26.3% chance of being a bestselling title


[Photo: jayRaz]