Start Your Story

Tell Your (Writing) Story

November 28, 2021

Two intersecting yellow street signs on a pole, the first reading "To Be" and the second "Continued..."

Photo Credit: Reuben Juarez

A Call to Action

Since the inception of this blog, I have had many ideas for how I wanted it to be used. This is why posts float between writing advice, state of the industry, and topics concerning students.

But from the beginning, I have wanted this platform to be more than my platform.

There is a reason my name only appears twice in the selection of posts. While everything presented here has been my opinions or ideas, that was always meant to be temporary.

So here is my call to all writers.

Tell your story by submitting a guest blog.

  • What (writing) advice have you learned that you think is worth sharing?
  • What lessons have you learned as you developed your writing?
  • What fascinates you about writing or reading?

 

 

If you are interested in submitting a guest blog to share with the community in the coming months, email me your post along with a short author bio as a docx. Or Google doc. (Read More…)


Applying to an English Program? (With an Open Letter to Students)

October 28, 2021

concrete road in autumn forest

Photo credit: Benjamin Voros

October is nearly over, and with that end comes certain rituals. Halloween, bidding farewell to morning and evening sunlight, snow (depending on where you live), and looking ahead to November. Yes, another year of NaNoWriMo is upon us—

But that’s not what this post is about. My thoughts on NaNoWriMo have not changed much since last year, so please click here for those.

There is another ritual that comes with November. It is one that can be heard in the hallways of most high schools. Yes, it is college/university application season.

Which means, it is time again for anyone who had or continues to dedicate time, energy, money, sweat, tears, and whatever else to the humanities to confront the question that has plagued us since—probably the 1950s.

Why should anyone go to college/university to study humanities?

The question is too broad to tackle in this simple post, so let’s tighten it a bit.

What does it mean to pursue an English degree in 2021? (Read More…)


The Role of Stories in Truth and Reconciliation

September 29, 2021

I wish to start by stating that I am writing this as a non-Indigenous person. It is not my intent to represent any views or speak on behalf of anyone. I also wish to acknowledge that I am writing this from the unceded territories of the Metis, Blackfoot, Tsuu T’ina, and Ktumax nations. I acknowledge the privilege of being able to live and work on this land, and offer my commitment to continue to read and listen to Indigenous stories, continue to learn, and share my words, however they may help.

 

Every Child Matters | Fort McMurray Catholic Schools

September 30 is the National day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a day meant for reflection and to honour the children and survivors of the residential school system, their families, and communities. It is a day to recognize the truth—I’m not sure we’ve sorted out the “reconciliation” aspect yet.

In the collection of stories, In This Together: Fifteen Stories of Truth & Reconciliation, editor Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail shares in her introduction a story about a meeting she attended. It was hosted by Miranda Jimmy, “a young Cree organizer and community leader”[1] During the meeting, Jimmy shared her worry that “the TRC would be all political rhetoric and no real change.[2] I remember, when I read this book in 2017, agreeing with the sentiment. (Read More…)


Should You Consider Your Audience as You Write?

March 29, 2021

Some time ago, there was a post in Twitter’s writing community that expressed a common idea: whom are you writing for?

This is the question, isn’t it? It is a question that I find troubling—and I doubt I’m alone among writers. For that reason, it is a question I keep coming back to.

Whom do you write for?

There are two sides to this coin: the practical and the existential. Actually, there are multiple sides, but my coin analogy would then fall apart, and our economy has been shaken enough these days, so let us stick with two. (Read More…)


The Women’s Prize for Fiction (and Happy International Women’s Day)

March 8, 2021

My plan as I sat down to write this was to churn out a somber think-piece about the declining state of this blog caused by the declining state of my creative writing, and how I am not unique—ending with a bit of hope for times to come. But that will have to wait.

Today (March 8, 2021) is International Women’s Day, and the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction comes out on March 10; therefore, I want to take this opportunity to shine a brief spotlight on the prize, in case you are looking for some new authors to discover in the coming months.

 

What prompted this, beyond the timing, was some reorganization of my bookshelves this morning. My collection of novels is divided up chronologically, and I noticed, as I was moving some of the 20th century around, that as I start to get into the 21st century, my collection becomes a lot more female. In fact, the majority of books that I have read that were published in the last twenty years were written by women. This was not a conscious decision: I had no agenda to “read more women’s fiction”—rather, I think this speaks to where I get my modern recommendations from. A lot of my contemporary reads comes from the longlists of some of the major literary awards, which have (though I don’t have the stats in front of me) been increasing its female representation over the past few years. (Read More…)


2021: The Year of Poetry

January 4, 2021

Perhaps fittingly, the poem that started me down the path of loving poetry was Pablo Neruda’s “Poetry”. Or maybe I have led myself to believe this; to retroact my life into something more aesthetic—like some curated social media personality. Still, I distinctly remember reading Neruda’s poem in high school and then rereading it aloud, sinking into the words

Here is the poem in full if you are interested.

I began to read more poetry, thinking (in my pretentious high school fashion) that I was walking in Neruda’s footsteps—that poetry had arrived in my life and I would discover the universe. I looked at the lines,

 

and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure

nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open

And I thought “I want to do that.” And I wrote my own first faint line and discovered—nothing. Poetry would have to be something I appreciated from afar.

(Read More…)


Happy Holidays!

December 14, 2020

Dear Reader,

Start Your Story Here will be back in January, with a new (more practical) focus.

In the meantime, I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season. I know (as I prepare for a solitary season) that these two can contradict each other, but there are ways to reach out and connect with others.

Take care, and as always

Thank you for reading!


In Defence of the Short Story

November 16, 2020

As we are about halfway through a month dedicated to writing novels, I thought this would be a fine time to talk about short stories. My inability to chase trends aside, what prompts today’s topic is the latest winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Souvankham Thammavongsa for her short story collection How to Pronounce Knife. Thammavongsa’s win marks the fifth time a short story collection has won the top prize for Canadian fiction in its twenty-six years of existence. Accounting for the split winners in 2000, 18% of the winners are short story collections. Compare this to the Man Booker prize, which has expanded its eligibility to any longform fiction written in English and published in the UK. This prize has never been awarded to a short story collection. There was one short story collection added to the shortlist in 1980: written by Canada’s Alice Munro. I mention this to illustrate a few points. First, in the upper tiers of the literary world, the novel is put on a higher pedestal than the short story collection. Second, it might be said that Canada recognizes short stories compared to the wider literary world.

What is a short story?

Let’s start with what it isn’t. A miniature novel. A condensed novel. Part of a larger work. A short story has as much relation to a novel as a poem does. I stress this because there are many who dismiss the short story as a lesser novel, lacking character development and gripping plot twists. (Read More…)


The Writer’s Pantry: Character Development and Copywriting

October 19, 2020

Recently, I have gotten into copywriting. The world of marketing is one I avoided for awhile—I blame Arthur Miller—yet I cannot deny that two of my passions are writing and rhetoric, and what is copywriting but a synthesis of these two?

Still, the more I delved into the tricks of the trade, the more parallels I began to see between copywriting and character development in fiction. Today I want to explore the comparisons, and present you—whether you are a creative or content writer—with lessons from the other side. (Read More…)


Back to School: Drop Everything and Read

October 5, 2020

Last time, I wrote about the need for students to develop a writing routine. Today, I want to shift the focus to reading in schools. I will state at the top that a reading routine, allocating time for silent reading on a regular basis, is important. If you are a parent or teacher and take nothing else away from this post, please allocate specific time for and encourage independent reading. (Read More…)


The Writer’s Pantry: A surprising sentence

September 21, 2020

Linked from: Classical Archives. *the oboe solo referred to below occurs at 4:18 of this recording.

I love Beethoven’s fifth symphony. Sure, the seventh may be more emblematic of his genius, and the ninth may be more ambitious, but I place the fifth towards the top of my favourites when it comes to classical music. Yes, I love the bombast of the opening four “knocks”, the variations on a theme of the second movement, and the heroic fanfare of the finale—but the moment (and it is a moment) that stands out for me is about sixty-percent through the first movement when the piece stops for a short, simple oboe solo.

There is nothing special about the solo, although I have seen and read think pieces about how it represents the dying Soul subsumed by the Universe, or perhaps the last clear sound Beethoven’s ears heard as his hearing declined. I’ll leave these creators (and you should you choose) to ponder the sometimes dense symbolism that is Romantic music; what I find fascinating about the fragment of a solo is that it surprises me. I don’t care how many times I listen to the piece, I always manage to forget about it until it occurs and then I stop whatever I’m doing or thinking and, for the (approximately) 12 seconds I listen. It is out of place, yet not random, for Beethoven lays the groundwork for the solo earlier. It is a perfectly placed surprise that is worthy of attention but does not detract from or derail the movement.

A good piece of writing should contain an oboe solo, in some form.

 

(Read More…)


September: Art, Culture, Change

September 7, 2020

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom friend of the maturing sun.

John Keats. “To Autumn”

Claude Monet. Autumn Effect at Argenteuil

Forget those hot, sunny, summer days. Forget the snow-capped tress of winter. In my opinion, the best time of year is September. The early morning dew, the cool nights and warm days, and the leaves—those yellows, oranges, and reds along the sidewalks like frightened footprints scurrying into fog. The fog, shrinking the world around you until every few steps is a step into the unknown…

True, this experience is geographically dependent, and I am showing my northern hemisphere bias (I admit that I have a hard time conceiving how the inverted world below the equator works.), but I am not the only one who indulges in this transformative month. (Read More…)


Back to School: a writing routine in the age of uncertainty

August 24, 2020

Depending on where you live, students have begun to return to school, or will in the next few weeks.

It is clear that this back-to-school season is different from past years.

It is clear that this classic Staples commercial is more tone-deaf than usual in 2020.

It is clear that there is a heightened sense of anxiety among many who work in a school, have a child in school, or attend school.

Photo Credit: David Shoykhet

I want to start by acknowledging these anxieties and sympathize with those who are feeling the added stress. Still, in this post I will shift the focus from the “back to” aspect of this time to “school” — where, regardless of how classrooms are set up or whether students attend in person or online, learning will take place. This post covers how to start the year off encouraging students to write. (Read More…)


The Writer’s Pantry: Inspiration and Ideas

August 10, 2020

Last time, we established the need for a writing community. Now it is time to start writing. You are inspired? You have an idea? Excellent. But you are not done the pre-writing stage yet.

Inspiration is the raw ingredient, not the finished product

Photo credit: Erin Waynick

Put up your hand if you have ever eaten raw cookie dough. Now look around and feel ridiculous for having a hand raised. If you are one of the few who have never indulged, I commend your Zen-like restraint. (Read More…)