The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, November 19, 2007

Plugging away

by Tamara Lee

About a month ago, the CWC was given a kindly boost from Maria Schneider over at the Writer’s Digest. She added us to her 20/20 Project on her blog, The Writer’s Perspective, and we’ve been remiss in mentioning it here until now. (One thing we at the CWC can admit to is being a bit shy about self-promotion). But we are ever so grateful to Maria, and hope our readers will visit her blog, and the other blogs she has included in this very generous project of hers.


While we’re at it, remember to keep an eye on Descant's blog, where our very own Andrew Tibbetts can be caught moonlighting.

And our lovely Melissa Bell is blogging about yummy things over at


Still on the subject of blogs, as part of my attempts to streamline, I have recently started up a new (temporary) blog, called Write-Proof-Edit, for my freelancing stuff. Although it’s mostly a place for prospective clients to more easily peruse some of my online writings, it’s also an opportunity to foster my interest in photography, since I’ve been trying to improve for a while.

Ideally, I’ll only post my own photos, but Blogger’s new uploading perimeters have been rather finicky so I’ve had to resort to a couple of old (uncredited) favourites from my stash. My current post, though, is inspired by a photo I’ve just found hidden away in some nameless file (taken this past spring) of one of my favourite New York landmarks.


Finally, as I mentioned last week, I am still plugging away at the Magazine Writing class, and have found myself so immersed I’ve barely had a chance to relax and consider how to explain what I’m learning.

The course is taught by Canadian journalist Daniel Wood, and is well-regarded in Vancouver, since a large portion of those who take his class leave with proposals often accepted by magazines and periodicals across the country. Daniel offers insider tidbits for the aspiring Canadian creative non-fiction writer, such as what the top editors are currently looking for, where to watch out for potential story ideas, and how to manage our ever-increasing idea files.

So far it’s been primarily a course on proposal writing and organising for newbies. Since this is where I am most needing help, I am thrilled. A few of my classmates, though, are frustrated because they were hoping to work on their writing proper. But for me, learning to make those effective first steps is more important than the writing, since the writing will, as it always has, come in time.

I have been able to glean a bit about how to improve my creative non-fiction writing, though. Apart from the obvious advice to read the greats of the genre (Joan Didion, John McPhee), Daniel tries to pack as much into a class as possible. The barrage of bits and pieces can seem as though one is not getting much from the class, but the careful note-taker will be able to reflect later on all the spurious information and see that there is, indeed, something there.

Me, I’ve been struggling to find a focus for the story ideas I have. It seems what I have so far is either overly ambitious or not compelling enough. While listening to others’ proposal ideas this week, it occurred to me—one of the few who identify as a writer in class—that I am guilty of over-thinking. As I started to relax and have a bit of faith that there is a story nugget in amongst the slough of notes I’ve taken, I started to make some progress. Not a lot, but enough to allow me to cut myself some slack and head back in there to keep chipping away.

This week, I will be sending Daniel one, maybe two, proposals for critique. Hopefully, I’ll be able to report back in a couple weeks that I have finally found a story worth pursuing.


(image: by t. lee; evidence of something going on)


Blogger Anne said...

Speaking of underpromotion, Melissa is also a contributor over at the Taste T.O. food blog.

That class sounds fabulous, by the way. And the desk looks good too!

Mon Nov 19, 07:29:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Yes! A big thanks to Maria for mentioning us. And please do remember to breathe, Tamara.

Mon Nov 19, 08:18:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Yes! That Mel hasn't mentioned it and I couldn't find the link, but when she gets out from under her NaNo shield I hope she will provide us with it.

And yes, ha, my crazy desk. That is my living room desk, because my workroom desk is too insane right now. I'm a bit behind on the 'organising files' part of the course ;) So I just switch desks.

But breathe, Tony? How about sing? I've just signed on for a month of vocal training. But at least the homework can be done in my shower.

Mon Nov 19, 01:04:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Holey, moley, you're busy. Another blog, yet! It looks great. Now, singing lessons? Sounds like you're going through an enervating learning phase. I'm sure you'll find the right magazine story to pitch and explore.

Mon Nov 19, 02:01:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

Oh hey - it's

Love that photograph, Tamara. I'm in love with your crazy desk.

Wow, singing lessons! Fantastic! Classical or contemporary?

Mon Nov 19, 04:49:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

I have just done updated my post with a direct link to your blog posts, Mel. Thank you for taking a time-out from your NaNo'ing. And thanks, Tricia, for the encouragement.

Yes, busy me. I go in fits and starts, I guess. The class just came up and it was cheap like broscht so I thought I'd better get in there. It's a range of styles, I think, but the instructor is into PJ Harvey, Beth Orton and Sarah Harmer, so I'm into her. She, though, may be a bit disappointed by my distinct lack of ability; it's been a while for me.

Mon Nov 19, 05:29:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I love the sound of your course, Tamara. Right now I'm into Didion's "the Year of Magical Thinking" it's helpful in writing my widow story.

Tue Nov 20, 06:18:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Thanks, Jen. Nice to see you here! Yes, it's a good course, but I'm struggling. It's making me fantasize about fiction writing. But I'm learning a lot, and even if I don't come out of the class with a story to work on right away, something will come eventually. I've been studying Slouching Toward Bethlehem; Year of Magical Thinking is next. How's your story coming?

Tue Nov 20, 06:51:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I'm really just taking notes for my story these days as I've delved deeply into a research project for a magazine article. I sent out four queries....I'll let you know if it sells!

Tue Nov 20, 07:16:00 pm GMT-5  

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