November 27, 2016

Galloway is now a verb

For those who haven’t been following the latest Canlit scandal, I’ll see if I can summarize this in one paragraph. Steven Galloway, the former chair of UBC’s creative writing program, was suspended last November over “serious allegations”. UBC provided no further explanation, creating a climate of gossip, speculation, and rumours. The retired Supreme Court judge who was assigned to look into these allegations dismissed most of them, including the most serious ones. The only claim that stuck was the affair Galloway had with a middle-aged student. In June, the University fired him anyway. If this looks like due process to you, imagine how you would feel if you were the subject of the following police statement: John Doe is under investigation for doing something really terrible. We won’t tell you what it is, but don’t let your daughters go out at night in John Doe’s neighbourhood. Any of the dozens or hundreds of woman who may have been affected by Doe’s actions are encouraged to seek counselling. In response to UBC’s actions, a number of prominent writers signed a letter criticizing UBC’s handling of the situation and posted it on the site UBC Accountable. That’s when the Twitterverse blew apart […]
November 15, 2016

Yes or no to creative writing school?

Should you go to creative writing school to learn how to write? Digging into Antanas Sileika’s study on Who Publishes When, we see the answer isn’t clear. A full 51% of writers had no specific training in this area and didn’t seem to miss it.  Among the 294 comments contained in question-12-numbered, these are a few of the points that came up most often: 1. Many endorsed the simple and time-tested read-a-lot-write-a-lot school. 2. Apart from the actual craft of writing, many CW school attendees cited side benefits such as feedback, support, mentorship, blocking off time for writing, and making connections within the industry. 3. In the negative column, a few pointed out the danger of homogeneity within each batch of CW graduates. This can be the inevitable result of realized or subconscious instructor bias. 4. CW school is not the only route to becoming a published writer. It can be helpful, but it is not necessary. Comment 222—at once sad, mad, and funny—could be someone’s short story. When I went to the University of Manitoba, my CW instructor was David Arnason. Being an arrogant little prick, I argued that this first-year student should attend his third-year course. My Queen’s […]
November 1, 2016

Who Publishes When

In 2010 I received an email from Antanas Sileika, a novelist and the director of the Humber School for Writers. Back in 1987, he read a New York Times Book Review essay which stated that the average age of a first-time published writer in the USA was 47. Antanas wanted to do a survey of writers in Canada to see if the age was similar and determine any trends of writing school influence among those published. He sent 1,547 email surveys and received 432 responses. The end result was “Who Publishes When: An Analysis of Writing and Publishing Statistics”, a study that revealed much more than the answer to that simple question. His findings were presented at the founding conference of Canadian Creative Writers and Writer Programs (CCWWP). who-publishes-when-draft-4-2-copy Some data: Question 4: Age at Which First Book Published 20s – 7% 30s – 34% 40s – 36% 50s – 15% 60s – 7% 70s – 1% Those who don’t publish until their late forties are well within norms. In fact, writers are twice as likely to publish their first book in their 50s rather than their 20s. The average age was 42.43 years, almost five years younger than the American […]