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Teen Writer's Toolkit: Editing

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

So a lot of you have already sent us stories for Just Write, and I'm really excited about reading them, but maybe there's a few of you out there who haven't sent us your story just yet, maybe you think you want to make it a little bit better first. Learning to edit your stories is something that takes time and experience. Sometimes you feel like something's the matter with your story, but you can't quite figure out what it is. For our last Teen Writer's toolkit I thought I'd give you some tips on how to get started editing:

1. Make sure your story is all typed out and double-spaced (that will give you lots of room to write comments to yourself). Print it out and get a pen or a pencil to edit with.

2. Read the story over carefully. Something people often have troubles with is describing characters or places so they really jump off the page. Will your reader be able to picture the setting of your story? What about your character? When you're describing things you want to pick unusual details that people might not have thought of right away. When people describe a character they might say "he was old", or "she had red hair." Can we picture that person? Not really. What if instead we said "wrinkles were etched across his face," or "she had spirals of crimson hair." Don't those descriptions sound a bit stronger? See if you can find some places where your descriptions need more unique details.

3. Read it out loud. Sometimes a story sounds good in your head, but when you read out loud it's like you hear it completely differently. Sometimes you might stumble over a sentence, or read something and think it sounds kind of weird. Those are the places you probably need to go back and fix. Trust your gut. This can be good for dialogue too. Writing realistic dialogue can be tricky. The best way to improve is just to listen to how random stangers around you talk (yes, I'm giving you permission to eavesdrop on people, but try not to be too obvious about it). Observing people and all of the little unique details about them will help you a lot when it comes to making your characters more realistic.

Hopefully that gives you a few ideas for how to polish up that story you're just about ready to send. Remember, the deadline is on the 25th, so you only have a few more days left!

The Drink the Wild Air Writing Retreat

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

Ever wanted a weekend where you could focus solely on your writing away from all the distractions of normal life? Drink the Wild Air is a weekend writing retreat that offers teens that opportunity. Not only can you spend the weekend working on your own projects, but the camp offers two exciting workshops taught by instructors and camp facilitators Kim Firmston and Lisa Murphy-Lamb with a third workshop and instructor to be announced shortly. There will also be opportunities to explore the wintery outdoors and get to know other teen writers.

The camp runs from February 21st-23rd at Kamp Kiwanis (just outside of Bragg Creek) and is a sister retreat to WordsWorth, a more extended camp that allows teens an intensive week of writing courses and outdoor activities. As someone who worked as an instructor at WordsWorth 2013 this past summer I can testify to the magic of the place, magic that will no doubt be a part of the experience at Drink the Wild Air this year. If you win our free pass to attend Drink the Wild Air you will be given the opportunity to become part of a very rich, friendly and supportive writing community. As director for both WordsWorth and Drink the Wild Air, Lisa Murphy-Lamb facilitates an environment that inspires tremendous growth in the young writers who attend it. She hires instructors who not only provide unique and diverse courses, but who are invested in the community of teen writers they encounter and eager to share wisdom with them outside of class. The community of teens that I met last summer were not only a very diverse, and creatively accomplished bunch, but also very welcoming and inclusive. I watched two teens that were new to the program, and a bit shy, be absorbed into this community and become more confident by being a part of it.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about Drink the Wild Air and the two courses being offered for the retreat visit their website and make sure you enter our fiction contest Just Write to have a shot at going! You have until the 25th to get those entries in to us!

Teen Writer's Toolkit: What to Read

by Emily - 2 Comment(s)

Welcome to the second installment of the Teen Writer's Toolkit! This week I want to provide a resource of great books and websites on writing for you to check out. What's the best part about this list? All of the books on it are available at the library, and of course the websites you can visit for free, so you don't have to pay a dime for all this writing advice!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King

I read this book a long time ago, but it's still one of my favourites. For the first half of the book King provides a memoir about how he became a writer and I have to tell you, there's nothing more satissfying than knowing that he too wrote his fair share of crummy stories and got mountains of rejection letters. Nobody gets to be a literary icon overnight, that's for sure.

The second half of his book is all of the advice he has for writers. I must admit I'm not a fan of King's fiction, he's just not my thing, but he is a good writer and his tips are helpful no matter what you're writing. A lot of his advice has stayed with me over the years, so I hope it'll be helpful for you too.

Sarah Selecky's Website

Sarah Selecky is one of my favourite fiction writers. I read her book of short stories This Cake is for the Party a couple of years ago and fell in love. I highly reccomend that young writers check out Selecky's website as it is a wealth of wisdom on the writing life. You can even sign up for the letters she emails out twice a month which are full of writing insights.

Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life - Anne Lamott

I can't believe I didn't know about this writing book until a couple of years ago. I enjoy it a lot because Lamott really does mean it when she says the book is about writing AND life: she gives a lot of good advice about both. We writers seems to like our "writers therapy" or just griping about the writing life and this book appeals to that desire while also being really insightful.

Litreactor

I'll be honest, I haven't poked around into all the nooks and crannies of this literary website, and that's because it's packed with a lot of content. I first found out about it through author Chuck Palahniuk's tweets. The link I've given you will take you to the "Columns" part of the "Magazine" section for Litreactor, which has lots of cool articles for writers. The site does also offer space for writers to workshop their work and take online writing courses, but that content costs money unfortunately.

Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury

I'm pretty sure it was my parents that bought me this book. It's a good over-all how-to book for writers. Bradbury covers a wide range of subjects, from finding your voice and developing your style as a writer, to some hints about the publishing world. He does it all with a great deal of passion for his craft and you can't help but love this quote from the book: "That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” I like the notion of ideas as cats. It takes some work to get them to follow you, because sometimes they'd rather do anything than listen to whatever order you're trying to impose upon them. My last thought on this book: it's by freakin' Ray Bradbury, the guy's a legend so there's some guaranteed good advice in here.

Jani Krulc and the Flywheel Reading Series

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

Last week I told you a bit more about our third place prize, a prize pack of books, but included in that is a chance to read at the Flywheel Reading Series, which I'll tell you a little bit more about. Also, I'd like to introduce you to Jani Krulc, a local author who has generously offerred her time for our second place prize, a one-on-one consultation with her.

Jani Krulc is a well-known figure within Calgary’s literary community. Her first collection of short fiction, entitled The Jesus Year, was released by Insomniac Press back in April, a brilliant book in which much of the tension in the stories comes from what is left unsaid between the characters. Jani has an MA in English from Concordia University and was a past fiction editor for Calgary’s experimental literary magazine filling Station.

Jani will be meeting with our second-place winner to talk with them about the story they've submitted with encouragement for what's already working well within the writing and where there's room for improvement. She will also be happy to answer any writing-related questions our second-place winner might have.

When speaking about her own teen writing Jani says, "I wrote some poetry as a teenager, but my interest was always in fiction. I wrote realist short stories throughout high school and used those stories to get into the creative writing program at the University of Calgary." Jani also has the following piece of advice for all you teen writers out there: "Read as much and as widely as you can and take risks with your writing - experiment, mimic your favourite authors, have fun."

So if you aren't lucky enough to win our Drink the Wild Air pass, or a consultation with Jani, don't worry because you still have a chance to win our third-place prize, a pack of books and the opportunity to read for 5-10 minutes at the March edition of filling Station magazine's Flywheel Reading Series. Flywheel happens on the second Thursday of every month at 7:30pm at Pages Bookstore on Kensington, one of our much-beloved independent bookstores. Flywheel is known for showcasing the work of talented local writers, but also hosts book launches for accomplished authors passing through town. This monthly reading series is piloted by local poet Natalie Simpson and has become a hub of the writing community, where writers of various levels gather together to socialize and listen to great literary talent. If you're a little bit unsure of your ability to perform your story, have no fear, I (Emily Ursuliak) am willing to provide coaching on doing a great reading, and I'll be there to support you on the night of the reading and introduce you to some really friendly, talented writers. Think of this as your introduction into Calgary's literary world.

Ok, that's all for now. I'll be posting in a couple of days about some great books and websites that should help inspire your writing.

Teen Writer's Toolkit: Getting Started

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

So, you've found out about our Just Write contest and you're really excited to enter, maybe you've even settled on which one of the prompts you want to write about, or maybe you're going to be daring and try to incorporate both into your story. You're sitting there with your notebook open, pen hovering, or maybe you've just turned on your laptop and your fingers don't seem to want commit to the keys. You stare at the blank page before you for longer and longer, cold dread begins to ooze into your guts, your tongue feels thick and dry in your mouth. You can't seem to look away from that blank page, and you can't seem to begin to fill it and the harsh glare of its empty whiteness burns into your retinas. Ok, that was a bit melodramtic, but you know what I mean. It can be really hard to get started sometimes can't it? Well guess what, I can help you with that. The cool thing about getting to help out with this contest and write blogs about it is that I actually am a writer, and I feel like I have some helpful stuff to share with you since I'm a bit further down the road than you. But enough about me, let's get to those tricks I mentioned:

1. Make writing special for you.

What do I mean by this? Bribe yourself. I'm not kidding. What's my way of bribing myself? Well I posted a picture of all the "bribes" I've bought myself over the years just to the left here. I buy myself really nice notebooks that I often get from indie bookstores (Pages Books and Shelf Life carry some spiffy ones) but if you don't want to spend too much cash you can often find nice ones in dollar stores. I keep all of my writing books too. I sometimes like to imagine myself at eighty re-reading my writing books and thinking What on earth was I talking about?!

I couple my fancy writing book with a pen I really enjoy writing with. For me it's a fountain pen; I like the scratchy noise it makes as it flows across the paper. But maybe you have a pen that you already really enjoy writing with. Always write with that one. Just think about it, does some half-crumpled piece of looseleaf you found on your desk and a crummy pen that doesn't work properly seem appealing to write with now? Of course not. Also taking yourself on writing "dates" can help too. I take my writing book out to a nice coffe shop sometimes if I'm getting stuck. Having things like notebooks and trips to cafes makes you eager to start writing instead of dreading it.

2. Freewrite. Freewrite, freewrite, freewrite!

This is the trick I use the most. Freewriting just means that you aren't directly working on your project, rather you're writing about it. Often it takes the form of brainstorming, you throw some ideas out there like spaghetti and see what sticks to the wall. Sometimes for me it almost takes the form of "writer's therapy" where I complain about how terrible the new scene I wrote is, and I rant about that until I feel better and then eventually solutions begin to present themselves. The key to freewriting is to, well, be free about it. Write really fast and don't worry about grammar or spelling. Don't even stop to think. Sometimes I've come up with completely different angles to approach things from just by scribbling madly about it for ten minutes.

So there you are. Two tools to help get you started. I'll be posting about Jani Krulc and the Flywheel Reading Series next week and also be giving you another installment of the Teen Writer's Toolkit. So go find your note book and Just Write! (See what I did there? How I wittily worked the name of our contest into the sentence? That's how you know I'm a pro and not some hack.)

A Thank You to Our Local Authors

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

As you've already heard, one of our prizes for the Just Write contest is a bag of books by local authors and literary organizations who graciously made this prize possible by donating their work. I wanted to not only thank these writers for their generosity, but also to introduce them and the books they’ve donated.

Rona Altrows

Rona writes fiction, essays, plays and occasionally even songs and has worked as both an in-house and freelance editor for a number of years. She has two books, A Run on Hose and Key in Lock, as well as the children's book The River Throws a Tantrum, was the co-editor of the Shy: An Anthology and has also had her work published in a number of highly-regarded journals, including Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, and Ryga, and online in Montreal Serai.

Rona donated Key in Lock to us, a poignant collection of short stories. If you’d like to find out more about Rona, or the book she donated to us check out her website.

Dymphny Dronyk

Originally born in Amsterdam, Dymphny has written poetry, fiction and drama for over 25 years. She has a book of poetry, Contrary Infatuations, and a memoir about Alberta potter Bibi Clement, Bibi – A Life in Clay and has publications in a number of magazines and literary journals. With Edmonton poet Angela Kublik, she is also co-owner of House of Blue Skies, Alberta’s newest publisher, and co-editor of the anthologies Writing the Land – Alberta Through its Poets and Home & Away – Alberta’s Finest Poets Muse on the Meaning of Home, both bestsellers. Dymphny was kind enough to donate a copy of Home & Away – Alberta’s Finest Poets Muse on the Meaning of Home for our lucky winner.

Kim Firmston

Kim writes both fiction and plays. She mentors young writers through her work in her Reality is Optional Kid’s Writing Club, at WordsWorth Writing Camp and through the Dramantics Theatre Camp. Her short story, Life Before War, was short listed for the 2008 CBC Literary Award and published in FreeFall Magazine. She was written several plays for children, two of which were performed to a sold-out audience at the 2011 Calgary Fringe Festival.

Kim has kindly donated two of her teen fiction books to us, Touch and Boiled Cat. You can find out more about her at her website.

Jani Krulc

I'll be posting more about Jani next week as she is also doing our one-on-one consultation with our second place winner, but in the meantime I wanted to let you know that not only has she been generous enough to donate her time to meet with a young writer, but she's also given us a copy of her first collection of short fiction, The Jesus Year, to add to our prize pack.

Naomi Lewis

Naomi has written two books of fiction. Cricket in a Fist was her first novel and last year her short story collection I Know Who You Remind Me Of was released and was the winner of the Colophon Prize and was short-listed for the Alberta Reader’s Choice Award and the George Bugnet Award.

Naomi donated Shy: An Anthology which she co-edited with Rona Altrows. You can find out more about Shy and Naomi at her website.

Birk Sproxton

The late Birk Sproxton lived in Red Deer, Alberta where he wrote and taught creative writing at Red Deer College for over three decades. Birk wrote fiction, poetry and non-fiction and is the author of the following books: Headframe, The Hockey Fan Came Riding, The Red-Headed Woman with the Black Black Heart, Headframe: 2, and Phantom Lake: North of 54. He also was the editor of Trace: Prairie Writers on Writing, Sounds Assembling: The Poetry of Bertram Booker, The Winnipeg Connection: Writing Lives at Mid-Century and the short story collection Great Stories from the Prairies.

My thanks go out to Birk’s wife Lorraine, a dear friend, who donated both Headframe and Headframe: 2 to us. The literary journal Prairie Fire recently released a special issue dedicated to Birk and the legacy he left behind and Christian Riegel’s essay on Birk is a good place to start if you’d like to learn more about him.

filling Station

filling Station is Calgary’s experimental literary magazine that publishes inventive fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Entirely volunteer-fueled, the magazine has been in existence for twenty years and has published many highly regarded writers. filling Station has donated three issues of their magazine to our lucky winner. If you’d like to find out more about the magazine, and perhaps even how you can volunteer or get involved, check out their website. It’s also worth noting that the Central library has copies of this magazine available for you to check out or you can pick it up at any independent book store in Calgary.

Migratory Words

Migratory Words is a writers' collective operating in Canmore, Alberta. The regular group of locals is augmented by visits from iconic Canadian authors, seduced into keeping our company by the grace of our glorious surrounds. Each year, Migratory Words Press releases an anthology of work shared during our fortnightly circles. In 2013, Migratory Words has celebrated five years with a new anthology and a new format. Contributing Authors include Weyman Chan, Sid Marty, Erin Dingle, Carolyn Yates, Charles Noble, Tim Murphy and many more!

Migratory Words was founded by poet David Eso who generously donated a copy of their recent anthology to us. Find out a bit more about David here.


WordsWorth

Our final book donation came to us from Lisa Murphy-Lamb, WordsWorth's generous director, who provided an anthology of the work of WordsWorth students from last year. I'll be posting a special blog post on WordsWorth's sister writing camp, the Drink the Wild Air Writing Retreat in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that!

I hope finding out about all of the diverse writers and literary organizations who have donated copies of their books for this prize has made you all the more eager to enter our contest. There's sort of a bonus to all of the prizes and that's that this bag of books, and the other prizes you have a chance of winning, came about because the literary community here is pretty awesome. I put out a call to the writing community to see what I could offer for prizes and they were all too happy to help out. So the bonus is this, even though none of these writers know you, they donated these books to you because they care about you. They wanted to play a part in helping you develop as a writer and that's a pretty big gift, knowing that you're the next generation of a writing community that really cares about each other. So do me a favour if you win these books, come out to literary events because we'd love to see you, and if you see any of these writers thank them, and tell them what their book meant to you. It will mean a lot to them, it really will.

In a couple of days I'll be posting my first in a series of "Teen Writer's Toolkit" blogs to help you get started with your story. Make sure you mark that contest deadline on your calendar: January 25th, 2014!

Just Write Teen Fiction Writing Contest

by Carrie - 10 Comment(s)

New year, new contest! If you resolved to be a better writer this year, we have a great way to get you started and help you improve your craft.

I’m proud to announce our brand new teen fiction writing contest – Just Write. We have fantastic prizes lined up, including a spot at a weekend writer’s retreat for teens, a one-on-one mentoring session with a local author, a chance to read your work at the flywheel Reading Series, and book prize packs (of course!).

Ready to write? Here’s how it works.

The Prizes:

  • A spot at Drink the Wild Air, a weekend writing retreat for teens run by Young Alberta Writers (Feb. 21-23 at Kamp Kiwanis).
  • A one-on-one mentoring session with local author Jani Krulc.
  • A prize pack of teen books and works by local authors, along with the chance to read at the March session of the flywheel Reading Series put on by filling Station magazine (March 13th at Pages on Kensington).

The Prompts:

To know what was in the shop you had to go inside; the patina of dust on the front window was thick, but once I thought I made out the shape of an owl on the other side of the glass, its wings lifted in frozen flight. (The sentence)

writing prompt

(The picture)

The Rules:

  • This contest is for teens, ages 13-17.
  • You MUST use at least one of the two writing prompts provided above – your work will either include the sentence provided, or be based on the picture (or both).
  • Entries must be no longer than 500 words. Prose, poetry, and graphic/comic formats are all welcome (graphic formats must include some writing).
  • Send your entries to teenservices@calgarypubliclibrary.com by the end of Saturday, January 25th, 2014.
  • Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges and announced at Calgary Public Library's Writer's Weekend on Saturday, February 1st, 2014.

The End.