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    Quarterlies, Reviews, and Geographics... Oh My!

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    Did you know that this blog shares its name with an actual, physical Writers’ Nook? It's true!

    I’m a firm believer that everything within the walls of a library is somehow a useful resource to the practice of writing, making the entire library one giant “Writer’s Nook”, but on the 4th floor of the Central branch we corral the books that are written for writers about writing.

    I’ve always found it difficult to read about writing. If I want to read a book that will help me write better, I will always choose to read really good books, to see how the best make their narrative or poems work so well. But also included on the shelves of the 4th floor’s Writer’s Nook are a variety of local, national, and international literary magazines, and these are all very exciting.

    These are the places where many great writers get their start.

    At the library, we’re always shifting books around to make more room for collections that never stop growing. Especially here at Central, space is at a premium. That’s why I was surprised, and delighted, when the 4th floor recently made space (20 rows!) to rescue an amazing selection of Canadian literary magazines, dating all the way back to 1902.

    Browsing these well-preserved original magazines is like reading a condensed history of Canadian literature. Like watching their evolution unfold right before your eyes up the current issues. Book reviews are especially interesting - to see how books were received at their time of publication, and what Canadian readers were looking for in a good book at any given time in the twentieth century. And, of course, hilarious advertisements.

    Here are the 6 titles we salvaged from basement storage:

    The Antigonish Review, starting with #35 (Autumn 1978) - link to Antigonish Review website

    Canadian Geographic, starting with Vol. 97, #1 (Aug/Sept 1978) - link to Canadian Geographic website

    (I realize this isn’t exactly a ‘literary’ magazine, but its photography, travel narratives, and hilarious advertisements are great fun to explore. In fact, here is the slogan from an advertisement off the very first page, courtesy of Smirnoff Vodka: “It felt like Europe. With a dash of Hemingway.” In a faded image below, two young women sit at a table at an outdoor café, smoking cigarettes and enjoying what is presumably a pleasant afternoon in Spain.)

    The Dalhousie Review, starting with Vol. 66 (Spring/Summer 1986) - link to Dalhousie Review's website

    The Malahat Review, starting with #16 (October 1970) - link to Malahat Review's website

    Queen’s Quarterly, starting with Vol. X, #2 (October 1902) - link to Queen's Quarterly website

    University of Toronto Quarterly, starting with Vol. 1 (October 1931) - link to U of T Quarterly's website

    So the next time you're at the Central library, pop up to the 4th floor and visit our Writer's Nook to check out this sweet collection of magazines.

    It's Contest Crunch-Time

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    There’s nothing worse than finding out about a writing contest you want to enter without enough time to put a submission together. I can’t promise that won’t happen here, as several deadlines from Canadian literary organizations loom on the horizon, but regardless of time constraints these are great opportunities to impose a real, external deadline on your work, which can really help to light a fire under your fingertips. Preparing work that is actually going to be submitted requires a different frame of mind that is healthy to get into.

    Plus, for the most part, your entry fee will pay for a magazine subscription, so you'll be supporting Canadian literature and even if you don’t rake in any prizes you're still a winner by supporting organizations that may one day may be the key towards building your curriculum vitae.

    Here is a list of 5 writing contests worth checking out, featuring categories in poetry, non-fiction, and short fiction, in chronological order of their deadlines.

    The Malahat Review’s “2012 Open Season Awards”

    Deadline: November 1, 2011

    Complete details.

    Writers’ Union of Canada “Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers”

    Deadline: November 3 , 2011

    Complete details.

    Prairie Fire

    Deadline: Novermber 30, 2011

    Complete details.


    Deadline: December 31, 2011

    Complete details.

    PRISM international

    Deadline: January 27, 2012 (*Non-fiction category - November 30)

    Complete details.

    To keep things straight, I have created a little table for deadlines, word counts, entry fees, and prize money, to pin on my wall. Thought it might come in handy for anyone else considering multiple entries...

    Malahat NOV 1 2,500 35 1,000
    Union NOV 3 2,500 29 2,500
    Prairie Fire NOV 30 10,000 32 1,250
    FreeFall DEC 31 4,000 20 300
    PRISM JAN 27 (2012) 25 pages 28 2,000

    Remember it is always a good idea to know who are submitting to.

    Read what these magazines publish, or past winners, before deciding what to submit to whom.

    The library has current and archived copies of FreeFall, Prairie Fire, and The Malahat Review.

    Writer-in-Residence, Launch Preparations

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    On Saturday afternoon, September 10th, at two pm, the library's 2011 Writer-in-Residence program will officially launch at the Memorial Park library.

    It will be a delightful afternoon, marking the beginning of an opportunity for every aspiring writer ready to reach out for some professional guidance.

    Naomi K. Lewis will read from a selection of her work, as well as outline plans for her residency. A reception will follow.

    If you follow this little blog, you probably think I've run out of ideas, as I can't stop writing about this whole Writer-in-Residence situation, but the truth is that it's just such a great service, one that this city is fortunate to have, that I feel compelled to continue issuing its details to as many people as I can as often as possible.

    Speaking of details, and plans being outlined, this year's program will feature something new called "Tuesday Night Write", in which you are invited to join Naomi K. Lewis for one hour of prompted silent writing and one hour of discussion, twice a month, from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m, at Memorial Park Library. No registration is required.

    Sept 13: Resisting distraction
    Sept 27: Mining memories for material
    Oct 11: Setting and the senses
    Oct 25: Writing about sex
    Nov 8: Stretching your writer’s voice
    Nov 22: TBA

    Click here for more info on Naomi K. Lewis.

    Click here for Manuscript Submission Guidelines.

    A Secret Interview with Will Ferguson

    by Philip Rivard - 1 Comment(s)

    For me the hardest part of writing is simply sitting in front of this blasted computer and punching these rotten buttons. Turning my thoughts into coherent sentences is a difficult task and to be honest I’d much rather be walking the dogs…or staining the deck…or getting a tooth pulled. More months ago than I care to admit I agreed to contribute to this blog. I thought the commitment would force me to overcome my writing laziness. Hah! Weeks and months have past and I have grown guilty over my lack of contributions to the blog, but never has my shame gotten so great that it forced me to write.

    Many people say finding the time to write is a problem. I disagree. We can all find time to do anything we think is important enough – the real trick is forcing yourself to write when it is just so easy to spend the time surfing the internet, watching t.v. or just about anything but button punching. Finding the time is not the problem. Using the time to write is the problem.

    As I was walking into work today, thinking about all the resolutions I have not achieved, I saw my friend Will Ferguson sitting at a picnic table reading. I walked over to chat and found out he was waiting for his son to finish soccer practice. I asked how he was and he said he had been crazy busy. A “perfect storm of writing deadlines” was the phrase he used. “I’m such a procrastinator!” He said “I always wait until I absolutely have to write to actually do it.”

    We made the typical small talk. He had been so busy that his family had barley gotten out of town at all this summer. “It must be easier for you with no kids,” he said, “You and Sara can take off anytime at the drop of a hat.” I had to then make up some lame excuses about my wife and I being really busy at work, but Will was smart enough to see through it. “You have to get away, if even just a day trip to Canmore or something. You have to force yourself to do it.” Because I can get away almost anytime, I never have made myself actually do it. It was, Will observed, the same thing with writing. “When a deadline is far off I feel like I have lots of time, so of course I don’t do any writing - it’s only when time is running out that I make myself do it.”

    Well, I’m no dummy. I suddenly realized that if I can get Will Ferguson, author of many Canadian best-selling books, to talk about writing then I’ve got myself a blog post! Trying to sound casual, I ask in an off-handed tone, “It must be difficult to get started with a project. Have you learned any methods to make it easier?”

    “The tough thing is organizing your ideas so you can then work with them,” he said. “One thing that really helps me is that I dictate my ideas into a recorder and have them typed out for me. Then I have these blocks of writing (he mimes grabbing invisible objects in the air) that are literally like the building blocks. I just rearrange them (hands now shifting invisible objects every which way) any way I want. It really makes it much easier to organize.”

    “Hmm. Very interesting. Would you recommend this to anyone having trouble getting started writing?”

    “Huh? Sure. I have told lots of writers to do this.”

    It was at this point in our conversation that I remembered running into him on the street about twelve years earlier. At the time he told me he was going to a hotel room he had rented to write in. He could have written at home, but found there were far too many distractions so he thought he would be more productive if he had a dedicated writing space. I asked Will if he remembered that.

    “Oh, yeah. I had this idea that I’d be incredibly productive if I knew the room was costing me money. The only problem, of course, was there was a television in the room. The first day I just sat there (now he mimes a remote in his hand, his thumb furiously pushing buttons) for hours. I got nothing done. So I called down to the desk and asked to have my cable disconnected. They must have thought I was some kind of crazy artiste, but they said they would do it. I came in the next day and guess what? Someone had just unscrewed the cable from the back of the set! So of course I re-attach it and (the invisible remote is back in his hand, thumb furiously pushing buttons) another day shot. So I have to get them to actually remove the television from the room, which is not easy because the thing is bolted down, but they did it and from then on I could write.”

    This stuff is gold! Will has practically written my blog for me!

    “So, Will, would you say that it is important for the aspiring writer to have a dedicated work space, free of distractions?”

    “What? Well, yeah. That’s the point.”

    The soccer practice was wrapping up and I had to go to work. We shook hands and went our separate ways. At the first chance I got I sat down and wrote out the episode and now you are reading it.

    Now if I could only arrange some time off work before the snow flies.

    Click here to place your hold on Will Ferguson's forthcoming "Canadian Pie", set for release on October 22, 2011.