The Why of Creative Writing

Brian Francis (c) Paula Wilson

(c) Paula Wilson

By: Brian Francis

Full confession: I can’t teach you how to write.

That might not be something you’d expect a creative writing instructor to say, but it’s the truth. And, in spite of whatever the reality TV shows may lead you to believe, the vocal coach can’t teach you how to sing. The dance instructor can’t teach you how to cha-cha.

And while you can learn the steps, the chords or the adjectives, the role of any instructor should be to show you the “why” of your creativity, rather than the “how.”

Writing, like any art form, is about expression. It’s about carefully selecting words to articulate the things and feelings you can’t easily describe. It’s about mood and undercurrents and the unspoken of our daily lives. Writing is about giving shape to your experiences and observations. It’s about making sense—or, at the very least, an attempt to make sense—of the complicated lives we lead.

What I try to do in my Intro to Creative course is show you why your writing is important. I want you to reconsider your experiences. To discover doorways you might not have noticed. To see the familiar in a way that feels unfamiliar. Above all, I want to help you understand the importance of your creativity and encourage the ways your writing will surprise, mystify and delight you.

What I hope you walk away with is a sense of possibility. There are ideas and characters you carry around every day that need to find their place on the page. Even if you never publish anything, it’s the journey of your writing, the value you place on your own creative expression, that will hopefully prove to be the most rewarding—and lasting—part of the process.

Intro to Creative Writing, in partnership with IFOA, runs for six weeks, starting September 17.

Keep the Ray-Bans Handy: Understanding the World of Book Promotion

By Brian Francis

(c) Paula Wilson

(c) Paula Wilson

Like many authors, especially ones just starting out, I always considered getting my novel published to be the finish line. As soon as it hit the shelves, thousands—if not millions—of readers would be clamouring to the bookstore, demanding my latest work of fiction. I’d wear sunglasses during radio interviews and suffer from jet lag. I’d build shelves to showcase my awards and tactfully critique the movie versions of my novels.

Gosh, it doesn’t take long for dreams to die.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy writing or consider myself unsuccessful, but the reality of the book business has tempered my naïveté. I’ve come to realize that publishing a book is really just one part of the writer’s journey. There’s a whole other world post-publication that many of us aren’t prepared for: the world of promotion.

Publicity 101, a workshop taught by me and Random House of Canada publicity manager, Adria Iwasutiak, aims to give emerging and pre-published authors an understanding of that world. And when you consider that most writers only have the attention of a book publicist for a short window of time (you should see the number of books one publicist is responsible for), you quickly realize that promoting your book, in many ways, ultimately comes down to you. This is especially true for self-published authors who don’t have the benefit of a publicist.

The good news? Promoting your book effectively doesn’t mean wearing a sandwich board (although don’t let me stop you). But it does take some navigation and know-how. That’s the aim of Publicity 101—to give you some tools and tips to maximize your promotional efforts, including social media, networking and reaching readers. At the very least, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of book promotion and what it entails.

The better prepared you are for all aspects of your writing career, the better your chances of success. Don’t throw away those Ray-Bans just yet.

Publicity 101 takes place March 16 at the Harbourfront Centre. Register here.

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