Heidi Stock is the founder of Aspiring Canadian Writers Contests, which acknowledges and encourages young writing talent. Here, she offers solid advice for aspiring writers on five topics: creative coaching, poetry, songwriting, screenwriting and musical theater.
Stock interviews mentors, writers, poets, screenwriters, songwriters, members of the musical theater community, industry insiders and others, asking about their influences, how their careers started, their interest in other art forms. Some participants offer essays; many break down examples of their work. (One particularly interesting essay by Shannon Bramer deconstructs one of her poems then rebuilds it, providing a fascinating look at the way a poet works).
Altogether, the book forms a useful primer for would-be writers. Some of the ideas are unique to the person—not everyone can follow Catherine Graham’s example and study poetry in Northern Ireland, or, like poet Ana Rodriguez Machado, be inspired by working on a Habitat for Humanity project in Honduras—but others are more universal. The notion of reading widely, being persistent and constantly practicing one’s craft are mentioned time and again.
Sometimes, though, the speakers avoid the obvious. Asked what advice she has for new writers, poet Jill Talbot says, “Don’t listen to advice. No – seriously. The only useful advice I ever received was to just keep at it.” There are also quirky suggestions, such as poet Stuart Ross’ thoughts about getting one’s work out there: “Just publish yourself,” he says in an interview with Stock. “Make little leaflets of your poems and leave them on bus or subway seats or tuck them into other people’s books in bookstores.” Also covered is the idea of finding and working with a mentor, finding a manager, and collaboration.
Anyone trying to break into the fields covered here will benefit from reading this book. Not every page offers advice that all will find applicable. But aspiring writers will find a wealth of useful—even inspirational—information to mine in these pages.
Also available as an ebook.