From British Columbia to P.E.I., there are opportunities to fine-tune your craft alongside a professional writer. Andrea Bennett, the Editor-in-Chief at Maisonneuve Magazine, has done the work of compiling a round-up of writing mentorship programs across Canada. Such programs offer an alternative to the potentially expensive route of pursuing a BFA or MFA; for instance, The Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s Mentorship Program comes at no cost to the apprentices, while local, public libraries often offer free, weekly office hours. So, peruse the program blurbs below and polish those submissions – a few of the deadlines are just around the corner.
Vivek Shraya is offering a mentorship through her new Arsenal Pulp imprint VS. Books, deadline September 15, 2017; this mentorship is open to unpublished writers who are Indigenous, Black and/or a person of colour, between the ages of 18 to 24, living in Canada, and looking for a home for their completed book manuscript.
The Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) connects beginning children’s authors with established children’s authors through their Blue Pencil Mentorship Program. Mentees must have current CANSCAIP memberships and the mentorship comes with a fee.
Many public libraries across Canada have writers in residence who offer weekly office hours to emerging writers. (It is 4:48pm on a Thursday afternoon as I write this and I am too lazy to Google every writer-in-residence program across the country, but here’s a 2016/2017 example from my hometown, Hamilton.)
Universities often also have writers in residence (e.g, the University of Calgary) who offer office hours and/or manuscript consultations. Rules vary (you may or may not need to be a student), but it’s worth checking to see if the university or college near you supports a writer-in-residence program.
The Surrey Southbank Writer’s Program is a part-time, three-month program is designed for new writers who would like to begin sharing their work with others. The program offers both classes and mentorship opportunities.
The Vancouver Manuscript Intensive pairs emerging writers who are looking for feedback and guidance on their manuscripts with professional, published writers. This one-on-one program is tailored to suit the needs of its mentees.
The Digital Publishing Awards are proud to announce the launch of thedigitalpublishing.blog— a new leading reference for digital publishers and media professionals.
This new online resource aims to assist both established and emerging talents of Canada’s digital publishing landscape with relevant, timely, educative and compelling information about their industry. Promotion of award-winning digital content, design, creators and innovation will be posted regularly through a digest of relevant industry news, events and developments, as well as profiles that promote the creative work of Canadian digital publishers.
We’ll publish compelling interviews with industry professionals describing the distinct processes behind their award-winning work From conceptualization to execution, we’ll speak with a wide range of digital media experts.
First up, we’re delighted to share our conversation with Jude Isabella, editor in chief of Hakai Magazine. Jude was a key member of the team that launched Hakai back in 2015 and has since served as a contributing writer and editor in chief. Based in Victoria, B.C. Hakai is an online magazine that explores science, society, and the environment from a coastal perspective.
Interested in reading more compelling conversations? The folks at the DPAs will be catching up with a variety of digital media experts eager to share their own tips and tricks— everything from starting a successful online magazine to creating visually captivating, interactive news stories. Watch for our next interview with The Globe and Mail’sdigital designer Christopher Manza. Be sure to follow digitalpublishing.blog for updates on media job postings and industry events across the country.
ABOUT THE DIGITAL PUBLISHING AWARDS The Digital Publishing Awards (DPAs) were created in consultation with Canada’s leading producers and creators of digital publishing. The DPAs recognize and promote excellence by Canadian digital publishers and content creators through an annual program of awards and national publicity efforts.
The nominees for the 2017 Digital Publishing Awards will be announced on April 25 and the awards soirée will take place on June 1 in Toronto.
The Digital Publishing Awards are on Twitter @dpawards.
This post is part of a series called “E-Lancer Writes,” exploring the working conditions, rights and collective organizing strategies of freelance journalists, interns and other low-wage or temporary digital media workers. Originally published on The Story Board and re-posted here with permission. By Errol Salamon.
When Canadian-based freelancer Katherine O’Brien started working as a web content and blog writer, she hadn’t made a conscious decision to publish with US companies to make a decent living.
Yet for over a year and a half, O’Brien has written mostly for companies south of the Canadian border, specializing in senior care, health and aging. O’Brien said it’s possible to make a decent living in Canada as long as it’s doing corporate work, but she has found it easier to get gigs in the US, given her specialty.
“When I started, I thought I’d be doing a lot of work with Toronto companies, thinking it would be an advantage that I was based in Toronto. I think it still could be an advantage to live in a market like Toronto where there are publications and you could meet or network with people,” O’Brien said in a recent interview. “But I get the majority of my business through email prospecting, not face-to-face networking, so it doesn’t seem to really matter where I live.”
It may not work for everyone, she said, but email prospecting has been her saving grace because she has found significantly more US companies in her field of specialization.
“Plus you get paid so much more in US funds. That’s a real bonus working in the US,” she said. “Some of the places I’ve worked at in Canada set the rates and they weren’t great. I’m doing better financially with what I’m doing now in the US.”
While digital communications have made it easier for Canadian freelancers like O’Brien to find clients outside of the country, writing for Canadian companies also has its advantages, said Aaron Broverman, a Canadian-based freelancer who writes for both US and Canadian publications.
“The community is smaller and everybody knows each other, so chances are good that you’ll be working with that person again, and they usually bring you back, or remember you or hire you for something else,” he said in an interview. “It’s just nice to represent the home team for Canadian publications.”
However, Broverman agrees that US companies generally pay better than Canadian ones.
“US companies seem to value the work a little bit more,” he said. “Whereas with Canadian publications, there’s always the story of ‘I don’t know where we’re going to get the funding.’”
Broverman also said he sometimes gets paid more writing for a US site than he does writing for the Canadian version of that site, such as CreditCards.com US and CreditCards.com Canada. Like other freelancers interviewed for this post, he speculated that the lower rates are a result of the smaller Canadian magazine market.
“When I write for the American site, I get a dollar a word US, but when I write for the Canadian site, I get only $350 US per article,” he said.
However, like some Canadian publications, not all US companies pay freelancers decently and some pay nothing, said Canadian-based freelancer Leslie Garrett, who also writes mostly for US companies. With 20 years of experience, Garrett targets employers she knows pay well, regardless of the side of the border the publications are on.
“I place a value on my work and those are the publications that I seek out,” she said in an interview. “I think that when writers give their work away, it devalues that work and we all end up being hurt by it.”
O’Brien, Broverman and Garrett are contemporary examples of Canadian freelancers who turn to US publications to make a decent living. But their income-boosting strategy has deep historical roots.
According to University of Toronto professor Nicole Cohen, as far back as the 1800s, Canadian freelancers struggled to earn a living from publishing in Canadian magazines that didn’t guarantee income in the country’s underdeveloped market. In her new book Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age, Cohen says that in 1819, Canadian freelancers turned to the US, where magazines started paying writers for articles that year.
“Many American magazines paid for contributions, so Canadian writers sold their work in the United States while publishing for no pay at home,” writes Cohen.
By 1961, the Royal Commission on Publications, chaired by M. Grattan O’Leary, had recognized that Canadian freelance magazine writers had to look to the US to sell their work because Canada still had a small publishing market.
But despite the O’Leary Commission report, Canadian freelancers continued to earn low incomes over subsequent decades, according to a survey conducted by the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). The survey, which contains the most comprehensive and current data available, reveals that freelance writers in Canada made an average annual salary of $25,000 per year before tax in 1979, $26,500 per year in 1995 and only $24,035 per year in 2005. When these salaries are adjusted for inflation, they actually represent a decrease in income.
For Canadian freelancers who seek work abroad to increase their incomes, there are collective organizations here at home that offer support systems.
According to Don Genova, president of CMG Freelance, a branch of the Canadian Media Guild since 1998, the Guild doesn’t provide special services for its freelance members who do work for US companies.
“But within the services we offer to all of our members, we would definitely take on any queries people have about foreign contractors, including but not limited to reviewing contract language, suggestions on negotiating tactics and communicating with a foreign contractor if there are problems with payment,” Genova said in an email.
Although he hasn’t been asked for help with foreign contracts often, he does recall writing an email on behalf of a freelance broadcaster who was having problems getting paid by a BBC program.
“I sent the email, laying out the details of the work that had been done, and the next day, the freelancer finally heard back from the producer of the program, giving details of the payment about to be sent.”
Like CMG Freelance, PWAC, a not-for-profit writers’ organization since 1976, doesn’t offer a specific program for members who write for US publications.
“However, a key member benefit is the internal networking and peer support system we have in place through our members-only forums and internal listserv,” said Stephanie Lasuik, PWAC national communications committee chair, in an email.
“Members with questions or queries on any aspect of their writing business receive immediate feedback from peers across Canada.”
With 10 years of experience, Broverman has his own frank advice for his freelancer peers across the country:
“Freelancing is hard, and it’s hard to make a living just freelancing, so find American clients and don’t apologize for it,” he said. “You don’t hear about more Canadians doing this on a regular basis. At first it seemed like I cracked some sort of code to get more money, but everybody should try.”
Like the heirloom tomatoes soaking up the sun and the rain and the urban-air particles on this blogger’s Toronto balcony, summer writing season is ripening on the vine, still green with youth but tantalizingly close to fruition.
In his National Magazine Award-winning poem from this year’s NMAs, David McGimpsey writes of the self-defeating anxiety of creating something significant:
There is your life with the coffee-stained pants,
paint-stained pants and oxy-contin-stained pants.
O, your unfinished novel’s hero yearns—
he’s been sleeping on an army cot
in a Wendy’s basement in Los Robles.
Read the entire award-winning poem “The High Road” (Vallum) by David McGimpsey.
Summer is no time to put off writing. Be inspired to create your next work of poetry, fiction or personal essay. Take the opportunity to finish your latest literary creation and submit it to a Canadian magazine writing contest.
Our annual Summer Contest Guide provides a list of contests via Canadian magazines (or magazine-related organizations) open to unpublished works of Fiction, Poetry, Creative non-fiction and Photography. And check out our Canadian Literary Magazine Guide for other ideas for where to submit your work.
Please note: This list is organized chronologically by deadline dates from June 22 to September 22. If you know of a contest we missed, please email us or grab us on Twitter @MagAwards and we’ll update our guide.
At the start of summer, fall, and early spring, the National Magazine Awards Foundation publishes a comprehensive list of magazine writing contests and prizes. These contests are great opportunities for emerging writers and poets to establish their presence in CanLit. Michael Prior is one such emerging writer, and in just a few years he’s compiled an impressive record of Canadian magazine publications and contest wins.
Doggedly submitting his work to numerous literary publications, between 2013 and 2015 Michael placed in over a dozen competitions and garnered scores of publications in literary journals and magazines across Canada.
His success as a poet has evolved from literary publications to small-press chapbooks–Swan Dive (Frog Hollow Press, 2014) included poetry first published in The Walrus, Lemon Hound and the Winnipeg Review—to a debut, book-length collection recently published by Véhicule Press: Model Disciple (Spring 2016).
Recently the NMAF caught up with Michael, currently pursuing an MFA at Cornell University, to chat about magazine contests and building a career as a writer.
NMAF: Your poetry career emerged quite recently and has been moving at breakneck-speed. How and when did you first set foot in the world of Canadian poetry, and why were you drawn to this world?
Michael Prior: I think, like a lot of other writers, I was nudged into this by a series of passionate teachers and professors. I had always liked poetry, but it wasn’t until later in my undergrad that I actually began to read poems deeply. And then, when I did, they became these fascinating and visceral experiences: Dickinson took off the top of my head. Lowell made me feel like my mind was in a vise. Bishop asked me to look more carefully until the act of looking became a way of thinking.
NMAF: “To Hunt” (2013) garnered you your first poetry contest win: 2nd place in Echolocation’s Chase Chapbook Competition. You were in Vancouver at the time; what drew you to submitting to the Toronto-based Echolocation? What did it mean to win, and what happened—personally and professionally—next?
Michael Prior: Well, I’m not sure anything happened immediately, but placing second certainly gave me a little more confidence. I hadn’t been making poems for long at that point, and I remember having received a few rejections around the same time, so it was a nice validation to think that someone liked something I had written.
NMAF: You’ve since won poetry contests in acclaimed Canadian magazines, such as Vallum, Grain, The Walrus, and Matrix Magazine. There are often financial incentives to entering magazine writing contests, but what are some of the not-so-obvious perks? (Winning the Matrix Lit POP Award, for instance, includes tickets to POP Montreal and offers poets the opportunity to present on stage.)
But in terms of less tangible perks, I would argue that the primary benefit of literary magazine contests is that most are run through a blind submission process; that is, the readers and judges aren’t permitted to see the authors’ names, and therefore have to judge the work on its own merits without the context of a writer’s corpus, their stature in a literary community—in theory, this should level the playing field a bit for less-established writers.
But of course, the factors involved in any contest’s outcome are undeniably complex. There are aspects of contest culture that might favour certain aesthetics, certain experiences, certain types of poems about certain things. Connected to this is the question of who’s actually entering literary magazine contests. Economic means can be an obstacle to submitting (contests usually cost around $30 to enter, which is a lot for someone struggling to make ends meet) and identity can also be a determining factor: writers of colour may be uneasy about sending their work to prizes if the judge is of European descent, while LGBTTQI writers may apprehensive about submitting to a contest judged by a cisgender, straight individual.
Regardless of whether one wins, or doesn’t, I think it’s important to remember that placing in a contest is only a small measure of success. What matters is that one keeps writing and reading and writing.
I do think, however, that contests present an important opportunity for writers, as long as one takes their inscription of hierarchies, their tendencies, with a grain of salt; the magazines that run contests should be thinking (if they aren’t already) about how to attract more diverse submissions from diverse writers. Mostly, I hope that judges and readers are doing their best to be respectful, empathetic, imaginative, and inclusive when considering contest submissions.
NMAF: Which Canadian literary magazines are on your reading list right now?
Michael Prior: There are many great Canadian literary magazines, though due to budget constraints I have to rotate subscriptions. Right now, the stack of periodicals on my bedside table includes issues of Ricepaper, Poetry is Dead, The New Quarterly, Canadian Notes and Queries, The Walrus, Maisonneuve, and The Fiddlehead.
I do my best to keep up with Canada’s burgeoning online publications, and like many of the poet folk I know, I eagerly await each new issue of The Puritan and TheRusty Toque. Also online: the poet Robin Richardson recently founded the Minola Review in order to create a unique publishing space for women, femme-identifying, and non-binary writers; the influential website Lemon Hound, though no longer publishing, remains an important archive; and Plenitude Magazine continues to publish and promote the work of LGBTTQI writers in Canada.
Needless to say, I think it’s apparent that there’s a lot of exciting work happening among Canada’s many literary magazines, of which I’ve only mentioned a small number, and I’m very grateful for all the editors and staff who volunteer countless hours to sift through the submissions and support new work.
NMAF: While completing your Master’s at the University of Toronto, you were a Poetry Editor at Echolocation. You’re now an MFA candidate at Cornell, and an Assistant Editor at Cornell’s Epoch Magazine. How does a magazine editor at a small press literary journal go about attracting new writing talent and new readers? As an editor, what do you look for in poetry submissions?
Michael Prior: To answer the first part of your question, I think an engaged editor obviously needs to read widely: books, journals, websites, blogs, and all the other places poems might be proliferating. This is undoubtedly time consuming—we’re all busy, and resources tend to be scarce at small magazines—but I think this sort of effort is essential to fostering a magazine’s ethos, which emerges over time through both the work an editor solicits, and the work an editor accepts from the slush pile. This becomes an even harder thing to foster at a student-run journal, where the staff changes every year.
Editorial work, in my opinion, requires a simultaneously historical and forward-looking perspective (what has happened, what is happening, what will happen next / what might I like to see happening more in the future). Editors are unavoidably gate-keepers. There’s no way around it: a magazine cannot, nor should it try to be, everything at once (though its scope of interest need not be narrow)—what’s important is that the literary landscape is able to support a diverse range of publications, and by extension, a diverse range of editors.
And of course, I believe editors should always be questioning what they like and why. As Jim Johnstone once said to me, it’s much easier to quickly dismiss a piece of writing than it is to spend the time and learn how it’s asking to be read. Some writing opens up in unexpected ways with a little persistence.
As for what I personally look for in a submission, well, I’m interested in poems that are compelling experiences, surprising experiences, experiences that are emotionally complex and powerful—poems that have something at stake beyond language as a game of phonemic pick-up sticks. Memorability is often a good marker of this for me: if I am re-experiencing a poem at unexpected times (while riding the bus, or when walking a corgi) moments when the poem is not right in front of me, that’s usually a good sign.
I am also interested in a poem’s formal qualities, especially its engagement with what has preceded it—its conversation with other poems, traditions, and modes. In other words, how aware is the poem of the fact it wasn’t written in a vacuum? This isn’t to say I’m only interested in canonically inherited formal structures (though I am a sucker for a well-written sonnet): I’m as equally enraptured by Alexandra Oliver’s metrical brilliance as I am by Alice Fulton’s fractal poetics or Cathy Park Hong’s renovation of the ballad form through lipogrammatic constraints.
NMAF: As both a writer and editor, what advice do you have for those new poets who have yet to enter a magazine writing contest?
Michael Prior: While it’s nice to win, entering a contest can be a helpful creative impetus: use the contest as a deadline to generate new work; use the contest as a way to support an admired publication; use the contest to hopefully get one’s work before the eyes of a favourite writer.
And regardless of whether one wins, or doesn’t, I think it’s important to remember that placing in a contest is only a small measure of success. What matters is that one keeps writing and reading and writing.
Michael Prior’s Model Disciplewas released on March 29th, 2016. Véhicule Press has declared it “one of the most commanding poetic debuts in years” and the CBC included Model Disciple on their Spring 2016 Books Preview. Model Disciple is available in bookstores and for order now.
Michael holds an MA in English with a Creative Thesis from the University of Toronto, where he was the poetry editor of Echolocation. He’s now a poetry candidate at Cornell University, and an assistant poetry editor at Epoch Magazine. Though living in America, he’s still actively publishing in Canadian magazines, with work recently appearing in recent issues of The Puritan and Canadian Notes and Queries. He also has poems forthcoming in Ricepaperand The Fiddlehead. Discover more at MichaelPrior.ca and on Twitter @MichaelPrior06.
Special thanks to Leah Edwards for researching and conducting this interview on behalf of the NMAF.
The nominees for the 39th annual National Magazine Awards will be announced on Monday,. May 2, 2016. Follow us right here on this blog or on Twitter (@MagAwards) to find out who will be the finalists this year.
The National Magazine Awards Foundation is proud to present Winners’ Circle, an exclusive event for National Magazine Awards finalists and winners to meet, mingle, pitch and learn about how a National Magazine Award can be a boost to your career or magazine.
Wednesday, November 25 5-7pm Spoke Club, 600 King St West, Toronto
The event is open to all National Magazine Awards finalists and winners . For those who are unable to come to Toronto, we may be able to provide teleconference participation.
If this year’s National Magazine Awards taught us anything, it’s that devoting yourself passionately to literary excellence has its rewards. Kim Jernigan, longtime editor of The New Quarterly, said as much when she accepted her Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement. “When it comes to matters literary, it is better to follow your own instincts than to give the reader what you presume she wants… Perseverance counts.”
Also, this nugget of wisdom: “Caring deeply about literature is not at odds with a sense of fun.”
Apropos of which, we present our annual Summer Guide to Canadian magazine writing contests.
As always, the list below may be incomplete. Leave a comment here or pull us aside on Twitter @MagAwards#WritingContest if you know of any we missed.
Check out the Contests section of this blog for frequent updates on opportunities from Canadian magazines.
Photo: Kim Jernigan accepting the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement at the 37th annual National Magazine Awards, June 6, 2014. Photography by KlixPix for the National Magazine Awards Foundation.