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.

Kenneth Goldsmith and Christian Bök discuss conceptual literature

On Tuesday, poets Kenneth Goldsmith and Christian Bök were at Harbourfront Centre to discuss conceptual literature during an event presented with The Power Plant. Considered the founders of the conceptual writing movement, Goldsmith and Bök provided a fascinating history and read from some of their own conceptual texts. For a recap of the event, click here.

And the winner is…

Last night (April 3) a packed house at Harbourfront Centre celebrated National Poetry Month with Poetry NOW: 5th annual Battle of the Bards. Nineteen poets competed in a battle of words and creativity reading their poetry for five minutes each. A jury comprising the Toronto Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke, Authors at Harbourfront Centre Director Geoffrey Taylor and Artistic Associate Jen Tindall came together after all of the participants had their moment on stage to decide on a winner.

And the winner is…

Peter Norman, author of Water Damage, is the winner of the 5th annual Battle of the Bards.

Peter Norman

Peter Norman

As the winner, Norman receives an invitation to read at the 34th annual International Festival of Authors (October 24 to November 3) and an ad for his book in NOW Magazine. This is the fifth year AUTHORS has partnered with NOW Magazine for this unique event. NOW Magazine’s Susan G. Cole hosted the event.

AUTHORS has also invited 4 additional Poetry NOW participants to read at IFOA: Warren Clements (Bird Doggerel), Beatriz Hausner (Enter the Raccoon), Mathew Henderson (The Lease) and Christine McNair (Conflict).

For a look at the full press release click here.

Meet our bloggers

As part of our commitment to bring you great coverage of the International Festival of Authors (October 18-28), we’ve recruited four stellar bloggers to attend events and share their highlights with all of you. Without further ado, here they are!

Brianna Goldberg is a writer and producer from Toronto whose work has appeared in both of Canada’s national newspapers and on all three radio services of the CBC. She recently returned from two years of travelling through the Caribbean and Africa, where she freelanced on topics ranging from terrorism to lingerie trends to the general awesomeness of Virginia Woolf. Find out more about Goldberg’s work online on her website or follow her on Twitter @b_goldberg.

Corina Milic reads, writes and edits for a living. She is the poetry editor at Canada’s funniest magazine that features a simian, The Feathertale Review. Monkeys don’t pay bills though, so she also works as an online editor and community manager at MSN.ca, Canada’s (legitimately) largest portal. She is currently trying to read every single book in her home. Track her progress here.

Iain Reid is the author of the critically acclaimed comic memoir One Bird’s Choice, which won the CBC Bookie Award for Best Non-fiction Book of the year and sold internationally. His second book, The Truth About Luck, will be published by House of Anansi Press in 2013. He writes regularly about books and writing for the National Post. Follow him at @reid_iain.

Janet Somerville teaches literature at Royal St. George’s College, a school for boys in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood where many of the authors who appear in her courses come to classes to talk about the writing life. A former PEN Canada board member and longtime volunteer, Somerville also curates an annual event called Get Caught Reading to benefit the Children’s Book Bank. She has poems published in Calling Cards: New Poetry from Caribbean/Canadian Women, tweets about books at both @janetsomerville and @TeenBoyLitCrit, and blogs about what she’s reading at Reading For The Joy of It.

Our bloggers are looking forward to the Festival, which begins October 18. For more information about our incredible lineup of authors and events, visit readings.org.

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