By: Sheridan Barnett
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
As a re-emerging writer with a day job, I have never considered writing as an industry. Writing has always been for me a necessary form of self-expression, an exploration of self and other, a way of understanding and placing myself in the world. I had signed up for the Northern Ontario Writers Workshop event entitled, the “Business of Writing” more out of curiosity than a burning intention to earn a living from or even to publish the products of my imagination (read: in-progress). As I battled my way through the remnants of Friday’s snow storm toward the Mary J. Black library, I second guessed my reasons for attending the event. But upon arrival, I quickly found a welcoming group of self-proclaimed introverts, who I later learned meet writer-type crises with supportive conversation over glasses of wine and hot-tubbing. Suffice it to say, I felt I had found my place in the world!
Quite beyond the quiet satisfaction of finding myself among a group of peers with a common interest in writing (and maybe more importantly, reading), the workshop itself was a welcome surprise. It was facilitated by two local authors – Jean E. Pendziwol and H. Leighton Dickson – one a renowned children’s author turned “upmarket” novelist, the other a former zoologist turned fantasy writer, and each with a distinct journey to becoming published authors.
The title, “The Business of Writing” could be construed as a controversial one. After all, isn’t writing an act of pure creativity, an art form born of the desire or necessity to communicate? To quote Virginia Woolf, “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works”. Does that sound like a business to you?
But seen from the perspective of our facilitators, while the act of writing is indeed an “art”, the business of writing is also a “science” with a distinct process that we too could follow. Achieving that balance (think yin and yang) will dramatically increase a writer’s chances of becoming a published author in whatever genre he or she chooses. As a professional mediator, I have a strong proclivity for process. The facilitators’ concrete, analytical, and well researched approach—laid out in the workshop in power point slides and accompanied by engaging tales of their personal journeys--appealed to me greatly.
In its essence, this workshop answers the question, “How does a writer actually get published?” The facilitators took us through an extremely detailed plan to do just that. They provided advice and information on identifying your genre and placing yourself within the marketplace, creating a writing community, the importance of word count, the multiple phases of editing a piece for publication, finding an agent (who knew twitter has a real-world function?!) or choosing the self-publishing route, and negotiating a publishing contract.
Whether you are a writer with a finished product or a burgeoning writer with a novel that must be written (like me); whether your interest is fiction, non-fiction, romance or literary, the “Business of Writing” is an essential guide. Now all I need to do is write!
Sheriden Barnett (LLM, ADR) is the President of the Boreal Centre for Dispute Resolution, a boutique firm specializing in the resolution of complex, multi-party conflicts, human rights and Indigenous rights disputes. She is currently writing her first novel entitled, “Ar Muir: At Sea."