Robin Maharaj on the Short Story

Robin Maharaj gave an excellent talk on writing short stories yesterday. For those near Toronto, he is accepting manuscripts for evaluation until the end of November.

Writers of adult fiction and novel exerpts can send him 25 pages. Aspiring writers spend half an hour with the acclaimed writer-in-residence to receive feedback. Check with the Toronto Public Library website for details and to see if any time slots remain.

Maharaj's workshop was very helpful and positive, although he warned us that most Canadian writers do not make a living from their craft alone. Tips and advice? Well, let's just say that between 1:00-4:00 PM we got a short course that should keep us all writing for a long time.

He discussed structure, submitting work to contests and approaching literary magazines. To get a novel or short story collection published, he said, it helps to have some magazine credits or contest wins. For the names of contests and literary magazines, he suggested checking the internet.

My favorite source is Smith's Lists, now hosted by the Writer's Circle of Durham Region.

Maharaj also answered questions. Of these, the most interesting to me, was about voice. As a literary editor, Maharaj found he could often tell which author an aspiring writer most admired because his work sounded imitative. To develop your own voice, he said, the best course is to observe the world closely and keep writing. By practicing and keeping a writer's notebook, it is possible to develop a voice that is unique because it reflects not just literary technique but also your beliefs, experiences, sense of humour and thinking style. You must write the story that you are most qualified to write and that you can write better than anyone else.

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