Our recent event, Writing for a Living, was offered by UFV’s English and Communications departments in collaboration with the Professional Writers Association of Canada Fraser Valley chapter, the English Students’ Association, The Cascade, and The Louden Singletree. Hear all about it from the event’s key organizer who was also, by a lovely coincidence, the grand prize winner . . .
Student guest post by Cat Friesen
As a writer, you need to be brave, to go after what you want. Writing is about taking chances. You will be rejected, but you will learn from the experience and come out stronger for it.
Okay, I admit it—that’s not a direct quote. But it’s the core message shared by every writer on the Writing for a Living panel at University House on September 28th. That’s my take-away message: I can earn a living as a writer.
Ever since I was small, writing has been embedded within me. I read anything I could get my hands on, ranging from Nancy Drew mysteries to Garfield comics, and I read voraciously, often staying up far past my bedtime to finish a chapter. This love of books sparked my interest in writing at a young age – because I was such an avid reader, I loved learning new words and seeing how I could weave them together to make a story. I was constantly writing poetry and short stories, and had brainstormed several novel ideas by the time I was graduating from high school.
But when I got to university, I pushed my dreams aside for something “practical”—Psychology— because I was told that writing would never get me anywhere in life. I ignored my passion for becoming a published fiction writer, relegating writing to something that only happened during breaks between semesters (if at all). I thought it was all a done deal.
Then I surprised myself. When I was just two weeks away from completing my psychology degree, I signed on for one more year at UFV to pursue a creative writing major. Maybe I couldn’t afford to devote my whole life to writing, but I could afford one year.
The Writing for a Living event came at exactly the right time for me. I had signed up for my year of creative writing courses, signed on as the copy editor of The Cascade, and committed to the editorial board of The Louden Singletree. But I was still feeling a little lost. I was always told that writing wasn’t a viable career option, that I’d have to find something else to support myself, and that writing would only ever be a hobby. So what was I doing here?
Thankfully, the speakers, Robyn Roste (PWAC Fraser Valley President), Katie Stobbard (UFV alumni and QuiQuill Communications co-founder), Cate Pedersen (editor of Modern Agriculture Magazine), and John Vigna (award-winning freelancer and author, UBC Creative Writing MFA program faculty), expelled that notion swiftly. They shared stories about a wide variety of writing jobs that easily support them on their writing journey: blog posts, magazine or news articles, editing for a wide range of clients, and even starting their own businesses. Both Katie and Cate are successful freelancers, and Katie has created Raspberry Magazine, an arts and culture magazine based in the Fraser Valley. All four writers admitted that they’re so busy they’re forced to turn down prospective work. That sure sounds like earning a living!
They also gave the audience plenty of advice, including that you need to be brave, take risks, and cultivate a group of writers you can turn to for referrals, support, and mentorship. The most inspiring part of this event was that these four individuals had followed their dream and made it work for them, despite the people who told them they couldn’t.
After the panel, speakers and guests were given the chance to mingle. We students got the chance to talk to the writers and ask them questions. As well, Robyn drew the door prizes, and I was thrilled to learn I’d won the grand prize! It’s a one-year student membership to the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). I can’t wait to connect with like-minded writers at the next meeting. Robyn promised that PWAC provides support and guidance for new writers—and the event proved this is true, since Katie Stobbart won the very same prize at the last Writing for a Living event in March 2014, and look at her now!
Now I feel like I’m taking a real step forward in my writing journey. Although I still have until April before I graduate, I’m going to start preparing to earn my living as a writer by working hard on my writing skills and creating meaningful connections with other writers outside of UFV.
PWAC, here I come!