As a history specialist I’m always writing. I have protracted wars with my work on a regular basis; fighting diction in single combat; thrashing sentences apart only to stitch them back together again; that right word my constant nemesis, elusive like a guerrilla in the murk. Unaccompanied, I’ve held fast to my crusade for four years, until I broke out of my self-prescribed seclusion and finally sought assistance. I attended a writer’s workshop.
The University offers a number of different facilities that provide students with writing assistance. These can found be through individual colleges, through various writing centres, or through U of T’s events and career services. The assistance varies in style, sometimes involving one on one meetings with professional writers (often an amazing opportunity, like here), other times consisting of a panel of authors offering advice to a roomful of listeners. This was the type of workshop I attended, a series of short lectures by five local, professional authors; all of whom provided a brief autobiographical sketch and subsequent advice to aspiring writers. The talk was geared towards people interested in getting into writing professionally, offering guidance on such things as getting published for the first time, the value of a literary agent, what to do with the myriad rejection slips that trail behind submissions, and how to write a useful query letter.
The panel of writers all belonged to a writer’s guild, the Canadian Authors Association. Through this association they were able to overcome many of the difficulties which seem to stop authors from getting published. Through the CAA, they were introduced to a community of novelists, journalists, screenwriters, and poets. One member of the panel was given the direction needed in order to self-publish his first work, after which he easily found a commercial publishing house. Another was given the opportunity to get into editing, and now teaches creative writing at George Brown College. It seemed that the most helpful aspect of the writers’ association was that it provided a venue through which the members were able to more fully establish themselves, and build their careers using the support of that community.
There are a number of other free lectures and workshops of this sort, many which are listed on the university’s events page. Lecture topics range from human rights to phenomenological photography to how to calculate a CGPA. Likewise, visiting a writing centre at the university can provide you with much information on translating ideas into academic papers. A list of writing centres, for both undergrads and grad students, can be found here. From here you can book appointments online and get some help with all the word wrangling that inevitably accompanies this time in the school term. U of T’s Counselling and Learning Skills Service also offers writing workshops here.
Regardless of your writing abilities, such assistance can, if nothing else, help clarify for you how accessible your writing is to its audience. Whether getting gramatical assistance from the writing centre, listening to the advice of a panel of professionals, or discussing thematic ideas with published authors, assistance in the writing process can only be beneficial, making your work stronger. After all, surrender is not an option.