Great Canadian Longform’s New Faces of 2021-22 Contest

Every semester, journalism and writing students across the country create longform pieces as projects for class, but most of them go unpublished. When I think back to the creative non-fiction course I took as an undergraduate, very few of the pieces created (including my own) ever saw the light of day.

That’s why Great Canadian Longform is excited to once again run a contest to try and bring some of these works to the wider world. Please read on for contest details as they have changed since last year. We expect to announce the winners in July August 2022.

To encourage the widest variety of submissions, there is no entry fee and no age restriction to participate in this contest.

We’re planning to award gold and silver prize levels this year, but if there are fewer than a dozen contest entrants we reserve the right to only award the gold.

Contest winners will receive:

-A cash prize ($250 for gold, $100 for silver)

-Feedback on their piece and assistance with crafting a pitch and placing their piece with a Canadian magazine, newspaper or digital outlet (No guarantees, but we’ll do our best to help!)

-A Q&A about them and their piece posted at GCL’s website and shared with our audience

Our goal is that these prizes will help boost the profiles of these emerging writers, while also hopefully creating an opportunity for them to publish their work and get paid. Pieces on all topics are welcomed from personal essays to reported features.

Eligibility to enter:

-Your piece was written for an undergraduate feature writing/creative non-fiction/journalism class taken in 2021-22 at a Canadian university/college (All majors/concentrations welcome to apply)

-Your primary residence is in Canada

-Your piece has a minimum word count of 2,000 (Sorry, no exceptions.)

-Your piece has not yet been published elsewhere online

-At the time of entry you haven’t been published outside of student media or a personal blog/website. (This is to encourage writers who haven’t yet had the opportunity to publish and build a portfolio and connections with other Canadian media outlets.)

Dos and Don’ts

Do:

-Do send all entries to greatcanadianlongform@gmail.com

-Do email your piece as a PDF with your last name and page numbers on each page.

-Do put the following information in your email body: Your first and last name, academic institution, course and instructor name, the title of your piece, a short description of how/why you chose the topic of your piece (up to 100 words) and a brief personal bio (up to 50 words).

Don’t

-Don’t send in multiple entries. (One per person please!)

-Don’t submit academic papers. This is strictly a contest for nonfiction like personal essays and reported features.

-Don’t submit something you wrote specifically for this contest. Our goal is to recognize pieces that were worked on as class projects. (We will verify this for winning entries.)

How to submit:

Please email submissions (information in email body, piece attached as a PDF) to Rob Csernyik at greatcanadianlongform@gmail.com

The deadline for submissions is Friday, May 27, 2022 Sunday, July 31, 2022 at 11:59 PM Pacific.

Questions?

Please email us with any questions, but note that it may take us a few days to get back to you.

Good luck,

Rob Csernyik

Editor, Great Canadian Longform

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Best of 2021 Q&A: Emma Gilchrist

Emma Gilchrist appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Genetic Mapping.” You can read it at Maisonneuve.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Emma’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I’d been working on writing about my journey as an adoptee since attending a Banff Centre writing retreat in 2013, but couldn’t figure out exactly what form it should take. When a DNA test led to a new twist in my story, I knew I had to write about paternity surprises in the age of direct-to-consumer DNA testing.

How long did it take to write this piece?

I went to a little Airbnb on the west coast of Vancouver Island for a week and came home with a full draft. The fine-tuning and editing process took about a month after that.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

The article spans four decades, so there was a lot of rummaging through historical documents and old journals. But mostly, I was really concerned about being fair to all of my parents — all five of them!

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

I don’t write very much these days, except for when I have a dying urge to do so — and then I just really go for it, when the moment strikes.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

If anything, I think it helped me to focus by limiting distractions.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

How malleable memory is and how elusive the “truth” can be.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

It was really wonderful and a bit overwhelming — I’d never received this kind of reaction to a story before. I heard from people near and far — from old friends to total strangers — who shared how the story resonated with them, which was really beautiful.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

I wish I did!

What writing projects are you working on currently?

I’m starting to think about writing another personal essay, but I’m not quite ready to share the subject just yet. Other than that, I’m busy working as an editor at The Narwhal.

Find Emma on Twitter: @reporteremma

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Brandon Wei

Brandon Wei appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Survivor: Salmon Edition.” You can read it at Hakai Magazine.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Brandon’s answers:


How did you start working on this story?

I was originally working on a completely different story, and that fell through — an experience I’ve learned is part and parcel of feature writing.

Jude, the editor-in-chief of Hakai Magazine, suggested I investigate some interesting trends happening with Pacific salmon. At first, I was skeptical. I’m a lifelong Vancouverite; what more could I say about Pacific salmon in the Pacific Northwest that hadn’t already been said? 

A lot, it turned out. More than I could fit in 4,600 words.

How long did it take to write this piece?

From pre-pitch research to post-copy-edited final draft, it took about seven months. 

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

Deciding what to include, and what was best left as part of another story.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

I do my best writing at night. The world is quieter, and my mind has more time and space to be curious.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

Writing rich imagery was hard. I reported and wrote this story at the height of the lockdowns, and good descriptive writing requires you to go places and meet people — ideally in person.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

Just how much we don’t know about Pacific salmon, even in a region like British Columbia.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

Hopefully positive! The most common feedback I’ve heard is that I’ve looked at Pacific salmon in a way that hasn’t been done so often before.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

Just start writing. Don’t wait for the “right” time. Don’t wait until you have “something to write about.” Learn to throw shame about your writing out in the window, but always write with humility.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

I’m working on some more personal writing for myself. Other than that, what I write about will be up to whatever 2022 brings!

Find Brandon on Twitter: @Bmwei

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Lindsay Jones

Lindsay Jones appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “The Lives of Others.” You can read it at The Atavist Magazine.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Lindsay’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I read a CBC Newfoundland and Labrador story about two men who were switched at birth at the Come By Chance Cottage Hospital in 1962. I had never heard of a cottage hospital, and I was intrigued.

I started reading everything I could about the Newfoundland cottage hospital system. This led me to a man, a former nurse, who had worked in a cottage hospital. He had written a book about them and offered to send me a copy. On the phone one night, he told me the name of a fierce nurse, nicknamed Tiger, in charge of the hospital at the time of the switch.The first time I spoke with Craig Avery, one of the men who was switched at birth, I asked him if he had any official documents. He and his wife Tracey read Tiger’s full name from the birth record. My heart started thumping. From there, I was obsessed with this story. I started working on a pitch in the summer of 2020, and in September I travelled to Newfoundland for The Atavist Magazine.

How long did it take to write this piece?

I wrote the story in less than four months, taking on other small assignments in between.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

It was hard to get the first draft down. I was so afraid of failure and I was petrified about getting Newfoundland wrong. So I procrastinated by making cold calls. People were surprisingly super helpful and dug out their phone books (yes, phone books!) to give me names and numbers. I also read everything about Newfoundland I could find. I read voter lists from the 1960s. I read stats and studies. I read a book on the history of nursing in Newfoundland and Labrador, and found a mid-century magazine written for nurses in England and Ireland.

Finally, my editor Seyward Darby cracked the whip. She wanted to run this story in early 2021. I kept getting distracted by trying to find out more about Nurse Tiger. At some point, I finally forced myself to realize that I wouldn’t know this intriguing woman’s whole story. I started setting my alarm for 6 a.m. to start writing every morning, before my family woke up.

After I turned in my first draft, Seyward wanted more. I’ve never had an editor ask me for more words.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

In the beginning, I set an alarm for 25 minutes and during that time, forbid myself from looking at email or social media. I just wrote. Often, I would find myself getting into a roll by minute 16.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

Thank god for the Atlantic Bubble! This travel-restricted area that was created in the summer of 2020 enabled me to report this story in person, which I could only do because of where I live.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

I knew Newfoundlanders were warm and welcoming but I will never forget what some did to make this story happen. They searched out historic marriage records at the local church. They made phone calls on my behalf. They invited me onto their sofas in the midst of a pandemic.They trusted me with the most intimate and distressing details of their lives. And they graciously allowed me to keep coming back with more questions.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

This was the first piece I’ve written of this depth and breadth, and I worried Atavist readers wouldn’t engage or wonder why the hell they hired me to write for them. The day I was told by Seyward the story was a juggernaut – the second-most read story in the history of the magazine – I was gobsmacked. I think people were really craving a story that took them away to an exotic place during the pandemic. This story might’ve done that.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

Keep working on craft. No writer ever thinks they’re good enough, but this isn’t a bad thing. It’s an opportunity to get better and become aware of your blind spots. Cultivate writer friends who you can rant, cry and celebrate with. Writing is lonely and full of let downs and frustration.Follow what excites YOU, not other people. I think this is when the magic happens.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

I’ve had more opportunities than ever before thanks to the Atavist. I’ve also spent more time than ever working on pitches that were rejected. It’s disappointing, but at least I’m in the room.

Right now, I’m working on a longform investigative narrative for The Globe and Mail, to be published some time in 2022. I’m writing short features for Maclean’s, and also – fingers crossed! – working on two ambitious long-form pitches.

Find Lindsay on Twitter: @LindsayLeeJones

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Erica Lenti

Erica Lenti appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Cases of missing trans people are rarely solved. A married pair of forensic genealogists is hoping to change that.” You can read it at Xtra.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Erica’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I found out about the Trans Doe Task Force on Reddit (yes, there are spots on there that aren’t a cesspool), after the Christine Jessop case was solved. The folks from TDTF, Anthony and Lee, were involved in the forensic genealogy that went into solving that case. I looked into their work and realized they were both trans and both doing some incredible work identifying cases in the community. So I reached out!

How long did it take to write this piece?

From initial pitch to publication, five months. In terms of the actual writing process: I wrote this story with the support and generosity of the Banff Centre’s Literary Journalism Program, so I had two weeks in July devoted to working on the piece. I usually never get that length of time to work on anything these days, so it was an absolute pleasure.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

I had to do all of my reporting remotely and virtually, and that has its challenges, particularly when the story is as sensitive as this one. I had a lot of really tough conversations with all of my sources, and there’s only so much you can do to convey comfort to those sources on a Zoom or phone call. I tried to approach everyone with as much empathy as I could. Ultimately, I’d love to someday sit down in person with all the folks I interviewed for the piece. They were so open and generous with their time, and that means the world to me.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

Because I had those two devoted weeks to work on this, I found it really freeing to not have to think about other distractions. I usually write at my desk in my home office, but I actually finished my third draft at a nearby park while picnicking with my partner and my dog. It was wonderful.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

Aside from the logistical challenges, the one great thing about writing during a global pandemic is the freedom I have now that I’m working from home. When I’m stuck, I can take my dog for a walk and mull over the details of a scene in my head. When I’m feeling burnt, I can play some Super Mario Maker and go back to work at 8 p.m. My family and I have been privileged to have stayed healthy and safe this year, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to keep writing from home.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

For Anthony and Lee, working on a case means really throwing themselves into the work. When they feel they’re on the cusp of a discovery, they’ll work day and night to figure it out. They’ll forgo sleep to help these trans Does reclaim their identities. There are few people as selfless in their work as Anthony and Lee. Their devotion to the community really floored me. They’re really amazing people.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

It’s all been incredibly positive! A lot of readers had no idea this kind of work was being done to help identify trans Does. I hope that I can play a small part in raising the TDTF’s profile, and in turn help them solve more cases.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

This is kind of a rookie tip, but: read your stories aloud!

What writing projects are you working on currently?

Not much I can talk about, but expect more LGBTQ2S+-related features from me, as usual! You can keep up with my work on Twitter @ericalenti.

And lastly: If you know of any missing persons cases that have gone unresolved, please contact the folks at TDTF. The more cases they have to work with, the more likely they’ll be able to help identify folks who have gone without their name and story for so, so long. Please visit transdoetaskforce.org.

Find Erica on Twitter: @ericalenti

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Richard Warnica

Richard Warnica appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Rothko at the Inauguration.” You can read it at Hazlitt.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Richard’s answers:


How did you start working on this story?
I got the idea for the piece while covering Donald Trump’s inauguration for the National Post. After many (many) false starts, I sold a much revised pitch to Hazlitt in late spring 2019.

How long did it take to write this piece?
From original idea to publication it was four years and 11 months.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?
Figuring out a structure that would connect the narrative threads, allow the themes to emerge organically, and keep the reader engaged through a pretty long piece.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?
I used to try to write until I was done no matter how long it took. I can’t do that anymore. Now I write in chunks of a few hours at most with walks in between and I try to never work past midnight.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?
That is a very big question! I’m not sure I’ve processed the last two years enough to give a decent answer. I did quit coffee during the pandemic (anxiety, etc.) and I now drink tea instead, lots and lots of tea, so that’s different.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?
I spent so long with this piece and the materiel that it’s hard to remember what surprised me at the time. Maybe the fact that after everything, I still love the paintings as much as I do is surprising. You’d think I’d be sick of them by now but I’m really not. They’re still magic to me.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?
I’ve had a lot of really lovely notes, public and private, about the piece. I had no idea how it was going to land so that’s been really gratifying.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?
You won’t always have the tools you need to write a story when you start out. So don’t be afraid of feeling lost in the process. Keep pushing and learning and eventually (hopefully?) you’ll figure it out.

What writing projects are you working on currently?
None! I have some ideas for Star stories I’ll work on after Christmas and a book idea I may or may not get back to at some point but for now my slate is clean.

Find Richard on Twitter: @richardwarnica
This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Nicholas Hune-Brown

Nicholas Hune-Brown appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “The Shadowy Business of International Education.” You can read it at The Walrus.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Nick’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I pitched The Walrus a story in 2018 that was supposed to be about students from China. 

How long did it take to write this piece?

I worked on this on and off for three years before it was published. Over those years I’ve had to reimagine my feature over and over again, as the facts on the ground have changed and COVID upended the world I was writing about. 

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

The tricky things with this piece were pretty much the tricky things about any complicated story. First, just talking to enough people and doing enough reading to figure out *what’s going on*. And then working out how to tell readers what’s going on in a way that’s dramatic, true, interesting, affecting, etc. It took a long time to find the characters that would sit at the centre of the story.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

I had two young kids at home in the middle of a pandemic, so I’m not precious! I just write from wherever I am, whenever I can.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

See above, but also trying to create scenes, etc, when just about all of my reporting was done over the phone and Zoom.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

I knew the broad outlines of this story—the millions of dollars at stake, the huge shifts in global migration—but the specific details of people’s experiences struck me most during my reporting.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

The response has been really positive, which is a huge relief. I am forever terrified I’ve just got my story completely wrong (not that I’ve screwed up the facts, but that I’ve somehow missed something enormous and fundamental that changes how I should be thinking about the subject). But after publication I heard from a whole bunch of grateful international students, as well as college faculty, who said my story matches their experience.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

I really have no tips, unfortunately. I find the whole process difficult and mysterious

What writing projects are you working on currently?

A bunch of stories that are too delicate and unformed to risk talking about!

Find Nick on Twitter: @nickhunebrown

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

Best of 2021 Q&A: Tori Marlan

Tori Marlan appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Penniless.” You can read it at Capital Daily.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Tori’s answers:

How did you start working on this story?

I first learned about David Johnston while interviewing a man who takes in precariously-housed people. I was in the man’s living room, talking with him and someone who was living in his yard in a van, when he mentioned that someone in the house hadn’t used money in nearly two decades. I asked for an introduction.

How long did it take to write this piece?

Two and a half months.

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

Figuring out the structure of a story is always the most challenging part of writing for me. But a unique challenge to reporting this profile was that David’s communication channels were limited. I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call him, because he had no cell service.

The best way to reach him—and really one of the only ways—was through Twitter DMs. So that’s how we arranged our in-person meetings and how we “talked” between interviews. My ability to reach him depended on whether he was able to pick up free wifi, so I knew that at any given point he could be unreachable for an extended period of time.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

No, but my best writing hours are in the morning after I’m caffeinated.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

Being masked during interviews. Each of my interviews with David lasted for at least a couple of hours. I find it uncomfortable to be masked for that long, so there may have been times I ended the interviews before their natural stopping point, which is not something I’d recommend and not something I’m accustomed to doing.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

It’s hard to choose just one thing. I was surprised by the combination of luck and ingenuity that allowed David (no doubt along with his privilege) to get by for so long without using money. I was also surprised when he told me that he had children and that he’d had them after giving up money.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

This was Capital Daily’s second most-read story of all time. It was widely shared in Canada (thanks, GCL!) and the US, and was translated and published by a news organization in Japan. 
Readers felt strongly about the profile—and its subject.

Some made it clear that they don’t respect David’s choices. They consider him to be selfish and/or irresponsible, and they don’t think he’s worthy of a 6,700-word profile. Others think he’s a fascinating person who raises important questions about how we live. They also appreciate the historical aspect of the story, which is David’s involvement in the constitutional legal battle that changed the way Victoria interacts with its unhoused population.

I also heard from people who wanted to connect with David—to offer assistance, or collaborate with him on a skills-sharing website, or interview him for a documentary. In all cases he gave me permission to pass along his contact info.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

I find it helpful to put my stories aside for a few days after I have a first draft. That way I can re-engage them with fresh eyes. Having distance from a story makes it easier to find errors or holes in the reporting, and it’s a key part of my editing and polishing process.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

In January I’ll be starting a project on restorative justice. I also have a few other ideas brewing but it’s too early to talk about them.

Find Tori on Twitter: @ToriMarlan

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

GCL New Faces Winners Q&As

The three winners of the Great Canadian Longform New Faces of 2021 contest were Claire Bradbury, Yannick Mutombo and Wednesday Bell. This fall each received a $100 cash prize, a mentorship chat with GCL editor Rob Csernyik and assistance with developing pitches for their pieces. Hopefully you’ll be reading work from these writers soon in a Canadian newspaper, magazine or digital outlet. The below Q&As give you a chance to learn more about these emerging writers, and if you’re an editor and their story strikes you — contact us and we’ll put you in touch.

CLAIRE BRADBURY: “You, Me and the RV

Written as an assignment for “Advanced Feature Writing” at Ryerson University

Tell us about your winning piece in 50 words or fewer.

CB: This piece describes how the RV lifestyle for travelling and living provides a unique opportunity for people to explore different places. My story discusses the environmental, economical and historical background to RVing. After all, it’s no secret that RV’s are a fun way to travel.

What inspired you to pick this topic?

CB: I’ve wanted to write this story for a long time. Growing up travelling with my family in our RV, I saw the value in this alternative way to travel and experience vacations. Especially with COVID-19 restrictions, I knew that people would be looking for ways to get out while doing it safely. My passion came through and it felt rewarding to write about something that I think is very special not only for my family but for lots of other people as well.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

CB: I found it difficult to narrow down everything that I wanted to write about. I could have gone on and on and included a lot more details and perspectives, however I had a word limit to stick to for my instructors. There was so much to share and I wanted to do each section justice, but I had to keep my word count in mind. Even after I had written a ton, it was also difficult to edit and cut out parts that I wanted to include. I’m overall proud of how it turned out and happy that I could share this piece as a longform story.

Was there advice or feedback your writing instructor gave you that was particularly helpful in writing your piece?

CB: For my class, we went through three drafts of writing all semester long and received feedback in great detail after each one. After getting my first draft back, my instructor told me that he liked hearing my own personal stories about how my family used our RV. It motivated me to change the tone of my writing and make my story sound more personable. I knew I wanted to give a lot of voice to the piece and I’m grateful my instructor pushed me to do so even more.

Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading most?

CB: I’ve always appreciated the reporting and coverage that Stephanie Apstein does for Sports Illustrated. She’s thorough with her work and doesn’t hold back when it comes to important issues to discuss. I chose to highlight her piece on the MLB’s attitude towards domestic violence for a class I was taking because of how well written and timely it was. I’ve also had the privilege to work with some talented young journalists at The Pigeon, which is a youth-led publication. Tegwyn Hughes, Josh Kozelj, Maia Herriot and Leila El Shennawy are a few of the writers I admire for their dedication and attention to detail.

Do you have particular topics you like writing about (or would like to write about) most?

CB: I find it difficult to narrow down what particular topics I like to write about the most. I love to write stories about people and their passions, what’s important to them and how they are contributing to their communities. It can range anywhere from buying thrifted clothes online to how excited fans are to see the Blue Jays return home again. I’m hoping to dive into a specific niche of writing in my future, but for now I’m happy to explore and try new topics.

What are the next steps you’d like to take in professional writing?

CB: I’d like to start pitching and working with other publications on a freelance basis. I gained a lot of experience and sharpened my skills during school, so now I want to apply myself more. Now that I have more confidence in myself and my abilities, I want to try my best to get my work out there. I’m excited to never stop learning and growing as I move forward with my journalism career.

YANNICK MUTOMBO: “If it don’t make dollars, then it don’t make sense”

Written as an assignment for “Advanced Workshop in Creative Non-fiction” at the University of Ottawa.

Tell us about your winning piece in 50 words or fewer.

YM: My piece is about being in a difficult situation and taking a risk to get out of it. Doing something bold that pays off, but you don’t know for how long. Showing that things like sex work aren’t always about empowerment, sometimes people just want to keep the lights on.

What inspired you to pick this topic?

YM: When I found out my friend “Mona” (a pseudonym) did OnlyFans, I wanted to know what it’s like. Plus, with the pandemic and everything, I knew there was something to say about side-hustle culture, how it’s evolved with the internet, and the pressures young people are facing to make ends meet.

Also, I saw a lot of opportunity to muse on the socio-political implications of sex work being so easily accessible and profitable, particularly in regards to young women.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

YM: I wanted to challenge myself by writing in Mona’s voice, from my perspective. It was difficult to find a balance between my own narrative style and the way she spoke naturally; I don’t know that I completely pulled it off.

Was there advice or feedback your writing instructor gave you that was particularly helpful in writing your piece?

YM: Read your stuff out loud and kill your darlings. (You like that line because it’s corny, not because it’s good.)

Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading most?

YM: Zadie Smith, Alice Munro, James Baldwin.

Do you have particular topics you like writing about (or would like to write about) most?

YM: I write a lot of personal essays about various afro-diasporic subjects. This was my first time writing on something not related to those things or centered on my own experience. I’d like to write more pieces like this.

What are the next steps you’d like to take in professional writing?

YM: Get published in a major publication.

WEDNESDAY BELL: “Live music has an accessibility problem. COVID-19 is making things better.”

Written as an assignment for “Developing Form and Repurposing Writing” at Humber College

Tell us about your winning piece in 50 words or fewer.

WB: When the pandemic forced concerts to move online, many disabled music fans realized that they not facing the accessibility challenges they had experienced at in-person concerts. My article explores why this was the case and what lessons about accessibility the live music industry can carry forward post-pandemic.

What inspired you to pick this topic?

WB: I’m both disabled and a huge music fan. I attended concerts regularly pre-pandemic and often noticed that many, if not most, of the venues I attended had accessibility problems. However, I never really saw anyone discussing the issue.

When the pandemic happened and concerts moved online, I noticed how online concerts were more accessible to me personally, then noticed other disabled music fans talking about how they also found online concerts more accessible. However, they were worried to the push to return to in-person concerts would be a return to inaccessible concerts. I wanted to write about this and examine how the music industry can begin to address this huge, long-ignored issue.

What was the most challenging part of writing your piece?

WB: I interviewed three amazing people for my piece, all of whom are both disabled and heavily involved in the performing arts industry. Each provided a great deal of information and perspective about the issue of venue accessibility, and I ended up having long and detailed conversations with all of them.

I ended up with lots of great information to use in my piece, which was amazing. However, it was also a challenge because I now had to figure out how to condense all of this wonderful, detailed, wide-ranging information into a structured, cohesive piece of writing. Adding to this challenge was that my sources had also brought up issues that I hadn’t even considered before speaking with them, such as the experiences of disabled music industry workers working in inaccessible spaces.

I got overwhelmed by all this information and trying to figure out what include and not include in my piece.

Was there advice or feedback your writing instructor gave you that was particularly helpful in writing your piece?

WB: My instructor helped me out by reminding me to focus on the story I wanted to tell in my piece. By doing that, I was able to see what information fit into the story and what didn’t.

Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading most?

WB: Recently, I read Sarah Kurchak’s memoir I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, which I absolutely loved and found hilarious and relatable. I also enjoy reading writers including Samra Habib, Alicia Elliott, Desmond Cole, Eternity Martis, and Anthony Oliveira.

Do you have particular topics you like writing about (or would like to write about) most?

WB: As you can probably tell, I enjoy writing about disability issues. Around 1 in 5 Canadians have at least one disability, but I don’t often see disabled people or disability issues being discussed in the media. I’m hoping to help change that. Besides disability, I also enjoy culture writing, particularly music writing.

What are the next steps you’d like to take in professional writing?

WB: Right now, I’m focusing on starting a freelance writing career by pitching and writing pieces whenever I have the time. Over the next few months, I’m hoping to publish more pieces and start getting my byline out there. Modest goals, but hopefully attainable ones.

All responses have been lightly edited for style and clarity.

Let’s not forget we’re choosing our politicians while the world burns down around us

“To be clear: It is the responsibility of high-office holders to put policies in place that will facilitate positive systemic change; it’s also their responsibility to hold large polluting companies to account. If Canada were anywhere close to meeting its own climate targets, Wilkinson’s support of Shell’s advertising ploy might have been forgivable. But we’re not. And until we are, the only message we should be hearing from politicians like Wilkinson or companies like Shell is what they are doing to decarbonize. That being said, let’s not forget who’s been choosing our politicians while the world burns down around us.”

Arno Kopecky – The Narwhal – August 2021