greg's blog

2017-2018 CAA-AB WiR Consultations: What to Expect

Once again, I am proud to be working alongside Tim Bowling as Writer in Residence for the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Author’s Association for 2017-2018. It’s a tremendous opportunity to work with a broad range of Albertan writers at all levels, and I consider it a privilege. However, I noticed last year that quite a few people I worked with weren’t sure what to expect from their consultation with me, so I thought I should clarify that for anyone who might be feeling apprehensive about making an appointment.

First, know that I see my primary job as a Writer in Residence as helping YOU accomplish YOUR goals in writing. So pretty much the first thing I’ll probably ask you—whether by email or in person—will be what sort of feedback you’re looking for, what sort of writing you do, and what you’re hoping to do with your writing. Since I consult with people at all experience levels, from those just starting out to published authors and everyone in between, I ask these questions because they help me to give the sort of feedback that will be most useful for you.

If, for example, you’re working on a story that you have already workshopped extensively with a critique group, and you’re looking for a careful close-reading for technique and craft, that’s what I’ll give you. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to figure out how well (or if) an early draft of a story—or book-chapter, or other piece of writing—is accomplishing what you’re aiming for, then I’ll probably focus more generally on the concept and structure of the piece, to try to give you a strong sense of what I’m getting out of it as a reader. Then we can see if that matches what you were aiming for, and we can go from there. Or we can do it the other way around, with you telling me what you’re aiming for, and me giving feedback based on that.

Another thing that many people didn’t seem to know is that I’m happy to consult with you even if you don’t have a specific piece of writing that you’re working on. That is, if you’ve got more general questions about writing, local writing communities, where to look for potential publication markets, how to go about finding and/or applying for writing grants—or, for that matter, what writing grants are, how they work, and who is eligible for them—I’m perfectly happy to set up a meeting to talk about any of those things. And while I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to publish your work or get a grant, I can tell you from my own experience how those processes work. (Or at the very least, I can tell you how they’ve worked for me.)

That said, the bulk of what I do is manuscript consultations. For these, you can send me up to fifteen pages (double-spaced) of your work, and we will meet so I can give you feedback, and (crucially) so that you can ask any questions you may have. I find that in-person back and forth invaluable, since it’s useless for you to get a load of “advice” that doesn’t make any sense to you. So feel free to ask questions! I welcome them! Your questions are what help me make sure I’m helping you. As noted in my formal submission guidelines, I can also give feedback via email (or skype, or phone), but my preference is always to meet in person if at all possible.

Of course, before we can do any of this, you need to get yourself in the queue for your consultation. That part’s fairly simple. Just drop me an email at caawir-gb@canauthorsalberta.ca with the subject line CAA-AB WiR Consultation, let me know what sort of feedback you’re looking for, and attach the material you’re looking for feedback on (if any). From there, you can expect an email back from me within a day or two with a few demographic questions and letting you know that you’re in the queue. Then once I’ve had a chance to look at your work (or think about your questions), I’ll email you again to set up a meeting time, location, or medium that works for both of us.

Since I take appointments on a first-come-first-serve basis, it may be a while before we meet, but rest assured, if I’ve responded to your email, you’re definitely in the queue. Canadian Authors’ Association members get priority, since that is one of the benefits of membership, but both non-members and members are welcome to consult. And if you want to bump yourself a bit closer to the front of the line, any Albertan (over the age of 16) is welcome to join the Canadian Authors Association, and the details for how to do that are available here.

Now get writing and send us your work!

(And don’t forget to check the formal submission guidelines, available here.)