A Writer-In-Residence is a professional author who has a contract for several months or a year with a library, university/college, or writing organization. It’s usually a paid position that allows a writer to concentrate on a project, while at the same time interacting with the public. The public aspect of the Writer-In-Residence position could involve readings, seminars, workshops, and one-on-one consultations.

A one-on-one consultation with a Writer-In-Residence is an opportunity to have your work reviewed by a professional author, and it’s usually free. You can’t, however, expect a Writer-In-Residence to read an entire novel manuscript, so it’s more likely he or she will consider a chapter of a novel, or a short story. The Writer-In-Residence isn’t a substitute for an editor, but he or she can offer advice and encouragement. A one-one-consultation doesn’t necessarily involve writing that you’ve submitted, it might be a conversation about writing careers with suggestions about where to begin.

I’ve submitted materials to a Writer-In-Residence three times; two times I met with an author in-person, and once it was all completed through e-mail. The last author wasn’t a local writer, but a distinguished writer who was visiting the library for two days. He met writers for twenty minute, one-on-one consultations, but that was before Covid-19 changed the world and just about everything went online.

Does your local library have a Writer-In-Residence? If it does, there will be a section on their website with an introduction to the author, details of what type of writing the Writer-In-Residence will review, and the maximum word count for submissions. Send in a sample of your writing, ask some questions, and let a Writer-In-Residence help you to become a better writer.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Before You Submit….

Many websites will entice you submit your work just for the recognition. Some literary journals will often offer payment in the form of a copy of the issue you’re published in.  If you re going to submit material you’ve poured your heart and should into, without being paid,  make sure you have a good reason to do so. Recently, I submitted a short story to a science fiction anthology and a literary journal; despite the fact no payment was offered by either publication.  I submitted to the anthology because it’s a fund-raiser to support a writer’s organization, and being published in the literary journal may  lead to a public reading.

Before you decide to submit your writing, here are some issues to consider.

Literary Journals often require that the material you submit has not been previously published. The result is that if you have a short story or essay published for free, finding another journal or website to pay for a reprint will be extremely difficult, and you may never be paid for it.

Another issue is whether submitting to a particular website or publication will raise your profile. Does the website have substantial traffic? Where is the print anthology distributed/sold? If you have a short story or essay published in a journal that’s only distributed through one bookstore, how many readers will see it? It’s true that a story published on a website has international exposure, but if no one visits the website…..

Do you want to have your name associated with the website or anthology? Will that association improve or damage your reputation as a writer? Take some time to look over the website operated by the publisher, click on some of the artwork, read a couple of the stories or essays from previous issues. This is an opportunity to learn about the tone of the writing and the type of  artwork they use.  A few minutes of research will reduce the risk of finding your material surrounded by themes and images that you find personally distasteful. You can’t, however, control what the editor chooses to include in an issue you’re published in; there’s always some risk involved.

Finally, before you submit material to a publication, online or print,  do a search with the publication’s title in quotation marks. I suggest you use Google and Bing; there are enough differences to make it worth your effort to use both.  If you find comments by writers who haven’t received a reply concerning their submissions, or haven’t been paid the fee they were promised, perhaps you should submit elsewhere You can also visit http://www.sfwa.org, the website of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. On their website, they have a resource called WRITER’S BEWARE, an excellent source of information regarding unethical publishers and literary agents

I don’t want to discourage you from submitting material, but I do want you feel good about your choices.  I hope that you’ll spend some time writing today, because the world needs to hear your voice, your passion.


Stories Are All Around You

One characteristic that all writers seem to have, is tendency to be curious and notice details in their surroundings. Do you have a hobby? Are you involved in a sport? Do you attend a place of worship? You may be surprised do discover how may opportunities there are all around you. Here are some examples of how I found subjects to write about.

For several years I worked as an Airport Security Screening Guard. I offered to write an article for a local newspaper about how passengers could pass through the security screening section at the airport, with as little hassle as possible. “Have Gifts, Will Travel” was published in The Daily News (Halifax).

When I was attending a Baptist church in Nova Scotia there was a youth pastor who did some crazy stunts to encourage young people to attend their annual summer Vacation Bible Camp. A Canadian magazine, Faith Today, agreed the story was interesting and published it under the title, “Baptists Thrill Kids in Nova Scotia.”

After a karate class over ten years ago, I noticed the sensei cleaning up the dojo and asked him about what was involved in operating a martials arts club. That resulted in an article, “Black Belt and a Briefcase,” that was published in a local business magazine, Atlantic Progress.

My most recent article was “Writing Formats: The Keys to Unlocking Your Potential,” that was published in Opal: The Magazine for Canadian Authors and Writers. It helps if you’re writing about something you’re passionate about,  so readers don’t feel they are listening to someone forced to give a report about something they have absolutely no interest in.

Writing is about paying attention to the world around you and taking advantage of the opportunities you find. If you’re a student and you wonder what it takes to coach a high school soccer team,  that’s a great article for the school newspaper. If it sparks your imagination and you wander how it would feel to be the first human to coach the Urzlak team on planet Voxtax, that could be a great science fiction novel.

Never forget, it’s your voice, your passion. Keep writing.

If you’re curious, you can find a complete list of my published writing in the Members Directory on the Writers’ Guild of Alberta website: http://www.writersguild.ca.

J. Paul Cooper