Thursday, February 15, 2018

Betsy Warland shares writing wisdom with Canadian Authors

Last night, Canadian Authors hosted creative writer, teacher, mentor and editor Betsy Warland. After reading from three different works of Creative Non-Fiction, she described how Bloodroot came into being, reminding listeners that the narrative is always "the boss."

I enjoy the almost mystical way Warland talks about the writing process. "Underneath the language of craft," she informs us, "are other unnamed forces" waiting to be uncovered. She invites the audience of writers to consider this: "What are the stories behind our compositional strategies?"

Left: Betsy chats with participants.

Openings are critical. In order for the reader to follow, the writer must "put the scent down right away." Choosing the most appropriate narrative position enables a writer to tell a story that is easy for the reader to enter. Questions for the author include these: Who is telling this story? How am I identifying them? Am I using camouflage?

Another important principle is pacing. When too much intense material is packed together, the reader may be unable to process it all, and might set the book aside. For this reason, the formal presentation of the work should allow processing time for individual readers. This can be achieved by offering white space on the page.

Warland's 2010 essay collection Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing is a priceless resource for any writer. The author also calls it a "big teacher" for her. From Breathing the Page, she shares what she considers the best line she's ever written: "All lines require years of effort."

According to Betsy Warland, writing well requires enormous amounts of time and effort, and I doubt any writer would disagree with her comment that the remuneration is "ridiculous." Yet when a piece is satisfactorily completed, "a certain kind of elation makes it all worthwhile."

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