The club held its annual meet and greet social and talked about its expectations for the school year.
“I’m going to toss the toilet paper to one of you guys, and you have to answer a series of questions related to your name, your program, why you’re in this club, you’re favorite book, and a cool fact about yourself,” says Juanita Lam, the vice president of UTM Scribes, one of UTM’s creative writing communities. Last Monday, students flocked to the presentation room in the Student Center to participate in the club’s first annual meet-and-greet event.
The club, which began back in 2015, offers students an opportunity to network with industry professionals from different genres, including authors, journalists, playwrights, and linguists. In career and writing panels held throughout the school year, students engage with professionals who provide advice on how to enter the industry and tips on how to improve a piece of writing. In the past, the club welcomed Hana Shafi, a Toronto-based author and illustrator, Chandler Levack, a screenwriter and director, and Ann Walmsley, a journalist who writes for The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s.
Starting in October, club members will hold writing workshops that involve a lecture in the first half and a writers’ circle in the second half. The workshops provide a safe and friendly environment for students to read their work and receive feedback from other writers. According to Chevolleau, “it’s a great way to build a portfolio, and a great way to improve one’s writing.”
This year, UTM Scribes will publish its fifth edition of Slate, the club’s journal of short stories, poetry, and illustrations. The editors of the no-single-theme journal expect submissions until Saturday, November 16.
In a room with students still eyeing the toilet roll strewn across the blue back wall, I speak with the club’s co-vice president, Belicia Chevolleau, to see what it takes for a piece of writing to resonate with these editors.
The Medium: How many of the total number of submissions do your editors review for publication?
Belicia Chevolleau: Last year we received around two hundred submissions, and out of those, we edited only 50 because we couldn’t work with all of them. Each of these had to then go through about four or five editing cycles. Last year, we assigned about seven pieces to each editor, and they work with them for about three months.
TM: How would you describe your publication process?
BC: Each of the stories goes from staff editors to the editor-in-chief who then gives the story to the president. In the staff editors’ stage, our staff editors communicate with the writers. It’s more of a back and forth with the writer.
TM: What advice would you give to people who are interested in getting their work published in Slate?
BC: It does not really matter how well you write. If you say something honest and from your heart, then it will come across. I really want to read interesting and authentic work because if you’re saying something true, it will resonate. Find something new, something inventive.
TM: Is there a particular submission that resonated with you the most?
BC: I can think of one. It was a piece about OCD. When I read it, I thought, “This definitely needs to be in the journal.” Even when there was some push back from other editors, I would tell them that I want it because I knew the person who wrote it knew what it was like. They spoke about it in such specific terms that it really came across.
The other one that I would say also spoke about my experience talked about homophobia in a hockey locker room. That one really stuck with me because we received it twice in our submissions. The first year it did not go in, but the second year, I made sure we accepted it.
TM: If you could say anything to UTM students who enjoy creative writing, what would it be?
BC: We want to be as inclusive as possible, so I definitely want to uplift more marginalized identities. I’d like to hear from people who identify as LGBTQ, people who identify as a religious minority, or as a person of color. At our writing workshops, we want to be a safe space for these people. If these stories resonate with me, they will resonate with so many others.
TM: Aside from authenticity and originality, what else would you look for in a poem?
BC: I like poems that are musical, and I want something that has a kind of rhythm, some assonance. If it sounds good when I read it out loud, I definitely want to read more of it. I like poems that use weird wordings, or phrases that contradict each other. One of the most honest things anyone can write is something that’s weird.