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Toronto Star Short Story Contest and Comparing Two Book Fairs

Five Humber School for Writers faculty winnowed almost two thousand short story submissions to pass on to the next level of judging at the Toronto Star, where three winners were awarded publication and prizes. Here they are:

 

1) - Fred Ni – A Profile for an Online Dating Site 

 

2) Rebecca Higgins – The White Stain

 

3) Leslie McAllister – The Return 

 

Fred Ni will collect, as part of his prize, a session in the Humber School for Writers Program.

 

So what useful observations can I make about culling stories? The ones that do not work stand out immediately, with titles or opening paragraphs that are either clichés or poorly written or ungrammatical. You can’t often tell what’s good off the top of a story, but you can frequently tell what doesn’t work. So what does an aspiring writer need to know? Make the sentences clean, clear and fresh, and like nothing a reader has ever heard exactly before. No easy task, of course.

 

 I recently had the opportunity to visit two vastly different book fairs in Europe.

 

I’ve mentioned The Vilnius Book fair in Lithuania in an earlier post – it attracts sixty thousand people over four days. It’s a retail book fair where people come with families and the place is packed. There were sixty talks or presentations of one kind or another and audiences at these talks number in the hundreds.

 

The London book fair is a rights fair, which means it is intended for people in the industry. There were many booths at the Earlscourt location, and in these booths were many, many small tables of the kind I used to see in Canadian draft rooms. Agents and publishers met in many short, short meetings to pitch or buy rights. It was like a speed dating event, with meetings around fifteen minutes each.

 

Luckily for me, my agent found a few leads in London for international sales of my last novel. And luckier still, the weather was very fine, with magnolia trees in bloom and the streets full of people.