Jane Eaton Hamilton recently spoke with Lee Maracle, contest judge for the 2016 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize. Maracle is a published writer and poet who teaches at the University of Toronto. In this interview, she discusses the importance of writers following their beliefs, thoughts, and dreams.
Your (virtual or real) desk runs over with contest submissions. How do you even begin to sort and judge them?
I actually don't judge that many. The sorting happens earlier in that I decline to judge some contests. As for the individual submissions, I look for what wakes up my imagination.
Behind every submission is a keen and eager writer hoping this time they'll beat the odds. How do you honour each individual writer's dreams and accomplishments while bringing a seasoned eye to their manuscript?
This might be one of those cultural questions that I don't have a desirable answer for. First, I believe that we must honour our own dreams and that getting recognition is not necessarily honouring your dreams so much as recognizing your skill and accomplishment. Bringing a seasoned eye to the manuscript helps the author to recognize their own gold standard as a writer.
What are you looking for in a creative nonfiction manuscript? What characteristics strike you and make you know this particular manuscript is a winning text?
I still believe that the demands of writing in whatever genre are very similar: nonfiction must capture the imagination in a pragmatic and future oriented way. What is different is of course what the reader does with what they imagine and what they imagine becomes knowledge upon reading nonfiction. Fiction and poetry affect the reader's belief and nonfiction affects the reader's knowledge, but both require the engagement of the imagination.
Do you ever see in the submission piles pieces by authors whose current writing won't win awards but whose thinking may, tomorrow, change the world?
No, statistically, the works that are read are those that win awards and of course it takes quite a number of readers to "change the world."
Is there any advice you can offer writers who are trying to get their foot in the door of Canadian publishing?
Stop trying to get your foot in the door and work harder to express yourself, your thoughts, and your beliefs in a way that is satisfying to your very soul. Write something you would buy. Write something you have always wanted to read.
Jane Eaton Hamilton
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