At the 2016 CNFC conference in Banff, our sponsor Fitneff generously donated an adjustable standing desk to be given away to one lucky member at the annual general meeting — something they’ve agreed to do again this year in Vancouver.
Janet Wilson tells us more.
I pumped my fist into the air and yelled, “Yes!” I had won the prize at the 2016 Creative Nonfiction Collective Conference — a brand new Fitneff Sit Stand Desk.
At the end of a great weekend in Banff, the staff loaded the desk into my car and I headed home. My husband was as excited as me. He saw potential for his use and so hijacked my prize. Fortunately, the ease of adjusting the desk height, raising it to his or lowering it to mine, was a marriage saver. We now share the desk.
The work area is stable and large and can accommodate a computer and all the notebooks that writers are known to collect. Because we have laptops, I use the keyboard shelf below to hold papers, a thesaurus and dictionaries.
Most writers spend a lot of time sitting, so having the ability to change position regularly is beneficial. While writing, I probably spend half my time sitting and the other half standing. The question I am asked is, does it make me a better writer? That I don’t know. However, I can definitely write for longer periods.
My restless nature is totally compatible with the ability to both sit or stand while being productive!
Janet Wilson’s insatiable curiosity about people and her drive to understand the world has taken her to over eighty-five countries. In her forty years as a health professional, she has witnessed the commonality of the things that unite all humans across the globe.
An enthusiastic and entertaining storyteller — she has presented to thousands who share her passion for travel and adventure — Janet is currently writing a travel memoir.
Find out more about Fitneff, and be sure to attend the 2017 AGM on May 6 in Vancouver for a chance at your very own standing desk!
Nicole Breit, winner of the 2016 CNFC/carte blanche contest, offers tips and words of encouragement for this year’s contestants
Can you tell us about your winning piece and why you think it was selected?
When I submitted “Spectrum” I very much took the carte blanche tagline— “there’s more than one way to tell a story” — to heart.
I wrote the piece in a course about a unique hybrid form called the lyric essay. I was intrigued by the versatility and possibility of the form — the place where poetry meets the personal essay. It allowed me to explore the anxieties, joys, challenges, and small victories that go along with being a rainbow family in a way that wasn’t strictly chronological. Instead the story is told through a series of memories and images organized by colour.
As for why it was selected, when Deni Béchard presented me with the award, he talked about how “Spectrum” addressed an important contemporary issue, the emotional sensitivity in the work, and its stylistic innovation.
What makes a creative nonfiction piece stand out from the crowd, and what will you be looking for when you read this year’s submissions?
There are so many possibilities, no one formula for what makes a stand-out piece of writing. But if I had to try to distill it, I think exceptional writing comes down to the writer’s control over the piece. The work delivers maximum impact with every craft choice, from the choice of form, to command of language, and an unwavering attention to what the reader needs, every step of the way.
In terms of contest submissions, I’d love to read experimental pieces — work that stretches and pulls and challenges the genre in some way. I’m very open in terms of subject or style. Send in your humour and travel writing, your literary journalism, your flash nonfiction. More than anything I want to be immersed in story, to lose myself in the world of the writer.
Are there different considerations when submitting to a CNF contest versus those centred around other genres?
I think the relative newness of the genre is a great advantage for contestants. If you take a risk, try something new, you have a good chance of capturing a judge’s attention.
I imagine there is also less competition with CNF contests than poetry contests. Poetry contests often accept multiple poems per entry. With CNF your chances of being shortlisted or winning are much higher than if you submit to a poetry contest based on entry volume alone.
I’ve also heard from literary magazine editors that they receive fewer entries to contests than regular submissions to their publications, further increasing your odds for getting noticed when submitting to a CNF contest.
In addition to the CNFC win, you were also awarded the 2016 Room Magazine award for creative nonfiction. How have these experiences contributed to your literary career?
When I started submitting to contests, my ultimate goal was the cover letter I’d one day write, when I was ready to approach an editor about publishing a collection of my work. The CNFC/carte blanche and Room awards are accomplishments I’m very proud to include on my CV, and I hope will bring me closer to my bigger goal.
This year my world has opened up thanks to these contests. I’ve received invitations to read, which have allowed me to connect with other writers and readers in a very immediate way. Reading to an audience has permitted me to see in someone’s face how a line hits them. People sometimes approach me to tell me a bit about their own lives, and why something I’ve written has moved them. This wonderful intersection of heart and imagination has deepened my love for writing and why I think it’s so important.
What piece of advice can you offer new and emerging writers wanting to enter this year’s contest?
I wholeheartedly encourage new and emerging writers to please share their work. Your stories matter. More than one wise soul has said that without stories, we have no identity, no historical record — we don’t exist.
Moreover, the practice of submitting to contests/publications is an important part of the writing life, and essential for the work ahead. I also believe there is immense room for a multitude of diverse, as of yet, unheard voices. Enter. Don’t be shy!
Nicole Breit is a poet, essayist and all around word nerd based in Vancouver. Check out her website.
Submit to the CNFC/carte blanche contest by November 30 at midnight EST.
CNFC members can take advantage of our all-day professional photo booth at this year’s conference.
Ready for your closeup? Now’s the time! Book a headshot session with our fabulous photographer, David Griffin Whyte. David is a Calgary photographer with professional experience in the Alberta film industry. He is a graduate of a SAIT’s film program. He has travelled the world, photographing people and landscapes with passion and sensitivity.
A photography session with David will take 20 minutes. First, he will discuss what kind of headshot you are after and offer a choice of backgrounds. Then he will show you the shots and help you select one that will be edited off-site. The large file edited photo will be emailed directly to you within three weeks. It is common practice to give photo credits for headshots.
Price is $50 (partial proceeds go to the CNFC) . Only 20 spots available- sign up today.
The Creative Nonfiction Collective member conference, Writing True 12: The Roots of Story, takes place from April 21 to 24 2016* at the Banff Centre in beautiful Banff, Alberta.
This year’s conference features a keynote address by novelist, journalist, and photographer, Deni Béchard (open to the public for a $10 fee – tickets sold at the door), as well as the courageous Elly Danica, in conversation with Hal Wake, noted interviewer and the Artistic Director of the Vancouver Literary Festival.
Registration also includes presentations by Camilla Gibb, recently shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize; Heather Conn, award-winning author, writing coach, and teacher; Wade Davis, writer, anthropologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence; Trevor Herriot, renowned science writer and prairie naturalist; and James Fell, social media expert.
Participant fees include a public event with a soon-to-be-announced author, the members’ dinner, a new books by members reading, and the ever-popular, Literary Cabaret – this year, with a twist.
But it doesn’t stop there! For an additional fee, members can register for with noted creative nonfiction writers and editors including Lori A. May, Trevor Herriot, Beth Kaplan, and John Barton. Find out more details about Master Classes and how to sign up (each class is limited to 25 spots).
Register by April 4 for the very reasonable rate of $200 ($180 for students).
*The CNFC sincerely regrets having scheduled this year’s conference during Passover. We are committed to ensuring such a conflict does not occur in the future, with the goal of making the event accessible to as many members as possible.