Updated: Feb 23
by Joy Van Stralen
Today’s blog post will be a little different. The Writing Academy administration asked me, a Writing Academy graduate, to provide an insight into someone who graduated but did not go on to publication. I did complete a manuscript during my year with the WA, but I never completed revisions nor submitted the book for publication.
Some reading this may question why take the class, a year-long commitment, if you don’t go on to publication. I had dreams of publication, and I still do. Not with that manuscript, and maybe not a full novel, but some publication. I have had several submissions in anthologies and really enjoy writing short stories. And I still write, about as much as I used to, which wasn’t a lot, to be honest, and tends to go in fits and bursts. I also have a habit of starting a story and not finishing it.
Writing is an artistic expression. For every painting hanging in a gallery, there are countless sketches and discarded works that will never been seen. A carver has a box or shelf of half-finished carvings. A quilter has a drawer of WIP – works in progress. Each instance is a piece of learning, development of craft.
The Writing Academy changed me. Before the academy, I said I want to be a writer. During my time with the WA, I learned I am a writer. A writer’s legitimacy is not determined only by works published but by works written. Van Gogh spent his life painting but wasn’t recognized until long after his death. He painted for the love of painting, always learning more and enhancing his skills.
The writing academy exposed me to the craft of writing, in the comfort of a women-loving-women environment. Back then, students and instructors weren’t on video, but if we had been, the entire class would have seen the happy smile on my face every time an instructor used “she” as the example in her lecture. I hadn’t been aware of how male-centric my education had been prior to that class. It was the first time I didn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about my chosen subject material. I was free to write and talk about lesbian stories.
I recommend the Writing Academy to anyone interested in writing and enhancing their skills, for whatever reason. I graduated in 2016 and still use what I learned today. I have taken other courses and will continue to take classes that catch my interest. I am working on a story – I won’t call it a book yet – and have a number of other stories I’m working on. Some of these stories are catalogued into a writing folder, some I use to fall asleep at night, taking my characters on an adventure as I slip into dreamland. Will some of these stories end up published? I’m not eliminating the possibility but I’m also not going to stop writing just because they might not get published.
Joy Van Stralen lives in the interior of British Columbia with her wife and their cat, Lordo Gordo. An avid mucker-abouter, Joy dabbles in a lot of things that pique her interest. When she comes across something excellent, she sticks to it, which is how she became the Writing Academy video manager years ago.
Joy graduated from the academy in 2016. She has since published stories in anthologies and is still working on the novel she started in the WA. She believes in the J.R.R. Tolkien approach to writing which means she still has 13 years before she will unleash her masterpiece.
In her spare time, Joy crochets, woodworks, writes love poems, hikes the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, and binge watches Midsomer Murders.
**“Stories Matter” photo courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood