Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Writing Tips (Tips Also Appreciated)

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Writing Tips (Tips Also Appreciated)

1. It’s now or never or you’ll have to wait for the sublime to hit you, which might take centuries, or seconds, so might as well start now.

2. Write for no other place than heart—and not only out of the heart's pain or confusion or anger or reaction or fantasy, but its capacity for tenderness and happiness.

3. See life's “situations” as launching pads towards new ways of seeing and good places to start writing from.

4. Vision over vocation—to focus on what you can do now with what you have been given and work towards what you’d like to see.

5. Not be afraid to step away sometimes, to refresh and revisit; be the neighbour that brings sugar over each day as an excuse to change the frequencies/scenery of a self-serving, solitary world. Realize the beauty of reunion with your own familiar work, and the value of taking the time to see things anew.

6. See rejection not as disgrace but as an indication that you care to put yourself “out there,” that you desire, you envision, you understand that the poem/story is never done and that the idea of the writerly process can never be otherwise.

7. Look for the wisdom that comes from living on the outskirts of commonality.

And you don’t necessarily have to take my word for it: so many strong writers have written on ways to “work” the craft: Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments, Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for a great story, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs/techniques, and (dear to my heart) Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing overall, which ends on a bittersweet but important note.

It helps from time to time to hear other writers out before you delve back into your own project(s). I would love to hear tips and ideas from others—feel free to email me your thoughts!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Adebe DeRango-Adem

Adebe DeRango-Adem is a writer and doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in various North American sources, including Descant, CV2, Canadian Woman Studies and the Toronto Star. She won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate. Her debut poetry collection, Ex Nihilo, was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She is also the co-editor, alongside Andrea Thompson, of Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out. She was recommended by current Poet Laureate of Canada George Elliott Clarke as a young black "writer to watch".

You can write to Adebe throughout March at

Go to Adebe DeRango-Adem’s Author Page