The Art Fantastic, Part 1

Last week I was supposed to start a writing workshop at Grant MacEwan on fantasy writing. The teachers were Barbara Galler-Smith, novelist and editor at On Spec magazine, and Ann Marston, novel and short story writer. Of course I was excited to take a class with these accomplished writers. Their biographies read like my professional wish list, but there was some else about them that drew me.

Both Ms. Galler-Smith and Ms. Marston are based in my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. I wanted – needed – to pick their brains on how an emerging fantasy writer works in Edmonton, who she talks to, which publishers she considers, what kind of writing jobs she does on the side to earn a living, where she goes for inspiration, and other such questions. Having not one, but two successful fantasy writers to talk to once a week (about my slowly-developing book!) seemed too good to be true.

As it often goes in life, this is because it was too good to be true. The class was cancelled days before the start date due to low enrolment. Thus my Gaiman-loving, Pratchett-fawning, Tolkien-ogling, Nix, Martin, and Kay-admiring heart was broken.

I have taken creative writing classes, non-fiction and professional writing classes, but I have never taken a fantasy writing class beyond one afternoon spent in the basement of the Stanley A. Milner Library with, as it turns out, some of Ms. Galler-Smith’s coworkers at On Spec. I was the youngest attendee at the workshop (in the eleventh grade), and had no concept of what it meant to create a world or characters, or how to structure a novel. I had a passion for it, certainly, but I was not a writer, not even an aspiring one, yet.

Now that I had a degree, some experience, and an idea behind me, I was really looking forward to sharing my creations, my musings, even my fears in an environment of other fantasy writers. I specify fantasy writers because, even though I have had good experiences in general fiction-writing classes, there are certain things about fantasy writing that only those who appreciate, read, and/or write the genre can understand or offer guidance for. And I’m sure this is true of all genre writing; what works as a trope in science fiction may not be widely appealing elsewhere.

I’m just saying that I was looking forward to being in a class where no one blinked at me and said in a vague sort of tone, “So… it’s like Lord of the Rings?”

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