From suspenseful reads to literary tweeds…
Evelyn Lau, Poet Laureate for Vancouver, shared her time and smiles to a group of aspiring writers at Trout Lake for the Summer Dreams Literary Festival 2012. Runaway: Diary of a Teenage Street Kid, published in 1989, was the memoir which initially catapulted her to fame. She appears much younger than her age, has a clear complexion, a naturally rouged, large pout and round eyes. Evelyn laughed at the lack of physical energy that age brings, but she more than made up for it in her quick wit and eloquent speech. The unpolished runaway is long gone.
One writer claimed that there are now entire sections to memoirs of prostitutes, strippers and other ill-reputed professions in bookstores. Perhaps, her fame was timely. Evelyn told us that poetry is written for love of the craft much more than for money. She was surprised to hear that some magazines pay for prose as she said none pay for poetry. Her books on poetry have sold low amounts, which is standard in the industry, she quietly commented; we were shocked. Poetry is more time-consuming than prose, which is also something to consider. She joked about another writer she knows who now only writes fiction and states that she doesn’t have enough time to write poetry.
I asked Evelyn whether it is more advantageous to digitally self-publish, submit to contests or to submit to magazines. She said that the honour of winning a contest is well-respected, but the competition is fierce. Evelyn brought some literary magazines to distribute and told us to seek anthologies to send work to. On a sad note, she said that it is very unlikely that you will get published as a new writer with no previous publishing credits of any sort. Few know that she had 50 pieces of work published before Runaway was. In the industry, self-publishing is becoming more respected although initially, it was not. I was recently reading the projections of self-publishing, and I believe that the competition may get ugly here as well.
Evelyn fulfils her role as Poet Laureate; you can truly feel her desire to give back and mentor. In the end though, like Peter Straub has said, it is all about the work. The power of the work is what matters. Write, write, write and read, read, read. Lastly, be uninhibited with your first draft, let your mind freely go where it wanders. You can always edit it out later yourself or with an editor. There is magic in this.