Pretty cool to be SPOTLIGHTED as a Manitoba author by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild this month. It feels like not long ago I debated whether I would be called an “author” or not.
In July I will provide a workshop on writing non-fiction.
Spotlight by the MWG
BOB CHRISMAS, PhD
What’s your genre?
My writing lane was academic, having learned to write mostly through my grad studies, working through my Master Public Administration and then later my PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies. One of my professors had suggested why not publish papers you write for course assignments? It sent me on a whole new publications path. I found though, over the years, that I really preferred writing literature for formats that had a chance of reaching a broader audience. Articles and opinion pieces seemed fulfilling. With over 40 journal articles, several book chapters, and many other smaller pieces I had always wondered about fiction.
Then the pandemic came and I found myself locked down in my home office for several weeks, with that fictional story that I’d been mulling for some time. I didn’t have the details but the general idea was there. It would be a story to raise awareness about sex trafficking in Canada and would draw on my PhD research and over 30 years of policing experience. I viewed several online courses on writing fiction, and YouTube videos that are available for free by the truckload and started to learn about writing fiction. I ordered some classics that are regarded as some of the best written and Amazon brought them right to my door. The biggest difference, I found, was that the fictional story shows more than tells the story.
Once I started writing it, I fell in love with having the freedom to make the story. I was able to highlight the aspects I felt important and describe them with emotion that I felt less of in my non-fiction writing. My first fictional book, The River of Tears was born. I’ll call it literary fiction, because I tried to get into the heads of the protagonists and the challenges that families of missing persons face. I tried to describe dynamics around missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and police-Indigenous relationships in Canada.
When it came time to publish, I started to reach out with proposals and started to receive the usual round of rejections. Then I came across a press that specializes in academic peer reviewed non-fiction with a focus on progressive socially-just publishing. I sent DIO Press a proposal and said I know you do not publish fiction, but I feel this might fit your imprint. They agreed and said they were breaking into fiction.
The two lessons I learned and wish to share with you are as follows. First, don’t get stuck in one genre. Do what your heart desires and see where it takes you. You might not have found your strongest voice if you have not experimented with multiple genres. The second lesson is to not restrict yourself from publishing houses or venues you think might not be interested. Put yourself out there and let them tell you if your work fits their imprint.