Two Literary Journalism Alum on How the Program Changed Their Writing

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Being in the LJ program inspired me to rethink what stories I want to write…

Alexandra Kimball

Two writers from our 2015 Literary Journalism program have landed major spreads in two national publications: Alexandra Kimball in the Globe and Mail’s In Focus section (December 3) and Richard Kemick in the December issue of the Walrus. We spoke with both writers to discuss how the LJ program brings the best out of a story and how it can help writers get published in some of this country’s top non-fiction platforms:

Literary Arts: Did you come to Banff with a publisher already lined up for your story?

Richard Kemick: I wish. I would have saved myself HUNDREDS of dollars in anxiety medication if I had. 

Alexandra Kimball: I had a different publisher lined up for my story when I came to Banff. But there was a turnover in staff at that publication, and my piece got killed, so I had the chance to pitch it to a new set of magazines. Luckily, the story was already completely written, so I didn’t need to “pitch” in the traditional sense; I planned to just send the whole thing around to editors. But even more fortunately, I didn’t wind up needing to pitch.

LA: Did the LJ program give you a competitive edge when it came to publishing?

AK: The Literary Journalism program did a lot of cool stuff to help us not only get published, but think about professionalizing in the new media climate. The faculty brought in editors and writers to give talks on things like digital media, illustration, the dreaded “branding” and even public reading… By the time I got back to Toronto, two editors had contacted me and asked to see my story again. I talked to both publications and decided to publish in the Globe. 

RK: The editing process of the LJ program allows you to leave Banff with a manuscript that you really feel confident in showing to publishers. This confidence enables you to not only approach magazines and newspapers but to also keep writing long after you have left the Rockies.

LA: How did the LJ experience change your writing?

RK: Well, for starters, it certainly made it a lot better. It taught me how to better edit myself –– to see what was working and what wasn't –– and to revise accordingly…At Banff, you work with and meet professionals who are currently working in the field…Working with these individuals gives you a fantastic toe-hold in understanding the current literary climate and entering yourself into it.

AK: Being in the LJ program inspired me to rethink what stories I want to write… and so now I’m back in the game pitching and writing longform, which is admittedly tough but much more fulfilling for me.

Visit our 2016 Literary Journalism program page and apply today!

Read Alexandra Kimball’s piece, "Unpregnant: The silent, secret grief of miscarriage."

Read Richard Kemick’s piece via The Walrus, "Playing God" and also check out Richard talking about his village in the video below, created while he was here.