The UTM Scribes organized a publishing event last Wednesday, hosting author Carrianne Leung—best known for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards Finalist Wondrous Woo. Leung, who is also the Student Success Coordinator, Academic Initiatives, for the Office of Student Transition at UTM, spoke to students about publishing, understanding how agents work, writing query letters, and her journey as a writer.

Leung said she has always been a writer and has been writing since she was a child. She, however, did not decide to write her first novel until after she earned her Ph.D. “It’s such a big journey,” she said regarding the process of starting to write and learning about the publishing industry.

Leung discussed her difficulty getting published with an agent saying that her “first book sat for three years.” According to the Wondrous Woo author, there is a higher likelihood of writers publishing independently than to have an agent, as 80 per cent of Canadian writers do not have agents. Leung assured students that they do not need to go through an agent to become published as there are always the options of self-publishing and publishing through smaller houses.

Although getting an agent can be tedious, it has benefits, such as providing representation on your behalf to publishers, negotiating contracts, and attaining international rights. In contrast, independent publishers take more chances on new and upcoming authors, and there are many opportunities for independent publishing in Canada.

Querying is another important aspect of becoming a published author, according to Leung. The student success coordinator explainsed that a query is essentially your “elevator pitch” and should be very short and to-the-point. Important elements of a successful query letter would include details about what makes your book different from others, elements of genre, and word count.

Leung boasted the importance of connecting to other writers and joining a group. “It’s important to have a community of writers, to go and listen to readings, and to get to know people.” There are many opportunities, as Leung described, to become acquainted with other fellow writers such as through literary festivals, writing clubs, and writing in literary journals or magazines. “Meet as many people as you can,” she emphasized.

Students were interested in learning about Leung’s journey and personal writing process. She ultimately feels that she writes for herself, “If I don’t love it, then there’s no point for me to do it. I think if I were to write with an audience in mind, it would freak me out.”

All writers are unique, as Leung noted, and have different methods of becoming successful in their craft. According to her, she needs time to write and she encourages that practice makes perfect. “I need to block time off to write. I’ve stayed in hotel rooms over the weekend to write.” As a writer who also has a full-time career and family, Leung urges the importance of finding the time to write, “Writing is not something that gets valued a lot—time to write is really precious”. The author also encouraged students by saying, “If you feel compelled to write, that’s the gift you get to share with the world”.

Leung is anticipating the release of her next book titled “That Time I Loved You,” which is set to be released in March 2018 by Harper Collins Canada, and has recently been added to CBC’s list of fiction to read in 2018.

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