Tag Archives | writing

How Handwriting Can Make You Smarter

Innovations in technology continue to influence education and have a major impact on how students study and learn.

However, there are still some benefits to taking the “old school” approach. For instance, taking notes by hand can actually have a lot of positive effects.

Research shows that handwriting increases focus, improves critical thinking, and even inspires creativity. Also, getting off the computer and writing notes by hand will help limit and prevent distractions associated with being online.

GetVoIP has put together an infographic that explains these benefits and more. The infographic also features proven note-taking techniques, including linear and non-linear note-taking, Mind Mapping, and the Cornell method. While laptops and mobile devices offer convenient options for note-taking, consider taking notes by hand every so often to keep your mind sharp.

Benefits of Handwriting

Image by GetVoIP.com

This article was contributed by Andrew Dennis .

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How To Become a Successful Writer While Still in College

It may seem like a cliche, but most college kids are actually broke most of the time. Tuition costs and living expenses aren’t going anywhere, but if you’re going to school to be a writer, you’ll be happy to know that you can start making money now and build your portfolio before you have a degree in hand.

Freelance writing can be a great way to bring in funds while you’re still in school. Today we’ll look at some ways to balance your classes with your work and how to become a better writer in the process with an amazing infographic!

Being a Writer While You’re Still in College

While it may seem like you don’t have any time for work, you can find the time you need through careful planning and by choosing the right jobs to meet your needs. I’ve been writing for almost a decade now, and these are things I wished I knew back then. Here are three things you can do to start making money while you’re in college:

1. Get Experience First

You won’t be able to pick up a huge job right away, you’ll need experience. You can find plenty of opportunities on your campus, whether it be volunteer work, tutoring, or odd jobs around campus. Check to see if some of the local journalists need help with the school’s blog or newspaper.

2. Schedule Your Semester

As you schedule your classes, space things out so you know you’ll have time to pitch new ideas or pick up more work. Finding and earning work can take weeks in some cases, so you should keep your schedule flexible and open.

3. Choose Things You’re Passionate About

This may go without saying, but if you write about things you like or care about, it will flow a lot faster than trying to crank out an article on a subject you couldn’t care less about. Think about the difference between writing a story and writing a paper for class and you’ll see what I mean.

Building Your Writing Career (Infographic)

Take a look at this infographic and consider the various strategies and tools it has to offer. This information will help you find and obtain the writing jobs you want and deserve.

Image by Matt Banner

Image by Matt Banner

This article was contributed by guest author Matt Banner.

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How To Explore Your Own Voice In Writing

Image by Roco Julie, Flickr

Image by Roco Julie, Flickr

Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.

~ William Faulkner ~

Students, no matter what they study, need to deal with academic writing, whether it’s research, essays, scientific articles, or fictional pieces of writing. And it doesn’t matter if those students will become writers after they graduate. Nearly every study program presupposes writing skills development and performing writing tasks. And practically everyone in college or university has had the feeling at least once that he or she is a rather miserable writer. There are a few reasons why students think this way.

Lack of time ruins everything
How can you possibly have enough time for everything? Your to-do list includes a wide variety of tasks for each day, maybe including yoga, a book club, going out to see your friends, on top of all the work you have to do – there’s no end to it all! But you still need enough sleep to feel fresh tomorrow. How can you stay creative if your schedule is so intense? People can work intellectually only when they have enough rest, aren’t hungry, and nothing disturbs them.

Plagiarism temptation
Lack of time not only frustrates you, it can lead to other troubles as well, such as the temptation to plagiarize. If your daily routine exhausts you, you’ll probably want to spend as little time as possible doing homework assignments. Writing demands concentration you may not have after a long day, so why not use some materials from the Internet or find a paper from someone else? This is a very bad idea and a temptation you must avoid.

Plagiarism is a dangerous thing. It can be of different types, and sometimes it’s difficult for students to recognize it. You can even plagiarize by accident without knowing it! Keep both eyes open when dealing with plagiarism and check everything you write with a plagiarism checker like Unplag.com or the consequences can hit you like a ton of bricks.

Read avidly
Both fiction and non-fiction reading can provide a great boost to your writing skills. You get a chance to experience breathtaking adventures right there from your couch. And learn amazing facts. And find inspiration in the books you read. Writing is practice, while reading is learning. When reading, you’re a sponge that absorbs the writing styles of various writers and shapes your own style. There’s one little point, though: You still need to find your own “voice.”

Some writers fail to find their own voice. Instead, they get lost in other writers’ styles and at worst engage in imitation, which is actually a kind of plagiarism. Those writers who tend to copy rather than create anything original are usually treated with disrespect. It’s definitely a disappointing start.

This is what Stephen King thinks about reading and writing:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.

Will you follow a piece of advice given by one of the best writers ever?

Write often
The remedy for imitating is to have more practice. First drafts will be hard to write. Be ready to face it. But a terrible first draft is normal. It’s natural and you shouldn’t think you’ll never be good at what you do. You just have to keep at it.

Every single thing you write, each essay or research paper, takes you closer to your goal of becoming a great writer. Writing style only appears after lots of hard work. Yes, it’s going to be tough, but the best part is that the world is your oyster. Work hard and you’ll get what you strive for.

Here’s one more practical tip from Stephen King on hard work and inspiration:

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer.”

Exercises help!
If you feel unsure while writing, try some of the writing exercises mentioned below, because they really do help:

  • Freewriting. Don’t think too much about your ideas; just put down everything that comes to your mind. In the end you’ll get a text from this stream-of-consciousness technique. This exercise is a great warm-up activity. What you write may not make much or any sense at all, but that’s okay. It’s just to get you into the flow of writing.
  • Detailed description. Pick a person you know and start describing them. Try to include as many details about this person as possible, such as name, age, gender, origin, social status, religion, political views, life goals, etc.
  • Alternative point of view. Choose a story (you can take your favorite book) and choose an antagonist. Now try to tell the story from that character’s point of view. Also try picking secondary characters and write how you think they might see the story.
  • Continue dialog. Do you like catching random phrases from two talking strangers that pass you by? Start with a phrase you heard by chance, and continue it. Imagine where the conversation might go with this phrase as a starting point.
  • Mind your grammar and style. Writing basics like grammar and style should be among the things you know just well enough. A good writer is one who writes clear, grammatically correct texts. But if you want to improve your knowledge, here are some websites that will help you:
    • The University of Iowa started a website called Dr. Grammar. It provides assistance to anyone who needs a little help with grammar. Users can find dictionaries, handbooks, guides, and other helpful materials on the site.
    • Writing Forward has a convenient interface – users see separate tabs for creative writing, poetry, and grammar, along with writing tips, writing exercises, and ideas.
    • AP Stylebook is an invaluable resource for those who write, especially for students in higher education as it is a common style required for papers. Apart from consulting the stylebook, website visitors can also use the “Ask editor” option and leave a question regarding things they are interested in. AP Stylebook also has a Twitter account, and thanks to it you can receive information about updates and writing tips right in your Twitter news feed.
    • EnglishGrammar suggests a vast list of topics to check, covering business, creative and essay writing, parts of speech, full lessons, punctuation, spelling, style guide, grammar rules, and more. Lessons are downloadable, and users are also welcome to take online exercises, watch videos, and try out some helpful study tools.
    • Writer’s Digest is a cool resource to read since a great number of articles on writing are available there. Tutorials, webinars, tips, workshops, and many other niceties round out the website too, and visitors can download and enjoy all these materials any time they like.
    • Common Errors in English Usage is a collection that helps you learn more about errors and how to avoid them in your own writing. Based on this website, the book Common Errors in English Usage was also recently published.
    • Better Writing Skills gives an overview of the most critical mistakes people usually make in their writing (e.g., which vs. that, who vs. whom, who’s vs. whose, and many others). Website visitors can also take writing training courses and read training manuals for better understanding.

And as a bonus, check the list below of habits that good writers have. Maybe you’ll want to borrow some of them!

  • Read more books, manuals, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Before you start writing, brainstorm and make a plan first.
  • Note ideas right away because you’ll quickly forget them.
  • Finish everything you start.
  • Don’t be afraid to destroy drafts if they don’t satisfy you.
  • Write daily, at least a single page.
  • When writing, avoid language clichés.
  • Don’t procrastinate or extend deadlines.

As you can see, there are all kinds of ways to continue developing your writing skills, and as you do so, you’ll find your own unique writing voice.

This article was contributed by guest author Nancy Lin.

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3 Ways to Eliminate Essay Anxiety

Image by Tim Riley on Flickr

Image by Tim Riley on Flickr

We all get it. You begin to write an essay, and you start panicking. Will I have enough time to do this? Will I get a good grade? You may even procrastinate because you’re bored. In reality, it’s not that hard to write an essay. The next time you start an essay, remember the following:

1) Make it fun. Listen to music. Drink coffee or Pepsi to keep you awake. Take a break to watch YouTube videos every now and then. Keep yourself motivated.

2) Do your research. One huge contributor to essay anxiety is lack of research. When you complete the researching process, you have practically written your whole essay. You’ll know what you want to say and how you need to say it. Follow guidelines and review your notes to make sure you’re on track.

3) Ask for help beforehand. If you typically have difficulty writing essays, ask a professor for help before you begin. Complete an essay outline before asking for help so you can cover any questions you need to ask. The longer you wait, the more you may be pressed for time afterwards. You don’t want to get a bad grade because you submitted your paper late.

Never get frustrated when writing an essay. Remember to breathe. There are many ways to ace your essay, so don’t fret. You can be a good essay writer if you just try.

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15 Helpful Online Writing Tools for Students

Image by Tim Riley, Flickr

Image by Tim Riley, Flickr

A student’s life pretty much revolves around writing, whether it’s essays or narratives. We can all claim to know how to write, but not everyone can meet the accepted writing standards, or even coherently – that is why at times it is considered to be a skill that requires mastery. In connection to this, software developers came up with some tools which can be used to enhance an individual’s writing abilities. This piece will cover 15 of the most helpful online tools which students can use to improve their art.

  1. Google Docs
    This free spreadsheet, form application and web based word processor that is offered by Google allows the user to create and edit documents, while at the same time collaborating with others in real time.
  2. ReadWriteThink
    From the name, you can tell that this is not exactly one tool. It can help enhance all the three skills. The tool is perfect for high schoolers. With these interactive online writing tools, students can be helped with a number of writing tasks including: writing business letters on templates, comic creation, and practicing storyboarding skills.
  3. 3D Writer
    This simple, single minded tool can be downloaded and installed on your PC. The tool operates just like a word processing program but it is more of a “lean and mean” version. It is very helpful when it comes to creating hypertext fiction.
  4. Button Talk
    This is the MAC version of 3D Writer. What this application does best is focus on story writing. You can use the tool to explore dozens of links to use for hyperlinking. It is simple to use and can be used at a variety of education levels.
  5. Poetry Forge
    With this particular tool, poetry writing is simplified even for the students who claim to hate it. Poetry Forge comes with a number of online tools that will help you to come up with original poetry.
  6. Word counter
    Students can make the most of this tool when writing to help them count the number of times a word has been used in a document. The tool is ideal for students who have a tendency of overusing certain words.
  7. Citation machine
    This interactive web tool is designed to help students quickly and more appropriately cite their sources.
  8. Language tool
    A very effective tool that can be used to check and spot mistakes that may go unnoticed by your word processor. It detects spelling, syntax and grammar errors.
  9. Cliché finder
    At times it is hard to avoid clichés. However, if they are used in a witty way and sparingly, they can come in handy. The cliché finder helps the writer to detect all the clichés found in a document.
  10. BibMe
    Most (if not all) scholarly papers need a bibliography. Students are required to make citations of the source information that they are to include in their paper. This tool provides students with four formats: MLA, APA, Chicago or Turabian for citation.
  11. StayFocusd
    The tool helps students to maintain a clear head as they attempt to work on their assignment. Focusing for students can be hard, but StayFocusd helps by limiting the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites.
  12. Readability-Score.com
    Checking the readability of a school paper can be used to determine whether the paper fits the appropriate level of education. You certainly don’t want to be a grade 12 student with a writing level of a grade 2!
  13. MindMup
    A good number of students know how to research and come up with great concepts, but fail to execute them. MindMup is a very useful tool that helps students organize their ideas.
  14. Grammarly
    Grammarly is an online tool that is used to check for and highlight grammar mistakes for correction.
  15. Paper Rater
    Students can use the tool to check grammar, spell-check and check for plagiarism.

If the maths interest you, check out this infographic on math facts.

This article was contributed by guest author Amber Woods.

Out-of-the-Box Tips for Editing An Essay

Image by Joanna Penn, Flickr

Image by Joanna Penn, Flickr

Five letters, two syllables, the bane of every post-secondary students’ existence – what am I? That’s right, I’m The Essay.

It may come as a shock, but no one likes writing essays. No one, not even English majors. And if they say they do, they are either a) lying straight through their teeth, b) being held at gunpoint and forced to say such ludicrous things, or c) likely not 100% human and you should be wary.

If you need tips on how to write an essay without feeling like you’re losing a part of your soul in the process, make sure to check out our other article here. If you’ve managed to finish that essay and are now dancing your way to the printer thinking that you’re done, STOP, because you are about to skip a very crucial final step towards completing your essay: the editing process.

Check out these following tips on editing if you want to turn that Okay-Essay into a solid Killer one:

Finish ahead of the deadline. For you self-proclaimed procrastinators reading this, I will wait for you to stop laughing. Complete the essay without pulling an all-nighter? Crazy talk. But finishing an essay way before the due date will not only save you some precious hours of sleep that your body will thank you for later on, but it will also give you the ample time you need to reflect and review your essay properly.

Edit the content before the grammar. There is no point in breaking up that run-on sentence with a couple of commas and periods if the entire sentence itself doesn’t apply to what you’re writing about. Read the essay through first for coherency, consciously checking that all of the examples line up with the arguments, and the arguments with the overall thesis. It’s very common for your ideas to morph into something entirely different during the writing process, so take the time to make sure that everything you have written down is there for a reason.

Get a little creative with the copyediting. This is just a fancy term that basically means to edit for grammar and spelling. For this part of the editing process, there is the tried and true method of reading the essay all the way through from top to bottom. To make this method really effective, make sure to step away from your masterpiece for at least a few days or more. This ensures that you will have a fresh pair of eyes, and increases the likelihood of catching that deadly “there/their/they’re” typo (a tragic mistake that has never been committed before).

Other techniques you can try that are a little more fun are reading the essay backwards, and reading it out loud. Breaking all rules and conventions of literacy by reading from right to left is especially helpful for spell checking, as it will automatically lead your eyes to focus on each individual word. Oral dictation may sound weird, but it will aid in testing for coherency, as hearing the arguments that you’ve constructed aloud gives you a better chance of determining if it makes sense or not. Find your own voice annoying, or embarrassed to read out loud because you’re in a public place? No worries, just pop in your earphones and plug it into Google translate. Or if you’re a Mac user, this would be a good excuse to use the dictation app (and choose from a multitude of varying voices and enchanting accents, just to spice things up).

Have a friend or two take a gander. An unbiased perspective is perfect for verifying the awesomeness of your essay. This may require a few bribes of candy bars and deposits of some I-Owe-You’s for future withdrawal, but it makes a significant difference having your essays looked at by someone other than yourself. If they can find it understandable and give you positive feedback, then it increases the chances of you professor or TA feeling the same way. The more people you can sweet talk into reading your essay before submitting it, the better.

Though it can be excruciating (and I mean Dropping-That-Last-Bite-Of-Your-Favourite-Cookie-Into-Dog-Poop level of pain) to not submit what you’ve already got and have it ridden from your life forever, editing your essay is a vital last step that can make a huge difference when it comes to the marking process. It could very well be the definitive factor in moving your B essay up to an A.

So go forth, polish those essays off, and start the countdown leading towards the last essay you’ll ever have to write in your post-secondary career! We’ll be here waiting with the celebratory champagne.

Taking Notes by Hand vs. with a Laptop

Image by Tulane Publications, Flickr

Image by Tulane Publications, Flickr

Many students can’t bear to head to class without their laptop in tow. Laptops have come so far – they’re fast and light, allow you to multitask (all lecture-related activities, of course), and your notes stay neat and organized. Not like your chicken-scratch writing that stops halfway through the lecture because your pen ran out of ink.

Hold on a second – there’s a lot to be said for taking notes by hand. You’ve heard before that it’s better for studying and digesting content. Let’s examine the differences between handwriting vs. typing.

Writing by Hand

  • Less distractions. There are no other open windows, no messaging icon bouncing to get your attention. You’re not tempted to open up games or Facebook or even that next class’s assignment that’s due in 20 minutes. You’re free to just focus on the lecture.
  • It takes thought. I don’t know about you, but my typing is way faster than my writing, and it’s almost mindless. A sentence runs through my head, and suddenly it’s on the screen. It’s not the same with writing by hand – you’re physically carving every letter into your paper, and that makes it stick (at least more so than typing it).
  • There’s no fluff. Since writing by hand is considerably slower than typing, you don’t have time to scribble out every word that escapes your fast-talking professor’s mouth. Yes, this is a good thing. You’re removing all the fluff and marking down the main points – which results in more brain activity since you need to understand the concepts before you can summarize them.

Typing with a Laptop

  • It’s faster and easier. Writing by hand can be stressful, and if you’re focused, typing out your notes can be much more relaxing. Your hands don’t usually cramp as fast and there’s less of a chance of you missing out on an important point. And if you did miss something, you can just slot it in later.
  • It’s organized. You don’t need to worry about figuring out what in the world that scribble was supposed to say, your bullet points are aligned, and everything is broken out into neat sections with a bold headline – maybe you’ve even thrown a table in there. It’s a beautiful thing! Even better is using the “Find” function when studying so you don’t have to waste time searching for that one time you used that one word in that one sentence.
  • Multitasking – if you’re disciplined. Stay signed out of any kind of social media – messaging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Close your internet browser and only keep open the Word document you’re using to take notes. If your professor asks for an example, that’s the time to Google an answer to show you’re keen and paying attention! Multitasking should only be lecture-related, to enhance your understanding of the topics.

Every student has their own preference and study habits. Maybe you prefer to ingest as much information as possible right from the start with handwriting and really pulling out the core concepts from the lecture. Or maybe you prefer to type out as much as you can mindlessly and go back later to analyze the content and type out summaries when studying. My advice: test out both methods and see which works better for you!

Good Science: Why Academic Writing should be an Essential Part of any B.Sc. Degree

Science Image by Sean Loosier, Flickr

Image by Sean Loosier, Flickr

 
 
The scientist and the writer could not be more different. The former is concise and rational, while the latter often verbose and artistic. Therefore, it should not be surprising that many science students, especially at the university level, shy away from any kind of intensive writing. Others still take every measure to avoid it entirely, painstakingly building their course schedules around classes that assess performance solely based on multiple choice examinations. Though this might be an alarming fact (considering that most of these young people are studying to become our future doctors and scientific leaders) it is not really that surprising.

Speaking from experience, to excel at any scientific discipline (at least in the classroom) you learn early on that memorization and mathematics are more important than coherent prose. You get marks for what you know, not how well you communicate it. One word answers are best, bullet points are rewarded and sentences unnecessary. Beware of being stylistic or using advanced syntax; these practices are likely to lower your mark regardless of whether or not they enhance your work.

You could argue that this lack of emphasis on writing is an inherent quality of the scientific study – and you would not be wrong. The humanities and social sciences by the very nature of their subject matter not only lend themselves more easily to written evaluations, but quite often they require it. Therefore, the ability to write, and write well, is unintentionally cultivated in students of these disciplines because it is often the key to getting higher grades. Complex arguments and new insights are almost impossible to assess using multiple choice questions, whereas you don’t need an essay to confirm that a biology major knows what the genetic material is (Answer: DNA).

Though a good explanation for this anti-writing trend in science, it by no means justifies it. Writing is an essential part of our existence, especially in the modern global society. Face to face communication will only get you so far, but to really have an impact you need to be able to clearly transfer your ideas to paper. What good is all of this knowledge if you can’t communicate it in a way that will get people to sit up and take notice? Many researchers are doing brilliant work and publish incredible findings on a regular basis, but their prose is so convoluted, confusing or technical that their genius gets lost in translation.

As a result, the term “scientist” has almost become synonymous with “poor writer”. While this is by no means true of everyone pursuing this profession, it is quickly becoming a stereotype. Though not fundamentally negative, this label is not one that should be allowed to persist and I commend the various educators that are personally making an effort to remedy the situation. However, a lot of the interventions come too late. By the upper years, students have become used to a certain style of assessment and they are reluctant to change. Academic writing needs to be a priority from the start in order to allow science majors a chance to improve and gain confidence in their ability. The importance of good writing should never be an afterthought.

How to Get Involved with a University Publication

Image by VFS Digital Design, Flickr

Image by VFS Digital Design, Flickr

Becoming involved with university publications can seem intimidating and complex to high school students, even with publishing experience. This is to help students with the drive and potential to become senior editor:

Do your own research and put yourself out there. Student-run publications don’t have a big presence, and since the executive changes every year, their advertising methods change constantly. Email the publication: “How can I get involved?”

Get involved in your first year, even in a minor way. Your dreams of becoming editor of The New Yorker may not match the job description for junior copy editor at a small university publication, but you have to start somewhere. It helps if you held a position on a high school publication, such as yearbook. Senior editorial positions usually require at least several months of copy editing or related experience.

Put in the time. Go to the group meetings, launches, and events. Continual meetings can become monotonous, but those who are around the most get the most opportunities and cultivate a reputation essential to a senior position with the publication.

Many university publications have a porous creative process, meaning that students can become involved in all aspects of the publications process – writing, editing, designing, promotion, etc. Commitment is one of the biggest problems university publications deal with. One-time contributors are easy to come by, but not many students want to dedicate themselves to an ongoing role in a publication. Therefore highly involved students will usually have a hand in each aspect of the publication. A design editor might contribute a few articles, or a writer might make illustrations, for instance.

Keep your goals in sight. Student publications are meant to be platforms for opinions and originality, but can sometimes stopper with unoriginality. Continue to offer up new ideas, challenge platitudes, and keep a record of your work.

Need some writing experience? Email info@students.org with your resume.

Writing With A Law Degree: The Case For Law School

Image by pixabay.com

Image by pixabay.com

On Tuesday, April 29th, 2014, the University of Toronto Law Faculty Alumni gathered at 155 College St. to listen to a panel of three alumni authors: Kate Hilton, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Andrew Pyper. Justice Rosalie Abella, also a U of T law alumnus, mediated the discussion. Their topic of discussion: How does having a law degree influence a writer?

In the past few years, an outcry has populated the media: “Don’t go to law school!” This outcry has been accompanied by statistics urging students to save their time and money, and apply elsewhere. Employment rates for law graduates have dropped. Law graduates are in an employment rut, and potential law students are discouraged from applying to law schools. In March 2013, Time named the law graduate situation a “near-depression-level job market.” A month later, U of T law graduate Kate Hilton self-published her first book, The Hole in the Middle, to critical acclaim.

Accordingly, during the panel, neither Hilton nor her two fellow panelists said they regret their law degree. Instead, they said their law degree equipped them with skills that aid their writing career. In Time’s depression-level job market, these three authors created their own employment. Of course, potential law students should take their success under advisement; each case is unique. But as discussed by Hilton, Kay, and Pyper, a law degree has its uses outside employment in the legal profession. The skills law school cultivates can be applied to any profession requiring methodology, intelligent research, the creation of logical arguments, and general mental discipline. Hilton says that the long hours she spent studying and researching cases helped her develop a mental rigour that she continues to apply to her current work.

Writing, especially in the world of fiction, is a natural extension of the skills required to succeed in law school. Crafting an argument from existing laws is difficult, but crafting a fictional narrative containing multiple storylines, which are themselves logical arguments, from scratch is perhaps even more demanding; especially demanding if the author is working without motivation from an employer, client, or business partners. Authors must self-motivate.

Despite the organic applicability of law school skills to writing, no profession is perfect: all three authors agreed that it is generally impossible to make a decent living as a writer. Writing is decadent, an indulgence. Without a strong readership, a rich spouse, or steady day job, the pen alone cannot forge a living.

Hilton, Kay, and Pyper all agreed that social media is a necessary evil for the modern author – particularly Twitter. Hilton says she soon acclimatized to Twitter after her agent convinced her it was a necessary tool to maintain a strong fan base. Hilton is the newest and least experienced of the three authors, having self-published her first book last year. Middle merited such an enthusiastic response from readers that HarperCollins Canada republished the book later that year. Hilton’s self-published start differs from Kay’s, who started his writing career with an agent.

Kay, a fantasy and historical fiction writer, has a consistent international following, and by this token is able to scrape a living. He is the only panel author to have published a series (his first was The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy). During the reception after the panel, Kay’s autograph line was obviously the longest. In Kay’s undergraduate, he sold the first three chapters of The Summer Tree as a trilogy deal through his agent. He immediately flew to Greece and bought a used typewriter upon arrival. Hence, the Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy was born, and Kay’s writing career began. Given the economic differences between 1987 and present-day Europe, Kay’s manual Grecian method is not financially possible for today’s broke writers; even with newly earned book deal cash.

Andrew Pyper also has a noteworthy following which is admittedly more glamorous than either Kay’s or Hilton’s. Pyper has written five novels, two of which are being adapted into feature films. Pyper started strong with his first full novel, The Lost Girls, which made his name in 2000 and is set for release as a feature film this year. The film rights for his new book, The Demonologist, have already been sold to Universal Pictures. Pyper and Justice Abella discussed an incident in the ‘90s where he helped push a car blocking Margaret Atwood’s parking space. Atwood had parked in a covetous professor’s parking spot on a visit to U of T, under invitation from Justice Abella, and had been suspiciously blocked in by another car. Justice Abella always remembered the incident, but until then, the panel had not known who the helpful, muscled youth was who helped free Atwood’s car (a photo of Atwood and Pyper moving the car can be found on Pyper’s website bio).

The panel concluded that a law degree does not aid a writer’s ability to gouge a living out of the tough economy – some aspects of success are pure luck – although it does give you the tools to write a convincing novel. However, a law degree is not useless. Writing a novel requires more than commitment to an idea. It requires a methodical approach and the capacity to execute that methodology. To fabricate a fictional universe operating under fictional laws and featuring fictional narratives requires discipline.

The mental discipline required to complete law school, especially at a high caliber institution such as U of T, endows a law student with a lifelong capacity for self-discipline. A control that can be applied to many fields, including writing.