How much moola does a Canadian writer make?

Well, that’s a question, along with two others involving my age and my weight, that I always hesitate to answer.  Make-Money-Writing


I can say honestly that as a writer I certainly do not make the 2010 average for female Canadians.

But I make a living by augmenting my writing with other work, and I have a very rich life.  I travel extensively to tour or to work as a writer in residence.  Being an author has taken me back and forth across Canada and Canada’s North, to a number of states, across the pond to Helsinki, Finland; Bern, Switzerland; Istanbul, Turkey; and farther east to Hanoi, Vietnam and Doha, Qatar.  There have been many, many moments in my teaching and presenting career on which one cannot place a price tag.  I have been delighted and awestruck and humbled by encounters with readers, fans and eager younger and older writers.

WillWriteForFoodIt is, however, nice to eat.  I highly recommend such a practice.  Have you seen the price of food these days?

Others have weighed in on the reality of the Canadian author’s income.  Lesley Kenny’s excellent article, “Canadian Fiction Writers’ Average Income: reality cheque please!” (alas, in the officially defunct Descant magazine) is one such example. Even self-published authors have it tough as Alison Flood soberly notes in her Guardian article“Stop the press: half of self published authors earn less than $500.”  And in an earlier blog, I cited Camilla Gibb’s honest, if depressing, account, “The more you write, the less you make,” from a recent issue of the Globe and Mail.

All of this is glum stuff.  But I assure you there are creative ways to make a living as a writer.  Here are some ideas:

i.  Find another something to do to pay the bills.  Maybe you are a good copywriter, editor, blogger, social media writer, proofreader, event planner, publicist, newsletter editor…  Perhaps you write a mean brochure or a cookbook or textbook… Spread your wings and branch out with your writing, perhaps even as a freelancer.

of course, this may necessitate that you

ii.  Get another degree or diploma to complement (not consume) your life as a writer.  You might consider marketing and communications (MacEwan and U of A have some excellent programs), teaching, ESL teaching, or training in technical/ scientific writing.

iii. Pitch your writing to magazines – small, larger, largest, print and online.  Get some publication credits and make a few bucks on the side.

iv.  Once you have some publication cred, you’ll be eligible to apply for grants.  Apply for grants!  Learn how to write them and then write them well.  Submit!  Grants may be a lottery, but you don’t receive if you don’t try.  (Some sources to tap:  Alberta Foundation for the Arts, any Emerging Artists’ grants – at creative writing colleges or provincial organizations, Edmonton Arts Council).

v. Get paid when your work is photocopied or in library circulation.  Any Canadian who has published anything (even if it’s just a one-page article in a local paper) can apply to be a creator through Access copyright, or any Canadian who has a book in a Canadian library is eligible for Public Lending Right dollars (based on the number of “hits” of your book in libraries searched by the PLRC).  As Anna Humphrey wisely espouses about Access Copyright: “once a year, using a formula which, very roughly speaking, involves the number of pages you’ve published, relative to the number of pages other creators have published, divided by the total amount of money they collected, they send you a cheque. Is it a lot of money? No, not really. But depending on how extensively you’ve published, you can generally expect at least $100-$200 or more a year and that, my friend, is a lot more than you were getting before you knew about this. So go to their website today. Join! It’s free.”

vi.  Get paid for presenting.  Check out what others are charging according to their experience and numbers of books published, and then charge a presentation or workshop fee, according to your level of expertise and profile as an author.  Register with an organization like Authors Booking Service.  For more detail, see Anna Humphrey’s excellent blog, “101 Ways to Make Money as a Canadian Writer.

vii.  Put on an event(s).  Invite other artists, musicians, writers to participate.  Charge a modest fee.  Share the door.  Build a profile.  Have a ton of fun!

So yes, there are lots of naysayers and doomsdayers out there.  On my dark days, I crawl into the fetal position and bemoan the state of Canadian publishing and the perils of poverty as an author in this country.

But we have agency.  We have choice.

We could throw up our hands in despair or we could place them at the keyboard and keep writing.  That is what I choose to do.


If you have any wise ideas for making a living as a writer, please share!


Writing Quote: “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.” – Robert Graves, poet and novelist (1895-1985)

Writing Tip:  Put aside thoughts of fame and fortune.  As Michael Crichton famously said, “when you start to think, Will this sell?, that’s death.”  Focus on the writing, writing, writing!

Writing Prompt:  Write a poem using three of the following words: euphoria, susurration, bruise, opine.



Build-a-Book (for poets)

This is going to be a GREAT event, I can already tell. In collaboration with the Edmonton Poetry Festival, we are putting on a practical chapbook-making soiree for poets in the MakerSpace at the Stanley A. Milner library.

Build-A-Book (for poets)

Have you ever thought of compiling some of your poems into a chapbook? Learn how with fellow poets at a practical book-making course in the Edmonton Public Library’s Makerspace. In this free, collaborative seminar, participants will learn how to self-publish their work using the EPL’s state-of-the-art Espresso Book Machine. Watch the book-making process first-hand during the session as we publish a slim anthology of participants’ poems. Participants will also have a chance to read some of their work.

Registration required. Submit your poem for inclusion in our anthology by April 16th to the Writer-In-Residence, Elizabeth Withey. Email

Register HERE: Build-A-Book

This Sunday March 29…let’s talk historical writing, memoir, journalism

If you’re intrigued by the research that comes with historical writing, memoir, and journalism, consider attending this free event on Sunday afternoon with Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, pictured below.

Not Just the Facts: Spinning Stories from History, Memoir, and Journalism

EPL Writer-In-Residence Elizabeth Withey sits down for a fireside chat with Historian Laureate Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, author of Polar Winds and For the Love of Flying, to discuss their wide-ranging experiences of researching and writing nonfiction. From interviews to oral histories, personal essay to popular history, they will share tips and tricks and a lot of hard-won knowledge. This will be followed by a short private tour of the Heritage Reading Room.

When Sunday, March 29, 2015 2pm
Where Stanley A. Milner Library (Program Room – main floor, west of MakerSpace)

Spring is Sprung!

One of my favourite tributes to spring by e.e. cummings:

in Just-
spring      when the world is mud-muddyboots
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles      far      and wee

and eddyandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far       and       wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and


balloonMan       whistles

This work is in the Public Domain: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Here’s an interesting article about e.e. cummings by Susan Cheever.

A beautiful piece, “Spring,” by Muscovite musician Irina Bragina.

Writing Quote: “People who can’t afford to have writer’s block don’t get it.  That tells you everything you need to know about writer’s block.” – Marshall J. Cook, professor emeritus, Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Writing Tip:   Start your work by asking a question and then trying to answer it.

Writing Prompt:  Consider spring: its sights, smells, wonders, disappointments.  What does spring cleaning imply beyond the obvious?


Steam Your Punk – World Building for SpecFic


Steampunk, Fantasy and Sword—or Light Sabre—Play

March 10, 2015 | 7:00 – 8:30 pm | Strathcona County Library

World building is serious stuff to the writers of speculative fiction (SF). Just think of the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien or Ursula K. Le Guin, who spent years dreaming up their respective fictional worlds of Middle Earth and Earthsea, replete with characters, languages, flora, fauna, varying cultures, ideologies and religions. Whether you’ve a penchant for dystopic zombies, otherworldly hell-fiends or steam-run vampire automatons, come examine the essential toolkit for fantasy world building.


Bio pic_KerriKerri Campbell

Kerri Campbell is an aspiring fantasy writer living in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She’s a graduate from the Applied Bachelor of Communications and Professional Writing at MacEwan University, and is currently working towards a second degree in Bachelor of Communication Studies, also from MacEwan University. When she can, Kerri volunteers with YouthWrite®, a camp for kids who love to write…just about anything©, where she helped design and edit YouthWrite’s 2013 and 2014 magazine anthologies. For fun, Kerri daydreams and builds worlds for her stories. After all, reality is overrated.

Natasha Retribution CropNatasha Deen

Literacy advocate and author, Natasha Deen and her family moved to Canada to escape the racial violence and political unrest of Guyana, South America.  Often the only mixed-race child in the class, Natasha’s childhood experiences come through in her work. Her books mix action with humour and the power of self, and feature strong female and male characters. She is published in a variety of genres and has written for children, teens, and adults. In 2013, she was the inaugural Regional Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Library Federation.

Tyler EnfieldTyler Enfield

Tyler Enfield is the award-winning author of the Wrush novel series, as well as the upcoming teen-novel, Madder Carmine, due out October 1, 2015. Tyler is also writer/director of the interactive film Invisible Worlds, produced by the National Film Board, and part of the Rasterverse team, which is developing a six-episode animation series. His photography show, Ghosts of Jerusalem, is on exhibition at the Enfield Gallery.

Cathlpw1989een Rootsaert

Cathleen Rootsaert is an award-winning playwright and improviser who moved into the world of game writing. She has worked with EA/BioWare in Edmonton since 2008 where she wrote for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.  Aside from producing her own work, she has written for many of Edmonton’s theatres, CBC-Radio and CBC-TV, and she is a regular improviser and director at Die-Nasty, the improvised soap opera and a member of Hey Ladies! the improvised live talk show series.


Writing Quote: “I never write exercises, but sometimes I write poems which fail and call them exercises.” – Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

Writing Tip:   For each of the characters in a story you are currently writing, create a “fact sheet” in which you list as much as you know about the character.  Begin with obvious facts like gender and age, then go on to include such info as a favourite TV program, attitude to self, long-range goals.  Find out how far you can go before you begin to discover aspects of your characters that remain unknown to you.  Search through the known facts for clues to the unknown. – from A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins

Writing Prompt: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Read more:  Best First Lines of Novels

Freedom to Read 2015


I was pleased to participate in two Freedom to Read events in Metro Edmonton on Saturday. One was a reading of excerpts from banned/challenged books at the Woodcroft branch of EPL. The other was a dazzling soiree of music, readings, and flapper pie (!!) out at the Strathcona County Library, organized by our Regional Writer-In-Residence (who can sing!). Here’s a picture that poet and photographer Shawna Lemay took of me reading from Margaret Laurence’s A Jest of God. Thanks to Shawna (who works at Woodcroft) and RWIR Gail Sidonie Sobat for inviting me to participate in the events. Twas fun rubbing shoulders with a whole bunch of writers and musicians, too.

AUTHORPALOOZA #3 – Join me and three other great writers!

On March 11, 2015, it’s AUTHORPALOOZA #3, featuring Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries Writer in Residence, Gail Sidonie Sobat, apocalyptic novelist Eileen Bell, crime novelist SG Wong,  and zombie novelist Cunnamedraig DiLouie!

It’s a live talk-show, with U of A Writer in Residence, Minister Faust, interviewing four authors for 15 minutes each on the craft and the business of writing. If you’re a writer and want to get ahead, or if you just loving writing, COME ON OUT!

And if you’re a spoken word performer, stick around for the $200 IN PRIZES that the great folks at Devaney’s Irish Pub will be handing out!

AUTHORPALOOZA & Open Stage             Devaney’s Irish Pub                                                                                                    11113 – 87 Avenue, Edmonton                                                                          Wednesday, March 11, 7 – 9 p.m.