This semester, students in Trias Writer-in Residence Jeff VanderMeer’s writing class received a multifaceted exposure to the publishing industry and a rare glimpse into the life of a professional writer when they accompanied the noted author and his wife, award-winning editor Ann VanderMeer, to Toronto for the International Festival of Authors.
“I’m a big believer in focusing on the art and craft of fiction writing in the classroom, but also giving students a wider picture outside of the classroom–one that also provides them a view of writing as a calling and a career,” says VanderMeer, who this fall sold Paramount the rights to his novel “Borne.”
The students joined VanderMeer as he led a writing workshop at the University of Toronto, served as a panelist on the future of social media, and delivered a presentation on global warming and storytelling in the modern era – the subject of a nonfiction book he is presently writing.
Additionally, the students attended exclusive meetings that the VanderMeers arranged with prominent members of the Canadian book world. Jared Bland, former books editor for The Globe & Mail, now the publisher at McClelland & Stewart, Canada’s oldest independent publisher, discussed the process by which books are acquired and published. The students also spoke with VanderMeer’s agent, Sally Harding, and foreign-rights agent, Ron Eckel, from the Toronto-based Cooke Agency.
“Sally and Ron, along with Jared, gave the group a three-dimensional view of everything the writer will encounter from the book being taken on by the agent, through the sale to an editor, through publication of the book,” says VanderMeer.
For many students, a highlight of the trip was the chance to talk with Emma Donoghue, author of the critically-acclaimed, best-selling novel “Room,” who answered questions about her work. The students also met Donoghue’s and VanderMeer’s editor, Harper Collins Canada Executive Publisher and Vice President Iris Tupulhome, who offered her perspective as one of the most powerful women in Canadian publishing today.
Daniel Costello ’17 says the trip was meaningful for many reasons and inseparable from the larger impact VanderMeer has left during his residency.
“Being able to converse with such prominent and talented writers who have reached the ultimate level of success aids in making goals in that field palpable,” Costello says. “Jeff was so accommodating, and again, the level of respect with which he works with students, both on campus and on this trip, truly speaks to his admirable and humble outlook on his incredibly talented craft.”