emerge 15 Now Available!

emerge 15 enjoyed a successful launch on October 15th, and is now available for your perusal!

TrSFU TWS emerge15ade paperback copies of the book can be found* at:

The e-book is also available through:

From everyone at The Writer’s Studio 2015, we thank you for your support!


Interview with Janet Fretter, Managing Editor of emerge 15

What’s tougher than herding cats? Herding writers. Janet Fretter should know: she’s the Managing Editor of emerge 15. What’s the job? Well, the Managing Editor’s key responsibility is to hold the reins and communicate to ensure the student teams are able to fulfill their tasks and everyone meets the deadlines. Not an easy task. Let’s learn about Janet as editor, writer, host, and active part of the writers’ community here in Vancouver.

You’ve worked on emerge multiple times. How many times have you been Managing Editor? What do you enjoy about the process and what keeps you coming back? 

What keeps me coming back? There’s a list, of course. I enjoy getting to know each cohort of emerging writers, keeping that connection with the spirit of discovery and personal growth that is palpable in The Writer’s Studio. Working with our publisher, Andrew Chesham, is something I look forward to each year. He is highly organized, detail-oriented, and infinitely patient. And he’s always on the lookout for ways to improve both the learning experience—the elective itself—and the final product, the anthology. Andrew’s openness to innovation keeps the experience fresh each year. Ultimately the emerge elective is billed as a course on book production. I’m a bit geeky about books as physical objects, so I enjoy watching the anthology take shape each year, culminating in the celebration of the launch event we’ll enjoy this week!

You’re a graduate of The Writer’s Studio. Can you tell us about your experience while there?

Yes, I’m a graduate of The Writer’s Studio (2013, fiction). My TWS experience was transformational. After years of writing in isolation, I learned the value of being part of community through the workshop experience. It emboldened me to take risks with my writing, go deeper. And I gave myself a challenge: any writing-related endeavours I was asked to participate in, no matter how far outside my comfort zone, the answer would be yes. I call it The Sink or Swim School of Learning. I recommend it—with one proviso: eventually one needs to develop focus, while remaining open to opportunities.

You were a host for the monthly SFU TWS Reading Series at the Cottage Bistro. What can you tell us about that experience and what you have learned? 

My year as co-host of the TWS Reading Series has just wrapped up. I’m a big proponent of public reading as part of process. It’s helpful to test material on a live audience. Even though the listening experience is different than the reading experience, the audience will give the writer/reader an indication of what’s working in a piece, and sometimes what’s not. I really enjoyed seeing current TWS students (and alumni) testing their wings, and being met with the support and encouragement of great audiences. It was great to build connections with other writers who filled the playbill each month, including a series of poets and writers who featured for us from the larger literary community. I will miss working with my co-host Wendy Barron (TWS 2014), but I’m delighted that Shazia Hafiz Ramji (TWS 2015) has stepped into my role. It’s bound to be a great season ahead.

What projects are you working on currently?

Currently I am revising some short stories. I have had a bit of a crazy year but am finally able to get back to submitting pieces for publication. I have two that I will shop around shortly and many that need revision/completion. I’m also playing with personal essay as a form. And I have a novel in progress that’s doing drawer time. I am looking for a way to fall back in love with that project. My main challenge at present is to focus on completion. I tend to start new pieces before I’ve completed others, which keeps the generative muscles supple but atrophies the long-haul revision muscles.

What advice do you have for future TWS students working on their submissions for emerge?

Future TWS students working on their submissions for emerge would do well to start thinking about it early in their Studio year. I think the best mindset to approach the challenge with is to consider the submission like a snapshot in time of one’s writing: it isn’t going to be the ultimate measure of where you land as a writer, but it’s a reflection of where you were at this stage of your writing. In other words, it doesn’t “all end here.” I’ve seen some pretty anxious writers get close to obsessing over their pieces. My best advice would be to choose a piece of the appropriate word count that you’ve work-shopped and polished in the first quarter of the year, and then to relax with the process.

Is there a question you wish someone would ask you as a writer and a supporter of the arts?

I warm to the topic of the importance of the arts to education and life. It’s one of my “soapbox subjects,” sparking some pretty impassioned opinions. It saddens me to see the arts be the first to fall under the axe of budget cuts in most educational systems. The arts enable us to make sense of our world, to explore other cultures, to grow empathy. Never was that more critical to a people than now.

Writing Spaces Part 2: Beyond the Room: The Mental Space of Writing

So you have a great writing room. But is having physical writing space enough to get your mind to focus? Even after I’ve parsed out this space for myself, settling down to write can be an uphill battle.

Physical space sometimes isn’t enough: you need to foster mental space as well.


A lot of us work best under pressure. It’s a product of procrastination—that burst of energy that takes over and powers you through is a tantalizing writing high. Once you’ve tasted that energy, it can be hard to work outside those sweetly pressurized circumstances. But, ultimately, it’s an unreliable habit to get into, and no way to build a sustainable writing career.

So how do you train yourself out of it?

timed writing

I started small: timed writing. Short, sweet. Mostly painless.

Block out writing time: start with short five-minute bursts, growing eventually to twenty-minute segments. Now you’re officially on the clock! You have a deadline. Not of words or pages, but of commitment and focus. Once I got used to that, I built up to three twenty-minute segments one after the other. These segments are just long enough for me to really dig into a thought and just short enough to allow me to resurface for a stretch and a sip of coffee before diving back in.

It’s training yourself for that valuable “butt-in-seat” time.

Need something tangible to mark your timed segments?

Using your sense of hearing is an effective way to focus your mindset and immerse yourself in your goal.


I am not ashamed to admit all the crutches I need to get myself writing!

I use MyNoise.net to give myself the mental seclusion necessary to write. MyNoise.net is a free online noise-generator of background-noise-cancelling, atmosphere-building noises. This is a great resource—much more targeted than playing that ten-hour looping soundtrack of rain on YouTube that inevitably leads you down a spiraling cat-video rabbit hole.

I immediately gravitated to the rain noises and thunder storms that make up my comfort zone, but with over a hundred options, I inevitably started clicking around for more.

The noises are perfect for blocking out background distractions, leaving only you, your page, and your work. Adjust the frequencies of your noise to make it perfect for you.



You can even take it a step further and aurally build your fictional world. Layer the noises to construct the scene you’re working on; put yourself directly within that environment. If you don’t happen to be writing in a café, the Café Restaurant will make you feel like you are. Add the RPG Battlefield noise to put it under attack! Get creative. Combine multiple noises to use as a writing prompt. What story might unfold from a combination of Babble Noise, Aural Scan, and Underwater?

Timed writing has never flowed so steadily for me as when I’m using MyNoise.net. Check out the vast array of noises, and make sure to check out the timer function to add that resource to your writer’s tool belt.

So armed, go forth and write!

Written by Emily E.A. Stringer

All photos courtesy of StockSnap.io


Launch Party for emerge 15 on Oct 15, 2015 — Free Admission

SFU TWS emerge15Join us for the launch of emerge 15, The Writer’s Studio’s fifteenth annual student anthology of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and speculative fiction.

When? Thursday, October 15, from 6-10 p.m. Doors open at 5:30.

Where? SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre (515 West Hastings Street), room 1400.

Admission is free. Catering and drinks available! 

emerge 15 will be available for purchase at the book table for $20.
The evening will feature student readings from the TWS class of 2015.

It will also feature addresses from TWS mentors Hiromi Goto, JJ Lee, Meredith Quartermain, and Kevin Chong, as well as addresses by program director Wayde Compton, publisher Andrew Chesham, and managing editor Janet Fretter on behalf of emerge 15 guest editor Matt Rader.

We look forward to sharing our work and hope to see you there!


The students of SFU’s The Writer’s Studio 2015.

Follow us on twitter @twsemerge

Writing Spaces, Part 1: Five Elements of a Writer’s Room

Having a dedicated writing space is essential to one’s writing practice. Writing space can take many forms, from a seat on the SeaBus in transit to an entire studio outfitted for your writing needs.

For most of us, writing takes place in the home.

Earlier this year, I converted a guest room into a writing office.

Here are five things I prioritized in my writing space:

  1. Natural light: Natural light is the first thing I considered when choosing a room. Natural light can alleviate eye strain and especially helps with productivity. So even if your office is on the SeaBus, snag a window seat! My large, south-facing window lets in ample natural light, even late into the day—perfect, since my optimal writing time often verges on evening.
  2. A view: A view can get you out of your own head, and if your view is something that inspires you, all the better! I am personally inspired by the natural world. Luckily for me, my window peers over a lush, bushy backyard. Opening the window (views include more than just what you see!) on a good day allows for the wash of a light breeze and the buzz of neighbours. On an even better day, I can see raindrops splatter in puddles, feel trees lash about in a strong wind, and hear the drumming of rain on the roof.IMG_1871
  3. A large desk: A large desk will always complement your work. Having ample room allows you to organize any reference materials or reviewed documents within easy reach. My desk is definitely big enough: a large wooden slab from Ikea. You can tell from the surface that it’s been well-loved, but X-Acto knife scratches and paint splashes just add to the flavour of inspiration.
  4. Comfy seating: An ergonomic chair is best for work that requires sitting for long periods of time, but I use an exercise ball. You can definitely feel it in the shoulders when you’ve been writing on one of these for a while! I enjoy it for the dynamism and energy it provides. Plus, the give of the ball means I never get a sore butt from sitting for hours on end.
  5. IMG_1873Inspirational knick-knacks: while I personally think it’s best to keep surfaces tidy to limit brain distractions, a few inspiring artefacts go a long way. For my room, I went the comfort route. I furbished all the surfaces with soft stuffies. The giraffe is a close likeness to a character from a picture book I’m working on. The little bear is there for moral support. I keep a candle on the night table by my desk and light it when working to fight away that gloomy writer’s block.

What do you think, did I prioritize the right things in my room? What did I leave out? Let me know what your writer’s room contains.

A writer’s room is a three-dimensional conduit for a writer’s practice. But anyone who calls themselves a writer knows writing requires more than physical space. Stay tuned for Part 2 to explore the spaces of writing that transcend physical necessities.

Written by Emily E.A. Stringer

Photos by Emily E.A. Stringer

Interview with Ryleigh Walsh

Ryleigh Walsh is emerge 15′s Copy-Editing Team Manager. She is the kind of writer you wish you were. She writes and never complains it’s too hard. She sits and figures out her stories, draft after draft, until they’re polished. What’s her secret—a writer who can edit and an editor who can write? Let’s find out more about this phenomenon.
Ryleigh Walsh

You’re both a writer and an editor. Is there one role you identify with more than the other?

Writer. Definitely. I would call writing a vocation and editing an occupation.

What made you get into editing?

I wanted to work with words, if that makes sense. I wanted to spend my time around things I love (books, words, writers); that way, to me, it doesn’t feel like work. Also, I like helping people tell their stories. It’s very gratifying when I can help someone clear away the clutter so the story is in focus.

Has editing made you a better writer? Do you do that thing where you write and edit at the same time?

It has… sort of. I am definitely more concerned with structure and making sure things are right, which helps in the long run but can be counterproductive if I think about it too much. I do not edit and write at the same time. I try to be accurate when I’m writing, but if I worry about editing at the same time, I never get anything done.

How has it been to work on emerge 15? 

I have really enjoyed this experience. Janet [Fretter] and Andrew [Chesham] have given me a number of great opportunities to see behind the curtain during the production of emerge 15. The most interesting part, for me, was meeting with the interior designer, Blaine [Kyllo]. I was able to see his process, which takes place after the editing is done, enabling me to better understand the editing I do.

You have become an unofficial editor to many of your classmates. What advice can you give to writers to help themselves so they don’t have to undergo such a process?

Geez, what a question… I don’t know if that’s true, but I would say: Remember that what you want to say is just as important as how you want to say it. Read a few books about structure and grammar (Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is good, so is Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares). Even though it sounds boring, take a grammar class. (SFU and UBC both have some really good style and structure classes. If you can take an editing class with Caroline Addison do it; you won’t regret it.) If the “rules” become second nature, you won’t have to think about—or be scared of—them.

What projects are you working on?

I’m working on a couple of things. I’m in the final stages of putting out a literary journal called Skirt Quarterly. That’s the priority right now, because it’s coming out mid-October. It’s taking up a lot of my time and needs a lot of attention and patience, so everything else has taken a back seat, but I just started outlining a novel and have a few short stories in rewrite. I started at UBC last week too, so I guess I’ll also be writing papers soon.

Interview by A.J. Lin

Ukulele Logic: Ten Questions About the Quirkiest Instrument

uku 176

All About the Uke 

AJ Lin is a writer, super-smart Internet techie, nomad, and ukulele player. She’s also the feature musical act at the emerge 15 fundraiser on September 27. I couldn’t pin her down in person because she splits her time between Vancouver, Toronto, and Hawaii and is basically always running somewhere, so I threw ten questions at her to answer during a cross-country flight. Here’s what she had to say about being a veteran of an instrument that suddenly seems to be everywhere.

How long have you been playing ukulele?

Twenty-ish years.

Why did you first pick up the ukulele?

Why? Because I was nostalgic. Then poor.

The first ukulele I picked up was in 1995. I was at the weekly farmer’s market in Hilo, about to fly back to an icy Toronto.  It was a decorative ukulele—not built to be played. It had bad sound and didn’t stay in tune.

About three years later, I went to a music store in Toronto to buy a guitar. The guy behind the counter asked me my budget then told me I couldn’t afford one. He showed me a blonde ukulele made by the Oscar Schmidt Company. “This,” he said, was what I could afford. It wasn’t love at first sight with me and “Oscar” but it was a practical love that I could get blessings from.

In the first year, Oscar accompanied me on the rush-hour ride home from downtown Toronto (it took six streetlight changes to clear an intersection and I had a long, long way home).  I know that doesn’t sound safe, but I only played during red lights (and got a few smiles from what would otherwise be grumpy people).

Who is your biggest influence musically? Why?

I’m not really influenced by a certain artist. But I can get influenced by a song. Music is an interpretation of emotion, and a song is an expression of that emotion. Like a story, with a beginning, middle, and end. The music expresses the emotion and the words from tender to banal. From Mozart to Madonna. (I am not saying Madonna is banal. Mozart didn’t writeLike a Virgin,” but he did write “Leck Mich Im Arsch”—lick my ass).

What’s your favourite ukulele song and what’s your favourite song to play on the ukulele?

I don’t actually listen to ukulele music. There are standard uke songs that many serious players know and many listeners ask for, but I don’t know how to play those songs. My favorite uke song is the one that isn’t played on the uke.

My favorite song to play on the ukulele is an interpretation of Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” I learned how to play it for my friend Dawn (she was my first friend ever). I learned it because it was her favorite song when we were growing up. In fact, the story I wrote in emerge 15 talks about my friendship with her and losing her to breast cancer. I like to play it because it makes me remember our childhood and reminds me to try to live life by making the days count and not counting the days.

Do you think you would earn a living playing ukulele if you could?

Probably not. After playing the same songs over and over again, it would become a chore. I remember hearing about Don Ho singing “Tiny Bubbles.” He wrote it in 1966 and probably played it every single night in shows for tourists in Honolulu right up until he died in 2007. I’m sure at the end of it, it was hard to keep the emotion fresh about those tiny bubbles after singing that song a million times.

The closest I have come to earning a living playing the uke was when one of my bands and I won a ukulele contest. We split our earnings and I, of course, flew back to Hawaii with my winnings.

Suddenly every awkward girl on the planet seems to be picking up a ukulele. Why do you think that is?

Because no one likes to sing a cappella and the guitar is too much effort. The ukulele is less intimidating than the guitar because there are fewer strings. It is lighter, affordable, portable, easier to play, and fits smaller hands better.

How do you feel about the sudden hip factor of the uke? 

I have mixed feelings about it. I’m happy because suddenly this means I’m not the only one enjoying it.  The ukulele was popular in the twenties and thirties but then faded out, only to suffer a terrible death of coolness factor when Tiny Tim sang “Tiptoe through the Tulips” on Johnny Carson. In a short amount of time, the ukulele went from kitschy to weird to not being played again for three decades.

I worry that, like disco, the ukulele bubble will pop and suddenly there will be some kind of demolition night at a baseball stadium, like Disco Demolition Night, but instead of a crate filled with Bee Gees and Abba records, a bunch of ukuleles will be blown up on the field. I would still play the uke, but I’d have to wait thirty more years for it to be cool again.

Do you think you were ahead of the curve on uke playing? 

I always thought it was fun to play, couldn’t figure out why no one else thought so too. I bought extra ukuleles and tried to push my friends to play, but they told me, firmly, “No. Quit being so weird.” When I attended the Toronto Corktown Ukulele Jam and there were other weirdos like me there, I was thrilled. It was a very happy day.

If you could turn one iconic song into a ukulele anthem, what would it be?

There is one uke anthem already: George Harrison’s “My Guitar Gently Weeps,” interpreted by Jake Shimabukaro on the uke. Nothing can replace that.

Do you have more than one ukulele? Do you have a favourite (or is that like asking someone to pick their favourite child)? 

I own fourteen. I know I have about five lent out to other people. For the rest, each has a different purpose (four-string concert, four-string tenor, plastic back, camping ukulele, six-string, eight-string, low G, electric, baritone, ukulele bass). Look up the term “ukulele acquisition syndrome.” It’s a thing. But I haven’t bought one since I got Pono (see below).

I have two favourite ukulele:

  • Ipo
 – a concert-sized ukulele made out of koa wood by Koaloha. Ipo means sweetheart in Hawaiian and he (the uke) sounds really bright.
  • Pono
 – a six-string uke I made myself. Sam, a luthier I met in Holualoa, taught me how to make it. It took 140 hours. It was, to date, my greatest lesson in patience and process.

When I play Pono, I think of the flat pieces of wood I picked out to make it and the hours spent molding it into the instrument. I think of the soul of the tree that the music vibrates through, and, it’s a bit sappy, but I am grateful the tree grew to fulfill such a destiny. When I play it, I am happy to be able to say the fingers that made the instrument are the same ones making music. Nothing says “I made this, this is me” in quite the same way.

Bonus question: What did I miss? What else do you want to say?

Sometimes I play to the oddity of the instrument, select songs people don’t expect to hear. The beauty of the uke is it can take any song back to its core with its four simple strings, and there is an honesty to that which the guitar couldn’t ever do for me…to take away notes but keep the structure. It’s like writing something that comes out already edited in the first draft. Every writer’s dream, or at least mine. My hope is that after the novelty wears off the selection, I would love it if on certain songs, if people forgot I was playing the uke to just hear the song. How pretty it is, or how ridiculous the lyrics can be once you strip away the other instruments.

Interview by Ryleigh Walsh