Cover of my latest novel, 'gods Playground' - 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition SemiFinalist

June-July, 2020

Do you refer to yourself as a “writer” or an “author”? Is there a difference between the two terms? I recently came across this question posed by someone to the #WritingCommunity on Twitter.

At the time, I responded that I tend to use “writer” rather than “author” when referring to myself. I’m still learning, after all (shout out to all the editors and judges who provided feedback on my journal submissions!), and I admire the work of more developed “authors.” I think I felt that “author” is something others call you. As another Twitter user commented, “author” seems stiffer than “writer.” I recently said to a friend (after they congratulated me on a contest win for one of my flash pieces) that I wish I had the time to rewrite both my novels — so I could apply all the lessons I’ve learned from flash fiction since then!

From a very young age, I’d always loved to write. To imagine. When I was little, my parents had an old manual typewriter. I would collect scrap paper so I could feed it into that machine, typing up short stories on the back of discarded office papers with two fingers, carefully painting whiteout over my mother’s editing suggestions — imagine, no backspace!

I still recall my grade three teacher granting me an extra week to finish the one-page writing assignment after I showed him the first eight pages of my story, “The Place Behind the Wall.” Or the day Gordon Korman showed up as a guest speaker when I was in grade five, and I met my first “author” in the flesh. Or the time my next-door neighbour found one of my poems that I’d left behind after babysitting his daughter, then secretly submitted it to the local paper — which I discovered when he proudly showed me that they’d published it a few weeks later.

Yet I never felt I was a writer, and certainly not an author. When I went to University, I ended up pursuing a healthcare profession (Speech-Language Pathology), which I enjoyed for a long time. It allowed me to learn how to run my own business, and gave me the honour of employing and leading other clinicians and staff, for years.

Then, I decided it was time for a change.

I’d always been a storyteller, weaving stories into my healthcare services and management style, but now, I was going to write. Several years later, I think I’m just starting to get the hang of it. I also know that I still have so much to learn.

My favourite thing to do in the morning is to read someone else’s story and realize, “Wow, that’s good,” before sitting down to write. It helps put every rejection into perspective. It allows me to strive to be better, and to keep at it. Once I built up the courage to begin entering writing competitions and submitting my work, I didn’t just receive rejections (although there’s been plenty!) — I was also met with encouragement, helpful feedback, and eventually, some success.

I think the question isn’t, “Do you call yourself a writer or an author.” The question I have for you today is: have you started writing yet? Are you finding your voice, weaving your values and personality into your work? Are you able to accept feedback so you can continue to learn and grow? Do you read the work of others? If you are doing all these things, then you are a writer. Each time you share your work, you are an author.

When I started work on my first novel, people often reminded to “write what you know.” I think that advice can be taken one step further. I’d say, “write who you are.” If I examine my more successful fiction pieces or poems, even my novels — those that I’ve been honoured to have place in competitionsthere is a common thread across them all. They each grew out of real feelings, real experiences, or ideals that haunted my dreams — fiction, sure, but honest fiction.

Keep writing from the heart and for the joy of it, and I know you’ll get where you want to go.