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Do You Share These Writing Challenges? (Part 1)

I was very honoured to have been asked to become one of three judges for the prestigious 2014 John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award. The experience has brought me into contact with some amazing people who love language and literature and, as a judge, I found myself immersed in the task of looking at thousands of words of prose and analyzing how they worked together (or didn’t) on the printed page.

The Award was created to honour the renowned economist Dr. (Professor) Galbraith, a Canadian man whose insights on economic issues earned him numerous awards, as well as the favour of several American presidents. He wrote dozens of books, and although most of them centred around The Economy, he also dabbled in fiction.

Dr. Galbraith was born in the small Ontario farming community of Iona Station and he wrote a wonderful book (called The Scotch) that detailed the idiosyncrasies of southern Ontario Scots who had the great fortune to own farmland in an isolated area of a young nation. He wrote articles for the St. Thomas Times-Journal newspaper as a young man and I don’t think it’s an act of hyperbole to state that he was one of the most extraordinary and prolific writers this country has ever produced.

In this writer’s humble opinion, Dr Galbraith was a great example of someone who understood the importance of expressing oneself clearly and he provides a great deal of inspiration to me in my own efforts to write well.

While organizers of the John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award asked me to not release details on the number of entrants they receive for the contest, I think it’s safe to say that the prestige of the award, and the generous prize it offers, attract some of the most attentive literary efforts in Canada.

And it’s not a big stretch from there to imagine that the quality of writing represented among contest participants is also among the best that we as a nation can produce. I’m bound by the sweet pinions of confidentiality to keep mum about what crossed the desks of the judges. But it was interesting to see that the issues some of the strongest literary writers in Canada grapple with are very similar to the issues with which the people I work with as a book coach must contend.

The issues that seemed to crop in our judging conversations fell into two categories: Writing Skill and Story Telling.

Writing skill is obviously as important in the writing of a business book as it is in the creation of a fictional narrative; it seems to me that storytelling skills are every bit as valuable and in my next blog post, I’ll go into more detail about what I consider important in both areas – as an editor, as a book coach, as a content writer, and as a judge of great writing.


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