Betsy Warland

Betsy Warland

Creative Nonfiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Mixed-Genre Narratives

Betsy is the founder and program director of Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. She designed and directed The Writer’s Studio at S.F.U. from 2001-2012 and remains on TWS faculty. She has been on faculty at Sage Hill Writing Experience (SK), U.B.C.’s Booming Ground, and Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts.

She has been a manuscript consultant and editor for more than 30 years and has published 12 books of creative nonfiction, poetry and mixed genre. Her best-selling book of 24 essays on writing, Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing (Cormorant Books, 2010), has received critical acclaim. Writers and authors she has mentored have gone on to publish books and win, or be shortlisted for, numerous awards.

What will VMI participants gain from the program?
An in-depth understanding of what their manuscript narrative requires from them and how to make it happen.

What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have received?
To see the editing and revision process as much of an act of discovery and creativity as writing the first draft is.

What book, poem or other written work has been most inspirational to you?
Several of Nicole Brossard’s books.

What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?
The books I recommend are very specific to each writer I am working with. In general, I recommend my book, Breathing the Page – Reading the Act of Writing, as it’s based on my decades of my teaching and manuscript consultant/editor experience and it addresses many of the core issues writers encounter when writing a manuscript.

What are you currently working on? 
My lyric prose memoir, Oscar of Between — A Memoir of Identity and Ideas, has just come out so I'm preoccupied with readings, interviews and conferences for the next while. I am on a book tour/holiday this summer and will be giving readings and workshops in London (UK), Toronto and Reykjavik. I’ve began publishing monthly excerpts from Oscar of Between December 2012 in an interactive salon on my website

In addition to my excerpts, I've curate invited Guest Writers and Artists' work as well as a monthly Featured Reader of the salon. Oscar's Salon will be having live monthly posts until March 2017.

What is the most valuable insight or skill that your VMI writers have learned from you?
To make certain that the narrative proximity is accurate throughout (from choice of language to how deeply evoked each narrative aspects needs to be to identify its inherent form).

What do you gain from the mentoring process?
Watching the writer and the manuscript find their feet, get excited and find the tenacity to see it through until it becomes a compelling book.

What will VMI participants gain from the program?
An in-depth understanding of what their manuscript narrative requires from them and how to make it happen.

What do you enjoy most about being a VMI mentor?
The challenge of figuring out what the manuscript is really about (as contrasted to what we think or want it to be about). This figuring out always teaches me a lot about narrative, craft and the writing process.

What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript that you know now?
How much devotion is required to write a fully realized and refined manuscript: it always takes longer and demands more than you think! Now, I know this and have learned to savour it.