Jane Silcott writes essays and stories loosely organized around the puzzles of love, duty and self. Her first collection of essays, Everything Rustles, was a finalist in the BC Book Prizes. Her writing has also been published in several Canadian literary magazines and anthologies and been recognized with a 2nd in the CBC Literary Awards, a Room Magazine Prize, a Readers Choice Award from the Creative Nonfiction Collective and as a finalist in both the National and the Western Magazine Awards. Jane works as a freelance editor and is also a mentor in the Creative Nonfiction MFA Program at King’s College in Halifax.
What do you enjoy most about being a VMI mentor?
I love working one-on-one. It's such a powerful way to get to the heart of a story. It's hugely rewarding to see the gains in confidence and the assuredness in the work as the story evolves.
What is the most valuable insight or skill that your VMI writers have learned from you?
I think what feels most important, especially at the beginning of a project is permission -- permission to write what's burning a hole in your heart -- trusting that story and allowing yourself to write it.
What book, poem or other written work has been most inspirational to you?
I just read Abigail Thomas's memoir What Comes Next and How to Like It. It's inspiring to me for the spareness of her writing and the sharp, clear wit and insights.
What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Breathing the Page by Betsy Warland, On Writing by Stephen King, and Still Writing by Dani Shapiro.
What are you currently working on?
I'm working on a book of personal essays about family history and geography and dancing -- stories that I have never wanted to tell before but that feel necessary now I've hit 60 and wish I'd listened to my parents more when I was a teen.
What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript that you know now?
That it wouldn't kill the story to write a synopsis and outline first. In fact, writing about the story -- what I want to write and why -- helps me to discover the essence of it more quickly.
What do you gain from the mentoring process?
I learn so much from mentoring -- I get to know amazing people and gain insight into all kinds of different approaches to story and process.
What will VMI participants gain from the program?
Support, encouragement, new ways of thinking about their work and a renewed faith in it. As well as the focus and discipline that working with a mentor provides, there's the great joy in getting to know other writers going through the same process. That kind of fellowship and camaraderie is priceless.
What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have received?
Sit down and do the work. You may think you can leave it, but that's more difficult in the long run. Face it head on and love yourself for your courage.