Behind the Scenes

T.W. Laing wrote two pieces for Issue #8 (launching this Friday). Here, he tells us howabout his first foray into the literary magazine world and what he learned; words from one of our own. (If you’re looking to get involved, email us. We’d love to have you on board.)

Writing for This Side of West was a pleasure. It was my first involvement with a literary magazine of any sort, and the experience was engaging. Not only is the thought of having my work published a pleasant one, but I also learned a fair amount by doing the pieces that I did.
While researching the history of UVic’s undergraduate magazine I had the chance to get in touch with a number of the Department of Writing’s former faculty members. I came into the assignment with absolutely no idea of what was currently going on or what had happened in the past, and thus had to do all the legwork from scratch. However, this made the project all the more rewarding.

As I looked back nearly forty years, trying to find out when and why changes had occurred and how I could get in touch with those who had been involved, much of my effort left me with nothing to show, no palpable material. I contacted a number of people and asked all kinds of questions, but many of those people did not respond, and of the ones who did, most were unable to help me. It was a bleak suggestion to think that I might not be able to tell the story I was assigned.

But then, as I pondered any and all desperate measures that might be available to me, there appeared in my inbox two email messages that made the whole process worth it. On one morning, many mornings after I had begun this wild goose-chase, I checked my email account, fingers-crossed and feeling frantic, and found the responses I had been waiting for.

Dates in order, names of people and publications included, and reasons for why things had happened the way they did were all staring back at me from my screen.
Relief, relief.

There is something to be said for having your questions answered, especially as deadline looms. It provides a thrill of sorts, and hope, knowing that you have done what was asked of you and that maybe now, with facts all in order, your words will be worth reading.

The profile material, on the other hand, was much easier to come by. While some of the people I had tried to get in touch with for the research piece had been away from UVic for decades, each of the fiction writers was still very much there. And talking to fellow writing students about the craft that we all immerse ourselves in was a pretty painless proposition. Hearing about what makes other writers tick and the methods they use is intriguing, and, as a first year student, the insights they shared about what to expect as I continue through the program were valuable indeed.

I also learned, much to my chagrin at the time, that having a decent recorder, remembering to bring that decent recorder, and choosing a setting that is quiet enough to later hear the conversations that get recorded on said recorder are all integral to an effective interview process.

-T.W. Laing

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