Words for Writers: The Value of Writing

Stories Matter

(From the Office of Letters and Light blog:)

This June, the nonprofit behind National Novel Writing Month, the Young Writers Program, Come Write In, and Camp NaNoWrimo is running a fundraising drive to increase the impact of their programs and resources. In 2012, they supported 369,541 writers in 615 libraries and 580 regions across six continents, and 82,500 students in 2,000+ classrooms as they reached for their creative goals and brought their novels to life.

Why care about new novels? Because making safe spaces for people to write their stories isn’t just about ending up with more books in the world. It’s about changing creative lives. You can help The Office of Lettesr and Light do that.

NaNoWriMo believes that stories matter.

“NaNoWriMo changed my life profoundly at a time when a new focus, purpose, and goal were needed just to keep me alive. I signed up because I desperately wanted something to take my mind off the cancer I was battling, and because there had been a story bouncing around in my head for over twenty years that wanted me to tell it. Thanks to all the wonderful people and support and ideas that are NaNoWriMo, that story is being told.”

– Julie Ann Thayer

NaNoWriMo believes that anyone can be creative.

“Before NaNoWriMo, the only projects I’d worked on were assigned by teachers or bosses. NaNoWriMo empowered me to choose my own creative goal, and helped me realize that if I am willing to spend hours working on a project for someone else, I should be willing to do the same for myself. Thank you for the gift of creative writing.”

– Mary Harner

NaNoWriMo is preparing to inspire 500,000 people to tell their stories in 2013.

This year, they’re working hard to make our resources as accessible as possible. They want to create a safe space for people from every walk of life to tell their next story. And the one after that. And the one after that… (This could go on for a while.)

Consider donating and partnering with them to make more safe spaces for creative writing and its wide-reaching impacts.


When I was seven, I wrote a short story about a girl named September who had to babysit a fairy’s wings for a week. It was published in the local paper for a contest.

When I was eight, I was picked to go to a young author’s conference at a local university.Between the ages of nine and thirteen, I participated in children’s drama and local theatre, wrote plays (none of which were performed), and screen plays (none of which were finished).

When I was fourteen I discovered fanfiction. Fanfiction taught me how to build worlds, build narratives, build character, build a fan base, and build confidence in my ability to tell engaging stories. At last count I had written over 15000 pages of fanfiction. I would still be writing it if I had time.

When I was eighteen I went to university for theatre. That was also the year I started my first novel. (Because if I could write 500 page fanfics, I sure as heck wasn’t going to be intimidated by a novel!)

When I was nineteen I wrote a screenplay that won an honorable mention in an international competition.

When I was twenty a friend dared me to do this thing called National Novel Writing Month with her. We both won. That MS was a lot of fun and will never again see the light of day.

When I was twenty one, I did NaNo again. I won again. That manuscript was later subsumed into a novel.

When I was twenty two, I did NaNo and won.. That manuscript was later subsumed into a novel.

When I was twenty three, I tried to write both NaNo and a Bachelor’s Thesis at the same time. I failed NaNo, but graduated with honors.

When I was twenty four, I moved to Japan and finished my first novel, wrote a comic book series, wrote lots more fanfic, and was told for the first time that perhaps I ought to think about starting to polish up old manuscripts to submit to publishers and agents.  For NaNo that year I decided to write something sale-able and came up with the novella (Back).

When I was twenty five I spent a year revising my first novel before realizing that it was beautiful and unwieldy and I resigned it to my trunk. I sold (Back). I did NaNo and started what would eventually become Triptych.

When I was twenty six I returned to Canada and tried to write a Master’s Thesis and NaNo at the same time again. I failed NaNo again, but passed with the record highest marks in my program at the time. When people asked me how I had written my thesis in one month I laughed and said, “If I can win NaNoWriMo five out of seven years together, I can write a thesis!”

When I was twenty seven I was offered a full ride for a PhD and turned it down. I decided that I wanted to get a novel published before I turned thirty. I did NaNo and wrote a story called The Dark Side of the Glass.  After thirty-six rejections from both agents and editors, I sold Triptych.

When I was twenty eight, I did NaNo and wrote The Skylark’s Song.

When I was twenty-nine, Triptych debuted. It was nominated for seven awards and won two. The success of Triptych and the promise of The Skylark’s Song book landed me an agent. I sold The Dark Side of the Glass. I began a novel for NaNo called The Maddening Science, but got too ill to continue. (Spontaneous organ death is FUN, yo.) I turned it into a short story and sold it.

When I was thirty, I wrote The Untold Tales of Turn, a novel celebrating novels, and writing, and those of us who need books in our lives. NaNoWriMo is mentioned in the book. My agent is currently shopping it, and next week The Skylark’s Song goes out to publishers for consideration.

At thirty-one (almost), I am a successful, professionally published author who has won accolades and earns an income on her work, and who has just celebrated a decade of participating in NaNoWriMo.

But far more importantly than that, I am also a confident, well-read, articulate young woman who finishes what she starts, and has learned the value of compassion and touching the hearts and souls of those around her. I have learned to put myself in other people’s shoes, to consider different viewpoints, to research before I judge, to accept critique and criticism gracefully and with an engaged ear, to take pride in my accomplishments and to pick myself up and try again when I fail, to realize that haters are just gonna hate but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t always give the entirety of myself to my prose or shy away from the difficult discussions and topics, to stand up for myself and those who are denied the right to speak for themselves, to take responsibility for and try to help improve the world and the people on her with every word I set down, and to hold close those friends and family who value my work as an extension of myself.

And this is the value of writing. This is why writing matters.


Find out more about the Office of Letters and Light’s Stories Matter fundraising drive here.

(Also, thank you, Office of Letters and Light!)


For more posts on the business and craft of writing, search my Words for Writers tag.

JM FreyWords for Writers: The Value of Writing
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CHANGE for @AdAstraAd Astra 2013 Schedule

Time Panel Room
signing  Reading  Signing 2
9pm – onwards Dragon Moon Press Book LaunchCASCADE EFFECT by Leah PetersenSponsored by FutureCon, feat. Nerds With Guitars Penthouse
12 – 12:30 Reading and Q&A Floor 2, Suite 2
2 “Steampunk University”
J.M. Frey (m), Stephen Hunt
Ellsemere East
4 Mass Autograph Session Berczy B
6 “Fake Geek Phenomenon”J.M. Frey (m), Adrienne Kress, Kate Daley, Sara   Dhooma Arctic




JM FreyCHANGE for @AdAstraAd Astra 2013 Schedule
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Charity Script – FutureCon!

As FutureCon has come and gone, I thought it would be neat to share the script of the insta-play I wrote and directed for the Gala Dinner. FutureCon is a charity convention New Years Eve event that supports Epilepsy Toronto. During the pre-dinner red carpet we plucked 4 people from the audience and they had half an hour to learn the script and the blocking. Then they performed in front of the whole hall! They were really awesome and everyone laughed a lot, which pleased me!

A HUGE thank you to my fantastic cast; they were such great sports!

Charity Script Cast

Vader, Loki, Me, Princess Leia and Princess Rapunzel (Cinderella in the original script, but with that fantastic purple dress of course we had to change it!)

And now… the script!


Loki and Darth Vader walk onto the stage together.


Loki: … and here’s your Mouse Ears, and here’s your badge. Welcome to the club. Being a Disney villain is great!


Vader: Thanks.


Loki: You already have a swishy cape. Have you started practicing your villain song? They promised me a villain song in the next film. Jed Weadon is going to write it.


Vader: (breathes heavily)


Loki: Oh… er… I suppose they’ll exempt you.


Cinderella and Leia enter from the other side of the stage, unseen by Loki and Vader.


Cinderella: … and here’s your A-line skirt, and your magical animal friend!


Leia: I have a magical animal friend already.


Cinderella: Oh, good! What is he? A cute little teddy bear? A singing deer?


Leia: A walking carpet.


Wookie sounds from off stage.


Cinderalla: (perturbed)… oh.  He sounds… you know… competent.


Leia: Not particularly.


Back to Loki and Vader –


Loki: Oh, I nearly forgot, you need your big ball of Daddy Issues.


Vader: I have no father.


Loki: Oh. Um.  Issues with authority?


Vader: Well, I did kill the Emperor.


Loki: Already? Oh. Odin’s beard…  Ah! Fear of heights! Villains always fall, you need a good solid fear of heights to see you through! (Tries to hand him something)


Vader: I was a podracer as a kid.


Loki: (deflated) Well. You’re not the typical Disney villain then, are you? I suppose that’s… good on you?


Back to Leia and Cinderella-


Cinderella: I bet he’s handsome, is he handsome?


Leia: In a roguish sort of way.


Cinderella: And he’s an excellent dueller.


Leia: When he shoots first.


Cinderella: And he must be charming.


Leia: He’s smarmy. Is that the same thing?


Cinderella is annoyed that Leia isn’t swept off her feet.


Cinderella: What did he say when you told him you loved him?


Leia: “I know.”


Cinderella: That’s… that’s not very romantic. But what was the kiss like when he rescued you?


Leia: I  rescued him. In a gold bikini, no less. Less clothes than him, but definitely bigger balls.


Cinderella: Oh! Oh, you’re one of those… modern Princesses.


Leia: What is that supposed to mean? I am a classic – as in, Joseph Campbell classic, honey.


The ruckus attracts Loki and Vader’s attention.


Loki: Yowza. What a spitfire. Reminds me of Sif. Is she one of you lot?


Vader: You could say that. Er… hi Leia.


Leia: Oh, er… hi. Dad.


Loki and Cinderella share a look of disbelief


Cinderella: *ahem*. It’s very nice to meet you, King…


Leia: Darth


Vader: Vader.


Cinderella: Oh.


Loki: And it’s very nice to meet you, Miss…


Cinderella: –Princess—


Leia: Leia.


Cinderella: Of Alderon.


Darth: Formerly.


Leia: Nerf herder!


Cinderella: You know, there’s a great Disney tradition of fathers and daughters. Pocahontas and the Chief, the Sultan and Jasmine, Ariel and King Triton. I liked my Dad a lot. You’re lucky, coming to Disney with your father.


Leia and Vader squirm uncomfortably.


Loki: I … take it you don’t get along? Splendid! I love a good familial conflict storyline!


Cinderella: Oh! Poor Leia. Well, you make up with your father at the end, don’t you?


Leia and Vader squirm some more.


Cinderella: Oh, no!


Loki: Oh, yes!


Cinderella: Hey, hush, you… you … you Dairy Cow!


Loki: What’s the matter, Princess? Glass slippers pinching?


Loki and Cinderella start fighting and smacking each other. Leia and Vader look appalled.


Vader: How base. No one is using the Force at all.


Leia: Or even a laser rifle. They still bash at each other.


Vader: It’s a good thing we’re here, daughter. We have lots to teach these plebs.


Leia: Like narrative structure.


Vader: And casual racism.


Leia: No, I think Disney’s got that down. But I could use a lesson or two in the Force, if you’ve got time. Dad.


Vader: Sure thing, sweetheart. I hear you use it in the tie-in novels.


Leia: True. You know, they’re not all bad, these Disney people.


Vade: Yeah. They got us away from that madman who kept rewriting our backstories!


Leia and Vader shudder.


Both: Lucas!


They link arms and saunter off stage. Loki and Cinderella fall down.

JM FreyCharity Script – FutureCon!
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Doctor Who Thank Yous and Flag-Waving

Before I post my review of Asylum of the Daleks, I want to take a moment to get flag-wavy and thank some people who deserve more than I can give them: just a thank you on a blog.





First off, a big, big thank you to Mark Askwith, the hard working interns and staff of the SPACE Channel, and the hosts of InnerSPACE (Teddy, Ajay and Cynthia) for organizing the Asylum of the Daleks prescreening event that I got to attend in Toronto last weekend.

I am extremely lucky that Mark and the SPACE team count me among the mega-fans and the knowledgeable commentators who deserve to see various shows in advance. I love receiving my press packages (even if they sometimes include bloody severed thumbs) and I am pleased that they respect and value my reviews and opinions enough to invite me to prescreen their new shows and episodes.

I count myself lucky every time Mark asks me to do some on-camera for him, because it means that I get to share my thoughts with fans all across Canada, and all across the world. It means that he and SPACE value my thoughts and opinions enough to share them, and that is humbling and an honour.

The pre-screening for Asylum of the Daleks was done the Saturday night of Fan Expo, at the Bell Lightbox theatre. The review screening was really neat because we had a private theatre to ourselves (eighty lucky fans, some press, and the SPACE team). The popcorn SPACE provided was tasty, and being able to watch the live stream of the New York City pre-screening Q&A with Matt Smith and Karen Gillian was a real treat.  When the host asked if there were any questions, everyone in Toronto shot up a hand, even though he couldn’t see us.

I especially loved that Steven Moffat himself sent a special video plea to the fans to keep The Secret that the episode we watched had just revealed. The upshot of the message was that if you’re a real fan, you will let other fans enjoy the startlement and joy of learning The Secret via the episode, just as we have. And the man is right, right, right.

And then he started fanboying his own show, which was completely adorable and honestly, very moving. If the creator feels passionately about the show, passionate enough to gush, then how can we, the fans, do anything less than keep The Secret, too? (Sue Vertue, your husband is ridiculously adorkable. You are a lucky lady.)

So those of you looking to scour this post for spoilers? Ain’t happening. I’m not ruining The Secret for you. I want you to experience the “ah-ha!” moment that I did.

Folks, you may not know it, but a lot of hard work goes into negotiations, discussions, marketing, set up, delivering the episode, and the anti-piracy efforts when SPACE puts on an event like this. The BBC is rightfully very protective of its star property, and it is always a lot of work (not in a bad way, just a lot!) to get a special treat like this to come together. I think every Canadian Doctor Who fan should thank the people involved with this from both the BBC and SPACE for everything they do. Because they work their asses off to gift you with this.

If you really love Doctor Who and you are a real fan, please, please watch the show when it airs on SPACE/the BBC/BBC America/BBC Australia/your local channel and don’t pirate it, don’t download it, don’t spoil it, and don’t leak it.

My fellow Canadians: The more eyeballs that watch the show when it airs and the more support we give SPACE, and Doctor Who on SPACE = the more chances we the Canadian fans will get to have galas, Q&As, specials, extras, and events. If there’s enough support, enough ratings, and enough letters, it’s possible that SPACE might even be able to run events in cities outside of Toronto, and that would be so cool.

Basically, the more you show you love the show by supporting SPACE, the more treats the BBC may let SPACE share with Canadian fans.

Secondly, I want to thank Steven Moffat and the producers, heads, creatives, directors, and everyone at the BBC for sharing Doctor Who with us. We Canadians love the show, we genuinely do, and being able to have it air on television in Canada is a thrill for us (especially since Sydney Newman was a Canadian bloke!) I can’t wait until you film an episode here, and I always love every episode, no matter how academic I might get about it. I know it’s a lot of hard work on your end, too, and a lot of worry; a lot of long hours on sets and in front of scripts, at computers and behind cameras. I want you to know I appreciate it, and I appreciate the chance to be included in the history-as-it-happens of such an incredible, record-and-boundary breaking programme.

Thirdly, can I just say that the cast and crew of Doctor Who are seriously a class act? I am impressed with every Children in Need short I see, every charity event, every interview and appearance on chat shows. This series’ principals are really impressing me. Matt, Karen and Arthur go so far above and beyond what is expected of them as contracted actors. They are kind and interactive with their fans – they come out to parties that people never expect them to actually attend, they do way more appearances than probably allows them to get enough sleep… it’s just incredible. Like personally handing out donuts to fans who have been standing in line for hours for a premiere. Or working extra time at the Proms and being so interactive with the kids in the audience. Or showing up at Who parties at Comic Con, just for the fun of it. Or doing celebrity bowl-offs. Or recording tracks as “Karen and the Babes”.

And Moffat? Wow, sending private video messages around to screenings to beg people to keep The Secret, or doing Skype interviews with SPACE, or interacting with folks on Tumblr and Twitter…

My fellow fans, you realize that they don’t have to, right? That there’s nothing in their contract that states that they owe us anything more than to show up on set, create the show, and go home at the end of the day? That this – what they do, what they give us – is above, and beyond, and probably emotionally and physically exhausting for them and yet they do it anyway because they love Doctor Who, too?

The creators are fans, just like us. They grew up on Doctor Who, just like us. The show means as much to them as it does to us. And that is phenomenal. That is incredible. And we are damn lucky.

Because what other show has the people who used to hide behind the sofa from the baddies now rolling around in the carapaces of the baddies? What other show has allowed a ten year old Scottish boy to say, “I’m going to play the lead character one day”, and then do it? What other show has a young boy, a young girl, a young writer-waiting-to-happen watched with awe, and then grown up to write on? And more than one writer, too?

As Tom Baker once said, Doctor Who as the best fans in the world. And the most amazing part? After fifty years, those fans are now the ones making it.

BBC: Bring it on. We’re with you, and we love it every bit as much as you do. You go, guys!

SPACE: Keep it coming. We’ll be at every party, every event, every screening, and we will support you.

Fans: wave your banner, be respectful of the creators and fellow fans, and support your show by watching it as it airs on your local station (or buying it on iTunes or as DVDs) instead of pirating it.  If you love it, spend money and your viewing time on it, so they can keep making it.

Everyone: Let’s be awesome! And let’s show the universe how we’re all Bigger On The Inside.

My review of Asylum of the Daleks will go active on SUNDAY MORNING to avoid spoiling anything.

JM FreyDoctor Who Thank Yous and Flag-Waving
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Thank you, Glad Day!

Thank you so much to Glad Day Books for hosting my reading! It was a lovely time, and I really enjoyed heading off to the bar and getting a chance to talk with everyone who attended afterwards. I am looking forward to more events at this wonderful, historic bookstore and event space in Toronto.



Photo by Brienne Wright


JM FreyThank you, Glad Day!
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