University of Alberta students come and continue to experience all walks of life. Sighting Stories is a creative anthology that creates space for their voices.
Written and implemented by students and alumni, Sighting Stories is the second anthology of the Creative Writing Club (CrW). The club has already published liminal space, their first anthology. CrW anthologies span a wide range of genres, including poetry, fiction, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction, all written and edited by students and alumni.
Sighting Stories highlights individual experiences
Hancheng Wu, one of the anthology contributors, shared how his personal experiences affected his article. The fictional story of Wu follows a man who uproots his life to move elsewhere to pursue a dream, only to discover that those aspirations come at a cost. Wu tied his story to his experiences in computer science – connecting the character’s ambition and drive to those expected in the program.
“A lot of people say write what you know,” Wu says. “What I think a lot of people don’t tell you about ambition is that sometimes there’s a high price terms of what you have to give up to pursue it.”
“I think looking back, I’m not so sure the price of those ambitions [was] worth what I received at the end.
Wu also spoke of his admiration for novelist George RR Martin. He recalls Martin once speaking of writer William Faulkner, quoting, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.
For Wu, its resonance with Faulkner’s words meant that the core of what he wrote, regardless of setting or specific characters, centered on emotional ideas.
“I was able to kind of let myself bleed on paper and that’s where this story came from,” says Wu.
“I feel like I write better when I’m out for a walk, or [being] apart from writing. Ironically, that’s where I write best – where I don’t write. It’s more kind of a subconscious thing; it’s brewing in the back of my head.
Getting published while in college is no easy feat. Wu describes his experience working with the CrW and its editors as “a huge help in [his] writing skills.” The process of writing, editing, and repeating this cycle until an article was ready for publication was what Wu thought was most instructive in his publishing process.
“I think the experience of being published while we’re still in college and having our work kind of ‘out there’ is super cool, super fascinating,” he says.
Being published must be accessible
Shelby Marler, Vice President (Projects) of CrW, oversaw the anthology. She worked with editors and writers, making sure writers and editors were a good fit for each other, while being in charge of editor orientations. As the person who oversaw everything Sighting Stories, Marler describes the anthology as “an exploration”.
“When we talk about Sighting Stories we’re talking about seeing all kinds of different stories, all kinds of different types of writing, expressions of personal and creative experiences that led our writers to create what they created for us, and at the end of the day – that’s really what our anthology is meant to be,” she said.
For Marler and the members of the CrW, they hoped both Sighting Stories and liminal space were “something everyone feels like they can contribute to”.
An important part of contributing accessibility is being able to make contributors’ work ready for publication. The authors had the opportunity to work with editors recruited by the CrW. Marler explains that even though editors don’t focus on a single piece, the pieces they edit are those that interest them personally, allowing authors to build a relationship with their editors that strengthens the outcome of their work.
“There’s a whole team behind it,” Marler said. “You guarantee that if you were accepted into the anthology, your article was lucky enough to be read by someone who said, ‘You know what? I connect to this piece; I want to work on it.’ “
Another element of accessibility in the context of the anthology is the publication itself. Publishing can be daunting, let alone publishing work while still a student. By compiling these anthologies, the CrW hopes to make publication a realistic and reasonable goal for all.
“We don’t want to be an elitist publisher. In many cases, I feel like a lot of people are discouraged [about] be published because they think it’s something elitist and [that’s] the complete opposite of what we want to do,” says Marler.
“We can all contribute to the anthology, we can all contribute to the CrW, and we can all find the opportunity for our space not only to express, but to be able to share [stories] with the world. Getting published isn’t something that should be closed to the best of the best writers because everyone has an important story to tell.
Finally, Marler described the “haze” and uncertainty of the pandemic as one that can leave writers in a state of confusion.
“Sometimes you’re just sitting in a space writing from one document to another, jumping from one [here] out there with really no sense of your space — which I honestly think is actually so important to us creative writers,” Marler explained.
However, she reminds writers stuck in this crisis that there isn’t just a supportive community out there, but writing and pursuing those opportunities can often lead to a sense of grounding – which leads to a greater understanding of what an author is supposed to do. .
“It’s not just about writing, it’s about collaboration. Creative writing is part of the community. I think reminding you how many people contributed to this and how many pages we’re able to fill thanks to who contributed to the anthology – that helps. It really helps to see actual physical results,” she says.
“I still feel like despite all this stress and disorientation, having a goal in sight is such an important thing and once you realize how awesome it is [to achieve it], then you want to continue. Next anthology, more opportunities, more authors.
Interviews with contributors from Sighting Stories will be available on the CrW podcast, CrWCast. If you want a copy of Sighting Stories, it is available for purchase on their website. All proceeds go to support the CrW.