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Laurie Elmquist

Celebrity judge Laurie Elmquist with just a few of the So you think you can write entries.

September 21, 2010

Anticipation is accelerating among local literati as Victoria's first-ever reality contest for authors, So you think you can write, prepares to reveal its final four contestants.

Celebrity judge Laurie Elmquist, a local author and creative writing instructor at Camosun, doesn't even know the identities of the finalists, and neither do co-judges Carla Funk and Robert Wiersema. "It was a blind submission," says Elmquist. "We kept asking ourselves if we recognized any of the entries, but none of us did. I hope one of my students made the final cut, but I have no idea at this point."

Although the judges don't fall into the cliché roles of good cop/bad cop, they each bring a unique focus to the table, a fact that became evident during the elimination rounds. Elmquist was looking for a person with a story to tell. "I was looking for something that might move us and that people will be touched by. Maybe I'm the emotional one, looking for that emotional experience." She says Funk looked for agility with language—that turn of phrase and freshness evident in great poetry, while Wiersema wanted to hear the voice behind the writing, a strong, interesting, quirky presence.

Yearning to find time to write

Being the self-proclaimed emotional judge, Elmquist admitted she was moved by some of the entries. "Definitely I read some that moved me to tears—and also to laughter. I laughed hysterically at some of the things, and the creativity I saw was amazing." Elmquist says the opportunity to read the submissions made her appreciate the time she has in her own life to write. "So many of the people told how life got busy, and they have to write in these little moments in between everything else that's going on. There was such a yearning in a lot of them to be given the opportunity to put writing back in their life."

This yearning to write reflects Elmquist's personal story, who in her early thirties decided to indulge her own craving. "You realize when you are young you want to write stories. You do that, then you shelve it for awhile. I decided to take a year off from teaching and, rather than write for that year, I put myself into a master's program. That's when I realized I really wanted to teach creative writing as well." Elmquist's students come from all disciplines, including business and nursing. "They have this desire to write and keep that creative part of themselves alive."

How to unleash the creative voice

Elmquist says Camosun's creative writing program helps unleash the inner creative voice simply by putting writing in the schedule. "A lot of writers procrastinate, so the biggest thing we can give them is an assignment, a deadline to meet, and a community of writers to be with." When Elmquist's students tap into that community they realize they are not alone with this crazy thing they do, "you know, locking yourself off in a room to write and create worlds." She reminds students to cherish this time in their lives when they have time to write and earn credit for doing so. "Writing is legitimized in their schedule, and they can tell people, 'I'm sorry, I can't do that because I have an assignment due.' "

The top four finalists of So you think you can write will be revealed in the Times Colonist paper and online editions on Sunday, September 26. Contestants will receive four writing assignments from the judges and be given a week to complete each one and, like other reality TV shows, readers can visit the website and vote for their favourite submissions.

Last updated: September 21, 2010 3:18 pm

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