In 2007 Kerry Clare, newly graduated from University of Toronto with a Masters degree in creative writing, was trying to get a manuscript published. It was a novel written in the hopes that it would launch her literary career in Canada. But no one wanted it and, upon reflection, Clare admits that it wasn’t very good.
Instead of waiting for someone to give her a book deal, Clare diligently posted her writing on her blog – a relatively new concept a decade ago. Now, eleven years later, she has carved out her own piece of the Canadian literary pie.
“Every writer should have a blog, but my proviso on this is that your blog can be whatever you want it to be,” said Clare in a follow-up email conversation. “I get my greatest inspiration from things that I don’t really understand, and sitting down at a blog post to puzzle it all out.”
Her blog, picklemethis.com, has secured her a steady stream of freelance work, and just this month, Clare realized her dream of becoming a novelist after her debut novel Mitzi Bytes was published by HarperCollins Canada.
As the semester winds down at Humber College, many students are setting their sights on the job market, just as Clare was a decade ago. The author came in recently and spoke with a group of journalism students at North campus about the importance of developing your own voice as a writer, and hiring yourself when no one else will.
Clare tells young writers that social media can be useful as a way to get your writing out in the world as well. However, she warns students to truly enjoy it because if you fake enthusiasm, people can tell. Her number one rule for creating your own unique voice on the Internet is, “Be Human.”
“Don’t posit yourself as a guru or authority. Be real. Show your process. Dare to change your mind. You are not a brand, you are a person,” said Clare.
Sarah Armenia is the Humber English professor who brought Clare in to help inspire her journalism students to take the lead in their own future. Armenia, who makes it a priority to bring professional writers into her classes, chose Clare because of her adeptness at writing for many different platforms, from her social media accounts to her new novel.
“Kerry Clare embodies the definition of a wonderfully dynamic self starter,” said Armenia.
Crafting your particular point of view is an important factor in being marketable to an employer, Armenia said.
“You aren’t doing the minimum or waiting to be told what to do,” she said.
Clare started her blog five years before she graduated school, and it was the thing she grabbed onto when her novel was rejected. Armenia said writing or working professionally while still in school is one of the hallmarks of a successful student.
Renee Peace-Miller is a first year journalism student in Armenia’s class. Peace-Miller said she admired that Clare held out for the publisher that was the right fit for her book. She said she also came away from the talk understanding that everyone has a unique take on the world – the key is to step into yours and own it.
“I learned from Kerry that having a strong voice just means having a voice that’s uniquely yours, and drawing inspiration from your own life,” said Peace-Miller. “We need different voices in journalism because it helps us identify our common goals.”
Clare’s novel has arrived to much fanfare and many rave reviews, including one glowing write-up from Tara Henley at The Toronto Star.
Henley concludes her exuberant article on Mitzi Bytes saying the book, “heralds the arrival of a fantastic, fun new novelist on the Canadian scene.”
Little does Henley know, Clare has been here all along. just waiting for the perfect moment for her voice to be heard.