Alumni Spotlight: Thomas Trofimuk

Thomas Trofimuk invites me to Bistro Praha, a gourmet café in Edmonton, to share his creative writing experience. The spot holds much significance for Trofimuk: he spent many late nights in his early years writing there among a scene of inspiring characters. Trofimuk shares with me stories of that time, including a tale of the late Frantisek Cikanek, who believed that champagne was best enjoyed by guzzling the whole flute at once and appreciating the tingly release of the bubbles with a large belch.

Trofimuk is brimming with stories—a great trait for any writer—but what I need to pass on from our meeting is the advice he offers while we enjoy coffee and wine. (And sadly, I drank the former as, while wine eases the tongue, it fogs the memory.)

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Alumni Spotlight: Caitlynn Cummings

Caitlynn Cummings stands atop a high pile of accomplishments: she’s the managing editor of filling Station (an experimental literary magazine based in Calgary, Alta.), the coordinator for the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program, and the published author of several short fiction pieces and poems in various literary magazines. It’s a long list for someone who, only a few years ago, wasn’t sure what she was going to do with her double major in English and Classics.

Cummings was in her penultimate semester when she chose to take a couple creative writing courses to broaden her degree. She found it “exciting to participate in a community” of authors, with whom she could chat about her writing. She took fiction and poetry classes that broadened her perspective about writing, with profs asking things like, “What is your tactile sense of this word?” Through these courses, Cummings says, “I realized that writing could combine all of my interests into a single career trajectory.” Literature, travel, women’s studies, classics, and art history could all coalesce into a single medium.

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Alumni Spotlight: Jason Lee Norman

What advice does Jason Lee Norman have for student writers? “Try to get better at writing.” It seems simple, but young writers often don’t focus on it. Don’t worry about what other writers are doing or how they determine success, he says. No novel deal yet? Not even a short story in a lit mag? Doesn’t matter. “Write, read, submit,” he continues. “You have to submit at some point. Rejection will happen. Feedback will happen.”

Norman’s not one to push a person down the traditional publishing path, possibly because he hasn’t followed it himself. “I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer—I just enjoyed sharing stories,” he says. At eighteen, Norman moved with his family to Argentina and, with less responsibility in this foreign country, he had more time to think about his life. As he looked back on his youth, he realized how much he’d enjoyed reading and writing, and how often he’d spent time on those activities. So he made them his focus and started by searching out the great books to read. “The more I read, the more I wanted to do what that was.”

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