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Picks of the Week (November 13, 2000)

You're gonna make it, after all

You know, here at Picks Central we're always getting letters from people wondering what it takes to become a Pick Writer. Did we have to go to writing school? Pay our dues as assistant Pick Writers? Impress somebody with our natural wit and charm? Good golly, no. All it took was a few pictures of our boss with a rubber chicken on his head, a suggestion that it would be real shame if those pictures got published, and the rest is history. But that's just one way to get ahead. For the rest of you, here are some tips on what to do if you want to make it in this business:

Learn to write good -- uh, well. That should be a really -- or is that real? -- obvious one. You don't get far as a Picks writer without knowing how to write, and a good writer loves the English language. She's the sort of person, for example, who frequents CBC's Words, Woe and Wonder, a wild and woolly (wooly?) collection of word-related facts, gripes, and questions submitted by readers all over this fair dominion. Do split infinitives make you want to boldy go bust some heads? Ever wondered if ending a sentence with a preposition is the sort of thing you shouldn't put up with? And what's the flap over flags flying at half-mast? Wonder no more.

Listen to other peoples' stories. We can't begin to tell you how important it is to read, read, read. The whole world is full of fascinating stories that you can plagiarize -- um, that is, pay homage to in your own writing. And if there's one thing we've learned from checking out, it's that you don't have to look far to find some really fascinating stories to inspire you. Remember those Heritage Minutes? You know, the little commercials that played scenes from Canadian history ("No one is ever going to read about a hero in tights, Joe. It'll never fly.")? It's got 'em. Plus a whole bunch of other fun and games that bring history to life.

Be daring, bold, and original. Nobody likes a copycat, or someone who keeps recycling the same old ideas. To make it in this biz, you gotta be the kind of person who marches to a different drummer. Saunters to a different saxophone. Bellydances to a different -- well, you get the idea. We like original thinkers around here, which is why we've been spending so much time at Drawn & Quarterly. Ten years ago, Chris Oliveros was just another guy with a comic magazine, until he decided to publish the works of some of the hottest Canadian comic artists around. We're talking people like Chester Brown, Joe Matt, Julie Doucet -- the kind of artists whose stories aren't about the usual mutants and strongmen in Spandex. The D&Q site charts the company's history and success in bringing original comic art to the world. Comics made in Canada? Now that's a daring idea...

Get a university education. For it is only in the hallowed halls of academe that one truly has the opportunity to discuss great philosophical issues ("So, if Donald Duck never wore pants, why did he wrap a towel around his waist when he got out of the shower?"). Then again, paying for that trip tends to set you back a bit -- let's face it, graduating as The Debt-Free Grad is never easy. Fortunately, there are plenty of places where you can get good advice on how to minimize the costs of higher learning, which is good, 'cause there are a lot of things to learn out there ("So, if Scooby Doo could only talk like a dog trying to speak English, how come his nephew Scrappy could speak perfect English?").

Keep in touch with loved ones. Even after you make it big in this business, you should never forget to write the people who helped you make it -- after all, who else are you going to make fun of when it's a half-hour to deadline and you're fresh out of ideas? In all seriousness, though, there's nothing more important than keeping in touch with loved ones -- and if you don't believe us, check out The Canadian Letters and Images Project. It's an ongoing effort to publish online the letters exchanged between soldiers and their loved ones during the wars of the past. If you meet anyone who doubts the power of the written word, tell them to read some of the letters here -- that'll change their minds pretty fast, we guarantee.

Don't be afraid to draw attention to yourself. Let's face it -- talent only gets you so far in this world. In order to get the job, you've got to know how to advertise yourself. Take the good folks of Elliston, Newfoundland. They're a small town of about 400 people just a short drive from Bonavista. Deciding that their tourism trade needed a little boost, they officially declared themselves the "Root Cellar Capital of the World" in July. "Elliston boasts 133 documented root cellars, some of which have survived nearly two centuries," says the town's official site. "This makes Elliston a cultural centre for those who seek to gain an understanding of early Newfoundland subsistence." We applaud their attempts to attract attention, and wish more people would do the same. Except for that guy outside our door, begging to work here. It's not like we make that much money here....

Sites featured in this week's Canadian Picks

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Previous Weeks' Picks: [ Nov. 6, 2000 | Oct. 30, 2000 | Oct. 23, 2000 | Oct. 16, 2000 ]

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