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Where are they now?

Where are they now: Challenge winner Todd Brown

As we approach the first anniversary of Canada Writes, we're checking in with our inaugural "Hall of Famers"—the winners of our first year's worth of writing challenges. Up now, Todd Brown, the winner of our Crime Month Page Turner Challenge held last May.

Todd.jpgWhat's new with you?

I've just been enjoying a great Nova Scotia summer. 

In my world that means trying to not obsess over work, avoiding painting our kitchen, trying to keep ahead of our devious cats, and nodding in all the right places when my wife says that I can't avoid painting the kitchen any longer.

How's the writing coming along? Any new writing projects?

My problem hasn't been a lack of writing projects, it's been the opposite. I had been working on a thriller manuscript for about a year before the Page Turner Challenge happened. I was about 50,000 words in when I heard about the win. That kind of made me reevaluate it a bit. Looking at Louise Penny's wonderful comments made me want to try my hand at developing the rest of "What's the Frequency Kenneth?", so I've spent part of the summer developing an outline for that. That work has been frequently interrupted by both making a study of the mystery genre and writing a couple of short stories.

How did winning the Page Turner Challenge (and the praise of Canadian crime maven Louise Penny) affect your writing and your self-confidence as a writer?

I can't say enough about the impact it's had. I've been writing for years, but I've always been intimidated by all the great writers out there. That's kind of held me back from thinking of myself as a writer, but the win, and Louise's very generous comments on both the Canada Writes website, and subsequently in an email response she sent to me after I reached out to thank her, have changed everything. It's made me think I just might be able to do this.

Have you entered any other Canada Writes challenges since, or kept up with what's been going on? 

By the time the Page Turner Challenge came along, I had already entered both the Short Story and the Creative Nonfiction competitions. Unfortunately for me, I didn't get picked up in the shortlists for either, but I intend to keep trying. I've been following things very closely on the Canada Writes website. It's been fascinating to see and read the shortlists for the challenges and competitions. I think the shortlisted stories have been just about uniformly great in my opinion.  It's really reignited a passion for Canlit. I want to see these stories at my bookstore.

I've already started drafting two stories that I intend to enter into the Short Story competition this year. I'm still trying to find an idea for next year's Creative Nonfiction competition.

You won a coveted iPad in this challenge—and you were planning to write the rest of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" on it. Any updates there?

Well so far, I've successfully managed to hide it form my wife Cherri. It has meant writing in closets, and in the basement, but hey, anything that's going to keep a paintbrush outta my hand works for me! I am writing parts of the rest of "What's the Frequency Kenneth? on it.  I take the bus to and from work a lot. It's extremely convenient for that kind of use.

How have you been enjoying your iPad?

It's certainly useful and practical, and convenient. But I've got to admit, I love whipping it out at work for the purpose of creating tablet envy. I know, I know, l shouldn't be so shallow. But guilty pleasure rules!

As a tried and true Hall of Famer, any advice for other writers wanting to take a Canada Writes challenge?

I think the best advice I can give any writer is to suggest that they try and find the joy in the act of writing. I loved winning the Page Turner Challenge and I hope it's going to be a personal turning point for me, but it can't be about winning competitions. It's got to be about the joy and satisfaction you get from writing something that you yourself believe is good. I can't tell you how happy it makes me when I write something that I think works. 

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