John Mavin

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Born
Chatham, Ontario, Canada
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March 2017

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A past nominee for both the Aurora Award and the Journey Prize, John Mavin is the author of Rage. He's taught creative writing at Capilano University, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, with New Shoots, and at the Learning Exchange in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

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John Mavin When I'm asked how I come up with my stories, I often use "The High Alpinist's Survival Guide" (the last story in Rage) to describe my process (somet…more When I'm asked how I come up with my stories, I often use "The High Alpinist's Survival Guide" (the last story in Rage) to describe my process (something first sparks my imagination, I find a second idea to play off it, and then I look for a third idea to spin everything into a new direction). I was originally inspired / shocked / outraged while reading about the 1996 storm which killed eight people on Mount Everest--specifically the reports of people walking past a distressed climber and leaving him to die. I couldn't understand how anyone could callously ignore a person in distress. I realized I didn't fully understand the circumstances surrounding this event (I've never climbed Mount Everest myself), but surely, there had to be some explanation.

So I researched my ass off. I read and watched everything I could find about Everest. I spoke to climbers and people who've been there. While what I learned explained the situation, it didn't dissipate my disgust. I learned joining an expedition costs tens of thousands of dollars but typically doesn't require extensive high-altitude experience. I also learned that above 8,000 metres there isn't enough oxygen for humans to survive, so rescue attempts have little chance of success (and with inexperienced rescuers, the likely result will be their deaths as well). And finally, I learned there are dead bodies all over Everest (I've been told one in twenty climbers die during their summit attempt).

But I knew I didn't want to write a simple story about climbing Mount Everest or about people's seeming inhumanity (better, in my opinion, to read real-life accounts from people who've actually been there). I needed a second idea, and this is what I came up with: what if someone was climbing Everest specifically to bring down someone whom everyone else was walking past? While that seemed kind of cool to me, I knew it wasn't good enough. I needed a third idea to spin the story into a new direction. And the third idea which came to me was the climber's motivation. I won't share Brian's reasons for climbing Everest (it's a huge spoiler and is what the story is all about), but I will tell you it was enough for me to realize I had something worth developing and that I'd better get my butt in my writing chair and start typing. (less)
Average rating: 3.81 · 54 ratings · 22 reviews · 2 distinct works
Rage

4.58 avg rating — 19 ratings
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3.40 avg rating — 35 ratings — published 2007
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TWS Community Workshop

****CANCELLED****
I'm sure no one will be surprised to hear we've cancelled this workshop for the foreseeable future. When it's appropriate, we'll try to reschedule later. Take care, everyone.
****
On Sunday, March 22, 2020, I'll be presenting Writing the Short Story as part of the SFU Continuing Studies TWS Community Workshops series. We'll be at SFU Vancouver - Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver Read more of this blog post »
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Published on January 21, 2020 10:32

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John Mavin finished reading
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
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A Time of Courage by John Gwynne
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A Time of Blood by John Gwynne
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Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
"Excellent. This is a little package of dynamite that will blast your plotting sideways. It's a book I continue to refer to as I write. "
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A Time of Dread by John Gwynne
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Come and Find Me by Hallie Ephron
Come and Find Me
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Artemis by Andy Weir
Artemis
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Still Midnight by Denise Mina
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The Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan
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More of John's books…
John L'Heureux
“A story is about a single moment in a character's life when a definitive choice is made, after which nothing is the same.”
John L'Heureux

Anne Lamott
“Try to write in a directly emotional way, instead of being too subtle or oblique. Don't be afraid of your material or your past. Be afraid of wasting any more time obsessing about how you look and how people see you. Be afraid of not getting your writing done.”
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Ernest Hemingway
“The first draft of anything is shit.”
Ernest Hemingway

Flannery O'Connor
“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system.”
Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose

Brandon Sanderson
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”
Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings

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