Finnian Burnett


I wrote a piece a couple months ago for the Off Topic Publishing Creative Non-Fiction contest. I don’t usually submit to CNF contests because I tend to try to stick with fiction. There’s something less scary about fiction, even when you’re drawing sharply from your own life, as I did with my novella-in-flash, The Clothes Make the Man. After all, with a fictional work, no one is ever quite sure if *that* part specifically is about you or if it came from your writer mind.

In creative non-fiction, even though you may mess with the timeline or take a combination of event and blend them into one to make for a flowing narrative, the essence of the story is true. When you publish a NCF, you’re telling your reader, “Hey. This is about me and I still have a lot of feelings about it.”

You’re showing the diary, the stuff you whisper in the dark, the things you don’t usually talk about except maybe with your spouse or best friend and even then, maybe only when you’re feeling a little removed from the shame, the fear, the vulnerability.

I submitted my piece to the contest and was quite happy to get an honourable mention. The publisher posted it on their page and we shared it on Twitter and that was that. Except it wasn’t.

The piece unleashed a flood of people private messaging me, tagging me on Twitter, emailing me through the contact form on my website. Many of their stories made me cry. Some of them didn’t say anything except thank you. A great deal of the messages just felt they’d seen something in the piece that resonated with them. And it was a little terrifying and a little overwhelming, and also incredible healing because though I’ve always known I wasn’t the only person to go through weight trauma and abusing my body with constant dieting, I didn’t *truly* know. After weeks, now months since publication, posts and messages still trickle in from folks who stumble across the piece and I’m still gratified by them, still bolstered by the vulnerability of the people reaching out. Still mad that so many of us were put through so much hell simply because we didn’t meet an ideal we weren’t born to meet.

If you’re considering writing creative non-fiction and have yet to do it, or you’re not sure how to start, I recommend thinking about the things that still prod at your consciousness. Events that might have shaped who you are. People who help (for good or ill) to inform who you are. And then start writing about them.

And if you want to read the piece in question, you can find it here. Don’t forget to let me know what you think. I’m always open to hearing from people.

It feels like a successful month – I’ve made the shortlist for Pulp Literature, The Federation of BC Writers, Blank Spaces magazine, Bridport, Globe Soup’s monthly micro, so many.

But it’s been a while since I had a win. People say, “Well you should be grateful you made the longlist” and I am! It feels good to be part of the small group of people whose stories were chosen for the shortlist. But I’m ready for a win, for something I can jump up and down and scream about, and put on my writer’s resume, and maybe catch the eye of a hiring committee and get hired.

Still, shortlists are a great thing. My friend, writer Shawn Bird told me that when you’re making shortlists, you know you’re on the right track. Just keep working.

And I’m working. I just submitted my evidence of progress for this semester. If I survive, I’ll be doctor Finn by spring.

I’m working on a short story collection of queer love stories.

And, after an amazing workshop with the brilliantly talented writer Sheree L. Greer yesterday, I suddenly figured out what my next novel is going to be.

It’s not an easy life, is it? Being a writer, trying to live as a writer. I admire people who manage to do it. I’m not there yet, but I do hope that sometime, I will get there.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about writing flash fiction, feel free to check out my workshop through the Crow Collective next month.

And keep writing.

I know a lot of people like to take the new year as a time of reflection. I’ve always enjoyed using my birthday as a time to do that. I think because I’m starting my winter hibernation around this time, and because birthdays are such a natural time to mark the passing years.

I’m 52 today and my eyesight is definitely a lot worse than it was a few years ago. My joints are maybe not as mobile as they were in my 40s. I’m a lot wiser, a lot happier in love than I ever was in younger year relationship. I’m still trying to work out the career thing. In some ways, it feels strange to be in university at this age – like what am I going to do when I graduate, when most people entering career fields after college are decades younger than I am?

I’ve been enjoying the writing successes I’ve had this year. Excited that my novella-in-flash, The Clothes Make the Man, is resonating with so many people. The main character, Arthur, is a trans masculine person who navigates life in a fat body and deals with all the societal and family pressure that comes from that. I love that he’s finding a mainstream audience and that people are finding ways to relate to Arthur. I think so many of us understand feeling out of place in one way or another.

I found out today that I made the shortlist of eight for the Blank Spaces Small Towns, Summer Nights contest. It means I’ll be published in their annual anthology. That was a great birthday present. I also found out today that I didn’t get into a journal I was trying to get into. A reminder that the writing life is full of ups and downs and specifically, that contests, journals, book acceptances, etc, are all subjective and just because one person doesn’t love it, doesn’t mean others won’t.

I haven’t yet made my 100 rejections in a year goal – but I’ll be writing about that after the end of the year. (I’m close!) I have an article about it coming out in the Federation of BC Writers paper magazine in their end of the year special.

All in all, it’s been a good writing year. My goal for next year will be to finish my Star Trek themed novella-in-flash and at least get started on my next novel.

Hey all! I know I’ve been so wrapped up in my capstone, I’m letting other things fall by the wayside. I haven’t submitted much lately. I’ve barely written anything lately. I haven’t worked on my new novel at all in the past few months. I have a flash fiction collection about 1/2 done – this will be my third flash collection. My second, The Price of Cookies, will be released by Off Topic Publishing in the summer of 2023.

But I have to admit I haven’t been writing as much as I want. I worry sometimes that I’ll lose it, that creativity is something that needs to be practiced and I’ll forget how to do it if I take too long of a break.

But today, I got to finally hold a copy of my new novella-in-flash in my hands. And people have been messaging me and tagging me on Twitter and Facebook to tell me how much they love Arthur, the main character in The Clothes Make the Man. And I remember why I love this, why even when it pains me, or I worry about it, or I’m having horrific imposter syndrome, I still find some time to write. Because bringing alive a character who touches people makes me happy.

I’m going to make more time to write in the coming weeks. As we move into winter hibernation, I need to keep doing things that make me happy.

Hi All! I’m excited to announce the Crow Collective has asked me back to teach a class on “Queering the Flash.” I’ll be talking about queerness in flash fiction and how to add it to your own work. We’ll do a lot of writing, some sharing (completely optional) and hopefully learn a lot.

It’s a low cost workshop and free spots are available. Check it out!