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“I’ll have a venti mochaccino and an award-winning book, please.”

In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King advises aspiring writers to avoid writing in coffee shops. Canadian novelist Corey Redekop, by contrast, admits that “the majority of [his] writing occurs in coffee shops.” There is undoubtedly a certain clichéd mystique surrounding writers who find inspiration along with a strong cup of Joe at their local java joint; now there’s even a prize for books written in coffee shops.

Yesterday, the Toronto Star published an article about the first annual Coffee Shop Author contest, which recently announced its inaugural winners. The contest winner is Mississauga resident Ranjini George Philip. Second and third place went to Theresa Wouters of Grande Prairie, Alberta, and Ron Stewart of Komoka, Ontario, respectively.

The brainchild of Calgary resident Susan Toy and Oolichan Books owner Randal Macnair, the contest asked writers to register with the Coffee Shop Author website, secure the endorsement of a local coffee establishment, “then pledge to write the bulk of a novel, short story collection, poetry collection or a work of creative non-fiction at the coffee shop between November 2009 and April 2010.” Entrants paid a fee of $30 and the first-place winner receives a spot at the Fernie Writers Conference in Fernie, British Columbia.

From the Star:

Forty-two Canadians entered the online contest, promising to write most of their submissions — poetry, novels, teen fiction — in coffee shops. A few bent the rules and created in local libraries, and in one case, in rural Saskatchewan, an ice cream parlour.

Writing is a lonely pursuit and has always driven writers out of their houses to find companionship — or distraction or inspiration — in public places.

“I’ve been a coffee shop writer for a long time,” says Philip, 46, who taught at Zayed University in Dubai before coming to Canada with her husband and two children three years ago.

“There’s a lot of solitude and I find I work better when there is a buzz of noise around me.”

According to the Star, the contest’s popularity has convinced Toy to expand next year’s contest beyond Canada. It would appear that there are a significant number of writers out there willing to ignore Stephen King’s advice.

  • Shaun Smith

    Oh hurrah, another hoop to jump through! (That’ll be $30, please.)

  • Lynn Lewis

    As one of the forty two I would confirm that writting in a coffee shop can be both inspiring and distracting. Sometimes both from the same incident. What I found most gratifying was the blog comments from all the different writers and their varing genre. It was all very rewarding and in the end it did not really matter who won the prizes, it was more important that it was persons we know were going through the same trials and efforts the rest of us were. I would do it again and again for that experiance alone. Thank You, That Old Guy – Lynn

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