JJ Lee is the author of The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Governor-General's Literary Award for Non-Fiction, the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, and the 2012 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Non-Fiction.
In 2012, he was awarded a GOLD for Best Short Feature by National Magazine Awards for his essay "ELLE First: You are beautiful." In 2014, he hosted the CBC Radio summer show, Head To Toe. In 2015, he served on the jury for Hilary Weston Writer's Trust Prize for Non-Fiction.Lee contributes to ELLE Canada and currently is writing a sequel to The Measure of a Man.
He lives in New Westminster.
JJ’s advice for Writer’s Studio applicants
What are you looking for in your workshop group?
The non-fiction group comes alive with people who are willing to share, to be vulnerable, and to accept the possibility the story they want to tell remains to be discovered. It thrives with people from all sorts of background and writing ability. Wonderful writers are always welcome, but what matters most is people who possess the passion to follow through, the generosity to share, and the flexibility to grow.
What do you look for when reading an applicant’s submission?
The non-fiction stream is primarily project driven. For that reason, I look for the story rather than the writing. A cover letter that pitches a premise or outlines an experience that the applicant wishes to deal with in the program are appreciated. It is more important to me than the portfolio.
Let me know what you want to write about. How did you come across the story or come up with the idea? Let me know your genre (no problem if it changes during the year). Is it narrative history, memoir, a book of essays? What compels you to tell your story/stories? Now, not everybody has a perfectly conceived project in mind.
If that’s the case, tell me about the non-fiction you most enjoy reading. Why is non-fiction the right genre for you? How have real life stories affected you? Where do you think participation in the program as a non-fiction member of the cohort will take you? What’s your goal? What areas of craft and technique do you wish to hone?
What to avoid: Philosophically, the idea of the natural-born writer does not mean much to me. It may be true that you are destined to become a writer, but that is of minor importance in the application process.
Let us know what you want to do.