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Meet the Editors


Fiction Editor


What are you studying?

I am majoring in creative writing with a minor in psychology and loving both! My focus streams under the creative writing umbrella are fiction, poetry, and publishing. Some of my favorite courses have been genre fiction with Susan Juby and free verse poetry with Sonnet L’Abbe. Abnormal psychology is one of my main interests in the psych field.


What do you like to write?

Fiction! I like to dabble in a little bit of everything – romance, realism, Y/A, fantasy, and more! I want to publish long-form works, but the short story form is growing on me. I also enjoy writing poetry – usually free verse, and usually sad. I tend to write about nature, love, and heartbreak. I love working with shape and writing short and long forms.


What are you working on now?

I am writing a paranormal romance novella – essentially, a ghost love story where one lover is alive and one is a ghost. It’s presented some unique challenges, but I’m excited to see it start to manifest. I have also started to work on more short stories. The newest one I’m working on tells the story of a girl’s life from a river’s perspective. I’m continuing to refine my poems for publication, two of which will appear in this next issue of Portal!


What are your favorite genres to read?

I like to read fiction in general! I do tend to read more literary fiction, historical fiction, crime, dystopia, and fantasy (gotta love books with dragons!), and I usually gravitate towards the young adult section. I grew up on Tolkien, C.S Lewis, Christopher Paolini, Madeline L’Engle, and Nancy Drew. And, of course, I like to read poetry!


What do you think makes a good story?

Firstly: engaging characters. This doesn’t mean likable! They can be engagingly wonderful or engagingly awful! A compelling writing style that uses unique descriptions and techniques will also make a good story if paired with a strong plot and cast of characters. At the end of the day, a good story should either make me smile, laugh, or cry.


What movie could you watch over and over?

Tangled, hands down. I love a sweet love story and a happy ending.


What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?

Iceland. There are so many places that are beautiful in different ways, including our beautiful British Columbia, but Iceland took my breath away. Its waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, and vibrant flora and fauna were off-the-charts stunning. You can read about the time I spent in Iceland in “Global Summer” in Portal’s next issue.

Kiara Strijack is the Art Director and a Fiction Editor for Portal 2019. She writes fiction and poetry, and enjoys editing and photography. She is in her third year at VIU, pursuing a major in creative writing and a minor in psychology. She has been published in The Nav, and her photography has been published in PortalShe received the Meadowlark Award for fiction in 2018.


Portal’s November in Photos

November has been abundant with events: 2 Gustafson Distinguished Poet events with internationally-acclaimed poet Lorna Crozier, a beer ’n burger fundraiser, Portfolio reading featuring Writer’s Trust award-winner Kathy Page, and the announcement of our Portent Non-fiction Contest winner!

On November 7th, Lorna Crozier, the Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet of 2018, did a free reading at White Sails Brew Pub, sharing the stage with Portal contributor Aislinn Cottell, who read from her own selection. The event was a resounding success, drawing a sizable and diverse audience.

A picture from our Gustafson Interview. A picture from our Gustafson Interview.

Crozier’s lecture “Writing & Risk” included her bold and daring approach to writing. Crozier’s lecture will be the next instalment in the Gustafson Distinguished Poet chapbook series, which are published annually and available at the VIU bookstore. You can check out the entire lecture on Portal’s Youtube page.

Midway through the month, we had Portal’s Beer ‘n’ Burger Fundraiser at the Old City Station Pub on November18th. People came in from the cold and enjoyed a pint, with the proceeds going to Portal’s 2019 issue in April.

After poring over our Portent Non-Fiction Contest entries, the Portal team reached its decision on November 20th. Awarding Zach Cooper $500 first prize for his short-story “On the Left,” to be published in the 2019 edition of Portal.

To polish-off November’s events, Portal hosted its first Portfolio Reading Series on Monday the 26th with Salt Spring Island author and VIU instructor Kathy Page. Held at the White Room, the event’s intimate venue was perfect for Page’s inspired, illuminating novel Dear Evelyn, awarded the 2018 Rogers Writer’s Trust Prize for Fiction.

Kathy Page standing at her podium in the White Room.

Alasdair Robertson and Caleigh Broatch entranced the audience with readings from X and “Eden” respectively. Kain Stewart, the evening’s charming emcee, guided the event’s proceedings.

– Raymond Wade, Fiction Editor, Audio Visual Editor, and Print Publicity

Writing Prompts: The Snowflake Method (Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2

A snowflake resting beneath a pen, surrounded by a number of other writing implements.

Portal magazine continues to accept submissions for our annual issue, which will be released in April (fiction/non-fiction/poetry/script, VIU students only, no submission fee, deadline November 30th). We’re looking for entries of up to 2000 words. This series of posts is here to get the wheels turning using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.

The steps we covered in Part 2 should leave you with a 4-page in-depth summary of your story. The Snowflake Method was designed by a novelist, so the remaining steps may not fight a short story perfectly. Feel free to experiment as you work.

Let’s begin by returning to your character sheets. Take each character description and expand it into a full-length character chart, featuring birth dates, personal history, motivation, goals, and a detailed explanation of how they will change by the end of the story. If your characters begin demanding changes to the plot, POV, or tone, listen to them. As Ingermanson says in his article, “great fiction is character-driven.”

Time to bring out one of the writer’s most important tools: the spreadsheet. Take your 4 page summary and make a list of every scene in your story. Use one column of the spreadsheet to describe the POV character and another column to describe what happens in the scene. If you want, you could add more columns to describe setting, overall tone, or symbolism. Don’t be afraid to go into detail. If a spreadsheet can contain a novel’s worth of scenes, it can definitely contain everything required to outline a short story.

The next step is optional and may not really apply to a short story, but I’ll present it for completeness. Take what you’ve got in your spreadsheet and create a multi-paragraph outline of each scene. Now is the time to jot down dialogue and ask yourself about conflict. Every chunk of the story needs to have something driving it, after all. When you’re done, you should have your final in-depth synopsis of the story. If you were working on a particularly short story or a particularly in-depth outline, you may even finish the project at this stage, in which case – congratulations!

For those who didn’t finish here or chose to skip the final outline, there’s only one step left: write. Get that first draft down on a word processor, on paper, on old receipts and sticky notes if you have to. You know what the story is about. All that’s left is to get the words flowing.

These are steps seven to ten of Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. We hope they came in handy! Keep the Snowflake Method in mind as you work on submissions for Portal. The Nov 30th deadline is getting closer.

– Nicola Kapron, Web Editor

The words 'What's Your Story' printed in white on a lined blue background.

Stress and Creativity

“Imagination is tapping into the subconscious in a form of open play. That is why art or music therapy, which encourages a person to take up brushes and paint or an instrument, and just express themselves, is so powerful.”
― Phil ‘Philosofree’ Cheney

The cover of Karl Ove Knausgaard's 'So Much Longing in So Little Space'

With the end of the semester upon us, stress is at an all-time high. At this point in the year, it is nice to use creativity as an escape – after all, art is a form of therapy. It expands the mind and explores self-expression. It improves self-esteem, increases awareness, induces positivity, and maintains good mental health.

When you create something, you push your boundaries. You also express emotion, so next time you feel like the blues are taking over, get up, draw back those curtains, and get creative. Take a deep breath and exhale negative feelings.

Here are some ways to help you find your creative mojo:

Journaling: is an effective way to recharge, increase gratitude, and take time to appreciate what you have instead of pining for what you don’t.

2) Drawing/Colouring: Let your inner child loose and enjoy scribbling, or using a colouring book. They even have apps for colouring on your phone {url?}.

3) Clay Sculpting: Join an art/craft/sculpting class to play with clay  – it’s adult playdoh. Pummel your frustrations into the table.

4) Poem Collage: Grab some magazines and newspapers, and cut out words that have some kind of meaning to you. Now visualize how you want your poem to flow and assemble as you see fit.

5) Read, Write, and Escape: Enjoy someone else’s life and world to escape your own. Reading lifts your spirits and allows you to lose yourself in the pages of a book.

Creativity is a soul cleanser. It can take many forms, but it results in happier, healthier tomorrows.

“Art is my cure to all this madness, sadness, and loss of belonging in the world, & through it I’ll walk myself home.”

– Chantelle Nazareth, Contest Coordinator and Social Media Team





The cover of 'five ways to use creative arts as a stress buster' An in-progress sketch made with pencil crayons. A pair on hands are visible, one holding a pencil crayon and one holding the drawing still. A person in ripped jeans sitting at a potter's wheel, moulding a cup from clay.

You Owe It to Yourself to Write

The cover of Karl Ove Knausgaard's 'So Much Longing in So Little Space'

Are you a writer? Perhaps you are not published in literary magazines or negotiating a book deal, but if an hour spent creating a literary work (however infrequently this may occur) is one of the most rewarding hours of your week, then you owe it to yourself to write.

Though you may be busy with classes, or a suffocating work schedule, dependents, significant others, needy friends, or daily chores, that is no excuse. According to Karl Ove Knausgaard—author of 6 books in 3 years—being busy is the ideal condition for writers.

In a recent interview with Joshua Rothman of The New Yorker, Knausgaard observed “It’s strange that, with three small children and limited time, I wrote so many pages a day while, before, when I spent all the time I wanted on writing, and even lived on isolated islands and in remote lighthouses, I hardly wrote anything.”

As counterintuitive as this might seem, you’ve probably all experienced the truth of his words—a day set aside for writing frittered away, and an entire creation written in two hours before a midnight deadline.

“When I wrote my first novel—I was nineteen—I did it very quickly. If you write fast, you feel like you’re entering something not yet familiar—a world rather than thoughts about the world.

“I started to polish the car instead of driving it—and, obviously, when you polish your car, you don’t get anywhere, no matter how nice the car looks.” It’s tempting to “polish the car,” edit rather than write, and though editing is crucial to the writing process, you can’t polish the car you don’t have.

So embrace the fact that you are busy, then to give yourself a firm deadline to write, to submit, and then to write again.

– Braedan Zimmer, Fiction Editor

A hand holding a pen, writing on the top sheet of a stack of papers. A cup sits beside the stack. The fingers of another hand are wrapped around its handle.

Portent Contest: Deadline Extended to November 1st

A zoom in on the dictionary entry for Portent and Portentous.

Did you know this is the first year Portal is running a contest open to all non-fiction writers across Canada? Portal magazine is Canada’s only full-colour nationally distributed literary magazine and invites Canadian authors to submit their best work to its premiere competition entitled Portent.

The deadline has been extended to November 1st, 2018 with a grand prize of $500 (Canadian funds) going to the winner. The entry fee is $25 which includes an issue of the 2019 Portal. The contest’s genre rotates every year among creative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, scripts and art and photography.

While Portal is dedicated to publishing the works of students at Vancouver Island University, the contest is open for the first time to non-student entries from across the nation and is an opportunity to be published in Canada’s only full-colour literary magazine.

Genres under the umbrella of creative non-fiction include: personal essays, memoir, narrative non-fiction, social commentary, travel writing, historical accounts, cultural criticism, nature writing, literary journalism, and biography.

The entry must not be more than 2,000 words and include contact information (address, phone number, email) and title and word count of submission on a separate page as the contest is adjudicated through blind judging. Please double space your work and submit only one entry per a person.

To pay the entry fee:

  • go to the VIU Foundation website and select “other” under Amount and enter $25 and “other” under Designation typing in Portal Portent contest in the allotted space. Fill out the remaining credit card billing information and consider yourself entered.
  • Alternatively, enclose a cheque made out to the VIU Foundation with $25 in Canadian funds and mail to: David Forrester – Portent Contest, Advancement & Alumni Relations Office 900 Fifth Street, Building 310 Nanaimo, BC V9R 5S5.
  • Submit your ms by email to viuportal@gmail.com

The winner will be notified via email and be announced on Portal’s website and Facebook page, with the publication of the winning entry appearing in Portal’s 2019 issue. The winner will be interviewed for our website.

Entries already published, accepted, or submitted elsewhere are ineligible. Previous publication is considered to be any appearance in print or online, including in a newspaper, newsletter, magazine, anthology, chapbook, book, website, electronic magazine, personal blog, Twitter, or Facebook prior to April 2019.

– Zach Cooper, Fiction Editor

Writing Prompts: The Snowflake Method (Part 2)

Part 1

A single snowflake against a wintery backdrop

Portal magazine is still accepting submissions for both our national non-fiction writing contest called Portent ($500 prize, $25 entry fee, deadline November 1st) and our annual issue out in April (fiction/non-fiction/poetry/script, VIU students only, no submission fee, deadline November 30th, ). We’re looking for entries of up to 2000 words in both categories. This series of posts is here to get the wheels turning using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method.

After the steps we covered in part 1, you should have a good idea of what your story is about and how it’s going to be structured. Now, take your summary paragraph and expand each sentence into a paragraph of its own. All but the last should end on a note of tension, if not outright disaster. The final paragraph should cover the ending. You should end up with a one-to-two page skeleton for your story. If you’re working on a particularly short piece, you may end up finishing it at this step, in which case – congratulations!

Let’s return to the characters. Last time, you gave each major character a one-sentence summary. Flesh that out into a full page for each and give an additional half-page summary to every other character. These summaries should be a full retelling of the story’s events from each character point of view. Ingermanson refers to these as ‘character synopses.’ Don’t be afraid to include seemingly extraneous detail in your synopses – knowing your characters well can only make them more lifelike, even if most of that information never makes it into the story proper. Feel free to make revisions to your outline as you learn more about the cast.

At this point, you should have a solid core to your story and several character threads and subplots you could follow. A short story generally doesn’t have more than one or two subplots, so you may want to decide which ones you’re going to focus on at this point. Once you have an idea of which plot threads are going to take the stage, it’s time to repeat your trick with the summary and expand each paragraph of your one-to-two page outline into its own page. You should end up with a four page summary of your story. This is the time to be making strategic decisions – if there’s anything that needs fixing or readjusting, you want to do it now.

These are steps four to six of Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. Stay tuned for future installments and make sure to mark your calendars for the Portent and Portal submission deadlines next month.

– Nicola Kapron, Web Editor

An open book sits on a wooden surface, several pages frozen mid-turn

Writing and Risk: Looking Ahead at the 2018 Gustafson Lecture

A page of blurred cursive handwriting.

Next week on November 7th and 8th, VIU will welcome award-winning poet Lorna Crozier to campus as the 2018 Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet. She’ll be presenting a lecture and reading/Q&A for students, as well as a public reading at White Sails Brewery.

In her lecture, she’ll be talking about writing and the risks we take whenever we put pen to paper. Whether it’s a poem, a piece of short fiction, or even a film script, there’s no doubt that it takes serious guts to allow readers – strangers – to be an audience for our deepest thoughts and emotions. We’re opening the window to judgement. For some it’ll resonate, and others it won’t.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Ms Crozier has to say on the top. As a Creative Writing student, I have always been aware of this risk. I still struggle giving feedback in workshops, even in my third year, because I know how much of my own personal life trickles into my writing, and what if the same is true for my classmates?

Poetry is such a personal form of writing, so I try my best to be as gentle yet constructive as possible. I would never want to make an author feel like his/her feelings or experiences are invalid. It’s easy to feel personally attacked.

I would encourage all students and writers to attend Ms Crozier’s lecture and readings. On Wednesday, November 7th, she will be presenting her reading and Q&A at the Nanaimo campus from 2:30-4, in Building 355 room 211.

That night she will also be doing a public reading at White Sails from 7:30-8:30pm, with our very own Aislinn Cottell.

Her lecture is the following day on Thursday, November 8th at 7pm, in Building 355 room 203.

Ms Crozier’s poetry is an inspiring example for any aspiring writer/poet. It is powerful and shows a fierce bravery that I can only hope to achieve one day. The topics of her poems range from the beauty in everyday things (The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things) to female desires (What the Living Won’t Let Go) publishing at a time where women weren’t really given a voice.

Keep a look out for our interview with Ms Crozier in the 2019 issue of Portal.

– Erinn Sturgeon, Poetry Editor and Gustafson Interviewer

Seeking a Literary Community

As writers, we spend long nights in dark rooms with glaring desktop screens and stalled fingertips. As readers, our eyes crust over long before we’re ready to put the book down and sleep – even then, the stories follow us into dreamland.

A table crowded with laptops, hands typing away.

So many of us spend our time in isolation thinking – romantically, incorrectly – that this is how all the Greats write. Introversion has its perks, sure, but there’s a bigger world out there if you discard your recluse attire (fuzzy socks, baggy T-shirts) and socialize again.

The possibility that my words will be read is the encouragement I need to get out among a literary community: workshops; coffee dates with other writers; writing festivals and other literary events; book clubs; writing clubs; readings.

In the Creative Writing program, our communities come in the form of small classes. Portal is no exception –  20 people who keep me focused and encouraged, and that’s just on Tuesdays.

However, in 6 months, my VIU communities will expire and I will have to seek out others so I’ve made a shortlist of candidates like these:

I’m trying to approach my writing community in the right frame of mind (the first step was calling myself a Writer) by welcoming feedback and constructive criticism about how to turn my weaknesses into strengths, and how to not only grow, but flourish.

My ideal is a welcoming literary community of tough love, tougher support, and unending inspiration. So crawl out of the dark corners of your room and join Portal on November 15th, 2018 for a night of readings – more details to follow.

– Caileigh Broatch, Co-Managing Editor

A golden pen resting on a black desk.

Portal and Writing What You Know

An image of Portal's 2018 issue and a piece of paper reading "What do I know?" in red ink.

“Write what you know” is advice often suggested to writers, but what does it really mean? Author Nathan Englander, however, argues the downside of “writing what you know”: “I think it’s the best piece of advice there is, but I think it’s also the most misunderstood, most mis-taught, most misinterpreted piece of advice … Why do we love those books[we love], why do they change us, why do they touch our hearts, why do they hold so much meaning? Because they are truer than truth; because there is a great knowing within them, emotion. …  if you’ve known longing, then you can write longing.

In a New York Times column Mohsin Hamid argues that “what we know isn’t a static commodity,” and, in that same column, Zoe Heller says an author can also draw from the lives of others, from research, and from imagination. 
Raymond Carver suggests “a little autobiography and a lot of imagination are best.”
Depending on the genre of your submission to Portal, the proportion of real-life elements, research, and imagination will undoubtedly vary. Creative non-fiction describes real events, but utilizes an fictional techniques. Fiction is often inspired by, and draws upon fact. Both can be poetic and as dramatic as staged plays. 
My own script, The Only Moll for Miles, published in the 2018 issue, is a combination of all of the above and though I wasn’t alive in 30s-era BC during the Depression, I could imagine my characters, infuse them with a certain amount of my own emotional DNA, and research the setting. It was not what I knew, but what I knew I wanted to write. Sometimes that’s enough 🙂 
I hope you find your own elixir of inspiration, memory, and fact and send it along to Portal by Nov 30th so that our team and our readers can enjoy it. Authors may debate the meaning or accuracy of the adage, but if it gets you to write, it will always be worth considering. 
A page sample from "The Only Moll for Miles"
“The Only Moll for Miles” is set in Depression-era B.C.

– Chynna Moore, Event Coordinator