English Grad Receives Book Contract
Jeremy Hanson-Finger, a recent graduate of both the English BA and MA programs, has received a book contract from Montreal-based independent press 8th House. The contract is for his collection of short stories titled Nice People Who Care About Each Other Having a Good Time.
Hanson-Finger’s collection explores the hopeless gap between people’s desire to adhere to an idealistic moral code and the grim compromises that inform our actions. For example, in the short story “Saintliness,” a boy tells his therapist that his fantasies of rescuing a girl from danger may have been sublimations of his desire to cause her misfortune and pain. For those David Foster Wallace fans, it should be noted that Hanson-Finger sees Nice People Who Care About Each Other Having a Good Time as a “spiritual cousin” of Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
Hanson-Finger’s decision to become a professional writer was largely influenced by Terence Young, a local author and high-school teacher in Victoria B.C. Long before Hanson-Finger put fingers to keyboard for Nice People, Young co-founded The Claremont Review, a literary magazine committed to publishing the work of writers nineteen-years old and younger. Impressed by Hanson-Finger’s earliest poems, Young showcased Hanson-Finger’s work in Claremont. Having made his literary debut as a high-school student, Hanson-Finger was confronted next with the difficult task of choosing a university where he would learn the skills needed to become a full-time writer.
In 2005, Hanson-Finger made the decision to enroll in Carleton University’s Journalism Program. In his second year as an undergraduate at Carleton, however, he determined to pursue a degree in the Departments of English and Communications. His decision was largely driven by a yearning for greater flexibility and autonomy in his pursuit to become a creative writer. “I wanted to go to university to learn something to write about more than I wanted to go to university to learn to write like a journalist—so I switched to a double major in English and Communications,” explains Hanson-Finger. “I hadn’t written any fiction or poetry during my first year of university, but took a poetry class with Professor Armand Ruffo during my second year that was very helpful to me in that it forced me out of my comfort zone of humour and satire, and into writing seriously about my own experience.”
Hanson-Finger became deeply involved in the young-writers’ community surrounding the English Department’s student-run literary magazine In/Words. He contributed to its many events, hosted writing circles in Dunton Tower, and attended monthly open-mic sessions. The magazine published some of his work, including a chapbook entitled Saintliness/Slowdive.
One of Hanson-Finger’s proudest moments as an undergrad was winning the English Department’s George Johnston Prize for poetry. This led to the publication of one of his works in a print edition of the online magazine Sugarmule. Another profoundly inspiring moment came when Hanson-Finger saw the print copy of Sugarmule. Published under the title Pith & Wry: Canadian Poetry by Your Scrivener Press, the anthology showcased a poem by Margaret Atwood. While Atwood’s poem graced the anthology’s first page, Hanson-Finger’s poem graced its last.
Having thoroughly enjoyed his time at Carleton as an English-Major undergraduate, Hanson-Finger made the decision to continue his studies at Carleton. Upon graduation, he enrolled in the Master’s Program in the Department of English and chose to write a thesis focusing on American postmodernism. Professor Brian Johnson, his Master’s-thesis supervisor, sums up Hanson-Finger’s accomplishments in the following way:
“Jeremy has many qualities that contributed to his success as a graduate student in English, but perhaps the most important ones were his extraordinary level of self-motivation and his genius as a brainstormer and planner. His MA thesis – a 100-page essay that is expected to make an original contribution to current scholarship in the area it is dealing with – was a very ambitious and very successful analysis of contemporary American writing that compared two massive and notoriously difficult novels—Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. This was a gutsy project to attempt, but Jeremy carried it off brilliantly, not just because he is such a careful reader and literary analyst, but because he meticulously mapped out dozens of connections between all of the different critical sources and primary texts he employed using a computer program that helped visualize information as a web of interconnected pods. This kind of complex critical engagement with his sources at the planning stages was clearly one of the techniques that allowed Jeremy to develop really sophisticated arguments in his written work.”
Freshly graduated, Hanson-Finger is grateful for his experiences at Carleton University, and attributes much of his current success and ability as a writer, editor, and publisher, to what he learned in the Department of English:
“I learned how to structure arguments and to express myself as clearly as possible, which is useful now for editing any kind of material. The undergraduate program started me on that path, and graduate school, in which I wrote a 100-page thesis using some very tangled theory to examine two encyclopedic novels, really solidified my skills. When the source material is overflowing with meaning, clarity has to be the highest purpose of prose, and most paid editing work involves working toward that goal, even if carnival imagery in Gravity’s Rainbow is totally different from children with school problems.”
He is also thankful for the modern, open-minded approach the Department of English takes towards education:
“Carleton’s English Department is very progressive and open to contemporary thought compared to other established Canadian universities. Whereas some universities turn their noses up at anything outside the British canon, Carleton’s English Department faculty did their own research on contemporary thinkers like Slavoj Zizek and writers like Douglas Coupland, who are concerned with the always-evolving present. I encountered a lot of ideas that I found inspiring for my own work at Carleton, both in theory and in the fiction and poetry I studied. I think literary theory is a major strength of Carleton’s English Department because it gives you different lenses through which to look at the world, which is also what fiction and poetry do.”
Since graduating from Carleton, and supplementary to his freelance fiction writing, Hanson Finger has gone on to work as an editorial assistant, and then a production editor, at the publishing company John Wiley & Sons in Toronto. Having recently finished his in-house contract at Wiley, he is now focusing on freelance copyediting, developmental editing, and project management for Wiley’s popular brand of books in the For Dummies series.
Not only does he continue to see his own work published, but he has also founded his own literary magazine, Dragnet. As Dragnet’s publisher, he oversees everything from publicity to editorials, from layout to e-book conversion. He also organizes meetings, goes to literary events, and handles finances and grant applications.
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