About the Author

Glen Dresser is a novelist whose first book, Correction Road, was released in 2007 and shortlisted for the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary book prize. He has also worked as a technical writer, information designer and web developer. He is currently focusing his efforts on his second novel and his first-born son, while assisting with UPPERCASE Magazine

Categorical Index


A good writing journal or notebook is a blend of aesthetics and functionality, both highly personal things. I've had dozens over the years, and many of them have been filled only a quarter of the way through (usually starting at the back and moving toward the front), due to a failing in one of these two concerns.

I've got tiny handwriting. Printing, actually. A typical x-height for me is between 1 and 1.5mm. Thus any sort of ruled journal is unsuitable, unless there's a journal with line-heights around 2.5mm. But a standard journal has line-heights between 8 and 12mm. And ruled journals get in the way of drawing associations between ideas. 

I like grid paper more. But my diminutive script tends to get lost on large sheets of graph paper. The Moleskine graph journal is a nice size, and was, until recently, my journal of choice. But it's paper weight isn't quite as nice as the lovely thick weight of other Moleskine journals.

For those not familiar with Moleskine journals, they're worth doing some research on. They've got a literary history that must be enviable amongst journals, and their elegance and simplicity has earned them a sizeable following, as is evident on websites such as www.moleskinerie.com. But the standard unlined moleskine journal just never felt right to me, despite their nice design and perfect size.

Recently, I picked up the  Moleskine Japanese Pocket Notebook. The japanese pockets are what you might call accordian folds: the entire thing can be unfolded into a single 31 page spread. I picked one up as a place to store thoughts for my next novel, and the more I use it, the more I am amazed at the elegance of this handy little book.


An excellent example of the versatility of the notebook is on the pages I use for a timeline. The timeline spans six pages, and, when I'm in transit or another situation where space is tight, I can flip between them as standard pages. But when I have room to spread it out, I can open it up to a single six-page spread roughly 21 inches long: that's a longer continuous drawing surface than you're going to get from any other style of notbook, and you could stretch it out far longer, if necessary. I've laid out similar spreads for themes, characters, and scenes, and another area set aside for maps. 


But the journal really shows its usefulness when I'm working between sections. I begin by laying the journal open to a four page spread (for example four pages of the timeline). And then I flip the left two pages to an earlier section of the notebook that I want to work on or reference (say, character descriptions). At this point, I can work on one two-page spread while referencing another, and the effect is like having two books to work from, rather than one. To look up material that falls between the two sections that I'm working from, I can simply fold the two central pages apart to untuck the interior content.




All of this may sound confusing, but it's a delightfully tactile way of organizing and manipulating one's thoughts.




continental drift

Geography plays a prominent role in Correction Road, and it's always been an important theme for me in any of my writing. As a young teenager, I had no real interest in serious literature and focused, instead, on reading fantasy novels, beginning with Tolkien and moving through to contemporary writers in the genre such as Kay. Much of my fascination with the genre sprung from the prominence that maps played in the stories and in the books themselves. Thus my good friend Correy (now working for Vehicule Press of Montreal), and I spent countless hours drawing our own maps for imagined continents and lands. And we'd come up with kingdoms and characters and plots as well, but in the end it was all superfluous to the maps.

I think the same love has influenced even the video games that I would end up playing toward the end of adolescence and into adulthood: I'm fascinated by the computer scripts used by series such as Sim City or Civilization to generate game maps. I've even explored and worked with terrain mapping scripts in Flash and Processing environments.

My wife has a love, as I do, of vintage papers, and a few years ago we discovered the seemingly endless variations of maps produced by the canadian geographic survey. The maps plot everything from chemicals in the soil to waterfowl habitation potential. The production and printing is usually of very high quality and printed on lovely thick paper. They're somewhat reminiscent of the county maps that my father has pinned up on the wall of his office, showing sections of land with each landowner labelled there.

All of this is tied together in Correction Road, from the county map that Hugh keeps in his truck, to the narrator's obsession with supercontinents, to the discussions of the way that we shape borders and that borders shape us. They are themes and motifs that I revel in, and about which I think I have a lot to say as they've been with me for as long as I can remember.  


Chizik Pizik

So in the last few days, I've made what are hopefully the final revisions to Correction Road, and it's now in the capable hands of Oberon Press. I'm going to use this space to talk about some of the issues in the book and offer further explanation on some of the themes and considerations, but given that they won't mean a whole lot if you haven't read the book (and the book won't be out until late November), these explanations probably won't mean a whole lot to most readers.

Chizhik, chizhik, gde ty byl?
Na Fontanke vodku pil. 
Vypil rjumku, vypil dve,
Zashumelo v golove 

Chizik Pizik is a statue of a small bird. It sits on an outcropping of the Fontenac river, which is, at that point, simply a canal that snakes its way through the southern side of St. Petersburg, working it's way toward the Neva River. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/523436.

The poor little brass statue has been stolen and recovered, stolen and remade several times through it's life.  There's a russian drinking folk song that names the bird, and a song that has become a mantra for Walt. As it's been explained to me, all of this comes from a school near that point of the Neva; the students wore school colours that matched the distinctive colours of a local finch (I've heard yellow and green, but I've also heard yellow and red). Thus the students were nickname chizik as a result, and the statue is a reference both to the folk song and to the students of the area.

 I decided early on that I wanted to use this little statue as a talis for Walt, because it worked for his character in a number of different ways, and mirrors another object of similar size and material that would become a talis for him later in the book. The difficulty was that it was an anachronism: the statue wasn't constructed until a decade after my novel takes place, two decades after Walt would have seen it on a trip to Russia. One of the statue's claims to fame is that it was the first statue commissioned in Russia following the collapse of communism there. It's certainly not the only anachronism in the book, but for me, one of the most visible.


A 3 day novel success

Four years ago this weekend, I competed in the 3-Day Novel Competition for the first time. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be the first time through (subsequent efforts have been much more painful and far less productive). I had three solid characters, an interesting narrative voice, and some fantastic themes. What I lacked was a detailed plot synopsis. As a result, one of my characters at one point found himself with nothing to do and thus took off on a road-trip. When he got to where he was going, he turned around and came back. Those are the sorts of decisions that you don't have time to second-guess in a weekend. Twice, I wrote myself into corners and ended up discarding a few pages of decent but misguided writing. There were also times when I was writing as much as 2000 words in an hour, and every word of it felt right. By the time Monday afternoon rolled around, I was close enough to completion that I allowed myself the luxury of watching the Esks/Stamps labour day game.

I didn't win, but I was fairly happy with the results; I had for the first time completed a novella length manuscript, about 22000 words about three people in a small town on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and a narrator who connected their lives. About eight months later, my good friend Correy offered me the chance to go hang out with him on Mayne Island for a week as a sort of creative retreat, and so I brought my 3-day novel with me and began the first of about eight major rewrites. Now, within two months, it'll be published. It's more than tripled in length and very few of the original words remain. The end has been rewritten about 12 times and the beginning probably double that. Still, there's a significant element of that initial draft still alive in it. I could have spent a year and taken far more care in writing the first draft, and I likely still would have rewritten the entire thing several times over.

I'm currently occupied with final edits to the manuscript, but with the long weekend only four days away, I'm rattling some ideas for my next novel around in the back of my head and in notebooks, and I'm wondering if I can afford to take some time this weekend to try the 3-Day Novel again. I'm not sure this set of ideas are as well-suited: Correction Road has a nice, tight story that occurs over a single month; the novel I'm planning out is much greater in scope. An attempt to write out even a basic draft of it in a weekend may be a complete disaster, I'll see where my level of energy is and make a decision by friday... Either way, I feel somewhat obligated to champion the contest, as it ended up being a very important step in my evolution as a writer.



Check out the either very new or very old (depending on your general attitudes toward truth) Canadian literary magazine, LWOT. They had a story competition earlier this summer, which I found to be very interesting; my own entry in the Margaret Atwood Disutopian Future vs. Spam Email Contest ended up being one of three finalists. You can read it on the LWOT website and if you are so inclined, vote for it.