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Today I went downtown to see the unveiling of Edmonton’s “Winter City Strategy”. This is part of a strategy that encourages citizens to embrace and engage in winter in our city. This is obviously not something they just came up with. A lot of people have been working for a long time to develop ideas that can help us crawl out from under winter’s shadow and stop apologizing for the weather. Edmonton is a city that enjoys all four seasons. Contrary to what many people will tell you about Edmonton, it is not constantly winter here and we don’t suffer six months of darkness a year. This isn’t the North Pole. Furthermore, there are generations of Edmontonians whose best childhood memories involve some kind of winter activity or festival in this city.

For a long time now I have been saying what a lot of these focus groups and think tanks have been saying and that’s that we have to stop apologizing for the fact that sometimes it gets cold here. It happens all over the world and the sooner we embrace what we have and acknowledge that our winter city experience is what makes us unique, then the sooner we can work to improve that experience for the citizens of Edmonton and then begin to share that unique experience with visitors to our city, and then the rest of the country, and then the rest of the world.

This brings us to my idea. The Winter City Strategy group’s report mentioned that Edmontonians need to work on Edmonton’s “winter story”. Part of this involves telling ourselves why we choose to live here and why winter can be an exciting and inspiring time of year for our city. While the powers that be try to develop strategies that give all Edmontonians a chance to embrace and engage with winter like never before while also creating a stronger winter story, I will be doing what I do best. I want to work the creative angle a little bit more and really showcase that there are writers and artists in this city who use their environment to inspire their work. That is why I wanted to create a piece of work that is inspired by Edmonton, and more specifically, winter in Edmonton; the city that I love.

The 40 Below Project will be an anthology of writing from Edmonton’s best voices telling some more of this city’s stories. This is a project that I will spend the next year compiling, editing, and eventually publishing- giving Edmonton something that it can hold and show off to the world. 40 Below will use winter as the inspiration or subject for this collection of stories, essays, poems, pictures, and who knows what else. I know that this city has many strong writers and for each one of them there are probably dozens I don’t know about. This is the part of the story where I ask all writers, poets, and artists to check out our site,  see our submission guidelines and seriously consider contributing something to this project. All accepted work will be published in the anthology for a November 2013 release date. For those of you who might be interested to know- submissions will be read blind. That means that myself and the other editorial helpers that help me out will be reading submissions without knowing who wrote them. We want only the best work and as much as I want all the writer friends I know to submit something for this project, I want to make sure the process is fair for everyone.

This is something that can be truly great for Edmonton and its writing community. I hope that you all will consider participating or at least helping me in getting the word out about our call for submissions.

Thank you.

JLN