In grade school, I think I believed that being tagged meant people liked me. I also used to interview myself while doing chores about what it was like to be so long-suffering and dutiful a daughter.
I can’t resist a good round of writer tag.
My dear friend Amanda LeDuc, who wrote an incredible novel about ambiguously angelic and demonic people, and then published essays all over the place (the Rumpus!) as well as long-listing the CBC Canada writes prizes for both fiction and nonfiction this year, was kind enough to tag me, and I gladly obliged.
She also tagged Kevin Hardcastle, writer of excellent short stories, whose work, besides being contracted for a collection with Biblioasis, has appeared in the Journey Prize anthologies and Best Canadian Stories.
I am trying very hard not to be envious of these people, because I like them so much.
Now I get to interview myself:
What are you working on?
Too many things. Short stories, essays, an incubating book of nonfiction, and the novel which is going to be my thesis for next year.
This novel began as a time travel story and morphed into a post-apocalyptic and as well as being a satire of, I think, smartphones.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
Most of the apocalyptic stuff I’ve read (and watched) is scary and/or sorrowful. My work plays against that standard (though I do love that standard, from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker to The Walking Dead), and indulges in a positive way in one of my favourite elements of the genre: the way everything as we know it is turned upside down, made surreal, and all of those things we currently treasure become trash and vice versa.
Why do I write what I do?
I didn’t mean to write any kind of genre story, but it started as a few short stories I was playing around with until I realized how fun it was to invent things like time machines. This writing is enjoyable because it requires so much imaginative work.
Also, as I said, I love the genre, and can’t get enough of literary crossovers to genre writing (like Colson Whitehead’s cerebral zombie tale, Zone One), and I think Toni Morrison said you should write the book you want to read.
I write (and read) stories for those little crystalline moments of insight. For example, in my story “Right, Right, Right”, I wrote “A person married to a stone becomes a river,” which I hadn’t thought until I wrote it. Fiction excavates gems.
Also, writing for me is basic and compulsive and I have long ago accepted that.
How does my writing process work?
Haphazardly and messily. I have a notebook for scrawling ideas and making lists of the projects currently on the go. Normally I have several pieces I’m actively working on. Today, for instance, I am mid-chapter in the novel, in the revision stage for the two creative essays and one story, and beginning work on another short story. I like to have more than one thing to do in a session of work, because I believe in cross-pollination.
Once I have a completed piece, revision methods include retyping the whole thing from scratch, rewriting it in longhand, reading it out loud to my husband (he cringes, I cut), and sharing it with writer-friends. Most of my deep revision happens as the first draft goes on–I can’t get to an ending if the story isn’t working, and I make a lot of false starts. Often if I put the work away for a while and read something or let my mind wander the answer comes.
As for when and where I work, I have tried to figure out how to work anywhere. Currently the distraction of the internet is a more formidable beast than the distraction of (3) children. I have been very productive in coffee shops and university libraries–because often I have to leave the house and its chaos–but I am setting up an office to use at home when we get the kids settled in school and preschool next week. I rarely have more than a few hours in a row to work, but I’m amazed at how many words I’ve managed to get down in only those short spurts.
I pass the baton to my fellow writers, kind and smart and lovely people, both of whom live in my (sniff) former hometown of Hamilton.
Krista Foss recently published her first novel, Smoke River, which is receiving rave reviews. Before that, she was a two-time finalist for the Journey prize. She is also the brains behind the first Grit Lit festival in Hamilton, which is now in its eleventh (?) year.
Brent van Staaldinuen is currently working on his MFA at UBC. His work has appeared recently in The New Quarterly, is forthcoming in The Dalhousie Review, and earned a spot in the 2014 CBC Canada Writes long list.
Find their entries in blog tag on September 1!