I tried to get my radio interviews up for you guys, but WordPress won’t let me do it unless we upgrade to a premium account and we’re not ready to go to that level just yet. So I’m sorry. BUT, if you missed them, you’re not out of luck: CJMQ has the interviews posted in their interview archive page, so you can check them out at http://www.cjmq.fm/?page=interviews. Trust me, it’s Donna Morrissey and Alison Garwood-Jones. They are awesome.
We approved the schedule for SWEET a couple of days ago, and it is going to be sweet! (haha, see what I did there). Basically, it’s going to be jam-packed. I’m actually kind of heart-broken, because my workshop (I’m going to Donna Morrissey’s “Write Here, Write Now”) is on at the same time as “The Blogger’s Survival Guide.”
This would count as a first world problem, I’ll admit that, but I’m still heart-broken.
Have you guys seen the schedule yet? Sometimes it’s hard remembering that other people might not know as much about SWEET (we’ve been working on this since September, and we’ve been talking about it since last year). I’ll get the schedule up for you guys, just in case you haven’t seen it yet.
Also, we’ve been having a pretty tough time deciding on our venue for our concluding hang out. This would be a neat little reading where students who’ve gone through the workshops can showcase a bit of the stuff they’ve been working on over the last few days.
Our venue needs to fit these requirements:
Needs to be cozy, but not so cozy that it’s squishy.
Needs to have food (cause snacks are always nice).
Needs to have booze (cause liquid courage is especially useful in these situations).
Needs to have decent equipment so people can hear the readings.
Needs to be quiet enough for us to hear the readings, but not so quiet that it’s ominous.
I think that’s it.
So we’re been tossing up locations, like:
The Lion has booze and snacks, but is a bit too loud.
Café Lennox is cozy and has booze and snacks, but it’s too small.
Paterson Assembly Hall is not cozy and would look strange.
A few days after I sent out my interview questions to Anne Michaels, I realized that The Campus interviewed her not that long ago. I was so worried that she would feel bombarded, and I was stressing out… and then she just sent me the loveliest email apologizing for not having sent back her answers sooner. I just started reading Fugitive Pieces not too long ago, and fell in love with this woman. She writes the most beautiful phrases, and sometimes I just read them over a couple of times to let them sink in. Now I love her even more. Here’s our interview folks! As promised.
When I first started doing research for the series, one thing that I kept coming up was that you try to keep the public from knowing too much about your personal life. And so firstly, I just want to reiterate that if there are any questions I ask that you do not want to answer, please feel free to leave them. I don’t want this interview to feel like a drill or interrogation. That said, I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your decision and why it is that you take this approach.
I think this perception of me must have started with a single journalist who asked me a question that was truly intrusive, or perhaps I answered in a way that did not satisfy his curiosity; nevertheless the perception seems to have followed me ever since. I do know that when FUGITIVE PIECES was published I felt it was unseemly to have the attention drawn to me, rather than the subject matter of the book. It was a question of integrity, a moraI question. I can’t imagine anyone who has spent years trying to come to some kind of perception of those events would feel differently. The questions raised by those events are so harrowing, of such depth and consequence that I really could not understand why a journalist would want to “waste” a conversation on the relatively insignificant details of my life. Why waste a chance to talk about what’s really important? At the time, I found this astonishing. Also, of course, biography obviously influences how we read. There is a purity in not necessarily knowing too much about an author when we first encounter their work. The biographical interest comes later and I am almost always glad not to know too many details about a writer before that first encounter. In terms of the media, I’m afraid it must be said that there is still a deplorable double standard: if a male writer declines to discuss his personal life he is depicted as “modest”, “dignified” or “respectful; when a woman writer does the same, she is depicted as “evasive”, “secretive”, or “ashamed”. It is incredible that this attitude persists.
Your first novel, Fugitive Pieces, was such an incredible success. It was on Canada’s bestseller list for more than three years, it’s won so many prizes, it’s been translated into over 30 languages. I found a quote somewhere that Fugitive Pieces “attracted more international praise than any first novel by a serious writer in Canadian history.” and so even though I’m a bit late in saying this, first of all, congratulations. Secondly, how did it feel to get such a wave of praise? Did it take you by surprise? Do you feel that things (such as your life and career) have drastically changed as a result?
I was, and I am inexpressibly moved by the response of readers. It was a significant moment for me to realize that perhaps I no longer had to “carry” the events of the book and this story in quite the same way; as I’ve said elsewhere, in a sense, the young boy Jakob is not truly pulled out of the mud by Athos (the character who rescues him in the book) nor by the writer, but by the reader. And I have to say again, that the subject matter of that book does not allow for anything but humility and a sense of failure; those events will always elude language. The response of readers was an absolute surprise and I am immensely grateful that readers not only came to this book with openness, but also had the kindness to write to me.
After the success of your first novel, was it difficult or intimidating when your second novel, The Winter Vault, was released?
Each book brings with it its own task. When THE WINTER VAULT was published, I hoped that readers would trust me and enter the territory of that book. I read and I write in order to hold another human being close. One does one’s utmost to do justice to the subject matter and the experience of the characters; this is the responsibility anyone must feel when dealing with historical events.
I’ve heard that people have celebrated your prose for its poetic quality. Do you feel that being a poet influences the way you approached writing your novels?
Yes; I believe that there should not be a wasted word, whether in a poem or in a novel; whether you are writing a single line or hundreds of pages. This is out of respect for the subject matter, the characters and the reader.
Fugitive Pieces was adapted into a major motion picture back in 2007. Can you tell us a bit about what that process was like? Is it strange seeing your film on the screen?
It was an extraordinary moment when I first saw Rade Sherbedgia (who played Athos) and Robbie Kay (who played the young Jakob) walking together down the studio hallway. There was a physicality between them – Rade throwing the boy over his shoulder, the way the boy momentarily leaned in towards him – that was deeply right; it was a kind of intelligence they shared, the right sort of intimacy – an intimacy that one sensed would never be taken for granted. It was a powerful and strange sensation, as they walked toward me, as if I had conjured them from my imagination. I also felt this when I first saw Rade with Stephen Dillane (who played the older Jakob). The composer Nykos Kypourgos also was someone who seemed to know just what was needed; I knew he understood what the score could be when he said he wanted the main theme to say everything with as few notes as possible.
That being said, the film is definitely its own animal. As it must be. As any adaptation is, whether it adheres closely to the book in detail or spirit, or whether it is very loosely translated.
I know it’s been a bit since your last novel was published. Could you tell us if you have any new poetry collections or novels coming out (if you’re at liberty to say)?
Last year I published a book in the UK with John Berger, called RAILTRACKS. It is the text of a theatre piece we collaborated on. We performed it with the theatre company Complicite in London a few years ago. I believe a North American edition will be out soon.
Okay, so I’ve just heard back from Maureen at CJMQ (I love you Maureen, you’re amazing!) and she let me know that my lovely interviews with Donna Morrissey and Alison Garwood-Jones are going to air “one next Thursday and the other next Friday. I would air them at noon and then again in the afternoon around 3 p.m.”
Sorry for copying and pasting that one, but I’m in the business room (who knew those existed?) of the hotel and a grumpy business man is staring me down.
I like magazines and newspapers. I really do. I like reading them, I like being informed, I like knowing that someone, somewhere, is making sure that I can stay posted on what’s going on in the world.
What I don’t like is writing formal articles. The writing part is what gets to me.
Funny, you might think that that wouldn’t happen to an English major. But it does. And, anyway, it’s done now (the article I wrote about SWEET), and sent off to The Record for publication (I think sometime this week). So that’s over with. Thank God.
I think the reason I feel weird about writing articles is cause whenever other people write articles, they sound informative and brilliant and genuine. Whenever I’m writing an article, no matter how much I care about what I’m saying, I feel like it always comes out kitchy. I hate that. I think that’s why I like writing my little blog entries for you guys: here, when I write to you, it feels like a conversation. It sounds more honest. Like we’re just chillin somewhere sipping tea and eating muffins and talking about what we’re doing.
Except that I’m hogging all the conversation space, but other than that, the comparison is totally legit.
So this is what I wanted to say in the article that I didn’t say: I think SWEET is going to be crazy. Awesome crazy. We have soo many cool people coming in; I’ve interviewed half of them already and they all sound like the coolest, chillest people. Like the kind of people you would totally talk to if you were working on a story, just to see what they thought. And they would tell you what parts sucked and what parts were awesome, but in a down-to-earth kind of way that is the exact opposite of Canadian Idol (or American Idol, or any other Idol or reality TV show for that matter). Just a chill, honest conversation.
SWEET makes me think of this time when I was ten or something, and there was this thing called The Young Authors Conference, and I have no idea how I ended up going or who decided I should go or how I signed up in the first place. But I know that being there, with all these other kids who loved writing, and all these fun authors who wanted to teach us how to write… it felt like home. Like I wasn’t just some strange kid who read all the time. There were others that did it too (some of them stranger than me).
That’s what I think of when I think of SWEET. I think of people that love the same thing- the exact same thing- and how this is a chance for them to hang out and be who they are. And offer tips on how to make money doing it.
I think writers are born. I don’t know if accountants are born, but I think writers are. My playwriting prof, George Rideout, once told me that a writer doesn’t stop writing. Maybe sometimes, but something inside of them pushes and pushes and they just can’t keep it in. Writers have to write. Writers want to write. And as a writer, I am really, really looking forward to meeting and talking to other writers.
It’s midterm season everyone! (not that I need to remind y’all, I’m pretty sure you could figure that one for yourselves)
Not only is it midterm time, but SWEET is in little more than two weeks. Thank god we’re on break right now. Reading week, so inappropriately named: I’ll be writing the whole time.
My laptop also picked this exact time to turn off, never to turn back on again.
But all that aside, today was absolutely wonderful. “How,” you might ask, “could you possibly be having a good day, nay, a wonderful day during this foul, foul time?” (I also decided that you’re all British for the day, you can thank me later). Well, I’m having a wonderful, fantastic, amazing day because… Here, I’ll just recap it for ya.
So last night I sent out two emails: one to Donna Morrissey and one to Alison Garwood-Jones. I wanted to see if maybe I could interview them (I seem to always be interviewing people these days). I figured they’d get back to me in a day or so, and schedule an interview sometime later this week next week. Then I woke up this morning to two replys, saying that they would love to and that I could call them later today. I’m going to describe this next bit as a Pokémon battle, cause that’s kind of what it felt like.
Isabelle encounters two wild interviews.
Interviews use “call me.”
Isabelle has no phone that can make long distance calls.
Isabelle has no laptop.
Isabelle is confused.
Interviews use busy schedules.
Interviews must happen today.
Isabelle uses CJMQ.
CJMQ is super effective.
For those of you who don’t know, CJMQ is the local English-language community radio station for the Eastern Townships. But if you want to think that it’s some kind of awesome kung fu move, that’s cool too. I’m pretty okay with you guys thinking I know kung fu.
So my buddies down at CJMQ (huge shout out to you guys! You are amazing!) set me up with all the phone and recording equipment I needed. The interviews were nothing short of amazing; Donna Morrissey and Alison Garwood-Jones are both so eloquent, so lovely, and so friendly.
I’m just waiting for an email back confirming the time they’re going to air. So tune in to CJMQ folks!
Also, I’ve just been given the green light to interview her. So stay tuned for some pre-reading scoop!