Pearls of Wisdom From Me to You

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So the end of the year is coming up, and I realized that the last post I put up here was about Jeramy Dodds not being able to come down—and, well, that’s not an ideal place to stop posting on a blog. All the other writers did show up, and were wonderful. But I also wanted to come on here one last time to tell you guys about how much I’ve loved posting to you, and how much I’m going to miss Bishop’s and working for Morris House.

Last week (or something like that, time is kind of blurring together), I wrote a letter to the managers of the Tomlinson internships about what I’ve learned working for Morris House. I realized as I was writing my letter that there are a ton of things that I couldn’t write down, so I wanted to put them here. This is a moment when I get to say what I really think, and I love that. So here’s a list of all the “unofficial” stuff I learned as an intern:

1)      Writers like campus ghost stories better than they like actual official campus tours.

2)      Internships aren’t as scary or awful as The Devil Wears Prada makes them out to be. In fact, chances are your boss will be awesome.

3)      Checking your email every day is a healthy step into becoming a full-blown professional.

4)      Being able to laugh at a situation and make the most of it can make a world of difference; if you have a positive attitude, other people will pick up on that and feel positive too.

5)      No matter how much you plan something, there will always be hiccups that you’ll need to deal with on the fly. Budget in the time for it.

6)      Everyone has a different story about how they became a published author, but a good way of going about things is this: publish short stories, win prizes, keep publishing short stories, go to readings, meet authors. Eventually a publishing house (that you’ll hear about through your author peeps) will want to publish your novel, since you have such a great reputation.

7)      Every writer gets rejection, that’s part of the game. Keep trying, though, since you only need one “yes” to be published.

8)      Writers don’t update their promotional pictures very often. They’re usually at least five years older than their picture makes them out to be. Sneaky buggers.

9)      Shalimar in Lennoxville has a spicy food scale, but if you say you want 3 out of 5 and you look like you can’t handle spicy food, they’ll make it a 2 instead (which will hurt your pride, but come in handy when you realize you’ve chugged three glasses of water and are only half-way through your dinner).

10)   Be firm but friendly with people when they let you down. You don’t want to burn bridges, but they need to know what you expect of them. Make sure you listen to their side of the story too. They’ll be more likely to listen to you, if you made sure to listen to them.

11)   Small talk is a necessary art.

12)   Funding pays for 90% of everything that happens on campus. Always thank the sponsors.

13)   Becoming a writer is like becoming anything else; it’s 80% hard work, 10% connections (that you can make through hard work), and 10% talent.

14)   You can spy on people in the Quad from Cleghorn.

15)   Writers are nice, charismatic people. Put a bunch of them in the same room and you will have hours of entertainment.

16)   Write as often as you can.

17)   Developing your voice is key to becoming a writer. It’s not so much about the stories; if you have an imagination, you’ll always have stories. It’s about knowing how to tell them that makes the difference.

18)   Teamwork is a wonderful thing and thank your lucky stars when you get to be part of a good one.

19)   Writers like to have a glass of water when they do a reading: make sure you have a glass of water ready for them.

20)   It can be hard to find a glass in McGreer.

21)   If you want to be a writer, you should seriously consider going to readings, becoming a member of the Quebec Writer’s Federation (or your province’s equivalent). This is where you get to meet other writers and publishers. It helps build your professional network.

22)   Pascal Girard is waaaay younger than his cartoon portrait makes him out to be.

23)   You can know lit theory, but you need street smarts too. And by “street smarts” I mean internship smarts. (That means all those little bits of professional/ life wisdom that you can’t exactly explain or quantify, but that make a world of difference).

Best of luck on all your exams! I wish you most amazingest epic grades ever. As for me? I’m off into the world. Who knows what’s in store…..

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EMERGENCY -PLEASE READ

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Last night I was working with Alexis on our MC routine for the St. Paddy’s authors reading (apparently people are referring to it as the “green beer” event). Now, one thing you guys need to know about Alexis is that this week has turned him into an email addict. He’s been getting emails all week long, almost non-stop. So part way through working on our MC material, he stops and says that he needs to check his email. Like a junkie that needed a fix of delicious email goodness.

So he checks his email, and there, in his inbox, is a message from our supervising professor titled: EMERGENCY –PLEASE READ.

As an intern the night before the launch of the event you’ve been planning all year, your heart stops a little bit when you see something like that.

So this is what we found out: Jeramy Dodds can’t come. There’s an emergency, and it’s out of his control and he’s very sorry. The doctors have told him he can’t fly out, and health is more important than a workshop, no matter how much we were looking forward to it. So let’s all send him some good vibes and hope that he gets better.

Radio Interviews and How to Find Them

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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.

Thoughts?

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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.

Thoughts?

Interview With Anne Michaels

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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.

Interview Times!

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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.

 

Arrrrrggggg

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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.