Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

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The Greatest Joy of Writing is to Occasionally be Out of Your Mind

Writing these posts over the past month has reminded me of something. It seems obvious but I’d forgotten: When writing short pieces for regular publication (in this case, every other day), my writing senses sharpen; I become focused on finding the point of what I’m writing about, honing in on this and getting the work done and out there.

Do Not Wait for Inspiration

Do not wait for inspiration; that bus is on an irregular schedule.

I’ve been asked several times now what was the inspiration or vision for my recently published novel, and I often see disappointment in people’s faces when I tell them that there wasn’t any. As I wrote in an earlier post, I discovered the story by writing it. There was no grand design, much as I would have liked to have had one; it would have made things easier.

Notions of vision or inspiration, as nice as these may seem, impede more aspiring writers than they help. To stare at a blank page or blank screen and wait for inspiration is to lose time.

Get your pen moving, type a word, and don’t confuse the blink of the cursor for a wink from your mind’s eye.

"...my reading pile inevitably grows: Books to Read, and Books To Read Again"

Several years ago a talented and passionate writer friend said to me, when I complimented her work, “Yes, but I want to be Virginia Woolf.”

I said that if she wanted to be Virginia Woolf, then she should do like Virginia Woolf did. Look at the world, know your language, and use language to reflect the world of your consciousness, reflect the experience of life in your time.

From our conversation, what I learned was that my friend didn’t want to do as Virginia Woolf did, but wanted to write what Virginia Woolf had already written.

This was unfortunate.

“I love that ability to capture the surreal and the comical” — A Chat with Emily Schultz

Emily Schultz is the co-founder of Joyland Magazine, host of the podcast Truth & Fiction, and creator of the blog Spending the Stephen King Money. Schultz’s newest novel is The Blondes (St. Martin's Press 2015, Doubleday 2012).

The Anti-Block

People like to talk about writer’s block, the horrible dead end feeling of a blank page and nothing to write, or of a work in progress that has lost its energy and for which the writer can find no direction.

But there is another career risk, I’m not sure what to name it so I’ll call it anti-block, and this is the feverish mania that sets in when a writer can’t stop writing. The story is exhilarating, so the work goes on into the night, to exhaustion and beyond. I used to do this quite regularly, but now I am more guarded about how often I let it happen.

A Bona Fide Once in a Lifetime: Awaiting the First Review of My First Novel

Coming off a one hour presentation about my novel this evening at The Haliburton School of the Arts, a presentation that I enjoyed immensely (largely because of the engaging and welcoming audience), I would now like to write something I can write only once in my life.

I’ve been informed by my publisher, Tightrope Books, that a review of my novel is about to appear, likely tomorrow. This would be the first review of my first novel and, given that Open Book has asked that I write about things that may be of interest to readers and writers, I thought it might be worthwhile, here, to record a few observations of how I’m feeling right now.

The short answer: excited.

Now, for the long answer.

Talking in Public About Writing a Novel

I’m putting the finishing touches onto a talk about my novel, Eulogy, which I’ll present tomorrow as part of the weekly Artist Talk series at Haliburton School of The Arts. This is to be a one hour presentation and, while I was momentarily tempted to simply open my book and start reading for one hour, that approach just doesn’t sit right with me or fit with the spirit of the college. This is a place where artists of many disciplines learn from each other, where faculty and students talk not just of their work, but how it was made, so it seems appropriate to read from the book, yes, but also to go behind the scenes, to give background on what I did to write the book.

At the Start of a New Creative Writing Class

I’m about to teach a new class, “Writing That Resonates,” starting tomorrow at Haliburton School of the Arts and, as happens each time, I pause.

The students in the room will be diverse. Some will be there because a writing course seemed like it might be fun, and some might be there to complete an academic requirement, but most will likely be there because they have an inkling that they might have something to say on the page, and aren’t sure where to begin, or what to do next with a project they have started.

I remember all too well being an adult student, going to my first creative writing class. I was reluctant. How could anyone possibly teach writing?

Storylines

“All kinds of storylines are playing out here.” Question: This quote is most likely to be heard from...

(a) A TV journalist reporting on a political or legal case?
(b) A football commentator?
(c) A book reviewer?
(d) A writer in a writing workshop?

For my money, (a) & (b) are the most likely choices. It’s a reporter’s job to put narrative onto the world, imposing a recognizable template of order on top of chaos, and it’s a sportscaster’s job to create drama and sell advertising.

But, funny enough, in literary circles, we’re less likely to talk about stories, and sometimes we don’t create drama.

Yet drama is our job, on the page anyway.

Q&A with Paul Vermeersch

Paul Vermeersch is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Don’t Let It End Like This Them I Said Something (ECW Press, 2014). He is also a visual artist and the Senior Editor at Wolsak & Wynn Publishers. For more information, go to paulvermeersch.ca

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