Ten Questions with Pamela Mordecai

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Pamela

April 29, 2009 -

OBT:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

PM:

It was either a poem in my high school paper, or an essay that won a competition and was published in the daily newspaper. I hope it was the poem, as I suspect the essay was awful and I don’t want to have started off with something that makes me wince. My first book of creative writing, a collection of eight little books of poems for children called Storypoems: A first collection, was published by Ginn & Co. in the UK. My daughter, a scholar of literature who teaches at the University of Massachusetts, recently identified it on Facebook as one of 15 books that influenced her. “Truly,” said she…

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

PM:

Two weeks ago I visited Calgary for the second time. Very much a cultural experience! I’m working on a book of sonnets collected in suites and I’ve just written a suite about own-way, uncoordinated Calgary traffic lights, greens that swing you round corners to be curtly halted, braps! by reds.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

PM:

Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For, Thomas King’s Medicine River and David MacFarlane’s The Danger Tree.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

PM:

At my computer on the top floor of our house, looking through the window at the Toronto skyline, not worrying about money. My husband, Martin, also a writer, is nearby, to give me feedback and make me lunch and dinner. He writes and cooks amazingly.

OBT:

William Faulkner was once asked what book he wished he had written; he chose Moby Dick (with Winnie the Pooh as a close second). Is there a book that you wish you had written?

PM:

I wouldn’t dare say.

OBT:

Is there a book that you think you should have read by now but haven’t?

PM:

Very long list! Playing catch-up, I recently read Vanity Fair. I’ll pick two: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

PM:

Conversations about the End of Time with Stephen Jay Gould, Umberto Eco, Jean-Claude Carrière, and Jean Delumeau; Rawi Hage's Cockroach.

OBT:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

PM:

Yes and no. Writing for children, I am my four-year-old rambunctious self. In that case I have a special audience in mind. But also, no, not even then, for whatever I write for children is very fit for adults, too! Overall, I’m determined that anything I write should be accessible to anybody, so anybody is my special reader.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

PM:

I’m trying to finish a collection of short stories called Cold Comfort and other stories of Toronto and having a wild time with a collection of poems called Litany on the Line: subversive sonnets in thirty-three suites.

OBT:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

PM:

Well, I want to say, “Don’t try to get published. It’s a terrible reason to write. Write because it makes you happy. Write because you are passionate about something. Write to get your own back on some wretched person, or some place where you got raggedy treatment, or some institution that put the heavy weight of its foot on your neck! Do it well and it will get published!” But I guess that won’t do, will it?

When someone approaches a publisher with a manuscript it’s always good if they can say that they’ve already published, so — publish! Publish online, in the local paper, in journals and magazines. Publish on a blog, your own or someone else’s. I’m not one to advise anybody to cultivate publishing folks. I hate brownnosing. It’s undignified. Start your own press instead...

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