Tanya Davis

TanyaDavisBy Alexis Pooley

Tanya Davis was the 2011/12 Poet Laureate of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her creative collaboration with Andrea Dorfman, the videopoem How to be Alone, has had more than 5 million views on YouTube, garnering Tanya new fans and supporters from the world over. She regularly receives commissions to pen poems and speeches and has worked in this regard for such bodies as the Canada Winter Games, the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women, CBC Radio, and the National Film Board of Canada. She also works and performs as a songwriter and musician and has released 3 full length albums, picking up awards and nominations for each one. Her first book of poetry, At first, lonely, was published in 2011 by Acorn Press.

Your work has often sidestepped traditional, singular genres in order to merge and embrace multiple genres and has attracted a widespread audience. When you first began your career did you ever have concerns, not in your work or in your creative vision, but in your work finding an audience?

I had a few concerns, sure, but they didn’t overwhelm me. At the end of the day, I’m not that strategic, in the business-savvy sort of way. I make art for joy and fulfillment and because it’s the kind of work I’ve come to realize I do best; that is, in all its facets. I just want to create things and so it’s less of a priority to cultivate one specific audience. I like to do lots of different things. It makes life (and creativity) more interesting. [Read more…]

Melanie Little

MelanieLittleInterview by Kari Lund-Teigen

Melanie Little is an award-winning author and editor. Her debut collection of stories, Confidence, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award and selected as a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book. Her 2008 novel-in-verse for young adults, The Apprentice’s Masterpiece, was a Canadian Library Association Honour Book, a gold medalist at the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and a White Raven selection for the International Youth Library in Munich.

She began her career as an editor by bringing Freehand Press to national prominence in its first year with the Giller-prize finalist Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott. Of Melanie Little as an editor, Endicott has said “she brings a truly ridiculous diligence to any task she undertakes.” After teaching creative writing at Dalhousie, Little returned to editing as the editor-at-large for Annick Press before becoming the senior editor of Canadian fiction at House of Anansi Press.

I wrote to Melanie to request an interview, mentioning a long-ago talk we’d had while she was the writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary. In that meeting, she was exceedingly kind and encouraging. That moment of encouragement meant a lot to me, and I wondered, as I often do, not how writers begin, but how they continue.

Little recently stepped down as senior fiction editor at House of Anansi Press to devote more time to her own writing. She graciously agreed to the interview (preferring, as I think many writers do, to conduct it via email). I sent her a list of questions, telling her to ignore those that were not interesting to her or that she did not feel like answering. True to form, she answered them all, with generosity and depth. [Read more…]

Matt Bell

Matt BellInterview by Kristina Born

Matt Bell is the author of How They Were Found, a collection of short fiction, Cataclysm Baby, a novella, as well as three chapbooks: Wolf Parts, The Collectors, and How the Broken Lead the Blind. He teaches creative writing at Northern Michigan University, and is the senior editor at Dzanc Books, where he also runs The Collagist, a literary magazine. Matt’s debut novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, will be published by Soho Press in June 2013.

I spoke to Matt over email.

Can you talk a bit about growing up in Michigan? Were you bookish as a child? In your early years, did you read anything that was particularly influential?

I grew up in a small town called Hemlock, about two hours north of Detroit, out in the country but close to a couple of medium-sized cities: I lived there into my early twenties, then moved to the nearby city of Saginaw for a few years before my wife and I moved to Ann Arbor for her to start her PhD at Michigan. I was a pretty prolific reader as a kid—my brother and I both read a lot, and read most books together, one after the other—and a lot of books come to mind when I think of reading before and during my teens: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were of course both big draws, and maybe the first “adult” books I read. Out of all the Isaac Asimov I read then, I think I started with Robots and Empire and kept coming back to it. I read a lot of fantasy novels—David Eddings was a favorite as a teenager, as were the many Dungeons & Dragons novels out there, especially those by R.A. Salvatore, Troy Denning, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Choose Your Own Adventure-style books were favorites for a long time, and mirrored my interest in the Infocom text adventures I played on the computer: with D&D, those were my first experiences with malleable narratives, with creating story by making choices. I can also remember being given Steinbeck’s The Red Pony really early and being sort of entranced by it—I was young enough that I can remember sitting at a desk in front of my grandpa’s VIC-20 computer and reading that book, so who knows how long ago that was. And then in the sixth or seventh grade I started reading Stephen King end to end—The Dark Tower books were my favorite books of his then, and still are—plus people like Dean Koontz, John Grisham, and so on. I read mostly that kind of stuff until after I dropped out of college for the first time—around nineteen?—and then I had a brief flirtation with the Beats before I found Kurt Vonnegut, before an interview with Chuck Palahniuk in Poets and Writers led me to Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, and (most importantly) Denis Johnson. [Read more…]

Lee Henderson

Lee HendersonInterview by Anita Bedell

Lee Henderson is a Canadian writer and Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. He has published two award-winning books with Penguin Canada — the short story collection The Broken Record Technique and the novel The Man Game, which won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, the BC Book Prize and the Vancouver Book Prize in 2009. Lee’s fiction and art writing is regularly published in The Walrus and Border Crossings magazine; other short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals. He has curated exhibitions of contemporary art and experimental music.

Prior to moving to Victoria, Lee taught Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I was fortunate to have Lee as my fiction teacher at UBC during my first year there. His feedback was always insightful and I especially liked the cartoons he drew on my stories—I’ve kept them all.

I welcomed the opportunity to reconnect with one of my favourite teachers for this interview.

When you were little, did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I loved making up stories, for sure, but for most of my childhood and adolescence I wanted to be a cartoonist. [Read more…]

Candace Savage

Candace SavageInterview by Sierra Skye Gemma

Candace Savage is the author of more than two dozen books on an impressive breadth of subjects—from in-depth books on natural history such as Prairie: A Natural History, Aurora: The Mysterious Northern Lights and Wild Mammals of Western Canada, to literature for children. A distinctive voice of western Canada in conversation with the world, she has earned an international reputation that is evidenced by her many awards and honours including the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction; induction to the Honour Roll of the Rachel Carson Institute at the Chatham College of Pittsburgh in recognition of her lifetime contribution to environmental awareness; induction to the Royal Society of Canada; an Honour Book Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in Children’s Literature; two Saskatchewan Book Awards; an Independent Publishers Award; and many others.

I met Candace when she gave an intimate reading of her latest book, A Geography of Blood, at the University of British Columbia. As a nonfiction writer, I was inspired by Savage’s lyrical presentation of a nonfiction topic that so easily could’ve been delivered dry and boring by less talented hands. After the talk, I asked Savage if I could interview her.

Your latest book, A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Can you tell me how that felt? Were you surprised? What has winning the prize, and the recognition that comes with it, meant for you?

I was astonished. Until the call came to say the book had been shortlisted, I’d never even heard of the award—this is just its second year—and even after I’d won, it took me a while to understand what a big deal it was.  The richest literary award in the country:  really? for me? Obviously, you have to take all awards with a huge grain of salt—how could one book be the “best” in any absolute sense?—so win or lose, it’s all a bit silly.  But winning feels very good, and the recognition has definitely increased the demand for my services. Some wit once observed that money is the sincerest form of compliment, and I feel suitably affirmed. [Read more…]