By Kat Haxby
Hailed by the Globe and Mail as “a masterwork of revelation,” Nancy Lee’s collection of short stories, Dead Girls, (McClelland & Stewart, 2002) was named a Best Book of 2002 by the Globe, Toronto Star and Vancouver Sun, and NOW Magazine. Winner of the 2003 VanCity Book Prize and finalist for the Ethel Wilson Prize, the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Pearson Reader’s Choice Award and the Wordsworthy Award, Dead Girls has been published in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Holland and Spain, and has been optioned for film.
Nancy Lee is the recipient of numerous fellowships, residencies and awards, including a Gabriel Award for Radio and a National Magazine Award. An Adjunct Professor in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia, she also teaches at the Simon Fraser University Writing & Publishing Program and the UBC Writing Centre. Nancy has served on numerous prize juries and panels, and was selected as the first Canadian Writer-in-Residence at the prestigious University of East Anglia Writing Program in the UK. She most recently served as Writer-in-Residence for the city of Vincennes, France from September to December 2011. Her novel, The Age, will be published by McClelland & Stewart in 2014.
I interviewed Nancy Lee in her office on UBC campus. She was hilarious, inspiring and entirely gracious. She also didn’t make fun of how ridiculous I looked fumbling with the iphone app I used to record the conversation, or how many bad jokes I made.
Is there a story to how you became a writer? Was it a flash of inspiration or more of a slow realization?
Well, there is actually a story, and it’s a very strange story. I was twenty-five and working as a publicist. I had my own cottage public relations company and I was working as a publicist for a bunch of live theatre things in Vancouver. I had a business partner and while my business partner and I were in LA taking a series of meetings with a potential client, we went to see a psychic in Santa Monica. It was one of those trashy LA shacks with a neon storefront, a TV on and some kids screaming in the back. We went just as a joke, just to get our palms read. My business partner got the usual, “You’re going to meet a man, have adventures,” your stereotypical palm reader stuff. So when the palm reader looked at my palm, She said, “Oh. You’re not doing the right thing with your life, and until you do the right thing you’re not going to be happy.” And that was about all she said. After when my business partner and I went out for coffee, I said it was a bunch of horseshit and she said it was actually an interesting question, “What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?” [Read more…]