Douglas Glover

gloverInterviewed by Jane Campbell

Douglas Glover is an itinerant Canadian, author of six story collections, four novels, two books of essays, and The Enamoured Knight, a book about Don Quixote and novel form. His bestselling novel Elle won the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2007 he won the Rogers-Writers’ Trust of Canada Timothy Findley Award. His most recent story collection Savage Love (Goose Lane, 2013) was a Quill & Quire Book of the Year and also named to the Globe Books 100: Best Canadian Fiction list. Steven W. Beattie in the National Post called it “hands down, the best book I read in 2013.”

Glover teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of the Fine Arts, and he is the 2013-2014 Writer-in-Residence at the University of New Brunswick. He is the publisher and editor of the online literary magazine Numéro Cinq.

In your essay “Nihilism and Hairspray,” in your collection Notes Home from a Prodigal Son, you argue that being a writer is a calling or vocation rather than a career one consciously chooses. I agree with this, yet in my experience, there are many people who feel called to be writers, but instead choose to be become doctors or engineers or farmers in Southern Ontario. How did you decide to make writing your career?

That’s an interesting question. “Nihilism and Hairspray” is a polemic; I was setting up an antithesis: vocation against the institution-based professionalization of writing. The larger argument of the essay is an attack on words, categories, and forms deployed to control and define behaviour. Words like “writer,” “Canadian,” and “career,” often represent a set of values and expectations, a box, as it were. I think words like this have much the same effect on everyone. Like commercials on television, they make you, at the very least, anxious because suddenly you have entered the field of someone else’s desire.

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Miriam Toews

Miriam ToewsInterviewed by Sarah Ens

Miriam Toews is the author of five bestselling and critically-acclaimed novels and one work of non-fiction. Her novel A Complicated Kindness was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Kindness was also the winner of the 2006 Canada Reads, making Miriam the first female writer to win the competition. Her fourth novel, The Flying Troutmans, was the winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Miriam has received the Writers Trust Marian Engel/Timothy Findley Award for her body of work, was admitted to the Order of Manitoba, and nominated for Best Actress at the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences’ Ariel Awards for her performance in Carlos Reygadas’ film Silent Light.

A long-time admirer of her work, I was thrilled to chat with Miriam via email about her journey as an author and the haunting yet hilarious characters she brings to life, from Summer of My Amazing Luck’s single mom living on welfare in Winnipeg to Irma Voth’s young Mexican Mennonite woman breaking free from her abusive past. Her highly-anticipated new novel is All My Puny Sorrows.

What was your experience publishing Summer Of My Amazing Luck? What were some of the obstacles you faced as a new novelist and how did you overcome them?

Getting my first book published was incredible. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I was absolutely thrilled. Turnstone Press, in Winnipeg, took a chance on me and I’m forever grateful to them. I’m not sure there were any special obstacles I faced other than the on-going pressure to make a living and still find time to write.

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Marilynne Robinson

m_robinson_krwinter300Interviewed by Josiah Neufeld

In 1980 Marilynne Robinson’s first novel, Housekeeping, astonished the American literary world with its beautifully wrought prose, eccentric characters, and elemental images. The novel has come to be regarded as a classic in American literature. Although she continued to write non-fiction after Housekeeping, Robinson didn’t publish another novel for more than twenty years. Her second novel, Gilead, written as a series of  meditative letters from a minister to his son, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. Robinson has since written two more novels centred around characters first introduced in Gilead. Home was published in 2008, and LILA will be in bookstores later this year.

Robinson teaches writing at the Iowa Writers Workshop and has mentored writers such as Paul Harding (also a Pulitzer winner) and Justin Torres. U.S. president Barack Obama counts Gilead among his favourite novels. In 2013 he honoured Robinson with the National Humanities Medal.

Robinson is also known for non-fiction. She writes with elegance and authority about subjects such as nuclear pollution, theology, the history of western thought, and the roots of American liberalism. She has published three books of essays and Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State, and Nuclear Pollution, an excoriation of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in England.

I fell in love with Robinson’s contemplative prose several years ago while reading Gilead on a road trip across the American Midwest. Since then I’ve read everything of hers I can lay hands on. I was surprised and delighted when she agreed to answer the following questions by email.

How did you come to start writing?

I always liked books, and started writing poems when I was very young. Writing always seemed like something I would do, even when I was not doing it.

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Chris Frey

Chris-Frey-Bio-Pic-wideInterviewed by Roquela Fernandez

Chris Frey is the Editor-in-Chief of Hazlitt, an online magazine based in Toronto. He is also the director of digital publishing at Penguin Random House of Canada.

Once upon a time in Georgetown, Guyana, Frey was mugged, sort of. After a fairly lengthy tussle with his two potential muggers, Frey did what any rational person would do in this situation: dropped to his knees and feigned an asthma attack. Frey’s subsequent article Where Do You Think YOU’RE Going? (published at unlimited) won Gold at the 27th Annual Western Magazine Awards.

Frey has won many other awards besides, including five National Magazine Awards. One of which was for producing an online video, Pagelicker 01: Irvine Welsh.

Frey has contributed to the Globe and Mail, The Walrus, Azure, Maisonneuve, CBC Radio, and Canadian Geographic. He was the founding editor of the website Toronto Standard and the magazine Outpost, and is the Toronto correspondent for Monocle magazine. His forthcoming book Broken Atlas: The Secret Life of Globalization is a character-driven, multinational investigation into what it means to be modern in the twenty-first century.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew-up?

I didn’t have a clue. I was a bizarre, lonely child—for a long while I wanted to get into politics. I adored Pierre Trudeau. Basically I wanted to be an equally suave, Anglo Trudeau. Or Bobby Orr.

[Note: It’s difficult to imagine Frey as a bizarre or lonely even as a child. He looks like a way cooler, less uptight Clark Kent – more stripes, chunkier glasses. I bet he gets invited to a lot of parties, but then again maybe even Superman had some lost years.]

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Matt Rader

RaderInterviewed by Christopher Evans

Matt Rader has authored three books of poems:  Miraculous Hours, Living Things, and, most recently, A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in The Walrus, All Hollow, The Fiddlehead, Geist, and many other publications spanning the globe; his work has been nominated for the Journey prize, a National Magazine Award, and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, among others. Rader has studied writing at the University of Victoria, the University of Oregon, and the Banff Centre Writing Studio, and has taught at the University of Oregon, Okanagan College, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and North Island College on Vancouver Island. His first book of short stories, What I Want to Say Goes Like This, will be published by Nightwood Editions in Fall, 2014.

A wise friend turned me on to Rader’s work; A Doctor Pedalled Her Bicycle Over the River Arno became the first book of poetry I ever purchased and revealed to me a secret history of the West Coast, half-concealed under a tangle of weeds. I caught up with Rader via email at his home in Cumberland, BC.

What does an ideal working day look like for Matt Rader?

Though this never happens, my ideal workday begins after a long sleep. It involves a cup of coffee in the morning, swimming, sunshine, fresh fruits and vegetables, various other things that we don’t talk about in interviews like this, and so on. My ideal workday involves almost no work.

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