Linda Svendsen

linda_book_photos-002Interviewed by Emily Swan

Linda Svendsen is an acclaimed Vancouver writer, leaving her mark on both fiction and television. Her story collection, Marine Life, was published by Farrar Straus and Giroux (U.S.), HarperCollinsCanada, and Residenz Verlag (as Happy Hour) in Germany. The stories appeared in the AtlanticSaturday NightO. Henry Prize StoriesBest Canadian Stories, literary magazines in the U.S. and The Norton Anthology of Short FictionMarine Life was nominated for the LA Times First Book Award, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and produced as a Canadian feature film.

After her children arrived, Linda focused on television for almost two decades. With her husband, Brian McKeown, she co-produced and co-wrote the miniseries, Human Cargo, which garnered seven Gemini Awards, including Best Movie or Miniseries, Best Screenplay, and a George Foster Peabody Award. Other long-form writing credits include Murder Unveiled (with Brian McKeown), At The End of the Day: The Sue Rodriguez Story, and The Diviners, adapted from the Margaret Laurence novel. She has written episodes for Airwaves and These Arms of Mine. In 2006, she received the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

Sussex Drive (Random House Canada, 2012), a satire exploring what happens when a Conservative Prime Minister’s wife and a leftish Governor General can no longer play “Follow the Leader,” is Linda’s most recent publication. It’s a novel.

Linda has been a faculty member in the Creative Writing Program at UBC since 1989. In her twenty-five years with the department, she has helped and inspired all manner of students looking to hone their own crafts. Having been inspired by Linda myself, I reached out to her over email to learn more about her journey with writing.

How were you originally drawn to a career in writing? I know (from extensive, online stalking) that you attended classes in creative writing while pursuing your BFA in English. Was this what first attracted you to the field?

In Grade 2 and 3, I became hungry to read and write. I was an only child and on Saturdays my father would have visitation rights for the day and he took me to bookstores and he bought me as many books as I wanted. I started a sequel to Tom Sawyer. I wrote the start of a Bobbsey Twins mystery…and I wrote through high school and have never looked back. I lie. Except for a few detours into acting, anthropology, and codependency, all of which became grist for the mill. [Read more…]

Hal Sirowitz

sirowitzInterviewed by Lang C. Miller
Photo by Kim Soles

Hal Sirowitz is an internationally known poet and the author of five books of poetry: Mother Said; My Therapist Said; Before, During and After; Father Said; and Stray Cat Blues. His work has been translated into thirteen languages and published in many anthologies and magazines. He was awarded the Nebraska Book Award for Poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. He is also the former Poet Laureate of Queens, New York. Hal has performed and appeared on MTV’s Spoken Word Unplugged; Lollapalooza; Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival; the Helsinki International Poetry Festival; the Jerusalem Conference of Writers and Poets; PBS’s Poetry Heaven; NPR’s All Things Considered; PBS’s The United States of Poetry and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Garrison Keillor has read many of Hal’s poems on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac and he has included Hal’s poems in his anthologies Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times.

Hal Sirowitz is a retired New York City public school teacher. He lives with his wife, the writer Minter Krotzer, in Philadelphia.

Your poems always seem to be lightened up with humour, and that especially comes through when you perform them. How important is comedy to you in your writing?

I always saw myself as a poet, though some people in the audience thought I could make it as a comedian. Once, I met a radio personality from upstate New York who owned a comedy club in Binghampton. He arranged for me to perform with a comedian. The guy was a hypnotist who would get women in the audience to get on stage to pretend to strip. His audience – he was the opening act – didn’t like me. That was the end of my comedian career. I think there’s a fine line between comedy and my work. Unlike most comedians I only make fun of myself, never others. I’m thinking of Joan Rivers’ Elizabeth Taylor’s jokes. My poetry is a blend of humor and seriousness. When I’m writing I usually don’t try to be funny. My work has to look good on the page, unlike most comedians who couldn’t care less. [Read more…]