Monica Heisey

Monica HeiseyInterviewed by Christine Bortolin

Monica Heisey brings the funny, but she also brings the heartbreak. She is able to openly and honestly reveal herself, using her personal experiences to explore larger themes.

Her website lists her as a comedian and writer living in Toronto, but those titles don’t do justice to the many ways she works her craft. She has a history of performing live improv and stand up, which is probably why she can weave tragedy and comedy so deftly. She could break a pen and, as the ink spilled out, it would form an essay on her first break up, foiled by the history of the burrito. Her essays, articles, and short fiction have appeared in VICE, Broadly, The Hairpin, Rookie, The Guardian, Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, FASHION, Playboy, Noisey, and the list goes on. She was an editor at She Does the City and is now editor-at-large at VICE’s female-centric channel Broadly. Her fantastic new book I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better: A Woman’s Guide to Coping With Life is as hilarious and heartfelt as Heisey herself.

She kindly took the time to answer a few questions for me.

What was your first piece of professional writing? What do you consider “professional writing”? Were you scared about it?

My first piece of professional writing was for my grandfather’s Penetanguishine quarterly newspaper in Georgian Bay. I was 11 and we went out in this helicopter to take pictures for their spring issue. I wrote up a little first-person account of the experience. A few weeks after my story was published, I got a cheque in the mail for $65. My grandpa had processed an invoice for me and paid me like the regular writing staff. 

These days I consider “professional writing” to be writing that helps you earn your income, although I’m not convinced financial gain is a good metric by which to judge creative pursuits. “Professional” writing and “good” writing can be very different things.

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Ryan North

North_photo (1)Interviewed by Kyle Schoenfeld

Ryan North is a Toronto-based writer, cartoonist, and computer programmer.  He began writing the award-winning webcomic Dinosaur Comics in 2003.  Since then Dinosaur Comics has been collected in four print volumes.  From 2012 to 2014, Ryan wrote the Eisner- and Harvey-Award-winning Adventure Time comic book series.  His other writing credits include The Midas Flesh and Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

Outside of comics, Ryan co-edited and wrote for the 2010 short story collection Machine of Death (inspired by a Dinosaur Comics strip) and its 2013 follow-up volume This is How You Die.  Also in 2013, he published To Be or Not to Be, a chooseable-path version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet; a sequel called Romeo and/or Juliet is currently in progress.

As a long-time fan of Dinosaur Comics and a contributor to This is How You Die, I was excited to get the chance to talk to Ryan.  We corresponded via email.

In the past, you’ve said you don’t like the label “writer.”  Is there a label or a job description that fits your career to this point?  Does “cartoonist” cover it?

Oh, I’d almost forgotten about that!  I’ve always been twitchy around labels.  These days if I’m at a party and someone asks what I do, I’ll answer depending on how interesting I want to seem.  If I want to seem the least interesting I’ll say I’m a computer programmer (which is true!  I run Project Wonderful, which is an ad network I wrote that is designed, unlike all other ad networks, NOT to suck) but if I want to seem more interesting I’ll say “writer.”  And if I want to seem super interesting I’ll go with “cartoonist,” although that’s risky because there’s always the chance they’ll want you to draw something when you say that, and then you have to explain you’re not THAT kind of cartoonist.

But given all that I do, I think “writer” fits the largest volume of it. These days I’m much happier to call myself a writer than I was a few years ago.

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Karim Alrawi

DSC_9245_3Interviewed by Jasmine Ruff

Karim Alrawi has written stage plays, radio plays, children’s books and most recently a novel. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt and writes in both Arabic and English.

He earned an MFA in creative writing at UBC and was an International Writing Fellow at the University of Iowa. His plays have been produced internationally. His work in stage has won the John Whiting Award (UK), the Samuel Beckett Award (UK), and the Jessie Richardson Award (Canada) among others.

His debut novel Book of Sands received the inaugural HaperCollins Publishers/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction Award. The novel is set during the Arab Spring and follows the lives of a small family as they struggle against an oppressive political system. Tarek, a father and husband, has to flee with his young daughter to avoid unjust persecution and leaves his pregnant wife behind. As the novel progresses it explores tradition, religion, love and freedom.

What initially drew you to writing?

I was working for an engineering company in London (England) and was writing up my thesis for a third degree. One morning as I was having breakfast at a small cafe waiting for the office to open, I realized that this was going to be a typical day of the rest of my life and couldn’t bear the thought. So I quit. I started writing a stage play. I supported myself by working as a barman in a Soho bar, as well as doing various other jobs. But then paused to write a radio play for a BBC competition. The play won and was produced. I then returned to writing my stage play and eventually got it produced. It won an award and I was offered a job at a theatre company as literary manager. And life rolled on from there.

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