Interviewed by Christopher Evans
Author photograph: Ayelet Tsabari
Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s debut story collection, How to Get Along with Women (http://invisiblepublishing.com/?p=30 ), was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and shortlisted for the ReLit Award in 2013. Her work has won the Lawrence Jackson Writers’ Award , appearing in the New Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, This Magazine, Prairie Fire and more, and she was one of the masterminds behind the unique Toronto Poetry Vendors project (http://torontopoetryvendors.wordpress.com/). A graduate of Guelph University’s Creative Writing MFA program, de Mariaffi has recently moved from her hometown of Toronto to St. John’s, where she lives with her husband, the writer George Murray (http://georgemurray.wordpress.com/), their combined bevy of children, and one noisy dog. De Mariaffi’s first novel, The Devil You Know (http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/Devil-You-Know-Elisabeth-De-Mariaffi/?isbn=9781443434744), is a literary thriller set in 90s Toronto and will be available in January 2015.
I was fortunate enough to meet Elisabeth when she visited UBC earlier this year and read How to Get Along with Women shortly thereafter. It’s an incredible collection—sharp, intimate, and wry. I reached her through email at her home in St John’s.
Let’s start with something easy: what is your current day job? Besides financial stability, how have your day jobs affected your written work?
Right now I’m the marketing coordinator at Breakwater Books, an indie publishing house here in St. John’s. I’ve been at it since 2012, and for the first two years it was a full-time gig—now we’ve split it into a job-share, where I handle mainly publicity (rather than sales) and only work two and a half days a week. The thing about day jobs, at least for me, is that they are really mainly about financial stability and if I stop and think about it too much, the effect on my writing feels mostly like, “I get to write less,” and that’s a bit depressing and counter-productive.
Having said that, there are real pros to day jobs, beyond finances. I once spent a year working as flight crew. I was a purser on Porter Air, which means I’m the flight attendant who stands up front and tells you what to do and is basically in charge of the cabin. Ninety-five percent of the training for that job is emergency evacuation scenarios and drills, which is stellar if you have a loopy imagination. You travel all the time, you’re constantly out of your element, which I think is good for the interior life of the writer. And mid-flight, you’ve got a ton of time to stare out the window at the clouds—also good. But did I use all that time in strange hotel rooms to write? I did not. I was very tired from flying and I just wanted to go have a beer.
Working in book marketing, you get to have relationships with festival directors and booksellers and reading series coordinators, and then they know your name, which is handy. And I do think that working a full-time job, you learn to value your writing time and, moreover, your ambition. I’ve become very efficient at both my day job and my writing over the years, in order to live up to my own expectations. [Read more…]