Jennica Harper

JH PicInterviewed by Shaelyn Johnston

Jennica Harper hails from Brampton, Ontario, but now resides in Vancouver, BC, where she currently writes for the acclaimed CTV series, Motive. She has worked as a writer on such TV series as, Some Assembly Required (YTV), Shattered (Global), and Mr. Young (YTV/Disney XD), for which she won a 2013 Leo Award and was nominated for a 2014 Canadian Screen Award. Jennica also adapted a comic book, The Clockwork Girl, into an animated feature that was released in 2014.

In addition to writing for film and television, Jennica is also an accomplished poet whose books include, The Octopus and Other Poems, What It Feels Like For A Girl, and Wood. In 2014, Wood was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, and her poem, “Linear Notes”, received the Silver National Magazine Award for poetry. Her poems have also appeared in literary journals across North America, as well as on buses and skytrains as part of Translink’s Poetry in Transit project.

As someone interested in writing for television, I reached out to Jennica via email with a few questions about the business and her career path. She provided great insight about what it’s like to write for Canadian television, and had some excellent advice for writers such as myself looking to break in to the industry.

You completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Did you find it beneficial to your career?

I did. One of the best things about studying writing is you get used to receiving feedback from others, and figuring out what’s worth implementing, and how. While I don’t think any specific degree is necessary to becoming a screenwriter, I do think workshopping helps you learn to hit deadlines, develop perspective on your own material, and learn to rewrite.

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Ben Ladouceur

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 2.26.30 PMInterviewed by Halle Gulbrandsen

Ben Ladouceur is a writer and teacher whose debut collection of poems, Otter, was published by Coach House Books in 2015. It quickly impressed the literary world with its honest voice and lyrical charm. His work has been featured in many literary magazines such as Arc, The Malahat Review, PRISM international and The Walrus. He was awarded the Earle Birney Poetry Prize in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Type Book Award in 2015. Originally from Ottawa, now based in Toronto, Ben graciously agreed to converse with me over email and again showed his wit in answering these questions about his life as a writer.

Why poetry?

This is a question I’ve fielded a few times since Otter came out, and a question I’ve read in many interviews with poets. I have never seen someone ask a novelist, “Why novels?” Everybody writes poems in elementary school. All I did was remain in that state of poem-production. I don’t see that as misconduct, though apparently it is, because most adults aren’t writing poems. But sometimes I want to grab strangers on the subway and shake them and ask, “Why not poetry??”

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Álvaro Miranda

alvaro-miranda1[1]Interviewed by Camilo Castillo R

Álvaro Miranda is a poet, fiction writer, and biographer. I met Álvaro last October, when we were at a writing retreat in Saladoblanco, a small town in the state of Huila, Colombia. On the long journey from Bogotá we discussed poetry, literature, life. Later, in the workshops, I had the opportunity to listen to his poetry and was captivated by his sense of humour and his sensibility. After the trip, I read his book Simulación de un reino (2014) which includes old and new poems, and his novel La risa del cuervo (1992), where Caribbean rhythm, history, and poetry combine in a very stylized manner. I also read his recent biography of Toto La Momposina, Columbia’s most famous folk singer. In this book Álvaro illustrates that he sails easily between genres and forms. Some of his other books include Indiada (1971), Los escritos de don Sancho Jimeno (1982), La risa del cuervo (1992), Simulación de un reino (second edition, 2014). He also wrote Colombia la senda dorada del trigo: episodios de molineros, pan y panaderos (2000) an exploration of how bread was developed in Colombia, and the biography León de Greiff en el país de Bolombolo (2004). For this interview, we spoke about his poetry and his interest in history. The interview took place in Spanish and I translated it into English.

Álvaro, which author most influenced you to become a writer?

Santa Teresa de Jesús (Teresa of Ávila). I discovered her in an old book at school. I read that she was a fat lady who rode in a carriage in order to found abbeys, where she coerced women, those red-cheeked young Spanish ladies who laughed and pried at clean houses of high stone, to become novices. When I read her poems, I was transported to the century of Santa Teresa, the 16th century, but especially I was transported by the simplicity of her rhymes that put me in dialogue with another time and another light, a light that was more than Ávila, more than Spain: I discovered myself. I found something, a kind of meadowland artificially blooming over Teresa’s words. But her words were not hers anymore, they were mine.

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Kate Hall

kate-hallInterviewed by Patrick Connolly

Kate Hall is a poet whose first book, The Certainty Dream, was shortlisted for the prestigious Griffin Prize in 2010. She completed her BA and MA in Creative Writing at Concordia University and has since been published in Boston Review, jubilat, PRISM, The Malahat Review, Arc, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, and LIT. She is currently on maternity leave from her post at Dawson College in Montreal.

How did you get your start in writing?

I don’t know when I got my start in writing really. I’ve written as long as I can remember, which seems sort of a lame thing to say; probably everyone who is a writer has written for a long time. I wrote when I was kid and as a teenager and I guess somewhere someone decides that the poems are worth reading. I would have kept writing anyway but that’s how it happened. There are two things that happen in getting your start as a writer. One of them is internal and how you feel about your own writing, the creative choices you make, the projects you embark on. Other things you have much less control over like how other people respond. A writer’s work happens so much in the dark, alone and it’s important that someone tell you it’s worth it. I am not talking in the sense of getting published or of having a first book because those things are very different. But somewhere along the line, someone has to tell you that you belong to the poetry. I’m sure every writer has had that experience, although probably they wouldn’t express it in those words. I have also been lucky enough to have had that experience or who knows?

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Sue Goyette

Sue-Goyette 2Interviewed by Ngwatilo Mawiyoo

Sue Goyette lives in Halifax and has just published her fifth collection of poems, The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl, with Gaspereau Press. Her previous collections include The True Names of Birds, Undone, outskirts (Brick Books) and Ocean (Gaspereau Press) as well as a novel, Lures (HarperCollins, 2002).

Sue has been nominated for several awards including the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, the Gerald Lampert, the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the Dartmouth Book Award, the Acorn-Plantos Award and, most recently, the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize. She won the 2008 CBC Literary Prize for Poetry, the 2010 Earle Birney Prize, the 2011 Bliss Carman Award, the 2012 Pat Lowther Award, the 2012 Atlantic Poetry Prize, Silver in the 2013 National Magazine Awards and the 2014 Nova Scotia Booksellers Choice Award.

Her poetry has appeared on the Toronto subway system, in wedding vows and spray-painted on a sidewalk somewhere in St. John, New Brunswick. Sue currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Dalhousie University.

I read Ocean last year and loved its bold ambition, its wit and weight. Sue graciously agreed to an email interview from an unabashed fan.

When did you first begin to take yourself seriously as a poet? 

I’ve always been writing poems. When did my writing practice deepen? Probably when I started writing again in my mid-twenties. I realized then how important my encounters with poetry were. How those encounters informed and orientated my belief and ecosystem. How poetry chimed with something essential in me. How it contributed its own version of vitality to my schedule, and how I had come to rely on it to keep me awake. I was quite young when I had turned to poems, to stories but I trusted their company, their ability to help me feel connected to something bigger and more important than myself. That was key. I don’t feel like it was a choice but more of an opening, like heading in the direction that permitted me to become more me. [Read more…]

Billeh Nickerson

billeh_main_20140508Interviewed by Shannon Rayne

Billeh Nickerson is a poet, performer, editor and teacher. He is the author of four poetry collections of poetry —The Asthmatic Glassblower; McPoems; Impact: The Titanic Poems; and Artificial Cherry— and the humour collection Let Me Kiss It Better. He is also co-editor of Seminal: The Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets. His most recent book, Artificial Cherry, was shortlisted finalist for the 2014 City of Vancouver Book Award. He is the Chair of the Creative Writing department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

You incorporate a lot of humour, sarcasm, wit and irony in your poetry – making both your poetry and your readings a joy to encounter. What are the advantages of using humour as a writing tool for you?  What does it allow you to do in your writing? 

Hmmm, that’s an interesting question as I find that humour has been beneficial to my work, but it also causes some folks to undervalue what I do. I love it when readers let their guard down after laughing. That’s the best time to pull a knife of an image or situation on them. That ability is the advantage. It can also start the conversation on taboo and political topics. [Read more…]

Amy De’Ath

amy-deathInterviewed by Maegan Cortens

Amy De’Ath was born in Suffolk in 1985. Her poetry books include Lower Parallel (Barque 2014), Caribou (Bad Press 2011), and Erec & Enide (Salt 2010). With Fred Wah, she is the editor of a collection of poetry and poetics, Toward. Some. Air. (Banff Centre Press 2015). Her critical writing has appeared in Anguish Language (Archive Books, 2015), and Cambridge Literary Review. She is a PhD student at Simon Fraser University and works on the poetics journal Line. She lives in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories.

What was one of your earliest encounters with poetry that has had a lasting effect?

Here’s a cute anecdote: I’m not a massive Sylvia Plath fan, but when I was 17 and leaving the college at my high school (Sudbury Upper School), I went to return this first edition copy of Plath’s Ariel to the school library. I had renewed it so many times but previous to that it hadn’t been borrowed from the library since 1976. The librarian handed it back to me and told me to keep it, which made me feel good because, in her opinion, I was a person worth that book, worth reading it. I guess that feels significant because I think you have to have a certain amount of confidence to read poetry, let alone write and publish it. [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…]

Elaine Woo

Elaine WooInterviewed by Yilin Wang

Elaine Woo is a Vancouver-based poet, librettist, and non-fiction writer. Cycling with the Dragon, her debut poetry collection, was published by Nightwood Editions in 2014 and recently nominated for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness. Her writing has also appeared in ARC Poetry Magazine, carte blanche, Ricepaper Magazine, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, and V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Her art song collaboration with Daniel Marshall, “Night-time Symphony,” won a festival prize in Boston Metro Opera’s International Composers’ Competition. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from UBC and has taught workshops for Megaphone Magazine and the Historic Joy Kagawa House.

I first met Elaine at the launch of Ricepaper Magazine’s Fall/Winter 2012 special double issue featuring Aboriginal and Asian Canadian writers. We both read at the launch, and since then, I have had the pleasure of listening to her read at many other events. Her writing explores marginalized voices, race, gender, family dynamics, and the creative process with raw emotion and experimental language. I corresponded with Elaine via email to discuss her inspiration, the publication of her first book, and her thoughts on a writer’s social responsibility.

What inspired you to first begin writing?

Creativity is my calling: I’ve always been creative, drawing prolifically as a child until my late teens. My twenties and thirties were fallow years, devoted to schooling in experimental psychology and working as a clerk/secretary. The psychology I studied had nothing to do with the soul, much to my disappointment. By mid-life, I had a lot of stories stored up inside. In 2006, when a couple of friends suggested I take up writing, I signed up for a credited creative writing course at Capilano College (before it became a university) and that was the start of my becoming actualized and whole again. Writing gave me everything to do with the intellectual, social, philosophical, and spiritual in the 21st century. [Read more…]

Chris Abani

ChrisAbaniBytClausGretterInterviewed by Indu Iyer

Chris Abani is an acclaimed author whose most recent novel is The Secret History of Las Vegas. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the Hurston Wright Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, among many honours. Born in Nigeria, he is currently a Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. He lives in Chicago. More at:

My desire to connect with Abani comes from the potency and immensity with which his words have given me, and no doubt countless others, great inspiration to move forward in difficult times. We corresponded via email.

How did your journey as a writer begin, and what have been your most pivotal moments in this field?

I began writing very young. I published my first short story at ten and my first novel at 16. I can’t remember not being a writer. I would say that the most pivotal moment was publishing my first novel so young. It set me on the path that has become my life. [Read more…]