Saturday, December 14, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Jaclyn Dawn


Jaclyn Dawn grew up in a tabloid-free small town in Alberta. With a communications degree and creative writing Masters, she works as a freelance writer and instructor. She now lives somewhere between city and country outside Edmonton with her husband and son. The Inquirer is her debut novel.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

You know that feeling when you complete a school assignment – relieved, proud, nervous as you await the verdict? So far being published feels a lot like that.

As a freelance writer and instructor, I already worked with words daily. Since the call from NeWest, I’ve made some adjustments to include the publishing process for The Inquirer. My once quiet creative writing hobby just isn’t so quiet anymore!

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

I’ve always found myself imagining how events and conversations would appear on the page, editing scenes and sifting words in my mind. At twelve-years-old, a late walk home after babysitting in my sleepy hometown turned into a run because of the story I was imagining along the way.

I enjoy writing the occasional article and working on my technical writing projects, but so far, I haven’t been inspired to write a non-fiction novel. And my attempts at poetry sound like cheesy greeting cards. I love fiction. It can be both entertaining and a means to communicate something intricate or otherwise difficult to communicate.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

My writing projects need to percolate. They start with a concept that refuses to leave my busy mind. The characters and plot follow, and only when they feel real can I start writing. I jot down notes if I am scared of forgetting certain bits of information, but otherwise I write, rewrite, and edit along the way so that the first draft appears close to the final. A timeline of index cards on a big bulletin board helps with this process.

4 - Where does a work of prose usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

My creative writing most often starts as a book, with the stage of completion and length to be determined.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

Despite being an instructor and someone who often has to present for work, I felt nervous and self-conscious for my first couple readings. Instead of talking about writing in general and about clients’ projects, I had to talk about myself and my creative writing. Then Wendy McGrath, an author who was also reading at the triple launch in Calgary in October, made a good point: attendees are coming voluntarily and typically don’t heckle.

So much of the writing process is solitary that public readings are a great way to connect with readers and the writing community. I enjoy the social aspect and see how beneficial such events can be for marketing. Perhaps these positives will help me be less self-conscious about my creative writing which does affect my creative process.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

I find myself exploring the same two questions: Why do people do what they do? And, what if?

For example, the idea for The Inquirer came to me while I was waiting in line at the grocery store where the tabloids and gossip magazines are on display. Why are people drawn to the scandalous headlines? What if a tabloid started airing the dirty laundry of a small town like mine?

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

This is a question worthy of an essay! Both the writer and reader have varying roles and responsibilities. Putting too much thought into this question may put too much pressure on the creative process.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I once wrote an article that was returned with more red marks than the entire first draft of my novel. The editor basically took my idea and made it her own. However, the editing process is invaluable when an editor and writer work well together in their respective roles. My NeWest editor, Leslie Vermeer, encouraged me and The Inquirer to be better while maintaining the integrity of the novel.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

“Just be you, Jackie,” my husband Logan tells me. You don’t need anyone’s permission but the reminder sure comes in handy now and then.

10 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

I have yet to establish this illusive thing called a writing routine. Life as a mom, freelance writer, and post-traumatic migraine sufferer makes a regular writing schedule difficult to maintain. That said, being tied to a routine and traditional workspace doesn’t suit me and would affect my creativity anyway. I write in bursts when and wherever I can. How my day starts depends on the day.

11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

Writers joke that inspiration strikes when you’re trying to fall asleep because you have an early morning or when you’re busy doing anything else. I embrace this inevitable when I have writer’s block by turning to another project, house or yard work, exercise, some sort of outing. Counter to the leather and Harley stereotype, if there isn’t snow on the ground, my best novel-mapping time is when I go for a ride.

12 – What fragrance reminds you of home?

I can’t settle on one answer to this question. My son, however, says, ‘banana bread.’ It’s his favourite, so I bake it often.

13 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

I create a music playlist to listen to while working on each of my projects. By pressing play on The Inquirer playlist, I am transported to the fictional town of Kingsley with Amiah Williams. The trick is picking songs that apply to and don’t distract from the project. I can’t have a song that reminds me of something in my real life disrupting my workflow when I’m terrible for procrastinating as it is!

14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

I read in almost any genre, though I read more fiction than non and avoid horrors if I want to sleep at night. I can go on forever about the writings and writers who have left an impression on me. Instead, I will mention some writers who influenced me while I was writing The Inquirer, which was originally my MA dissertation.

For two semesters, we were assigned a novel to read, analyze, mimic, and discuss each week. I didn’t enjoy them all, but I definitely learnt from them. This strenuous exercise made me more conscious of my own writing decisions and voice. I liked the humour interlaced in A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. I divided my novel into seven purposeful sections, though I think that’s where the comparisons to Mulan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being end. I never considered the reliability of narrators until our discussion on The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I aimed for the layers in literary fiction and the short, action-orientated chapters mastered by James Patterson that keep a reader thinking ‘oh, just one more chapter’ at 3 am.

15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

There’s always another place to travel and another story to discover. I’ve had several people in the publishing industry advise me to take time to sit back and enjoy all that releasing The Inquirer entails. So, for at least the remainder of this year, I think I will do just that.

16 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

When I was in grade one, my teacher told me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote ‘mom, teacher, and writer.’ (Even then I couldn’t pick just one answer for a question!) If I wasn’t a writer or writing instructor, I think I would be a grade school teacher.

Life as a singer or dancer is intriguing, though, believe me, these are not options for me! Maybe the best time for answering these questions isn’t while binge-watching Glee on Netflix. My husband and I are also currently hooked on Longmire, but I wouldn’t say I am suited for life as a sheriff either.

17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I have always had a passion for the written word. When I finished high school, my ever-supportive parents helped me find the Professional Writing Diploma program at MacEwan. I earned my Bachelor of Applied Communications at MacEwan and eventually my Master of Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. Having the opportunities and support to be a writer made it possible as a career path and made the childhood dream of seeing my own book in the bookstore and library come true.

18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I started reading the works of fellow NeWest authors this summer, including Dance Gladys Dance by Cassie Stocks, Molly of the Mall by Heidi L. M. Jacobs, and Cobra Clutch by AJ Devlin.

As research for my next novel, I have been re-watching 1980s favourites starring Molly Ringwald, including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink.

19 - What are you currently working on?

I am researching potential homes for a story I had written for my son years ago. I also started a new literary fiction novel. It’s been percolating for some time, but I don’t have an elevator speech quite yet.


Friday, December 13, 2019

(another) very short story;


As part of the final scene of Mary Tyler Moore’s classic, namesake sitcom, her character, Mary Richards, should have returned to the streets of Minneapolis and recovered her hat. It was a very fine hat.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Meet the Presses’ Indie Market (part five,


[Stuart Ross at his two-cornered Proper Tales Press + Anvil Press tables, being both "ace" and "trendy"]


Hamilton/London ON: It would seem that, furthering the work they accomplished in their recently-published collaborative trade poetry collection, A CEMETERY FOR HOLES, poems by Tom Prime and Gary Barwin (Gordon Hill Press, 2019) [see my review of such here], Gary Barwin and Tom Prime are still pushing ahead with their collaborative efforts, with the chapbooks Throat Fixtures {an Almanack of Dazzle} (2019) and Birds are the birthmarks of flight: A Manifesto. (2019), both appearing from Barwin’s serif of nottingham. These two chapbooks, each constructed as a single poem-sequence, both read as very different in tone and flavour from Barwin and Prime’s collaborative full-length work, and I’d be curious to hear how their process of writing collaboratively may have evolved since those first few poems, and even up to and beyond that first, full-length collection. What is curious, as well, each poem/chapbook suggest the possibility of the opening sections of much larger, longer manuscripts, although they could both, just as easily, be part of an eventual single collection. The first chapbook, Throat Fixtures {an Almanack of Dazzle}, is composed as a prose-quartet of short pieces, each of which opens with an image (assembled, in part, via collage), and seems to pilfer an antiquated language, allowing it a certain kind of tone, a certain kind of lyrical heft. As the second section, “{Sec2ndo},” opens:

I DO NOT DISDAIN but I dowel. A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Certes, most Reapers receive so much plimsoll tiptapping on the mortal floor as may make worthy the gaseous (0.934%—9340 ppmv) tincture of their perusal, if not too greatcoat or too busy mandraking their small lease. The confrontation concerning the imbroglio of what is here offered to their burdened lexical centipedes; and if the last prove too severe, as I have often been torrid with lichens of a wavelength from 10 nm to 400 nm, a neophyte serving all centipedes equally and on murders of cloud. The Reaper will append the simplest conversation in line as the greengrocer’s to one both laminate and profound.

While the first chapbook has a weight to it, the second, Birds are the birthmarks of flight: A Manifesto., feels lighter in tone; but still holds the attention as both a real and faux-manifesto, as the writing both illuminates and obscures the writing even as it floats through and across a delightful surrealism. As the first section reads:

All birds must wear smoke and be bleak after no more than 12 cloud deadlines. This reinforces their humor and gives them comedy wings in a soft land where the impression of flight is diminished. Younger woodlands need to use 10 birds to process the childminding of eggs wrapped in balaclavas of shadow. This reminds us of the ongoing process where the sky is a cleft oyster, the moon a fluke pearl, and which focuses on the cleaving palate of the watershed and blotch from blotch, blotch from blotch, blotch from blotch. Since the 1970s the feathered truth of a billion birds has disappeared. This is also a start.

London ON: London, Ontario poet Emily Lu’s chapbook debut is Night Leaves Nothing New (Baseline Press, 2019), a collection of eleven poems that appear, on first glance, to be relatively straightforward lyric poems, but are anything but. I am finding myself very taken with Lu’s line breaks, the bends in her narrative through-lines and thought, and her attention to small details. These poems really are delightful, and I am happily startled by them. What else can I tell you?

EARLY SEASON

This ending between your arms & drowning.
Its shape & contour seeping through the train
platform. Don’t worry, I was dreaming
into public. The dream expanding empty
city corridors. Passenger-side, I encountered
ten thousand refracting fish & their march through
stale houses. I was Typhlosion running

naked through an early season. Peach petals
in your hair last February while we skated
on domed lake-ice trembling
for fear of overstep & no bystanders
& dying. Don’t worry. A thorough kiss
still contains loneliness. A love
creasing, another mountainline.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Astra Papachristodoulou


Astra Papachristodoulou is a PhD student at the University of Surrey with focus in the experimental tradition across poetry, visual art and performance. She has given individual, collaborative, and interactive readings at a range of events in Slovenia, Vienna, Greece and the UK, including the European Poetry Festival and IGNOR Festival. Astra's work has been exhibited at the National Poetry Library and the Poetry Café, and she is the author of several pamphlets including Stargazing (Guillemot Press, 2019).

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My little chapbook Almost a Nightmare was my first proper publication - it was produced by Sampson Low in 2017. The poetry still reflects some of the work that I produce now. Some of the poetry that I wrote before this book was pure evil so I’m glad that I started publishing in print when my poetic voice was more defined. Almost a Nightmare is a small thing but it made me want more - the satisfaction of seeing my work in tangible form was a cloud-9 kind of feeling. Since then, every book has been special for me in its own way. Publishing is a bit like a good addiction, I say.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?

It all came naturally, really. Perhaps, the fact that English is not my mother tongue and that poetry can be abstract and fragmented, provided a safe space for me to explore things, if that makes sense.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

New projects tend to develop pretty quickly - almost immediately after an idea has popped to my mind. I always get the initial rush that comes with an idea, and try to materialise it before my interest goes away. There have been projects that haven’t made it to the end – but not many. I don’t tend to dwell too much in drafts, as I trust my initial instincts and want my works to have a spontaneous essence - not sure how well I communicate this to the reader, but that’s how I work at least. 

4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?

I think it depends on your definition of a poem. My definition is pretty broad, so a poem for me exists here, there & everywhere. I like narratives and my page/object poems unfold into sequences one way or another.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

Some of my poems exist in different forms simultaneously – often in performance, page and object/visual form. I don’t like to just read poems, so performances have really helped me develop and think outside the box.

I used to be very nervous of reading in public, but grew to really enjoy it. Performance is an important aspect of my work nowadays.

6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?

Questions of technology vs poetry, human vs human, human vs nature, technology vs nature, human vs space & more.

7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?

It’s hard to think of poets in response to larger culture due to the fact that poetry communities are so close-knit, in London at least. It’s unusual to stumble upon people who read poetry (particularly experimental) who aren’t poets themselves, publishers, academics etc. Poetry can be therapeutic, thought provoking and/or entertaining to a non-poet, so perhaps the role of the poet is to introduce poetry to new audiences in order to expand and maintain the poetry ecosystem.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I think that it depends on the project, although an editor can sharpen up a work and be this second pair of eyes that a book needs. I’ve been lucky so far with my editors – amongst them Luke Thompson and Paul Hawkins who were a joy to work with!

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

No money, no honey.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to visual art to performance)? What do you see as the appeal?

I’m quite happy for my work to exist in different forms or somewhere in between mediums. As well as a poet, I consider myself an artist, so I enjoy playing around and trying new things. It’s been easy for me to exist in between things – it’s the magic of experimental poetry. It has no boundaries.

11 - What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one? How does a typical day (for you) begin?

At the moment, I am studying for a PhD on a full-time basis while working at The Poetry Society and WhyNow magazine, so time is pretty limited for writing outside my PhD project. I write & brainstorm on my hour-long commute to London, before bed, during lunch break, in the shower, weekends – any chance I get. But sometimes, you just need to lay back and watch Forensic Files (at least that’s what I do to relax).

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

The fear of every writer. When this happens, I tend to flick through poetry books that I like and note down phrases with a good resonance for my taste. I re-arrange these phrases and replace some of the words – to get my own rhythm going (in ideal scenarios). For object poems, I visit charity shops to find unusual and affordable objects that I could turn into poems. The toy section is usually the goldmine corner.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?

The smell of leather - 100%. My dad owed a fur shop for most of his life. He was a single parent and I would spend hours of my day at his shop amongst fur & leather jackets. I would try to describe the scent, but all that comes to mind is dad.

14 - David W. McFadden once said that books come from books, but are there any other forms that influence your work, whether nature, music, science or visual art?

Literally everything can influence my work – from visual art to crime documentaries and the universe.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?


16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

I would like to own a little exhibition venue. Maybe one day, eh?

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be? Or, alternately, what do you think you would have ended up doing had you not been a writer?

I would either like to be a judge or a forensic investigator.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I honestly don’t know – somehow poetry as a medium works well with my nature. It has no limits and I love it.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

Best book was Katie Paterson’s A Place That Exists Only in Moonlight – its cover is printed with cosmic dust, which says it all. Last great film was Peter Greenaway's The Pillow Book, which I watched at Steven J Fowler’s book launch at the Cinema Museum in London two weeks ago.

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a pamphlet that will be out by Hesterglock Press in December 2019. I’m also curating a couple of exhibitions – the closest one is themed around The Yellow Book and is taking place at the Westminster Reference Library from the 1st to the 27th November. Lots of exciting things ahead.