Saturday, August 08, 2009

12 or 20 questions: with Christine Leclerc

Photo (by Sarah Race Photography) attached and here's a bio: Christine Leclerc is originally from Montreal and now lives in Vancouver. She is an MFA in Creative Writing student at the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in 42opus, Dig, FRONT, FU, Interim, Memewar, OCHO, Pistola, subTerrain, terry, and the Worksound gallery. Leclerc is the author of Counterfeit, a book of poetry published by CUE in 2008. She teaches Creative Writing at Langara College Continuing Studies.

1 - How did your first book change your life?

Well, I do more readings and I've had more opportunity to teach as a result.

How does your most recent work compare to your previous?

It's totally different process-wise. I approached the previous work with my eyes closed, trying to capture images, ideas, and characters as they cycled through my mind. Recently I approach with eyes open because I am working with digital images and refer to them constantly.

How does it feel different?

The previous work felt satisfying to write and read back later, whereas the new work is frustrating. I also feel that I'm asking a lot of readers and/or listeners. With the current work, if the gesture behind the language is not detected, the pieces fail. I'm very aware of this. But I also find the current projects compelling enough to see them through even though it's like pumping gas in pointe shoes.

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

Strangely, I came to fiction first. Or maybe that's not strange. The first thing I ever wrote that made me want to keep writing was a short story. After a few stories, I wrote some vignettes, and then some poems. I initially saw the early poems as scripts for illustrated children's books and after a while I began writing what I considered poems, which often starred my grandmother making jam.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project?

They're all very different. Like working with the digital images. It took a while to start because I had to figure out that sitting around with my eyes closed wasn't going to cut it. I also had to concede that it was possible for me to write first drafts with a computer. Then I had to get past the idea that writing should be fun, because I knew it wasn't going to be fun to write these poems. So there was a lot of resistance to get beyond.

Does your writing intitially come quickly, or is it a slow process?

Again, it depends on the project, or where I'm at with it. I always try write what I feel most compelled (or least uncompelled) to write on a given day because it goes faster and takes less effort.

Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape?

Not at all.

or does your work come out of copious notes?

I take notes, but usually my work comes out of "sketching," followed by revision and fleshing things out (then more revision). I take/make/use notes at all stages, but usually on how to revise, not to generate material.

Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

Yes. I mean, I often get nervous beforehand, but enjoy trying to get a sense of where the audience is at. It's the only venue I can think of where raw feedback is up for grabs: the people in the audience usually don't know me and don't have to respond, as opposed to workshops where coming up with a response is the audience's job.

What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work?

A couple are:
Who gets to be a person?
Do I have to respond in such-and-such a way to such-and-such a discourse?

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

I've worked with several editors and have found the experience enjoyable pretty much across the board, mostly because learning about how others are respond to my work is always interesting to me. But I have a thick skin.

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

"Don't just think about working. Work." I'd read this sort of thing a million times, but then someone said it to me. I can't remember who said it to me, but they said it with seriousness and a bit anger. I guess I managed to take it personally.

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

My neighborhood. When I get stuck, I go for a walk or run an errand. Usually the neighborhood gets me unstuck.

13 - If there was a fire, what's the first thing you'd grab?

The first thing that comes to mind is a hairbrush. Not that I have much hair. It's my grandmother's brush. And, wait a second--she didn't have much hair either! Hmm... The brush evokes memories of visiting my grandparents as a child. It evokes the room the brush was always in. It evokes my grandmother's vanity--which she never used. And it also my grandfather's radio, which is a foot away. The radio plays all night every night. These details a are big part of my family story, they lead to more and more details, until I find I've unpacked an understanding (which differs every time). I see taking the brush as an effort to save something that helps unpack the past, because if there is no house/home to ground in, there can still be story.

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?

Yes! Music, images, experiments, office memos, events, movies, relationships, marketing debris, conversations, people, maps, videos, models (in the many senses of the word).

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

When I was younger, I LOVED Huxley, Lessing, Robertson, Calvino, and Beckett. These days, love's not the right word for my attraction to works though. In a weird way, all works are important to me now because I try to read as though I'm entering an installation. I'm trying to pay attention to the strategies used in all kinds of texts, especially the "non-literary." I do still learn from and enjoy specific authors though. Some recent favorites are: Sphar, Rilke, LeCarré, and Harvey. Also, important for work: descriptionaries and visual dictionaries.

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

Scale a building.

17 - If you could pick any other occupation to attempt, what would it be?

Well, I do some design work and have attempted arts admin, but if I were to attempt something else, it would be botany.

19 - What was the last great book you read?

What was the last great film?

20 - What are you currently working on?

A series of poems based on online images and videos, and an eco-thriller.

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