author biography ; extended biography ; author page

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

12 or 20 questions: with Gillian Wigmore

Gillian Wigmore grew up in Vanderhoof, BC, attained a BA in English and Writing from UVic, and now lives in Prince George, BC. Her work has been published in TNQ, the Malahat Review, CV2, Prism International and Geist magazine, among others. In 2005, her chapbook home when it moves you was published by Creekstone Press. Her first book soft geography, published by Caitlin Press, was nominated for the Dorothy Livesay Award and won the 2008 ReLit Award. She has a chapbook forthcoming with Rob Budde's Wink books in the fall.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different? My secret identity was simultaneously exposed and validated. Up until my book was published, writing was a secret thing I did in my basement. Afterward I got to do such strange things as travel 'for business', go on book tour, read in public, get dressed up! It was such a nice contrast to the playground/playdate life I'd been leading I could have cried.
As for new work, poems came really slow after my book was published. It was like I'd exhausted and satisfied something, so I cast around awhile for something new. Now I'm working on fiction and poems, and while the work is still really place-based and voicey, they're new and I'm satisfying something different.

2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction? I studied poetry at university. I took every poetry lit course I could in my English degree and I wrote it for my writing degree, so I was really immersed for five years. When I catapulted out of school and discovered that poetry was not a common topic for conversation, I went underground. I had kids around that time, so much of my energy was spent, first, growing a placenta and a child (and then another), then learning to keep that child (and the next) from peril, so there wasn't much brain left over for myself. Once I discovered I could keep my sanity and the children safe by walking, I spent hours on foot. For me, a poem starts when I'm walking and much of the composition of my poems happens then.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing intitially 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? Projects pop out unbidden, for the most part. I've got things going on all over the place and when I manage to get something on paper (or screen), then the project starts its own life. I edit for a long time. I really enjoy it. The more time I spend with the words, the more they finally become what I mean.

4 - Where does a (poem or piece of fiction) 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? Walking and driving and running. I live in northern BC and we, up here, are notorious for driving hundreds of kilometres to get to a bookstore or to make a reading, so I am blessed with time to think. That combination of movement and solitude makes for good writing for me. As for what I write, I write both short and long pieces that add up to an on-going conversation I'm having, mostly with myself, sometimes with my brother, my husband, other writers. Long poems especially are like conversations. I find it daunting to think of writing a 'book'.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? Readings are a pleasant bonus after all that time alone. I love to read and I really believe in undoing the stigma of the 'Poetry Reading', so I take the entertainment side of it and the doing the work justice side of it seriously.

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 kind of hate to believe there is poetry out there without theoretical concerns. Maybe theory isn't the place I begin, but it's there underneath it all and it's addressed in all the editing. I'm not trying to answer questions with poetry - I haven't got the answers! Asking the questions is important. I'm thinking about place and society and marginalization and colonization and feminism and dirt and work and crises of climate and place and society... it's all in there.

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? Writers (artists) are indispensible and totally superfluous at the same time. If we didn't write, we (as a society) wouldn't know who we were, but if we didn't write, no one would starve or die of exposure. It should make us humble and it should make us work very hard. Should we have society's support to make art? I think so. Should everyone get it? I don't know. What are the parameters of support? How do we decide who gets it? Questions that bear consideration.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)? Editing with others is exciting and fraught and a great learning experience. If I ever have to workshop another thing it will kill me, but I love my work being read so carefully and considered so closely as it is with one editor.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)? Don't freak out. It's rule number one in our household.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fiction)? What do you see as the appeal? I read an interview with Lance Blomgren who described himself moving between projects as they are working for him and that describes my process, too. If it's poetry that's flowing, fine, but if it isn't I'll try fiction or non-fiction or sewing or cooking...

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? Oh my if I had a writing routine! When everyone is sleeping I write. If they don't sleep I don't write. HOWEVER, things will change in my favour now that both kids are off to school full days. Part time work, part time parenting, part time writing. That's my schedule. Wish me luck.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? Reading. Walking. Talking with other writers.

13 - What fairy tale character do you resonate with most? Hansel. When he drops the breadcrumbs and they are eaten up by birds I can totally relate. Poor bugger. Just when you think you're doing something helpful and fantastic it gets undone!

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? Visual art for sure. But mostly books and nature. And the CBC. And the internet.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work? I love structurally ambiguous, place-heavy, unreliable-narrator-inundated, solid-voiced, crazy-ass poetry/fiction/non-fiction, so - Howard O'Hagan, Sheila Watson, EARLY Ondaatje, Sharon Thesen, Robert Kroestch, Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Karen Solie, Ken Babstock, Sarah De Leeuw, Ken Harvey, you know there are far too many to list, but all these people inspire my writing. In my life outside of my work I value my friendships with other writers more than I can say and I won't list them for fear I'll forget one or two in the heady speediness of this moment, so forgive me.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done? I would like to live in a french-speaking place. Or on a boat traveling up the west coast of BC. I'd like to take a year off from regular life and travel with my family.

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'm still doing what I would be doing if I wasn't a writer. I wish I could play professional women's soccer. And be good at it.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else? Writing satisfies and dissatisfies so much I have to do it. It's that conversation I talked about earlier.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film? I reread The Old Man and the Sea. It's even greater, now. C.R.A.Z.Y.

20 - What are you currently working on? A novel, poems, non-fiction essays, and dinner.

12 or 20 questions (second series);

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