Shannon Quinn [photo credit: H. Romero] was born in Kanata. Her formative years were spent in the Hazeldean Mall. She has lived in Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Thunder Bay and Iqaluit. She now calls Toronto home. She works in mental health and previously worked for CBC Radio. Her first book, Questions for Wolf, was published by Thistledown Press. Her work has most recently appeared in CV2, ARC, Grain, Prairie Fire and Geez. Nightlight for Children of Insomniacs (Mansfield Press) is her second full length collection.
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 first book gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was something I could look at...it was tangible. I hope my recent work is a step forward in craft and vision...that's my goal.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
I started with both short fiction and non fiction, poetry was always a private side thing...until it wasn't. I don't know exactly why, but poetry came to be the closest way I could get to communicating in a way I wanted to be heard. There is so much room in poetry...the expansiveness and the specificity is a combination that is an incredible place to inhabit.
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?
Writing is a slow burn for me and I like it that way. It is always in process. I take a lot of notes and do a ton of rewrites. The pieces tell me when they are done.
4 - Where does a poem or 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?
I'm not working on a book from the beginning...I'd never actually write if I was. I'm a big believer in showing up to the paper and patience.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
I'm a really shy person but I love public readings. Stand and deliver. There is something really important for me in that. I definitely learn a lot from public readings.
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?
Sometimes I struggle when people ask about who the writer is with my poetry...I have experienced some pretty intense identities....so sometimes I wonder, do I have to tell you I'm a trauma survivor? That I was sex worker when I was quite young? That I'm a recovering addict? That I live with a significant mental illness? Those are some places I've been but do I need to declare them as personal experience in order to write about them? I don't have an answer to that...or a judgment about people who ask who the speaker is...it's just something i think about...
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?
As writers I want us to work together to have more voices heard.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
I love working with an outside editor, it is essential for me. I need those questions and the feedback. I have a theatre background so working collaboratively is in my bones.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
"There is no such thing as a life with no pain but you no longer need to harm yourself in response to it"
10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to essays to creative non-fiction)? What do you see as the appeal?
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?
12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
Vast amounts of carbohydrates....it's not very effective.
13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Roast beef. I'm a vegetarian.
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?
Science! And the science in music and nature makes me want to write. I love visual art for its quiet moments of awe and for its silence.
15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Don Domanski as a poet, a mentor and a friend is incredibly important to me. I'm an obsessive reader, there are too many authors for me to possibly list. The work of other poets, regardless of style, always has important information for me. Also, various Buddhist texts teach me how to be a human being (believe me, I need instructions).
16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Circus Arts. I just started my first aerial silks class.
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?
Can I pick something non-human? I aspire to catness and dogness...with no preference.
18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I write so I don't lose my mind. I have literally lost my mind in the past. It really sucked.
19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Book: Kay Larson's biography of John Cage, Where The Heart Beats. Catherine Barnett's poetry collection, Game of Boxes
20 - What are you currently working on?
I'm working on my third collection of poetry, I'm telling myself it's an exploration of equanimity...which is incredibly vague.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;