Sunday, August 21, 2016

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is a Toronto-based artist whose body of work includes several albums, films, and books. Her first novel, She of the Mountains, was named one of The Globe and Mail’s Best Books of 2014. Her debut collection of poetry, even this page is white, was released this spring. Vivek has read and performed inter­nationally at shows, festivals and post-secondary institutions, sharing the stage with Tegan & Sara and Dragonette, and has appeared at NXNE, Word on the Street, and Yale University. She is one half of the music duo Too Attached.

Vivek is a 2016 Pride Toronto Grand Marshal, a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, a 2015 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award finalist, and a 2015 recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize Honour of Distinction. Vivek’s first children’s picture book, The Boy & the Bindi, will be published by Arsenal Pulp Press in 2016.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Before I had written my first book, I saw myself strictly as a musician. But the book opened me up as an artist, excited to explore and experiment with various mediums. 

There is always an innocence that accompanies a first project. With God Loves Hair, I had zero expectations. With every book I have written since, there is a greater pressure (even if just self-imposed) to write something better, richer. My newest book, even this page is white, is also poetry, unlike God Loves Hair which is a collection of short stories. 

2 - How did you come to visual art first, as opposed to, say, fiction, poetry, music or film (all of which you have done since)?
I actually came to music first! I think I was drawn to the beauty and emotion in melody and first started singing in a religious organization I participated in and later at school assemblies. 

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?
Out of all the mediums I work in, I find writing to be the hardest. It is a slow process and requires many drafts and a lot of feedback from other writers.

4 - Where does a poem or work 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?
I always start with an idea. The idea dictates the format. Four years ago, I knew I wanted to make art that challenged biphobia. Writing a love story, in the format of a novel, struck me as the best means to do so. 

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
While I tend not to share rough or new work until it's "published," I do enjoy readings as a means to showcase a different side of the work and to make a one-on-one connection with other humans. Social media is a great way to spread the word about your newest project, but there is nothing like standing in front of someone and sharing the work live.

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?
A central question for me in my art, even if subconscious, is how can I complicate dominant narratives? 

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?
"A writer's job is to make you aware of lives other than your own."

This was in my twitter feed today. I am not sure who said it, but it resonated with me.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Both. I can't make the best art possible without feedback from others, including editorial feedback, but feedback can be hard to digest.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
You have to make the bad art to get to making the good art.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (visual art to poetry to fiction to film to music)? What do you see as the appeal?
I have a short attention span, so working between mediums keeps me excited. Also, I am able to bring whatever I have learned from one project in whatever medium into the next project in a different medium. 

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?
I don't have a writing routine. As someone who navigates a 9-5 job, I am forced to write in the pockets of time that I carve out.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
When I get stalled, I either take a break from the writing or write on paper, instead of the screen, as I find it awakens a different part of my creativity.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
Sandalwood incense.

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?
I am heavily influenced by visual art and political discourse.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
I am most inspired by writers who are taking risks in their work, writers writing the unimaginable. 

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
I always wish I was a dancer.

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?
See above! 

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
I came to writing because I was frustrated with my inability to create songs that my label at the time was happy with. At the core, I have always been a communicator, and I think this is why I came to writing.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
The last great book I read was Big Kids by Michael DeForge. I love magic so I loved Now You See Me 2.

20 - What are you currently working on?
I have a new child picture book out this fall. It is called The Boy & the Bindi (Arsenal Pulp Press).

No comments: