SadieMcCarney's work has appeared in
publications including EVENT, The Walrus, Prairie Fire, Grain, The Puritan, The
Malahat Review, Plenitude, The Antigonish Review, and Room, as well as in The
Best Canadian Poetry in English. Poems of hers have been finalists for the
Banff Centre/ Bliss Carman Poetry Award, the Far Horizons Award for Poetry, and
the Walrus Poetry Prize. Sadie's debut poetry collection, Live Ones, came out
on September 7th, 2019 from the University of Regina Press.
- How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work
compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
Live Ones, out on September 7th,
2019, is my first book. I can’t really speak to how its publication has changed
my life yet, but so far the process of working closely with a publisher and an
editor has made me read my work more closely and with sharper tools than my
previous equipment. I think that conversion has carried over into my more
recent work - certain lines, to me, feel like they have to be refined more
before they feel “done” enough.
- How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
became a poet because, at 13, I wrote a short story that won a contest and sent
me to a summer creative writing program for youth. There I was introduced to
poetry that did things like swear and do crazy half-rhymes and feel like fire
in your mouth. I wanted to make fire, too, so I started writing poems.
- 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
me it happens one of two ways. Either I lug around lines for years waiting for
the right poem to plug them into, or I get a word or line stuck in my head and
jot out full a rough draft on the spot. Usually the insta-rough-draft poems are
around ¾ there when I first write them down. Then, I tinker a lot and read it
out loud so much that I’m sick of hearing it.
- 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?
word or a line, more rarely an image, gets stuck in my head like a bad song on
the radio. Until I can write it down I’m repeating it waiting in line at Tim
Horton’s, I’m chanting it in the bathtub, because the one thing those slivers
of poetry are really good at doing is leaving.
I get it written down, then it can start to turn into something.
really depends on the project whether or not I’m actively writing a collection
that all goes together. Live Ones was
very loose and freewheeling. It was hard to turn it into something that felt
like a cohesive whole. All of the projects I’m working on right now, on the
other hand, very much feel like I’m writing “a book”.
- Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the
sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
never done a professional reading before! My first will actually be the launch
party for Live Ones. I did readings
for poetry class in university. High school was full of a lot of readings for
me, too, because for part of it I studied creative writing at a school for the
arts. At one of those readings, I was about to start in on a poem of mine and
you could hear a pin drop in what was normally a very noisy and chaotic
auditorium. That was the first time I remember seriously thinking, “I could
actually make a go of this.”
- 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?
change from project to project for me. For Live
Ones, it was generally “what are the tensions between the world of the
living and the world of the dead?” But I don’t usually think in that
big-picture way about my writing very often...unless “writing a better poem” is
a theoretical concern? I’m very conscious of my status as a university dropout
when I encounter questions like this. As in, I don’t feel educated enough to
theorize properly, not even when it comes to my own work. But I think, too,
that if I knew all of the questions I was trying to solve then it wouldn’t be
as fun when I get to the surprise answer.
– 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?
used to think that a writer had a vital responsibility to humankind, toward
truth and social justice at every turn. Now I think, if someone wants to take
on that mantle, great, but for a lot of people it’s a mantle that requires
immense privilege in order to access. So now, I think the role of the writer is
to write. Anything else we can do with it is just gravy.
- Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or
essential (or both)?
difficult, but so needed; no poem is ever perfect. It’s like a box hedge: you
have to prune it, and there’s always going to be a spot you missed. A good
editor helps you prune your rough edges, even if that means abandoning a
stretch of dying hedge altogether. Good things don’t have to be fun or easy.
- What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you
sending your work out. Take heart; what you are doing has merit.”
was a rejection slip from Gaspereau Press for my very thin, chapbook-like “first
collection” manuscript in 2014. Those words, while a firm ‘no’, nourished me
and propelled me to send out the poem that, through a bewildering process of
publishing alchemy, eventually landed me a book publication offer from Oskana
Poetry & Poetics at the University of Regina Press.
- How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to fantasy for
children)? What do you see as the appeal?
wouldn’t say that I have moved
between genres; I think I’d say that I’m a poet and aspiring fantasy author. (I
always have trouble sustaining longer prose narratives past the halfway mark,
but I’m still hopeful that I’ll manage it one day.) I think I see the main
practical appeal as versatility in the workload - if I don’t feel like working
on prose, the chances are good it’s a poetry day, and vice versa.
- What kind of writing routine do you tend to keep, or do you even have one?
How does a typical day (for you) begin?
is sporadic, for me, and I’m terrible at sticking to my own schedules most of
the time. I often find myself drafting in the evening, but that’s more of a
trend than a rule.
- When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of
a better word) inspiration?
hot shower. A brisk walk around the neighbourhood. Playing with my cats.
Anything that gets me off the page and out of my own head. Movies and TV and
books tend to make it better initially but also worse overall, in my experience,
because then you just have somebody else’s ideas rattling around in your head
alongside your own. So much mental clutter.
- What fragrance reminds you of home?
beef dinner cooking. It reminds me of my grandparents’ house, which is where we
celebrated most holidays and birthdays. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 13,
but I’d chuck it all out for an exact replica of my Grandma’s roast beef
- 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
know almost nothing about botany, but I find myself captivated by whatever
plants end up being around me. There’s so much to be gained in a fictional
world by writing about its plants - the period, the time of year, the part of
the world, everything.
and when I was about 11 or 12 I had a giant old art history textbook and an
encyclopedia of mythology. I loved both of them, and those are probably two of
the books that have influenced my work the most. We were poor and didn’t live
anywhere near an art museum, but through those books I got to experience
everything from Beowulf to Byzantine church art to Basquiat.
- What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your
life outside of your work?
- What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
a prose novel that actually hangs together as a whole book.
- 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
think I might have done okay in marketing, or a communications job. But I have
some mental health concerns that prevent me from working “a day job” at the
moment, so I consider myself very lucky to have writing to fall back on. (Yes,
writing is my “fall back” career. I do most things backwards!)
- What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
was the only thing in school that I was really any good at. I got okay marks in
most other classes if we’re excluding gym, but English was the only subject
where I felt like I got to show off a bit. That felt pretty good.
years I was ashamed of this. I was told that to be a Real Writer you had to
write because not to write would torment you. Now, I’m not buying that. I
simply write because I am not very good at most other things, and that’s okay.
- What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
- What are you currently working on?
up a collection about four facets of mental health, which was funded by the
Canada Council. Soon to be starting a verse novel about queer kids coming of
age in rural and small-town Nova Scotia, also funded by the Canada Council.