Monday, August 31, 2020

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Heidi Wicks

Heidi Wicks has written for CBC, The Globe and Mail, The Telegram, The Independent and Newfoundland Quarterly.

Her work is featured in Breakwater’s creative nonfiction anthology, Best Kind, and fiction anthology, Hard Ticket.

Her first novel, Melt, was published by Breakwater in 2020.

She is the recipient of the 2019 Cox and Palmer Creative Writing Award and the Landfall Trust two-week writing residency at Kent’s Cottage in Brigus, Newfoundland.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different? This is my very first book!

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction? I have written non-fiction. I have worked as an arts reporter and freelance writer, and I work in communications as well. I have written creative non-fiction pieces as well. I began with non-fiction, and arts reporting/reviewing/critiquing, and then started writing fiction as part of a university course.

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? It really depends! Sometimes an idea comes fairly fleshed out, but more often, there are seeds of an idea that percolate in the brain for a while, until some kind of story shape takes place. I often start with a scene at the beginning, and more scenes just unfold on the page as I'm typing. Sometimes I have a separate document going at the same time, to jot ideas down that come to me but that I'm not ready yet to put into the story.

4 - Where does a 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? My book began as one short story about a group of friends, but the rest of the friends faded away and the book became about just two of them. I initially thought the book would be a series of interconnected stories, but as I got to know the central characters more, and got a clearer ideas of what I wanted to happen to each of them, it became a novel.

5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings? I do enjoy readings. For me, that's the fun part of it. You've been through all of the ugly, tangly, emotional parts of creating something, so hopefully by the time you have to read aloud from it in front of an audience, you've worked through all of the uncomfortable feelings that come with writing something, and you feel proud enough of it to celebrate it. I like putting a bit of a performance into readings, so polishing up a section of something to perform, is kind of fun.

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?

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? To turn a mirror on people, encourage people to think about themselves and their actions, to share perspectives, spread empathy and understanding.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)? It depends on the editor! It's a bit of both. A good editor takes the time to get to know the author's writing style, and can also bring fresh eyes to the project.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)? One of my professors once said to me (while teaching a theatre review course), "choose your words." - I think that's good advice for writing and for life.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (journalism to fiction)? What do you see as the appeal? I have always written creatively, in fiction or screenwriting. If you mean what is the appeal for writing in different genres, I find fiction freeing. With nonfiction/journalism, you have to stick to the facts. I like being able to take fact to different places, to have room to experiment and play and have fun with my writing.

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 work full time in a very busy job in communications, and I have a daughter, so I find it difficult to find time to write sometimes. But, I do find that writing early in the morning is productive. I get up at 6am, make coffee, and write for a couple of hours before work begins. Ideally, I will write for two hours and then by the end of the session, have a little outline for the next section, so that when I return to it that evening after work, or the next morning, I have a direction mapped out.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration? I'll go for a walk or hike. I love being in the woods, near the ocean, and just walk for a couple of hours or more. Preferably alone with my thoughts and imagination. Or I'll start reading even more, and find inspiration through others' work. I also like podcasts - Writers and Company is one of my favourites for inspiration. Another one is called Everything Is Alive - which is an interview show with inanimate objects. I get ideas sometimes from that one.

13 - What fragrance reminds you of home? The ocean/salt water air, pine trees, dirt/soil.

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'm inspired a lot by nature, and a lot by music. I like all sorts of music, but right now I'm listening to a lot of Brian Eno, Alice Coltrane, Aimee Mann - chill music. I also love Fiona Apple's new album. She recorded it in her home, I think at the beginning of the pandemic, and her dogs are barking in the background. Her voice is incredible.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work? Lisa Moore is an important writer, mentor and friend to me. She was my thesis supervisor for my masters program, and that thesis became my first book. I've known Lisa for 13 years now - her writing is so alive, living and breathing, and she has an uncanny ability to make one fraction of a second seem as important as a whole decade. I admire her work, and her guidance has been a huge factor in why I have stuck with writing. 

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done? Go to Southeast Asia.

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? Rock star! I used to be in music school, I wanted to be a singer. I would do that, or be a filmmaker or film critic.

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else? I once participated in the Great Blue Heron Writing Retreat in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. My mentor there was Sheldon Currie, and we had a conversation one day about why we choose to write. Sheldon said it's not a choice for him to write. He writes because he has to. That's how I feel. Writing is how I work out all my problems and questions.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film? I recently read Some People's Children by Bridget Canning. It's a sweet, addictive coming-of-age story about a girl in a small town, who's facing first love and growing up and confronting secrets.

20 - What are you currently working on? I'm working on a short story about two neighbours who begin communicating with each other only through music, during lockdown.

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