Astrid Blodgett is the author of the short story collections This is How You Start to Disappear (UAlberta Press) and You Haven’t Changed a Bit (UAlberta Press). Her stories have appeared in The Journey Prize Anthology, Meltwater: Fiction and Poetry from the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Danish textbook Connect, in many Canadian literary magazines, and in translation in Inostrannaya Literatura. One of her stories was short-listed for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story; her first book was long-listed for a ReLit Award, a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and a finalist for the High Plains Book Award for Short Stories. She is also a co-author of Recipes for Roaming: Adventure Food for the Canadian Rockies. For many years she co-hosted a literary salon in her home. Astrid also loves multi-day river trips and long walks. She lives in Edmonton / amiskwaciwâskahikan.
1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
It did not change my life (well, except that I could stop fiddling with the stories I had been fiddling with for a long time).
I think some of the lines in my first collection are more poetic than much of the second collection. But it's hard to see your own work clearly after you've sat with it for too long. Otherwise, it feels about the same. The annoying pre-publication jitters!
2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?
I may have started life as a poet, but I started writing so long ago I am no longer certain what I wrote first. (I wrote both poetry and fiction as a child/teenager.) When I began writing seriously as an undergraduate student, I wrote poetry, simply because I liked the form and it was right for what I wanted to say. When I decided to pursue writing more seriously as a graduate student, I made the switch to short stories because my dad was a poet. It was a difficult transition (my stories were rather short and I suspect I may not always have written in full sentences, and my fellow writing workshop pals were often confused).
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 used to come quickly for me. Now it is slower. This is the problem with becoming more discerning no doubt.
I don't take notes. I simply start and keep going, keep going, keep going.
4 - Where does a 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 write short stories that sometimes get longer and when I have enough, I try to find a publisher for the collection. I don't think of it as a "book" at the beginning.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
No and no and no. They're part of what I do to share my work and hope people buy my book. :-)
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?
No theoretical concerns. I try to answer why people do what they do. I try to get into people's hearts and in their skin (usually via their kitchens and bedrooms).
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Do they even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
It doesn't have to be anything, but it can be. The writer, intentionally or not, presents the thinking (or her idea of it) of the time, whether about the present, the past, the future. Some writers might have a political goal.
8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?
Essential and greatly appreciated. Not usually difficult. Editors want your work to be the best it can be. Editors can save you from sending crap out in the world.
9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?
Keep writing. (Oh, and read widely.)
10 - 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 routine; I am also working to earn money and this sucks up time and mental energy. I used to go to a writing retreat once or twice a year for 5 days or so and this helped me get a good start on something I could work on at home.
11 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?
I take a break. I pick up my baroque recorder and play. I go for a walk alone. I read a really good short story.
12 - What fragrance reminds you of home?
13 - 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?
Yes, all of the above.
14 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?
Mostly short story writers but also writers who play with form, among them Sue Goyette, Claire Keegan, Shaena Lambert, Lisa Moore, Lorrie Moore, Gaetan Soucy.
15 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?
Something bigger, perhaps. A novella. Or bigger in scope within a short story. Something with greater impact.
16 - 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?
What a thought. Let's not go there.
17 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?
Because I didn't think of anything else? But seriously, I started writing, I was told, as soon as I could hold a pencil, no doubt because I grew up in a home full of books and with someone who wrote poetry much of the time (in his head or on paper) and a raku potter. My brain/hands couldn't figure out clay. My brain likes words.
18 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?
Book: A tie between I (Athena) by Ruth Dyck Fehderau and What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
Movie: The Quiet Girl, based on Claire Keegan's Foster
19 - What are you currently working on?
Trying to start a long story. Trying to find the right way in/the right voice.
12 or 20 (second series) questions;