Monday, May 06, 2024

12 or 20 (second series) questions with Julie Paul

Julie Paul’s second book of poetry, Whiny Baby (2024), follows the 2017 release of the poetry collection The Rules of the Kingdom, both published with McGill-Queen’s University Press. She is also the author of three short fiction collections, The Jealousy Bone (Emdash, 2008), The Pull of the Moon and Meteorites (both Touchwood Editions, 2014 / 2019).

Julie’s poetry, fiction and CNF have been widely published and recognized; The Pull of the Moon won the 2015 Victoria Book Prize, The Rules of the Kingdom was a finalist for both the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and her personal essay “It Not Only Rises, It Shines” received TNQ’s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Award.

Unless she’s visiting her daughter in Montreal, Julie lives in Victoria BC, where, in addition to writing and playing with paint, she works as a Registered Massage Therapist.

1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

My first book, The Jealousy Bone, was short fiction, and it taught me how to get behind my writing in a way I hadn’t before. Since then I’ve published two more books of short fiction as well as two poetry collections, including the brand new Whiny Baby. Both poetry collections are largely personal, confessional & intimate; the first one, The Rules of the Kingdom, felt scarier than this one, just because it was my first foray into truth-telling within the covers of a book. I have, however, published a number of personal essays over the past decade, and those are even more revealing!

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

I came to poetry first, as a pre-teen, but then got pulled into the fictional world, enticed by the freedom of making stuff up and having more space to work within.

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?

The starting is the easy part—love me a fun first draft! Sometimes, the final draft comes fast as lighting. Other times, years and years (I’m looking at you, novel manuscript).

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?

All of my books thus far have been conceived after I’m well into writing various pieces; however, I’m currently working on a novel and a book of poems that have specific parameters, so we’ll see how that goes.

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; it is always such a gift to hear any kind of response to my work, esp. in “the real world.” I try to leave my imposter syndrome at home.

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?

Current concerns: How to live in the world despite the world. How to love. How to wrestle with dissatisfaction and recognize privilege. How to make amends.

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?

Reflectors. Mirrors. Comforters. Provokers. Entertainers. Not necessarily at the same time.

8 - Do you find the process of working with an outside editor difficult or essential (or both)?

I find it essential, and overall, I’ve had very good experiences with editors, both informally in my writing circles and with my publishers. They see things I cannot, being too close to the work.

9 - What is the best piece of advice you've heard (not necessarily given to you directly)?

This is one I give myself: There is room for everyone.

10 - How easy has it been for you to move between genres (poetry to short stories)? What do you see as the appeal?

I love variety in life; I’m a restless soul. So moving around in multiple genres suits me really well.

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’m not much of a routine follower, but I do try to write most days. Preferably when I’m the only human at home and the cats are napping. Cookies help.

12 - When your writing gets stalled, where do you turn or return for (for lack of a better word) inspiration?

I go for a hike, or pick up a book and open it at random. Having the support of various writing buddies really helps, and I’ve had the good fortune to have taken two weekend retreats with them this year. Or I take a course; I’ve had so much fun doing Yvonne Blomer’s fabulous online classes over the past couple of years, and they’ve helped me to generate plenty of poems. Currently it’s National Poetry Writing Month, so those prompts can help get the juices flowing, but right now they’re piling up, unexplored…

13 - What was your last Hallowe'en costume?

I’m not a big fan of this holiday, truth be told, so it’s been years. But my favourite costume from when I was a kid was Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard, complete with plastic cigar. Now I’m showing my age…  

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?

Knowing what I know of the body, from my training as a massage therapist, has made it into my work in all genres. Nature is always an influence, and the nature of behaviour, both human and otherwise.

15 - What other writers or writings are important for your work, or simply your life outside of your work?

Such a hard question, to narrow things down. I’ll offer a list of recent inspiring works: Snow Road Station by Elizabeth Hay—set in my original neck of the woods. Anything I’ve read so far of Maggie O’Farrell’s. Eula Biss is a fantastice ssayist. Claire Keegan’s quiet intense fiction. This Strange Garment, poetry by Nicole Callihan. Ellen Bass’s Indigo. Abigail Thomas’s books. The novel Astra by Cedar Bowers.

16 - What would you like to do that you haven't yet done?

Make croissants from scratch. Try oil painting. Publish a novel.

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?

Visual artist, baker, café owner. I play around with paint a lot these days, as well as baking, esp. sourdough (thanks, pandemic).

18 - What made you write, as opposed to doing something else?

I think it’s an innate affinity for words. Or maybe a tendency to overshare. When I don’t write, I get really grumpy, so possibly it’s self-preservation above all.

19 - What was the last great book you read? What was the last great film?

I loved Maggie O’Farrell’s novel This Must Be the Place. And Poor Things—what a wild ride of a movie!

20 - What are you currently working on?

I’m currently rewriting my novel, and slowly working on a collection of personal essays, as well as a book of poems. Oh, and there’s a loaf of bread proofing in the kitchen.

12 or 20 (second series) questions;

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