Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Dennis McCloskey

Share |

December 15, 2008 -

OB:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

DM:

The very first article I wrote for publication appeared in The Catholic Register in the early 1970s. It was an editorial about discrimination against a young native girl. I received $25. I was so looking forward to my very first byline (by Dennis McCloskey.) Sadly, they got my first name wrong: by John McCloskey.

OB:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

DM:

The signing of a former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher to a five-year contract for $82.5 million and the death in 2008 of Studs Terkel inspired me to write a magazine editorial about the nature of work and how it used to be. Terkel most famously wrote a book 30 years ago titled Working which was a revealing look at workers who were rarely heard from. He discovered that work was a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.

OB:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

DM:

I would choose two history books by the late Pierre Berton (The National Dream and The Last Spike) and one by Stephen Leacock (Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town) to indicate our sense of humour.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

DM:

I have an office on the 2nd floor of my home that overlooks a ravine. A bronze plaque on the door indicates it is The Office, where no video games are played…only serious work gets done here.

OB:

William Faulkner was once asked what book he wished he had written; he chose Moby Dick (with Winnie the Pooh as a close second). Is there a book that you wish you had written?

DM:

I once gave a reading in Charlottetown, P.E.I. to a group of young school students. I was born on P.E.I. and my first young adult book was set there. At the end of my presentation, a young girl in the back of the room stood up and asked: “Sir, did you write Anne of Green Gables?” Oh, God I wish I had!!!

OB:

Is there a book that you think you should have read by now but haven’t?

DM:

Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace was given to me by a friend two years ago. I started it but could not get past page 50, although I know I should read the other 1,288 pages.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

DM:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. I know, I know, I should have read this marvelous 1995 book by now….

OB:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

DM:

No. My recently published non-fiction book, My Favorite American has won praise from a 12-year-old girl in Honolulu, Hawaii (Taylor Tagawa) and from 89-year-old Bob Atkinson, of Guelph. I generally don’t like to “target” a specific age or gender.

OB:

What are you working on right now?

DM:

Marketing and promoting My Favorite American in between magazine and corporate newsletter writing jobs.

OB:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

DM:

In the 1980s, I wrote an article for Canadian Living magazine in which I was asked to interview famous Canadian authors and ask them what advice they would give to young, aspiring writers. I will pass along the same advice that Farley Mowat, Pierre Berton, Robertson Davies, Max Braithwaite, Jean Little and several others gave to me. They may have phrased it differently, but they all basically said: “Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read.”

Related item from our archives