Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Lauren Kirshner

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June 29, 2009 -

OBT:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

LK:

I was 12 and it was a poem in the Toronto Board of Education literary journal Writing/Ecrits. It was about a man I used to see near my junior high, who had piles of newspapers with him all the time, but never seemed to be reading them. At the time I was obsessively cutting Tiffany jewelry ads from my Dad’s copies of the New York Times for a “collection,” so I made some kind of weird identification with this newspaper man. Soon after my poem was published, the school librarian gave me a collected Emily Dickinson. I think she suspected I didn’t get out much.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

LK:

I don’t make a distinction between my every day life in the city and my Canadian cultural experience. My writing is influenced by how the city looks from my bike, secondhand stores, ceramic animals I see in old storefront windows, tattooed telephone poles, arguments I overhear on the streetcar, girls waiting at the bus stop, old photos of strangers, the smell of nighttime wet grass in Trinity Bellwoods Park, books people happen to leave on their lawns, revue cinemas, graffiti, guys who mutter “hello sweetie” to every girl that passes, people who can’t find work, blue and red sunrises, and how I hear at least four different languages being spoken in my neighborhood every day.

OBT:

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

LK:

The Collected Poems of Al Purdy

The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

No Logo by Naomi Klein

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

LK:

A forest or a jungle with the Internet, a great stereo system, a shed filled with backdated copies of The New York Times and Ms, a tele-porter that could bring me any book I wanted, lots of fresh fruits, no insects, my partner and friends, and many species of frolicking friendly animals.

OBT:

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?

LK:

Moon Palace by Paul Auster. The first person narration is so honest. It’s what started me thinking about the difference, in storytelling, between telling and revealing. Telling is important to get us from A to B, but revealing is the ah-sigh-oh-whoa moment that sticks inside the brain.

OBT:

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

LK:

Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

LK:

No Other Life by Brian Moore. It’s set in the early 90s on an island called Ganae, loosely based on Haiti, and about an underdog president who fights for the rights of the poor. Along with Margaret Atwood, Moore is one of the most versatile writers I’ve ever read. I’m also reading Don’t Cry, Mary Gaitskill’s new collection of short stories. She’s one of my favourite writers.

OBT:

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

LK:

I’m pretty focused when I write on staying with the characters, so I don’t have much time to think about who might be reading them in the future.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

LK:

I’m working on my second novel, and poems.

OBT:

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

LK:

Don’t be afraid of editing and, when you’re stuck, start something new. Pick a mentor and read her work conscientiously. Never despair. Before it found a home The Bell Jar was rejected by twenty five publishers.

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