Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

At the Desk: Bianca Lakoseljac

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Bianca Lakoseljac

For each book that sits on our shelves or rests in our hands, a writer has spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. In Open Book’s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Bianca Lakoseljac is the author of Summer of the Dancing Bear (Guernica Editions). She has published a collection of short fiction and one of poetry, and now turns her hand to the novel with her most recent project.

Bianca shares with Open Book about her beautiful writing space, her process and the (helpful) chaos of it all.
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I think of my writing space as creative chaos. To an outsider, it’s simply chaos, but I cannot conceive of any type of creation without this concept of formless abundance as an intrinsic element of all art.

My favourite books and “finds” with special meaning propel me to transcend into characters and places and historical periods, or to submerge into the collective unconscious, all vital to the creative process. Books on shelves often end up as stacks on the floor after some sleepless night’s perusal or research. I thrive on art exhibits and hoard prints for they help me to relive my encounter with the originals — that feeling of awe and infusion of energy as if I am in the presence of God — take, for example, standing in front of Vincent van Gogh’s “Sower” or Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” or Chagall’s “Double Portrait with Wine Glass” and the moment becomes a nucleus of my own creative space I can enter at will. Who could forget Tosca’s “Morte di Scarpia” as she cries out, “mori, mori, mori…”

In addition, folk art offers treasures unimagined until encountered: a clay plate with a painting of a cigar-chomping rum-swilling matron I think of as my alter-ego since I discovered it some time ago on my trip to Cuba; or an elegant wood sculpture of a woman, with a turnip shaped water container on her head, the wood carver in the Dominican Republic tried hard to dissuade me from buying, as he considered it a “second” carved by his “amateur brother-in-law and painted with vegetable dye likely to fade,” to me a physical incarnation of some personified feminine myth which has the ability to calm me, ground me when self-doubt looms, help me to imagine my work finding its audience the way I find beauty in this sculpture that had almost been discarded by the well-meaning relative of its creator; or a fragment of a red I-beam left behind after “Flower Power,” a Mark di Suvero sculpture, had been uprooted from Toronto’s High Park and returned to the artist for refurbishing — a sculpture which provides context to the novel I am working on.

My writing space is a third-storey loft. Through the surrounding windows, an ever-changing view of Georgian Bay envelops my desk and my clutter and my imaginary atoms of creative energy and offers inspiration any time of day or year — the sun setting behind Blue Mountain spilling embers as hypnotic in January as they are in August; clouds over the lake making magic; a red-crested pileated woodpecker the size of a crow hammering out a hole in the old cedar next to my window; or driving rain blurring the glass panes; or howling winds bending the white pines; or shrouds of snow silencing all.

Most of the time my writing is a juggling act with a few projects on the go — one dominant and others I can dive into when the zeal for the main one falters. My novel, Summer of the Dancing Bear, (Guernica Editions, 2012) was written mostly at the old cabin, (since torn down to make room for the home I live in) which had been a logging office in the 1920s with an Acme wood stove as the source of heat, augmented by a couple of electric heaters. This was my getaway from my family where I’d stayed alone for days at a time even in winter, contending with frequent power outs that left me writing by candlelight wearing down-filled coat, boots and mittens. I imagined myself in Mr. Tumnus’ cabin and loved every minute. Though my loft in our new home does have its advantages.

I divide my time between Woodland Beach on Georgian Bay and the Toronto High Park area I feel rooted in. Bridge in the Rain, (Guernica Editions, 2010) my collection of stories linked by an inscription on a bench in High Park, had been written mostly on that very bench. And Memoirs of a Praying Mantis, (Turtle Moons Press, 2009) my collection of poetry, had journeyed with me just about everywhere.

I’m the most efficient writing at the keyboard, but I often indulge in longhand — on park benches or on the beach — sometimes by moonlight sitting against the large black turtle rock — or just about anywhere, even in the car at a shopping centre parking lot, if my muse happens to tap my shoulder.

— Bianca Lakoseljac

Bianca Lakoseljac is the author of a collection of stories, Bridge in the Rain, Guernica Editions, 2010; a collection of poetry, Memoirs of a Praying Mantis, Turtle Moons Press, 2009; and is the recipient of the Matthew Ahern Memorial Award in literature. Her writing has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Canadian Woman Studies and Canadian Voices. Summer of the Dancing Bear, which chronicles the rite of passage of a fourteen year old girl befriended by a gypsy clan, set in the countryside near Belgrade, is her first novel.

For more information about Summer of the Dancing Bear please visit the Guernica Editions website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the At the Desk interviews in our archives.

2 comments

Looking forward to reading Bianca's beautiful book.

As an upcoming Guernica author, I can tell you my creative nook is sparse and tiny in an upstairs "walk in closet" with a window where I contemplate the Alberta sky when I need a breather. I write late at night (11 pm to 2:00 am) and it is just me in a dark room, a bright screen and my characters as I infiltrate their lives. It can be exhausting.

My stories always begin with a character and then setting. For my novel, Loddy-Dah, I found Loddy at a weightloss club and was moved by her tragic circumstances. I found the name in an obit column and through research, discovered it was a nickname for Charlotte. I liked that.

I also wanted to write about Montreal in that period between 1967 (EXPO) to 1970 (FLQ crisis) just before the 800,000 Anglophones began to leave.

Because of my theatrical and art background, I tend to write with an economy of words and use a lot of dialogue to show rather than narrate the story. I want the reader to empathize with my characters and plead for them. Personally I dislike long-winded descriptions and narrative that bore the hell out of me. You won't find it in my writing. You won't see me describing every blade of grass in a meadow. We've already established the meadow and so we know there is grass! I tend to write with emotion, go into the fire, get burned and so when I finished Loddy-Dah, after four and a half years, including three of those years working at a full time job, I was exhausted.

I am looking forward to working with Guernica to launch this book into the universe and introduce them to this unusual character named Loddy.

Love your "creative chaos" and look forward to reading your novel!

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