Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

At the Desk: Stan Dragland

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Stan Dragland's desk

Stan Dragland's Deep Too (BookThug) is a collection of stories; but unlike most collections, these stories are non-fiction. With wit and biting insight, Deep Too tackles anecdotes of male strut and preening, competition and concern. From spam emails offering "enlargement" to eyebrow-raising graffiti, these stories probe complex issues with humour and insight.

The founder of Canadian literary institutions Brick magazine and Brick Books, Stan has worn many hats over the years. His writing has drawn comparisons to Cormac McCarthy and Virginia Woolf, amongst others.

Today Stan joins us as part of Open Book's At The Desk series, in which writers speak about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them, telling the stories behind the books that sits on our shelves and in our hands.

Today he talks with Open Book about making a perfect desk from discards, some beautiful Newfoundland views and (literally) digging his way back to writing.
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I have several workspaces. When I’m in St. John’s, I like to take a scribbler or my computer and walk down the hill from my house on Bond Street to Hava Java or Coffee and Company on Water Street and work there. First draft and early revisions in longhand. Then I’ll climb back up the hill to the house. I have a study on the lower floor of a four-storey house and I like to go in there and get back to work, maybe enter what I’ve written, supposing it’s ready enough.

But where I really like to work during the summers, and where I’m writing this, see photo, is in my small second-floor study in the two-storey salt-box house in Champney’s East, three hours north and east of St. John’s, at a desk I made by disassembling and cutting down a really heavy old desk I found at the local dump. It has a beautiful warm old wood surface. I also built bookshelves for one end of the room. Several factors make this my current favourite space for writing or editing: 1) I love scrounging and recycling (recently I have been writing about being a sort of bricoleur, a worker with found materials, including words). 2) I made it myself. Doing so gives me as much pleasure as anything I get down on the page — more, maybe, or at least sooner, since building with physical materials happens in one swoop and is then over, whereas writing takes many surges and requires many, many revisions. 3) It’s in an old house that Beth Follett and I have been fixing up, the house where we spend our summers, and the house has a shed that I’ve really been working on, and both shed and house overlook the beautiful Trinity Bight on Newfoundland’s Bonavista Peninsula.

I like having a room to work in that pleases me, and in that room I like having plenty of surfaces on which to place various sorts of work-in-progress, because I’m seldom going at one thing at a time, at least until it’s time for a particular project to be rounded off. Then I’ll work obsessively until that’s done and give it to a friend or friends to read. The upshot of the feedback will always be no, it’s not done. So then I’ll go back to the drawing board, literally one or the other of my desks, though the real drawing board is my mind. Almost anything might trigger some activity in there. Currently I’m digging a hole in stony ground for an outhouse. I’m almost three and a half feet down, and after I haul out another load of rock and gravel I feel like doing something entirely different. Could be writing! Could be reading, especially of books that may or may not have anything to do with the current project(s). I’m dedicated but not systematic. Up I come, whether from a hole in the ground or anywhere else, and back out I go into various usually complementary activities that always, eventually, bring me back around to my desk.

— Stan Dragland

Stan Dragland is originally from Alberta and now lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He was educated at The University of Alberta and Queen’s University and is Professor Emeritus, Department of English, The University of Western Ontario. He was founder of Brick Magazine and Brick Books, and is still active with the latter. Among his books are Wilson MacDonald’s Western Tour (critical collage), Peckertracks (novel), Journeys Through Bookland and Other Passages (fiction and non-fiction), The Bees of the Invisible: Essays in English Canadian Writing, Floating Voice: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Literature of Treaty 9 (criticism), Apocrypha: Further Journeys (non-fiction), Stormy Weather: Foursomes (prose poems) and The Drowned Lands (novel).

For more information about Deep Too please visit the BookThug 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.

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