Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Proust Questionnaire, with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

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Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, also known as the Yarn Harlot, is the author of All Wound Up (Simon & Schuster Canada). Her hugely popular knitting blog receives more than 40,000 visitors per month.

In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Stephanie tells us about bird bones, the importance of pizza delivery and her motto about making decisions.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.

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What is your dream of happiness?
I imagine finding real satisfaction in a writer's shack with a view of the wilding sea, in a far gone outport of Newfoundland. In reality, the whole thing would fall apart the minute that I couldn’t order a cheese pizza because I forgot to cook. (Again.)

What is your idea of misery?
Aside from the missing cheese pizza scenario, I am most miserable when I’m impotent. Facing an enormous problem that I know has a sensible answer, and being unable to enact it.

Where would you like to live?
A far and gone outport of Newfoundland with a view of the wilding sea, a big library and a pizza delivery service. I think I’d miss the city sometimes though.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Steadfastness. Loyalty. Good humour, and the ability to throw his weight behind a good woman. (This is why I’m married to my husband.)

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Tenacity. The ability to refuse help when she doesn’t need it, as a ribald display of strength.

What is your chief characteristic?
Tenacity. The ability to refuse help when I don’t need it.

What is your principal fault?
The ability to refuse help when I do need it.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Books, yarn and pizza.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?
Weakness, lack of character. I feel like people could heal or grow, and that they’re probably only temporarily like this, because of some stunting episode. Believing this makes it possible for me to exist in society without being disappointed in a lot of people.

What do you value most about your friends?
It’s taken years, but I’ve finally got a posse of friends who have no problem with telling me when I’m getting crazy or pushy, or shooting me a glance that says “Get a hold of yourself, this is no time for rant #34.”

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
The certainty that they are done changing, or that they’re somehow finished as a person.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
My inability to keep my mouth shut, even when it would be in my best interests to do exactly that. That or indecision. No, wait —

What is your favourite virtue?
Discernment.

What is your favourite occupation?
Knitting.

What would you like to be?
Knitting.

What is your favourite colour?
Trees.

What is your favourite flower?
Heavenly Blue Morning Glories.

What is your favourite bird?
I don’t much care for birds. They have a lot of small bones that make me nervous.

What historical figure do you admire the most?
I’m fascinated by Mahatma Gandhi and the ideal of non-violence in the face of huge problems.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Too many to count. I may be a tad judgmental.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Robertson Davies. Margaret Atwood. Orson Scott Card. Stephen Leacock. Barbara Kingsolver. Timothy Findlay. I could go on forever.

Who are your favourite poets?
Ogden Nash. Maya Angelou. Edna St. Vincent Millay. Susan Blackwell Ramsey.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
It’s almost impossible for me to choose. Characters in books are like romances for me. I fall in love with them while I’m in the book, then when I start the next one, I can’t remember what on earth I saw in them, compared to the wonder of the one I know now.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Stephen Lewis.

Who is your favourite painter?
Now you’ve done it. Kandinsky. Monet. Turner. Klee. Delaunay (Both Robert and Sonja) Jackson.

Who is your favourite musician?
That’s dirty pool. I could never pick one.

What is your favourite food?
Pizza. It’s a perfect food.

What is your favourite drink?
Coffee. Without a doubt. I like red wine, but I can’t imagine a world without my glorious brown elixir of life.

What are your favourite names?
Clementine and Archibald.

What is it you most dislike?
Getting stuck.

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
Effortless creativity.

How do you want to die?
Painlessly, and poetically.

What is your current state of mind?
Reflective — likely because I’m answering these questions.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I don’t know. I’m totally not done yet, but if pressed — I can say with certainty that I once made a lemon meringue pie for my mum that was absolutely without fault.

What is your motto?
Something my friend Jen told me. Never be afraid to make a decision, because you can always make another one.

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Stephanie Pearl-McPhee lives with her very patient husband and three charming daughters in an untidy, wool-filled house in Toronto, Canada, where she avoids doing the laundry and knits whenever she gets a minute. She is the author of Yarn Harlot and Free-Range Knitter, and maintains a popular blog at Yarn Harlot.

For more information about All Wound Up, please visit the Simon & Schuster Canada website.

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

Check back for more Proust Questionnaires with Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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