Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Feature! Josh Massey on His Literary Places

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Josh Massey (photo credit: Talon Gillis)

Josh Massey is the author of The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree (BookThug), which tells the story of Jeffery Inkster, a former hipster who has turned to elk farming in order to find peace. Things become complicated when members of Jeffery's small, eccentric community become suspects in a pipeline bombing. A Calvino-esque tale with a thriller edge, The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree weaves together satire, metafiction and suspense to create an unforgettable story that slyly engages with current conversations around environmental politics, fatigue with commercial enterprise and our relationship with nature.

We're pleased to welcome Josh to the site today for a special feature, where he tells us about five places that have had significant influence on his literary development. Read on to hear from Josh!

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The following are five literary locations drawn from memory as they pertain to my first two novels, The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree (BookThug, Fall 2015) and We Will All Be Tree (2009). I have been a wayfaring writer, so my literary places are scattered far and wide, though currently they are located in Northern BC.

Animal Shelter-Guatemala, 2003

The strict feeding schedule for the spider monkeys and the howler monkeys meant an early beginning to the writing day. This is about the animal rescue centre in Guatemala and the typewriter I purchased in a typewriter store, writing in the equatorial climes — shaded warmth and wash of floridity and simple bean and avocado-based diet. Daybreak: cutting up and filling gray trays with the papaya and cabbage for the monkeys, replenishing seed for the parrots. Drop a pork chop off for the juvenile crocodile in its healing pen. Then breakfast for volunteers, followed by about 2.5 hours of free time. Set up under roof of dried palm leaves, cross-legged on folded wool blanket, machine in front of me. No lit screen. Ink ribbon. Tap. Tap. Ping. Pavlovian anticipation: ping, ping, new line ding. Then more monkey feeding, cage sweeping and spray down, other chores. Then another afternoon break. Hammock for a bit. Then back at the typewriter. Ping, ping. Higher sun, swim in Lake Turquoise. Costa Rican painter — hang out together. Sleep in open air rustling philosopher’s sleep. Relaxing. Wake up. Feed, write, feed, eat, type, feed, type. Shoulder bag full of manuscript like papoose for infant novel.

Montreal Set-up, 2004

In Montreal, Point-Saint-Charles. Ping, ping, frost on window ding. Polished-grain drop leaf table with leaves erect and pages and reference books piled there. Bodum of coffee. Typewriter returned from Guatemala. Jogging pants and inexpensive rent. Part-time job. Four days a week devoted entirely to novel writing. Outdoor hockey and the importance of sport. Pages piling. Bodum press. Old apartment smells stir creativity. Rock doves fluttering in eaves. Zola paperback in corner. Quebec Writers’ Federation like Soviet club of some aesthetic sort. Meeting there with weirdo crew of lone wolverwriterines. Artists’ studios with pink sculptures downtown. Artists on political panels on television. Tap. Tap. Type. Ping.

Terrace, B.C. Hike-Up 2013

Mountain hikes clear mind. After writing news reports all day and no more typewriter these days. Up mountain paths. Paths into coastal tree array go this way, offered different views of land and snippets of town. A new route, some secret trail that connects one path to another, or descends over scree with little cliffs, stream, moss, lichen, beetle, moth, edible plant. That feeling of discovering a new path you’d never noticed that comes out from a route you’d walked several times previously. The same breakthrough that can happen in a novel, or a poem that rewrites a neural code block, parts grasses and leads to epiphany, or a low note of blank static and a moving away from network to horizon. Finding a little-known path is one thing, but the trick is to go walking off trail somewhere less sensitive where no paths guide.

Terrace Writing Group

Tea and treats, a diverse group of writers show up at the Terrace Public Library, all with a different take on this place. And we choose writing exercises that are on little folded pieces of paper pulled from a cookie jar. Or pour forth about certain challenges related to pieces we are working on. It’s amazing what we come up with when given a topic and 15 minutes to sketch it out. As if all stories are retrieved or illumined more than they are created, and the exercise gives us glimpses at the pre-existing narrative ecosystem that we all have access to through sunshine of language. Take turns reading back to each other what we’ve pulled. The whole process gets lifted off the page that way.

Loc(al) Language

To swim in the way people speak regionally, the certain slant, pattern of sentence, word choice. Sponging both fodder and phonemes from land and human landscape. The writer and their everyutterance, from mountain argot to translating salmon talk, to cross-cultural divination. Out on a limb and taking the plunge and risking it all for the word haul.


Author of the recently published BookThug novel The Plotline Bomber of Innisfree, Josh Massey also wrote We Will All Be Trees (2009). He received a 2014 Canadian Community Newspaper Award for his journalism. Originally from Ottawa, Massey currently lives in Terrace, B.C.

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