Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions (Trillium Finalists Series) with Joanne Page

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Ten Questions (Trillium Finalists Series) with Joanne Page

Joanne Page's book of poetry, Watermarks (Pedler Press, 2008), has been nominated for the 2009 Trillium Book Award. She is the author of two previous books of poetry: Persuasion for Mathematician (Pedlar Press, 2003) and The River & the Lake (Quarry Press, 1993).

Enter Open Book's June contest to win an Ontario Authors Prizepack that includes the nine English-language Trillium-nominated books.

OBT:

First, a huge congrats on being a Finalist for the 22nd Annual Trillium Book Awards! Could you tell us about your nominated collection, Watermarks?

JP:

I live in Kingston and we are surrounded by water: Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, the Rideau Canal and hundreds of lakes between here and Ottawa. Also, I’ve had a life-long love affair with water - the way some people cleave to mountains. Like many, I am sick with worry about the globe’s fresh water and wanted to write a book to plead for its future, one that wasn’t a diatribe. So, this is meant to be a pocket book of praise for water, in its many forms, written with a light touch.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Watermarks?

JP:

Anyone, I guess, who relates to water. And who does not? Environmentalists, children, the curious, the worried. Throughout, I stayed away from the first person, to make the book more for the reader than about the author. Anything personal I attributed to the fictional unpublished journals of a Miss Byrdie T., Inveterate Traveller and Champion of Lost Causes.

OBT:

What were you doing when you received news of your Trillium nomination?

JP:

I was at home alone when Beth Follett, my publisher called. We screamed together, sighed, laughed and were somewhat hysterical – at least I was. I then went outside and rolled in the grass for joy.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JP:

I have learned that I am too much the social animal to do well in workshops, or writing residencies. All the fascinating people distract me in the nicest possible way. And I have made wonderful writer friends is such places, However, five years ago I acquired a writing shed, ten feet by ten feet like Virginia Woolf’s, the first writing space of my own ever. I love it. I also like to drive my car to a busy corner in Kingston, park, and write.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

JP:

My first book, The River and the Lake, was largely about people in a small town north-west of Toronto where we used to live. The big question that troubled me when it was accepted for publication was whether or not to use the real names of the people I was writing about. I had no end of advice, evenly split. After the book was
published, I learned that half the people in the village were furious with me for using their names and another bunch were miffed not to be in the book.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a "Welcome to Ontario" gift, what would those books be?

JP:

I would instruct the newcomer to find his or her nearest library and look in the local history section where there is usually a wealth of information, much of it locally generated. Then I would suggest Stan Dragland’s The Drowned Lands, a compelling, lyrical, story of rural Ontario 100 years ago. Anything by the magical Phil Hall. And, Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce, a wonder.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

JP:

Ingrid de Kok’s Seasonal Fires. She is a matchless poet from South Africa and her accounts of the reconciliation journey are both heartbreaking and hopeful.

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

JP:

The worst advice was from a nationally known and acclaimed poet who told me to abandon any idea of writing as I had no skill or aptitude. The best advice was from a nationally known and acclaimed poet, Erin Moure, who invited me to introduce commotion and mischief into my writing practice. Also, I remember Bronwen Wallace telling me that if I wanted someone to praise my work, I should send it to my mother.

OBT:

What is your next project?

JP:

As everyone always does, I am mining my family history. Also I have been working on a series of maps, a combination of drawing and text, with titles such as Map of Last Week, and Map of Islands of Night Thoughts. The possibilities are endless, I figure.

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

JP:

Read, read, read. Go to readings. Offer to help out with writing events. Above all, do not give up. Have faith in your work. If you don’t who will?



Read more about Watermarks by Joanne Page here.

For more information on the Trillium Book Award, go to the Ontario Media Development Corporation's website.

1 comment

Great interview, and a very timely topic. The quickly diminishing supply of fresh water is an issue that's only going to increase with time, and it's scary to think about it.

Even here in Ontario, where there is such an abundance of fresh water, everyone should be thinking about water conservation.

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