Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Jennifer LoveGrove

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Jennifer LoveGrove

Jennifer LoveGrove is the author of Watch How We Walk (ECW Press), which tells the story of Emily, who grapples with her upbringing as a Jehovah's Witness. Thought-provoking, suspenseful and vivid, the book follows Emily into adulthood after the mysterious disappearance of her older sister.

Today Jennifer joins us as part of our WAR Series: Writers As Readers, which gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

Read on to hear from Jennifer about poetry to make you laugh out loud, a tough love handbook for writers and the importance of making lists.
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The WAR Series, Writers as Readers

The first book I remember reading on my own: The Poky Little Puppy. I remember reading it by myself repeatedly and finding it really sad. I identified with his solitude, but at the same time, I remember feeling a profound loneliness. Probably not what the author or illustrator intended, with the behave-or-no-dessert message, but that’s what stayed with me.

A book that made me cry: Emily of New Moon when I was a kid. I had a lot of empathy for her, and she’s a great character. More recently, Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel, a gorgeous and devastating book.

The first adult book I read: I think it was Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat. Is that considered an adult book?

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Violet by Selima Hill. It’s poetry, and some of her lines and images are so searingly vicious and amazing that I half-laughed half-choked during poems like “My Sister’s Jeans” and “My Sister Wants a Muff.” Not exactly laughter because they’re funny, but an amazed and unnerved laughter response.

The book I have re-read many times:
Oyster by Janette Turner Hospital. I love this novel. The structure is unusual and challenging and rewarding, and the characters are complex and difficult and unique. It’s set in the Australian outback, amongst miners and religious fanatics in a town that appears on no maps. The events of the story and plot are disturbing and Hospital reveals the story in an inventive and suspenseful and absolutely gorgeous way.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garbriel Garcia Marquez. I tried in my twenties a couple times, and I just couldn’t get into it, for whatever reason. But I will read it, I promise.

The book I would give my seventeen year old self, if I could:
Anything by Kathy Acker. Silver by Matthew Remski. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. Books that would expand the notions of form, and books that would have appealed to my rebelliousness. I guess they weren’t published when I was seventeen, does that still count? East of Eden instead of Grapes of Wrath, that’s what high schools should assign. I would have appreciated some Anne Sexton then too.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It’s a kind of tough love handbook to kick writers in the ass. It’s about how we create our own resistance to avoid what we should be doing, like writing. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for me, and helped me finish my novel. That’s not really answering the question though is it, I mean, it influenced me to write differently, but it didn’t influence what I wrote. When I was in my late teens, Libby Scheier’s poetry book Second Nature influenced me enormously. I lived in a very small town, pre-internet, and finding her poems — about sex and politics, feminism, influenced by surrealism — opened me to the possibilities of my own voice. Her work thrilled and excited me as a poet. It was like finally being able to breathe, it made sense.

The best book I read in the past six months:
For poetry, Violet by Selima Hill, and for fiction, Black Tickets by Jayne Anne Phillips.

The book I plan on reading next:
red doc> by Anne Carson.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Listing — It would be a compilation of all the lists I’ve ever made, and these lists would tell my life story. I make some sort of list every day.


Jennifer LoveGrove is the author of The Dagger Between Her Teeth and I Never Should Have Fired the Sentinel. Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have been published in NOW Magazine, Queen Street Quarterly, and Taddle Creek, and have been aired on CBC Radio 1. She lives and works in Toronto.

For more information about Watch How We Walk please visit the ECW Press website.

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

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