Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Liz Worth - previous's blog

Let's be friends. Really.

I’ve always been a big reader, but it’s only in the past few years that I started actively reading about writing, with a growing interest in learning more about other writers’ experiences and processes.

One of the most interesting, and unexpected, things I learned is that many fiction writers admit that they had a specific plan or plot intended for a character, but that it all changed when that character did something so interesting that it changed the course of the story.

I consider myself part of the school of writers who believe that writing comes through you rather than from you, that you happen to pick up something in the ether and channel it.

So, how's the book?

Yesterday, I wrote about dealing with the question authors often get, which goes along the lines of, “what are you working on next?”

That’s not the question that’s the problem for me. The hard one, the question I never, ever know how I should answer is, “how’s your book?”

It’s such a short, simple question – how could it cause a problem?

Maybe that’s just it – there isn’t enough to it. Nothing specific, as vague and blasé as “how are you?”

It’s made into even more of a problem because I appreciate that people ask, that they’re interested in what I do. And maybe that’s why I always feel like I’m disappointing them in my answers.

Let me explain why this trips me up:

The pressure of other people

The other day, a friend of mine asked if I ever feel pressured when people ask, “what are you working on next?”

When you’re an unpublished writer, working away on a project and hoping that one day someone will pick it up and help get it into the world, it’s a fight just to get people to take you seriously. Tell them you’re writing a novel and they’ll say, “Oh, everyone’s writing a novel.”

Or when they ask what you do, and you say, “Well, I work at this job, but really, I like to write,” they’ll say, “Do you have a publisher? Do you have a portfolio? Have I ever heard of you? Will I ever hear of you?”

But you’ll also run into cool people who will be interested, who will want to know what you write about, where you’d like to take it, and why you like to write.

When there's fire, save the writing

What are the first things you would grab if there was a fire in your building, or in your house?

With fire being one of my biggest fears, I’ve kept a mental list about this since I was a kid. It’s often updated, of course, changing in time with my priorities.

Giving yourself permission to live your life

“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.” – Chuck Close

Most of the time, I love this statement from Chuck Close. For so long, I’ve lived my life doing what I wanted.

When I wanted to quit my job and travel through Europe, I did.

When I wanted to publish a book about punk rock in Toronto, I did.

When I wanted be a freelance writer, and I was.

And when I wanted to start a performance poetry project, go to Las Vegas, and take the Greyhound for long-distance trips, I did.

But somewhere between all of that, an inadvertent side effect cropped up.

The soundtrack to a story

If I had to estimate, I’d say music has probably been one of my biggest influences, accounting for about 60% of the formation of my identity.

I took my first fashion cues from bands’ promo shots, let lyrics shape my perspectives and decisions (no matter naïve that may have been at the time), found my earliest heroes in musicians, and built some of my favourite first experiences around all-ages shows.

But when it comes to my writing, music holds a tenuous place. Not because its influence doesn’t run as deep into my words as it does in so many other aspects of my life, but because there are a lot of songs – too many songs – that will destroy my concentration.

When things are hard

"I still think of cutting, drinking, dying, leaving, but today I feel good. Hopefully that lasts."

The questions I'd rather answer

Might as well put this out there right from the start: things might get a little heavy during my time here at Open Book Toronto. That’s just how it goes with me sometimes.

Writers always have to answer the question, “what’s your book about?” Everyone has a different approach to this answer. For me, the answer that’s given often depends on who’s asking and how long I feel like talking about my writing.

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