8-Ball: Interview with Sina Queyras

Sina Queyras is the author of Slip, Teethmarks and Lemon Hound, which won the Lambda and the Pat Lowther awards for poetry, and the editor of Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets. She currently lives in Montreal and keeps a blog, Lemon Hound.

1. What do you want to talk about—which question do you wish interviewers would ask, and what is your answer?

Increasingly I prefer to talk “in” my work rather than about it.

2. What advice do you wish you’d received, but didn’t, when you first started to take your writing seriously?

Your instincts are right, don’t waste time second guessing.

3. What is wrong with the publishing industry, and what are they getting right?

The publishing industry isn’t fluid enough, nor does it distinguish what to respond to quickly, what to let go of or what to hold onto very tightly, when to move on and so on. Difficult things to figure out to be sure. It’s also risk averse. Wants to find the next “last thing” rather than what is right in front of its nose.

What they get right? They keep publishing in the face of daunting odds and very unstable times. They get the work out there, and that is impressive and heartening and I love them all for it. The indie presses are the most impressive sector in the publishing world—Coach House, Anansi. Perhaps they have less to lose they can make bolder moves?

4. How will technology change writing?

Certainly technology is changing the way we think, which is the steering wheel and engine of writing, no? It has changed the way we write in so many ways already—in the amount of research we can do, the ease with which we can fold that into our work, inter-textual writing, and so on. Will writing become more conceptual, or more like folk art? Or perhaps will the factions we have now become more fractured, more extreme versions of themselves?

5. What is your process for a typical piece of writing, from idea to publication?

The leap from manuscript to book is more of a leap than I thought. With Lemon Hound and Expressway in particular, some aspect completely re-imagined at the last minute. The process is much more fluid than I imagined—with Slip, for example, editing was a matter of adding commas and cutting a few lines at the ends of poems (most of which I read back into the poem even all these years later).

6. What are your daily habits as a writer, and as a reader?

Ideally I write first thing and I get very, very grumpy if I’m interrupted in the first hour of my day. I’m very big on getting those pre-business thoughts and energies down. And for good reason: these are often the most productive hours.

Walking is an essential part of my practice, as is reading. Lately I have spent too much time online. I have found this has cut into my reading time. One reads a lot on line, but it’s not the same as reading from a book, or a paper. Something different happens when one can’t follow through on every thought (Whoops, what date was that event? Where did that character grow up? Is Katmandu really in Nepal etc…). We need the wonder, not always the answer. So, I need to be away from my computer to do a certain kind of deep reading and thinking. But then I come back. It’s navigating those leaps in and out of technology, in and out of my office, of books, etc., that is a challenge, and also a great reward.

7. What is your ambition as a writer—what do you want to accomplish, personally and professionally?

I haven’t even begun. I need more time, frankly.

8. Why don’t you quit?

Why would I quit? I don’t understand that question.

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