8-Ball Interview with ryan fitzpatrick

ryan fitzpatrick lives in Vancouver and lived in Calgary. He wrote two books of poetry: Fortified Castles (Talonbooks 2014) and Fake Math (Snare, 2007). With Deanna Fong and Janey Dodd, he helped assemble the Fred Wah Digital Archive. He co-edited a questionably funny anthology called Why Poetry Sucks with the guy who runs this website.

I co-edited the anthology Why Poetry Sucks with ryan and also was the editor for his book Fortified Castles, and we co-created the #95books hashtag and reading challenge.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?

I’d like there to be less of an imperative to talk.

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

The older I get the more I hate advice. Advice, especially when it’s unsolicited, is like a diagnosis and a prescription. I’ve certainly been guilty of doctoring other writers, but it’s something I’ve actively been trying to stop myself from doing (so if I do it to you please tell me to get lost). To be honest, as a young writer, I would’ve preferred less advice. Sometimes, it’s just enough to listen.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

My writing practice is increasingly wrapped up in other work, so regular habits don’t work for me. There is no getting up every morning to hit a word count (unless you’re talking about a word count for my dissertation and even then I don’t always hit that). For me, what has been important is the maintenance of a project/series, one that’s easy to slide in and out of, alongside an ongoing research practice that has a cross-disciplinary casualness and that doesn’t intersect with my academic research too much.

4. What is your editing process?

Rewriting through revised procedures that encourage increasingly layered complexity.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Time and money (natch), but also living in (and helping reproduce) coercive forms, structures, spaces, and relations.

6. How do you decide which book to read next?

A combination of whatever’s on the top of the pile, whatever other folks I trust are talking about, and whatever I have to read for work.

7. What is your greatest single ambition?

Pass.

8. Why don’t you quit?

No, thanks.

8-Ball Interview with concetta principe

concetta principe writes prose poems and creative non-fiction, and writes academic articles exploring the bond between messianism and secularism. This Real is her fourth book of poetry, and, in being a project on love, is a sequel to Hiroshima: A Love War Story. She is Assistant Professor of English at Trent University.

I first came to concetta’s work when asked to write a blurb for This Real, which I read and loved—I felt there were a number of interesting parallels to my book The Politics of Knives, although it certainly stands alone as a much different book.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?
 
I want to be asked about the origins of my name and who my parents are because everyone makes massive assumptions about me based on my name, and so no one ever knows that half of me is New Brunswick Scottish, way back, with a distant uncle who married a Mi’kmaq woman and had children and that whole clan has disappeared from us … it never comes up because everyone assumes I’m Italian, a failed colonizer, and eat lots of pasta—not.
 
2. What advice do you wish you’d received, but didn’t, when you first started to take writing seriously?

Never give up: never take a rejection personally because it rarely is and if it is personal, avoid or confront the source of that ‘personal’ attack; never believe that the so-called supposed-to-know knows better than you what you’re doing; never give up; take a break, take lots of breaks, but don’t give up; don’t do it for someone else; write it for the one you love; you are the only one who knows what you mean; trust yourself; give your work space to take shape; trust yourself.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

There are certain habits I should do regularly and don’t. I don’t regularly exercise. I don’t always trust myself. I don’t have perspective, not regularly enough, at least. There are certain habits I do, regularly: read and write. I read and write a lot of different things, so the writing and reading are activities that are ongoing. I am not always so disciplined in sticking to one thing, but I never give up, so I’ll come back, eventually to something I’ve started and failed at. One habit I have developed is to never throw anything out. A habit which may or may not be good (undecided on this one) is that I rarely give up.

4. What is your editing process?

My editing process is one I would say is gross and crazy and destructive and not at all pleasing to early readers of my work. It wasn’t until I saw a documentary of Picasso painting and his process, how he’d start with an image, such as a woman lying on a couch, outlined in broad strokes, paint around it and through it and then paint over it and bring back an element, a short curve, a twist of the neck, of that first image and then cut up that image, and then reshape that image, then bring back more of some of what he took away, and move some elements over, and recreate her across the page with every iteration, until he brings her back to that original position on the canvas, but with these other dynamic elements working through it… it wasn’t until then that I realized his process was my process.

Until that point, I thought I had no process. Until seeing Picasso’s working through, I thought I was a crazy loser who didn’t know which way was North. So when I saw what he was doing, and how fluid he was, and how much joy he expressed in recreating the page at least ten times over without worrying about harming the page or being redundant in the process, but giving in to testing the ‘edits’ and allowing for the palimpsest of method to be the creation, I realized I could relax with my crazy writing method.

So I do. I move things around, I push things here and there, and sometimes, I do come back to what I began with, but with these other delicious elements. Most of the time though, my end is barely every like my beginning. So, I am like Picasso in that I have a manic active process.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Publishing: selling: convincing people my work is worth reading. I’m an introvert. I don’t like stage situations—I’m a poet who loves music and the music of poetry, and would prefer someone else make my poetry heard. I write and I like my writing life, even if it can get lonely: the difficulty is being published and going out there and marketing myself. I don’t know how to convince myself that I’m the best writer there is so that I can convince people to buy my books.

I’m reminded of Russell Smith’s article in The Globe in which he talked about Proust who paid his publisher to publish Remembrance of Things Past, already rejected by the main publishing houses. He was convinced it was the most important work written and so he made sure to share it. He had the luxury of money to make his fame happen by buying its publication and then planting (writing/commissioning) good reviews in newspapers to draw attention to the book … So, while Smith does believe that Remembrance of Things Past is a masterpiece, it is hard for me not to wonder if it is really the masterpiece it is considered, since, if it hadn’t been published and hadn’t had those reviews that gave readers a reason to see its ‘virtues’, it might have disappeared into some historical slush pile with all the other unknown masterpieces written by nobody.  
 
6. How do you decide which book to read next?
 
I have several books on the go, partly because I need to keep up with the newest publications in my fields (creative and academic and teaching), partly because I have a secret passion for suspense, murder mysteries, and science fiction, and partly because I don’t have enough time to spend all my time reading. So, I read them all, and am moved by my mood and by deadlines. Low moods have me looking for comfort reads like suspense, and high moods get me reading theory, biblical studies or philosophy, and hungry moods, poetry and literary fiction, or anything new. If I have a course to prep for, or an article to finish, or a conference paper to write, then my reading is very focused, usually involving re-reading, and is determined by the deadline. Mostly, I’m toggling between serving my mood and meeting deadlines.  
 
7. What is your greatest single ambition?
 
Ah to rule the world—not. To save pedestrians by being a super-hero that can slash tires or kill engines with a flick of my wrist—big wish. To not feel anxious that people will hate me for what I write—big anxiety, obviously. To have a book of mine be reviewed. That’s not the greatest single ambition, but it’s a great ambition. To write the masterpiece, as per Gertrude Stein—sure. Or how about that luxury Anne Carson talks about—to write and not worry about conforming to an audience or a publishing mandate because it will be published because she wrote it. That would be a brilliant achievement. Or to live in a house in a small town and write and not worry about money, and follow in the footsteps of Gertrude Stein, chasing masterpieces.  
 
8. Why don’t you quit?
 
I don’t quit not because no one is asking me to write because no one is and right now, that’s a very comfortable position for writing.

There have been many critical events when it would have been alright to quit. For example, my grade 5 teacher showed me that my verb tenses were wrong, my subject/verb agreement was bad, my spelling was worse, and my plot was non-existent. I didn’t quit. In grade 12, a guy in class laughed at my awkward archaic language. Mortified, sure, but I didn’t quit. I could have quit when I was rejected by both Windsor and Concordia U creative writing programs—the first time round. I could have quit when my Master’s supervisor in Creative Writing wrote to break up our relationship blaming it on my ‘portentous’ writing. I could have quit in response to any of the thousand rejections—oh and every rejection burned like venom and I bristled and splattered bitter cursing tears and trashed my work for a few days or a week, but did not quit writing. I could have quit when my manuscripts were rejected, each response a long deep sinking into darkness. I could have quit when someone confided to me that my writing was no good, or when a publisher, a long time ago, in reaction to my trying to negotiate a clause in the publishing contract, told me my writing was bad and this negotiation was not worth the issue.

In all this, every one of these terrible things had a reason, but they were only the series of failures that I eventually accepted or healed over, like sword or shrapnel wounds, and through it all, even through the pain sometimes, I kept writing. After a while, those failures turned into other failures—successes are always qualified and I may never write a masterpiece—but I haven’t quit and it’s not because I might be an almost good writer now, but mostly because I am in the middle of things. It’s habit now.

8-Ball Interview with Dina Del Bucchia

Dina Del Bucchia is an otter and dress enthusiast and the author of three collections of poetry: Coping with Emotions and Otters (Talonbooks, 2013), Blind Items (Insomiac Press, 2014), and Rom Com (Talonbooks 2015), the latter written with her Can’t Lit podcast co-host Daniel Zomparelli. She is an editor of Poetry Is Dead magazine and the Artistic Director of the Real Vancouver Writers’ Series. Dina created and updates “Dress Like a Book” (on tumblr and Instagram) to unite two of her great loves: literature and fashion. Her first collection of short stories, Don’t Tell Me What to Do, is out now with Arsenal Pulp Press. There is some stuff about her at dinadelbucchia.com.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?

I want to talk about the kind of writing I don’t want to do. People in creative fields are always being described as the next _________. I think writers are often asked to compare themselves to other writers. And I am inspired by so many amazing writers I aspire to be half as good as, to attempt to reach heights of writing I will never achieve. I’m more interested in who not to be. What kind of writing are you not inspired by? That’s a fun question. Is that too negative? Oh well!

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

I wish someone had told me it was okay to be funny. I spent so much time trying to be the most serious, deep, obnoxious writer because I assumed that was the only way writing could work. I needed to take the work seriously, but I needed to lighten up to find my writing self. I’m also kind of happy that I figured it out myself. I put in all those brooding hours.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

My most regular habit is that I write in the morning, or daytime (if I happen to have a day off). I live in a small apartment. I don’t have a separate ooh la la office. I have a corner and I write in it. Or in bed. Or on the couch. I don’t write in coffee shops. I don’t even drink coffee. I like it to be quiet, no music or anything. Just me and my computer getting down to business.  

4. What is your editing process?

I write a lot of notes to myself about what is going on in the writing. Sometimes the notes are very mean, and I have to contend with why I called myself an idiot for not taking a character’s motivation seriously, or for a weak line break. Sometimes the notes are more gentle, and let me find new ways into the work through self-encouragement. These notes are my way through. I also do a lot of thinking away from the computer. Let things just settle, or get super amped up, in my brain. Then I come back to the work. I feel that each piece of writing requires different techniques. That also just might be my way of justifying a messy process.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Finding time to write. Vancouver is expensive and you basically have to work all the time to live here. And also, I’m a very social person so I don’t necessarily prioritize writing if there’s a party or an event or someone texts me that they’re at happy hour. I love writing, but I love hanging out with people more.

6. How do you decide which book to read next?

Sometimes, like for Can’t Lit, I’ll have to read a book to prepare for the podcast, so it jumps to the front of the line. Otherwise, it’s all about mood. If I want to be cheered up I’m not going to read the deepest, darkest, most tragic memoir. And often I’ll be anticipating a new release and have to read it right way due to extreme excitement.

7. What is your greatest single ambition?

I want to host a talk show. On television. I want to be paid to wear nice clothes and have interesting conversations. 

8. Why don’t you quit?

I respect people who quit things. It takes a lot of ovaries to step away. But I just am too invested in all of it. And I love it. And I love all the people I’ve met and the community around me. And the attention. I can’t lie. It feeds my need for attention.

8-Ball Interview with GMB Chomichuk

GMB Chomichuk is an award-winning writer, illustrator and public speaker. His work has appeared in film, television, books, comics and graphic novels. Sometimes he writes and/or illustrates occult suspense stories like The Imagination Manifesto, Midnight City and Underworld, science fiction works like Raygun Gothic and Infinitum, or inspirational all-ages adventure stories like Cassie and Tonk. He wants you to join the fight and make comics. Watch his creative process in the Kelly-Anne Riess documentary Artists By Night. (Photo credit: Michael Sanders)

twitter : @gmbchomichuk
instagram : @gmbchomichuk
facebook: GMB Chomichuk
www.alchemicalpress.com

I go way back with GMB Chomichuk, to an amazing creative writing class with Dennis Cooley that included Journey Prize-winning author Saleema Nawaz and many other luminaries, half of whom have gone on to publish multiple books. Greg is also my daughter’s favourite of my artist friends, so that’s the feather in his cap.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?

As I do this for a living, more and more I realize that the distinction of what is popular and good isn’t up to the writer. If you want to endlessly craft and rewrite a single manuscript you might be a great writer but you aren’t likely to be able be a professional writer. To write as a job requires you to work everyday if the muse shows up or not. There isn’t much room for self doubt or worry, those are the enemy of momentum. These days I try to save my criticism for the finished piece, then be ruthless.

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

That lots of short stories are failed novels. Use everything.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

Carry a notebook. Write down ideas, when book is full move forward the ideas you like into the new book. Repeat each month. When I need an idea but don’t have one, I check the books. Ideas that I cary forward tend to become stories. Sum up the whole thing on a single page before I start. Infinitum, Midnight City, Snow Troll’s Daughter and the forthcoming The Good Boys and Minus Institute all started that way. Send submissions. Often.

4. What is your editing process?

I write it the way I want, sit on it for a bit while I work of something else, return to it and realized I have to redo everything. Redo everything. Pass it to my editor, who suggests that I change everything back to the way it was.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Recognizing when a new idea I have for a current project would be better as its own thing.

6. How do you decide which book to read next?

I look for things that feel like the opposite to what I’m working on.

7. What is your greatest single ambition?

To convince others that they can and should use their time to create things. Even if people have no intention of publishing or exhibiting their work, the act of making something will reveal a lot about themselves they might not have had a means to reveal before.

8. Why don’t you quit?

Making up stories and writing them down has been the single constant in my life since I could read and write. I don’t know how to quit because I can’t remember starting.

8-Ball Interview with A. P. Fuchs

A. P. Fuchs is the author of many novels and short stories. His most recent efforts of putting pen to paper are The Canister X Transmission: Year Two, Axiom-man Episode No. 3: Rumblings, The Dance of Mervo and Father Clown, and Mech Apocalypse. Also a cartoonist, he is known for his superhero series, The Axiom-man Saga, both in novel and comic book format.

Fuchs’s main website is www.canisterx.com

Join his free weekly newsletter at www.tinyletter.com/apfuchs

I met A. P. Fuchs way back when we were all young and foolish and driven. He stuck around while others fell. My warrior-brethren!

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?

 
Why the mid-listers who bashed self-publishing and the writers who also did suddenly started doing it themselves. Seems extraordinarily hypocritical and I don’t buy the answer you can now make money self-publishing. You could make money self-publishing before the eBook boom — I did — so a better answer is required.
 
My whole take on what happened is simple: their market dried up so out of desperation to keep things afloat, they self-published their backlist when they either got dropped by a publisher or the publisher closed its doors. The irony is, back in the day, they called us self-publishers desperate and not real writers, and eBooks weren’t real books, etc. My, how the tables have turned. But no one will ever admit to this because it’ll make them look bad and/or foolish and/or desperate. Which is a shame because writing and publishing is supposed to be about honesty and telling the truth (even truth veiled in fiction).

So, in my opinion, they’re dropping the ball in that regard and need to step up their game because publishing goes beyond simply writing books and releasing them. I like the idea that writers — sorry, “authors” — should also be journalists. Again, the idea that truth is prevalent in whatever they’re concocting. I just don’t see it happening and the almighty dollar is part of that reason. Writing should transcend money despite publishing being a business. Art should come first, then the check. I also realize I’m in the minority on this one.
 

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

 
A lot, but if I were to pick just one thing, it would be the importance of point-of-view in a narrative. I didn’t know about point-of-view on my first two books — the first was published by a vanity press, the second one is unpublished — but I wish I did. I hired an editor to edit my second book and what I got back was a manuscript that looked like someone spilled red paint over it. It was the best monetary investment I’ve ever made in my career and I learned so much from the editor’s notes.
 
Nowadays, I’m a massive stickler on point-of-view and any time it strays I get mad. It’s such a simple concept yet writers don’t seem to understand it. You can explain it to them this way: be one with the character. You can only know, think or feel what the character knows, thinks or feels, and you can only know what they perceive through their five senses. Anything beyond that is a breach of point-of-view. It’s the same in life. I only know what I know, feel, and think, and I only perceive what I perceive. I don’t know or feel or think or perceive what you do, Jon, unless you tell me.
 
I also want to take this opportunity to share the greatest piece of writing advice/perspective I’ve ever received, and it’s this: It’s only a book. Kingdoms won’t rise and fall because of it.
 

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

 
Getting shit done every day, whether a little or a lot. My first book took a total of eleven months to write, nine of which were actually writing it. Two of those months were the only time I had writer’s block until I realized writer’s block is horseshit and only an excuse not to write. There is no reason a book should take eleven months to write unless you’re writing an obscenely long fantasy epic or are writing every third or fourth day or something. Case in point: I’ve written a book in a week, and wrote two books in three weeks. The readers loved them. Speed doesn’t mean poor quality so long as you’re invested in the project.
 
I also drink a stupid amount of coffee like most writers and vape and smoke a lot. I’m also on medications to keep me stable so I can work without worrying about falling apart.
 
I keep notes, but not a whole lot. Sometimes I outline, if you want to call it that, because it’s more a point-form list of this happens, then this, then that, then this, each point on the outline — which are no longer than a sentence — the core of a scene.
 
There’s more, but I don’t want to give away all my secrets.
 

4. What is your editing process?

 
This will be a short answer because there is not much information to give. My book goes through six stages and then it’s press time.
 
1) Write the first draft
 
2) Write the second draft (content editing, proofing, expanding or shortening scenes)
 
3) Write the third draft (which is basically the same as number 2)
 
4) Book goes to my editor who does a thorough edit for the same stuff I do.
 
5) Get the book back from my editor and go through his edits to accept or reject them. I accept, on average, about 95% of his edits. The remaining 5% are matters of taste and opinion and I typically stick with what I originally wrote.
 
6) Partially format the book for press then go through it one more time. After that, it’s press day and I don’t sleep for 24 hours while I finish the formatting and do the remainder of the work to turn the galley into a published book.
 

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

 
Sometimes I can’t get into the story as much as I would like. It’s a dream when you live and breathe a book during it’s writing process, but when your heart is not completely into a project — even though you want to do the project — it takes discipline to hit the keyboard anyway and punch out 500 words as a minimum. However, I’ve been fortunate in that the books I’ve found the hardest to write and are the ones that come out the best. No idea why. Maybe some sort of subconscious fuck you to myself to show myself up. I don’t know.
 

6. How do you decide which book to read next?

 
Either whatever’s next on the TBR pile, or whatever one speaks to me. It’s like browsing your DVD collection. Oh, sorry, Blu-ray collection. A movie just jumps out at you. Same with books.
 
Nothing complicated or over thought here.
 

7. What is your greatest single ambition?

 
To be a popular writer and artist, and to finish The Axiom-man Saga, my fifty-book superhero epic. I know you only asked for a single ambition but those two are tied together.
 

8. Why don’t you quit?

 
Because I suck at everything else in life so might as well stick with what others have told me I’m good at.

8-Ball Interview with Keith Cadieux

Keith Cadieux is the co-editor of the weird fiction anthology The Shadow Over Portage & Main, published by Enfield & Wizenty and recently shortlisted for a Manitoba Book Award. During the day-job hours, he is the administrative coordinator for the Winnipeg International Writers Festival. 

I met Keith Cadieux through the Manitoba Writers’ Guild mentorship program, where he excelled under my tutelage (possibly because he didn’t need my help).

Keith kindly included “Waiting Room,” a short story by my pseudonym Richard Crow, in  The Shadow Over Portage & Main.

1. What do you want to talk about, but nobody ever asks?

I haven’t done many interviews so I’m not sure how I can offer much here. One thing I have noticed in quite a few interviews with authors is that there usually isn’t much discussion of the work itself. There are always questions about the writing process, something I value as a writer, and occasionally some talk of inspiration, but that’s usually it. There isn’t much talk of thematic fixations or intention versus the final outcome. I suppose I would like someone to ask me what are some themes I’m trying to work through with my writing. That’s something I don’t think anyone has asked me, in my limited experience. 

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

Probably not to take every piece of advice you’ll receive. I’ve that found picking and choosing advice, tips, criticism that particularly resonate is far more effective than having to accept something in its entirety. This is true for everything in life, really, but particularly true of writing advice. A writing manual, for instance, may offer some great thoughts, but it’s unlikely that one author will be able to take every single item in that manual and apply it effectively to their writing. Much like writing itself, you need to be a bit of a scavenger and only hold on to the bits that are pertinent or helpful to you at that moment or for that specific project.

3. What are your regular habits as a writer?

These tend to change depending on the writing project. When I first started trying to write seriously, I did so almost exclusively at night. I would put on a pot of coffee, re-read what I had written so far, making adjustments and corrections along the way, and then blast forward with new material once I’d gone through all of the older stuff. Eventually, what I had written got to be so long that this became a serious problem and I wouldn’t get to the point of writing new material. More recently, I’ve taken a tip from Stephen King’s On Writing and set a daily word count for myself. I also tend to do a lot of pacing and wandering around when I write, so I usually try to do it when I have the house to myself.

4. What is your editing process?

Usually, I write my first draft by hand. The first revision comes when I type it up, making corrections and line changes along the way. After that, my stories usually need some kind of overhaul, like new scenes or removing scenes, changes to characters, voice, narration, verb tense. So I write it out by hand again, making these substantive changes. Then, when I type it up again, it’s usually pretty lean so the only revision still needed is typographical.

5. What is your greatest difficulty as a writer?

Definitely discipline. You may have noticed that a lot of the “habits” are things that can quite easily be interfered with or thrown off track. Sometimes, having an empty house simply isn’t an option so I need to just sit down, be a little hard on myself, and get the work done.

6. How do you decide which book to read next?

This is pretty random. As I assume is the case with most writers, my to-be-read pile is a chaotic and unruly beast. It’s simply not humanly possible to read everything that I would like to in one human life span. I’m usually reading more than one book at a time and I make an effort for them to be different types of books, say a novel and a story collection, or nonfiction. Sometimes poetry but pretty rarely. I also tend to alternate between moods. I usually read mostly horror but eventually I need a break so I’ll lean into things that are more lighthearted. 

7. What is your greatest single ambition?

I suppose it would be to write something that earns some real money. Like a five-figure payday from one book. In Canadian publishing, I think that’s about as ambitious as it gets. 

8. Why don’t you quit?

I doubt I could, even if I wanted to. It’s definitely a compulsion. Sometimes I’m more into it, more productive, more passionate. But even during periods of low productivity or when I’m feeling disheartened, the drive to write never completely goes away. It might dulled. Usually, it comes roaring back if I’ve seen something that really gets to me, that connects to the core of me as a person somehow, and I feel a drive to write something that good, to contribute something of equal substance. Or, sometimes I encounter something so bad that I can’t shake the feeling that I could write something better and that rage drives me to actually get back to work.

8-Ball Interview with Spencer Gordon

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

I’m usually asked about my influences (regarding Cosmo), and it’s kind of boring and embarrassing to just rattle off some names. I’d like an interviewer to be more specific—to isolate a particular story or section, a particular passage, and ask about what (or who) motivated its construction. To show that an interviewer has not only read my book, but done some research before firing me some generic questions. I was really knocked out by Rob Benvie’s discussion of David Foster Wallace’s essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and US Fiction” (1993) in his review of Cosmo for HTMLGIANT, not only because it [the essay] was an incredibly important piece of thinking and writing for me, but because the reviewer was perceptive and well-read enough to identify it. I would love an interviewer to bring up specific names and/or literary works—especially my American influences, since they’re more numerous and more significant for the creation of Cosmo than their Canadian counterparts—and ask me how these went into the formation of the book (as all books are influenced by a multitude of sources, literary and otherwise). I’d be excited by questions about theory, too: not the general, “what theories influence you?” kind of question, but (again) the type that narrow the field. Cosmo benefitted from a study of a whole whack of thinkers—Allan Bloom, Christopher Lasch, Charles Taylor, Pierre Bourdieau, and dozens more—and it would be excellent and exciting to have an interview wander and expand from the source text in creative and surprising ways.

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

“Poets are mean and they will try to kill you.” Or, “Don’t suck up to other poets. Well, OK, you will do so, of course, like all poets do, but when you do, feel it in your bones. Take this self-knowledge and turn it into a weapon you wield without mercy.” Both of these are from ‘asshole’ and ‘parasitic’ poet Kent Johnson.

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

I don’t really know enough about the publishing industry to comment. I’d imagine the main problems involve mismanaging or misinterpreting audience and demand.

4. How will technology change writing?

The typewriter replaces the pen; the computer replaces the typewriter. New technologies will no doubt make writing exciting and necessary for a different generation of practitioners. I am old enough to have begun writing with pen and paper, to move to an electric typewriter, and then to a word processor (all within the span of six years or so—I’m still fresh). It’s exciting to imagine another way to compose blocks of prose, how things might evolve, as I get older and balder and fatter.

One notion that I like to challenge is the idea that one cannot get proper writing done when surrounded by technological distractions. Franzen talks about this. He says you’ve got to disable your Internet connection. I completely understand what he means, but I think it’s a last gasp type of scenario, a holdover from another era. I’d like to imagine texts that cannot be produced without an Internet connection, what those might look like. I think that’s a more exciting notion than the conventional, albeit stable, ideas of solemn, undisturbed focus. I tried to do this (at least partially) with the story “Frankie+Hilary+Romeo+Abigail+Helen: An Intermission” in Cosmo.

To change topics slightly, if I may—reading is increasingly transgressive, and at least in part due to changes in technology. I see this as an educator and as a person still in his twenties. I don’t know if this is statistically, verifiably true, but whatever; I have the feeling that young people are reading less and less. The comportment with which one must attend a difficult text is nearly extinct among students (or at least my students). Basic proficiency—in comprehension, composition, analysis—is evaporating. And while young people may be reading constantly, frantically, it’s not the type of reading that engenders genuine literacy. What I mean by reading is a turning inward; a silencing; a carving of space from the gymnastic stridency of urban, smart-phone living. It’s what any lucky child remembers as his or her best, and often earliest, experiences with books. To read with comportment and attention and discipline is to push aside, to make room, and to say no: retreating and refusing the charms of capital and power. Nothing about our power structures, our conservative majority (which exists in politics and education as well as in literary institutions) encourages this movement. But who knows. The pendulum may careen back, too.

5. What is your process for a typical piece of writing, from idea to publication? (Give a specific example.)

Stories start somewhere weird—usually a brief scene, a stirring, an emotion—and then sit somewhere in my brain for a very long time, completely unattended. Once one of these flashes becomes pervasive, recurring, and I realize I’m becoming slightly obsessed, I know that fiction must be the result, at least one day. I don’t try to rush this process. I let the story or novella ferment and stew. There’s a moment of commitment, after which I begin researching locations, set pieces, actors, models, and so forth. This is terribly exciting. Then I start plunking down words. This is awfully terrifying because the first words are always so bad. It’s difficult. I hurt. I roll around. I drink a lot. Finally, some order begins to arise from the confusion. Suddenly it’s done. Then the putting away and the editing begins, which can take years.

My stories were notoriously (well, in my own mind) unpublishable by the larger magazines. Probably because they were too odd and broken, but part of me always sighed in despair seeing the lame-ass pieces that beat mine for space. I sent out early drafts of all ten stories in Cosmo to major literary journals multiple times; every one of them was rejected, often without a note. So my only real experience with publication was having Coach House say yes to the manuscript. As you can imagine, it made me feel like I was just asked to prom by the prettiest creature in school (well, maybe not the prettiest, but at least the coolest, the one with the best taste, the one way beyond the other kids …).

Poetry is different. I’ve published lots of poems. I don’t care as much. Maybe that means my fiction isn’t as good. Or it means that my poetry is actually serving the needs of The Literary Conservative Majority and my fiction isn’t. I’m not sure. All I know is that both acts of writing make me happy and I’m not really upset by being ignored (i.e., rejected) anymore because I know my fiction is too badass for them haters (and Con. Maj. Reps) to process.

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

My daily habits as a writer are nonexistent. I write intermittently and when I feel most positive about my life and skillz (and when time and work allow; I am not wealthy [obviously] and I am a social animal [i.e., I lack the sociopathic and narcissistic tendencies required to eliminate responsibilities to other people and to effectively ‘shut the door,’ as many other writers do, and yes, I’m jelly]). I’m not sure how I’m doing this now. When did life become so full and busy?

In more positive terms, I write when it feels right. Like Palahniuk’s shitting analogy—don’t jump on the john unless you have to. Never force one. Something might tear, or worse.

As a reader, I sniff around books of fiction suspiciously. I hate finding ‘scaffolding’ in literary fiction. I hate seeing devices, transitions, techniques to bridge, attempts to incorporate backstory, etc., even while doing so I feel all smart and perceptive. I want to get lost and be thrilled by the surety of a voice or the empty-glass clarity of a writer’s mechanics. Once I’m not picking at structure, I read voraciously and gleefully. As for poetry, everything depends on withholding judgment. I work to become slow and methodical and empty of expectation.

But god, I don’t read enough. I’m constantly amazed by how happy I am to have a great collection or novel near me as I move through the sludge of life—amazed that it’s happening this way and amazed that I don’t indulge and escape more often. Remember those days when you first found that the life in books seemed to mend the wounds of ‘real’ life? That literature was the most exciting and important thing about life? I used to stay up late talking on the phone to a friend about books. I was fourteen. We don’t really talk about books anymore, but nothing quite as grand and mesmerizing has taken their place …

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

To borrow a quotation from 2Pac’s “Unconditional Love”:

Driven by my ambitions, desire higher positions,
so I proceed to make Gs eternally in my mission
is to be more than just a rap musician—
the elevation of today’s generation
if I could make ’em listen …

My ambitions are, for now, to outdo myself with each project, to avoid lateral movement and pursue forward momentum. I am starting to realize that whatever I do must be a personal victory; I cannot expect congratulations or praise or cultural credit in any form. This may sound naïve or obvious, but it’s a sharp pill to swallow.

I see a small river shooting from the main channel. It may not be a river at all; it might be more like a dirty creek. But I’ve started down this little stream, pushing my paddle in the murky water, following its twists and turns as the sounds of the primary course begin to fade. Where am I going? Is anyone watching? Who will know I’m gone? Who will be waiting at the end? Is there an end?

Sometimes I fear that this river is only one that roils inward; that there is no physical destination; that we are all curling up like drying, dying leaves, into ourselves, before we disappear. Let’s be fearless and happy like autumn.

8. Why don’t you quit?

Seriously? You’ve gotta believe that there’s more to say. And only you can say it in the precise way that it demands to be said.

In other words, have faith in the way you spit. Know that others can’t shine like that.

In other words: can’t stop, won’t stop.

Spencer Gordon holds an MA from the University of Toronto. He is co-editor of the online literary journal The Puritan and the Toronto-based micro-press Ferno House. His own stories, articles and poems have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies. He blogs at dangerousliterature.blogspot.com and teaches writing at Humber College.

8-Ball Interview: Sarah Pinder

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

How would you describe the relationship between nostalgia and anxiety?

I think nostalgia can sometimes be a coping mechanism for anxiety. I went to see Detropia a few weeks ago – which I didn’t actually think was a good film, but there’s a person interviewed in it who explores abandoned buildings in Detroit that has this beautiful comment about her relationship to the past. She talks about how she imagines a ghost-narrative for her city, from when it was economically booming, superimposed on top of the one that exists now. But at the same time, I think having that nostalgic narrative can generate a certain amount of stress as well as wonder. It can be really overwhelming to be standing in a very quiet, empty place and know it’s thick with dead narratives, and recognize a lot of those narratives, while historic, can’t fit neatly into the parameters of nostalgia.

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

Look after your physical health. Your drive and hunger to finish things can help you, but they can also harm you. Really. Take ergonomics seriously, exercise, stretch, take breaks. Sitting down for a long time is actually pretty rough on the body, and I’ve already got wrist, hand and repetitive strain problems at 28. All those things were definitely exacerbated from spending extended hours on the computer, incessantly typing.

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

I don’t know if the publishing industry has found its equivalent to the crowd-sourced album quite yet… I feel like musicians seem to be using social media to support the physical production of their work more successfully than writers and publishers often are.

4. How will technology change writing?

I’m a bit of a Luddite in some ways – I still don’t have a cell phone, even. The expectation of speed in technologically-mediated writing is difficult for me. Someone tweets me, and I respond a week later, which doesn’t really work.

I think I’m most interested in the ways we use technology to shape the size of the room we think we’re conversing in. I’m still really fascinated by quasi anonymous online spaces like Craigslist or cruising / hookup and dating websites and how people interact with them. What gets said when you feel like you’re in a vacuum?

5. What is your process for a typical piece of writing, from idea to publication? (Give a specific example.)

Archipelagos – the last section in Cutting Room, was written as a long poem project last fall. I set up parameters for myself that I had to write every day for the month of November, all the writing had to belong to one poem, and I had to be more experimental with my line breaks and length than I usually am. I had a document on my computer that I’d come home every night to, open and work on, writing one continuous draft and editing in the document as I went. When that was finished, I edited the whole document, paired it with a photo of my messy bedroom, and put it together as a zine, which I made a small print run of. The zine text was distilled again and edited down with Kevin Connolly before it went into the book – sections were removed and the whole thing was relined significantly.

While I don’t always set up such stringent rules about what I’m doing – the idea of writing as a routine, having some kind of structure or puzzle I want to work out, editing simultaneously while writing, and making a very small print run of the work in zine format before other publications is often the route I go.

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

I read poetry constantly, but read multiple books in fits and starts, and like having them all around me at the same time. There are four books beside my bed right now, and three open beside my keyboard. It’s difficult for me to leave the house with just one book.

I also carry a notebook with me almost all the time, or just end up with a crumpled pocket full of receipts with notes scrawled on the back of them.

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

I want to write more books, but beyond that – I’m most interested in just trying new things. I want to do further film-making, and work on more collaborative projects, particularly if they’re experimenting with structure. I can find group work overwhelming at times – I’m interested in trying to find ways to work collaboratively that also suit or incorporate solitary tendencies. I also want to get better at critical / theoretical writing, and do more teaching.

8. Why don’t you quit?

I’m stubborn, or curious, or both. It depends on the day.

Sarah Pinder was born in Sault Ste Marie. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and small magazines, as well as the anthology She’s Shameless. She lives in Toronto.

8-Ball: kevin mcpherson eckhoff

kevin mcpherson eckhoff’s is the author of Rhapsodomancy (Coach House Books, 2010). His visual poetry has appeared in the anthology Boredom Fighters (Tightrope Books) and in such magazines as dandelion and filling Station. A winner of the Shaunt Basmajian Chapbook Award, he studied English literature at the University of Calgary. He recently traded his life for a house in Armstrong, British Columbia, and a job teaching literature at Okanagan College.

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

What was your best day this past week and why? Yesterday: I spent 2 hours in The Bookshop in Penticton with my bestfriend, then saw a double feature at the Starlight Drive-in in Enderby with my lady love. Btw, don’t ever watch The Expendables.

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

Persevere, and you don’t always have to be (or pretend to be) serious-like in the face and fingers and brain.

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

Not enough sex, but far too much procreation.

4. How will technology change writing?

The exact way that writing has changed technology.

5. What is your process for a typical piece of writing, from idea to publication? (Give a specific example.)

I think of some words or an image; I write it down on a scrap of paper; I lose the paper; I try to remember it into a Word document; I misplace the file because I’ve named it something inappropriate… in the end, I usually just steal some words from someone else, rearrange them, and send it all to magazines and publishers, less than half of which prove half-interested.

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

Sucky. Inconsistent. Nonchalant. Unappreciative.

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

I want to connect with human beings by sharing the experience of exploring, enjoying and being surprised by language.

8. Why don’t you quit?

Why don’t YOU quit? I might quit one day. Right now, I don’t quit because I’m stubborn.

8-Ball: Rob Budde

Rob Budde teaches creative writing at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. He has published seven books (poetry, novels, interviews, and short fiction), his most recent books being Finding Ft. George, a book of poetry from Caitlin Press and declining america from BookThug. Find him at writingwaynorth.blogspot.com.

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

I like it when interviewers 1) ask a specific question about a passage or element to one of my books just b/c it means they read the darn thing or 2) like it when they ask me what I am working on now b/c frankly once a book is out it is old and I have a hard time getting in that mindspace again. What I am working on now is far more ‘on my mind’ obviously. So, glad you asked! I am working on a book about a plant called (variously) Devil’s Club, Hoolhghulh, or Oplopanax Horridus. I don’t know if you know Laurie Ricou’s recent work but I am guessing what I am doing is along those lines: a study that includes science, visuals, poetry, personal essay, etc. Hoolhghulh is a distinctly west-coast plant (though apparently there are some patches in Michigan) that shocked me when I came from Winnipeg. It was definitely NOT a prairie plant. It’s big and fierce and hurt me the first time I met one. There was something about the plant that caught me (other than the thorns) and I have been studying it now for a good two years. I took a Carrier (Nak’azdli First Nation) language course to learn its local name. It has extensive uses in First Nations’ medicine/spirituality across the province. The book so far is called Panax. Also working on a science fiction novel called The Overcode. The best way to describe it (even though it seems a contradiction in terms) is a utopian cyberpunk novel. And just finished (I think) a book of poems called Poem’s Poems which is a series of poems about a character called Poem.

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

Well, this was advice I think I received but didn’t listen to: take care of your body. My mentor now is Ken Belford and he has taught me a lot about health and how a poet should think like an athlete and how a fit body thinks better. It sounds simple but the brain is, after all, part of our body. When I was a new writer I thought writers had to drink themselves into a stupor.

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

I don’t know if there is anything ‘wrong’ with publishing in Canada—it’s just a tough go because of shifts in culture and a lack of government support. I think it will swing back and times will get better. I think Canadian small presses are brilliantly diverse and making fabulous books that are admired world-wide. I especially like all the under-the-radar chapbook presses and stuff like that. That’s where the real work is getting done.

4. How will technology change writing?

Not as much as we think. I think there is great energy and potential in online writing (i.e. writing form-fitted to html and animation etc) but it will be one kind of writing, not a replacement. I can’t read very much/long online and, even though I think screens will get more eye-friendly, we will still read in a variety of forms.

5. What is your process for a typical piece of writing, from idea to publication? (Give a specific example.)

The last book, declining america (BookThug) began as a title: “my american movie.” I was reading Baudrillard’s America and jotting down notes, his ideas, lines of poetry off his ideas, etc. It turned into a long poem by that name that became a wink chapbook (my chapbook press). I had envisioned the series as a string of shouted rants but when I read them to an audience they didn’t work that way and I had to revisit them. I was travelling quite a bit in the states at this time a couple more longer poems started that focused on various aspects of “america”: a poem about airports and security (“Cramped O’Hare Writing”), a poem about illnesses and broken bodies (“Software Tracks”) . . . The last two poems that came out of this time of thinking were about economics (“Indices”) and torture (“KUBARK”) and they solidified the sense of the collection as a book—they provided enough unity that I began to save the separate pieces in a folder (that I titled for a long while as “my american movie”—I don’t know maybe that should have been the title of the book after all!). I had been in conversation with Jay MillAr at BookThug for various reasons (including a couple readings he did in Prince George). I told him I had this odd manuscript and, well, you know how he likes odd manuscripts! He had Stephen Cain edit it and that really helped catch some of the sloppy or lazy bits. I came up with the cover and then it was a book. We launched it here in PG and in Toronto via video feed.

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

I’ve been asked this before and don’t have a really interesting answer. I am all over the place and have no routine. I find routines can stultify my writing. I like trying to write in new places and new times. The only place a write reliably is airports and airplanes. I have four kids and it is really hard to just block off a regular time to write. I just squeeze it in here and there and that seems to work for me. I remember watching Dennis Cooley writing a poem at a university meeting of some sort and I think I just adopted that flexibility he has. I read haphazardly too—picking up what happens to fall in front of me or randomly from the library. I understand it might not work for others though so don’t recommend it necessarily.

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

I want to write until I am 110 years old. I hope I can keep sharp and keep moving (physically and mentally) when I am older. He is still a spry crow, but I love the way Kroetsch has stayed open-minded and fluid in his thinking. I admire that. I also don’t want to write the same book twice—I want each book to almost be by another author.

8. Why don’t you quit?

I couldn’t quit writing. I would die. Sounds melodramatic but it’s true. I could stop publishing and I think I would be fine with that. As long as I could send poems to Belford and a few others friends, I’d be happy. Writing is part of how I think now. You can’t just stop thinking can you?