QWF Writes: Living and Writing in the Country

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“We’re thinking of moving to the country,” I told mystery writer Louise Penny when I bumped into her at the Knowlton Literary Festival in 2010, adding that my husband and I weren’t sure if it was the right thing for our writing careers. Penny was enthusiastic: “Do it,” she said, “while you can!” A few months later, we bought a 200-year-old farmhouse in the tiny hamlet of Hatley.

For Penny, living in the country proved no hindrance to her career. Her depiction of the fictional village of Three Pines and the eccentric characters who inhabit it launched her to international success. Now on the sixteenth volume of her Inspector Gamache series, she has sold over six million books worldwide.

QWF Writes: Writing After a Concussion

Pearl Pirie (Headshot by Brian Pirie)

The first year after I had a concussion was a blur. I was dead to the world for three months, going in and out of sleep, exhausted. I had vertigo and difficulties with light, sound, and language. No reading. No computers. No writing. Definitely no multitasking. I had to rest for far more hours than seemed viable and consequently had to suddenly quit a few organizations I led, with no succession plan in place. I closed my small press, or as it turned out, put it on hiatus. I simply had no choice.

As with a stroke or cancer, a traumatic brain injury can be an opportunity to reexamine one’s life and priorities.

QWF Writes: “Hi, I’m ______ ”: Choosing My Author Name

K.B. Thors

“What do we call you?” is a question I’ve gotten used to hearing, especially in the writing world. I write now as K.B. Thors, but up until the end of 2017 I was publishing poetry, translations, and essays under the name K.T. Billey. My legal name is Kara Billey Thordarson. If I meet you, I’ll introduce myself as Kara.

That might seem all over the place, but the evolution of my nom de plume mirrors the development not just of my writing but of my self. I’d encourage any writer to experiment with their own creative license, no matter what a brand expert might say.

INSIGHT: Saying Yes

first-meeting-for-mentorship

I am bad at saying no. As part of a better-late-in-life-than-never self-improvement exercise, I try to turn down extra work—especially the non-paying variety.

So last summer, when Michelle Sylvestre of the Make A Wish Foundation phoned to tell me about a volunteer opportunity—Raphaëlla Vaillancourt, a young survivor of a life-threatening illness, wished to publish a book and needed mentoring—I referred Michelle to Lori Schubert at the Quebec Writers’ Federation.

A few days later, Lori contacted me. If the QWF could fund a mentorship for Raphaëlla, would I take the job?

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FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT: Gadfly at the Festival

QWF Writes march

In the hospitality room at the Hôtel Gouverneurs in Trois-Rivières, you are greeted by two perky volunteers whose first question after introductions is: “Will you three be reading the French translations of your poems yourselves, or will you be requiring the services of a French reader?” Oh, my, you think. What translations? The hotel carpet begins to yaw under your chair. What was I thinking coming to a poetry festival in a city whose population is 97 percent French—without translations?

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From the Underground: A Writer’s Life with Zines

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I had tapped into a vibrant community of punk writers who crafted great stories and then cut and pasted their work together, photocopied it, and released it with no thought of gaining attention from the world of mainstream literature. These were my first literary heroes. In a time before our current memoir boom, they wrote honest and true stories full of grit and heart. Read more →

QWF Writes: Why I Teach Brand-New CanLit by Natalee Caple

Caple-Natalee

In the beginning my desire to write was about me. It was about trying to see who I could be, what I might be good at and where I might find a community to belong to. Now, being a writer, being a parent and being a professor are all part of participating fully in the culture that sustains me. I feel that there is no better way to demonstrate how varied and valuable I think Canadian culture is than to devote my life to producing, promoting and teaching CanLit.