Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Shifting Gears

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Photograph by Sonny Abesamis

Dear Open Bookers,

It’s a pleasure to be this month’s Writer-in-Residence. I look forward to sharing thoughts and ideas with you over the coming weeks!

Monday morning, I arrived at the Banff Centre to begin work on a new opera with composer André Ristic.

Up until the last few months, I would work by juggling a number of projects at the same time, shifting from one to the other as the mood struck me. Recently, though, I’ve started concentrating on one project at a time. So far, I’ve found the experience has been a success. I may not get as much done, but the work seems to be better (in all its subjective glory, of course).

For example, the three weeks before arriving at Banff have been spent in rehearsal for my new play, Butcher, at Alberta Theatre Projects. During my time in Calgary, I’ve been steeped in that world and, I think, the work is stronger because of that.

Shifting gears and clearing my head to start on the opera, however, has been a challenge. The change of scenery has helped — let’s just say it’s hard to beat this view from one of my favourite places to write, the Banff Centre library:

But the truth is that no matter where I am, my view tends to be more like this:

So how does one shift gears? I find that the world of Butcher continues to exert an undue amount of influence on my work on the libretto. For example, my first idea was essentially self-plagiarism, where I took a scene from my play and adapted it to work as the opening for the opera.

If I figure it out, I’ll let you know — and of course, if you have any suggestions, please share! Email me at

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Nicolas Billon

Nicolas Billon’s work has been produced in Toronto, Stratford, New York and Paris. His triptych Fault Lines won the 2013 Governor-General’s Literary Award for Drama. He recently adapted his first play, The Elephant Song, into a feature film starring Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan, Carrie-Anne Moss and Catherine Keener. His newest play is Butcher, which is published by Coach House Books and premieres at Alberta Theatre Projects in October 2014. You can visit him online at

You can contact Nicolas throughout the month of October with questions and comments at

Go to Nicolas Billon’s Author Page