Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Andrew Forbes's blog

On Doubt

It'll be your constant companion. You won't know a day without it. It will defy cold logic and your efforts to cultivate confidence. It will be haughtily contemptuous of your desire to focus on positives, and it will handily dismantle the techniques you learned during cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. You'll try to wait it out. It will prove more patient than you.

You'll have a few wins. Pieces published, a story nominated for a prize, kind words spoken publicly, a book released. A second book. It'll take those little victories and subvert them, making you feel that you've snowed everyone. It'll make those victories seem very small. It's not like you're saving lives, it'll suggest. They're just books. It's not as though you have any idea what you're doing.

Where We Do What We Do

The first stories of any quality that I produced were written at an old white melamine desk in the windowless furnace room of my future in-laws' house in suburban Ottawa. The hot water tank clicked and hummed, and fluorescent lighting buzzed over my head while I hammered away at a PC keyboard, writing pieces for a creative writing workshop at Carleton University (and strenuously avoiding coursework for other classes). The reasons I was there would require a lengthy explanation involving a bad apartment, a broken lease, a month-long road trip across the American West, and the house my wife-to-be and I would soon buy. It was among the least-inspirational spaces I've ever inhabited, but it was, for a time, mine.

Mother's Day

As people, as writers, we are often formed or directed by crystallizing moments in our lives, brief happenings which nonetheless persist in our minds, or which port some lesson, or confirm for us a suspicion about the way the world works, and what it has in store for us. I've been asked by well-meaning people why my stories tend, more often than not, to be sad ones. I usually reply “Presbyterianism,” but if I had to pick a single moment that informed the stories I write, I'd probably settle on Mother's Day, 1992.

The Unscripted Idle

I spent this past Saturday at Books & Company in Picton, under the auspices of Authors for Indies, and I came away feeling happy, but with a top note of frustration, because I passed the afternoon mostly talking to people, and by the time it occurred to me to browse a bit, I had to begin the two hour drive back to Peterborough, a town with much to recommend it, but which is without a bookstore of the size and quality of Books & Company.

Some of the Best Books I Ever Read Weren't Books at All

I am on the record—somewhere, or perhaps multiple somewheres—as having said that one of the stories in my first collection, What You Need, represented an effort on my part to capture the feel of a Neko Case song.

Well, insofar as I understand blogging, I gather there's supposed to be a confessional aspect or tone to it. So here's one: I routinely steal material from music. Like, all the time. Sometimes it's an image or a feeling or the bones of a story; sometimes I peel line fragments off verses and drop them into a story (and no, I won't tell you which ones, or where they appear).

By Way of Introduction

If, as I am given to understand, the point of a writer-in-residence, whether virtual or actual, is in part to hold forth on the mechanics and practice of writing, then let me start by laying bare my understanding of the subject: I believe that you should do whatever works. Which is to say that I think trial and error is essential. Which is to further say that I don't think there are any easy or quick answers. Meaning: any advice or pointers I might inadvertently let slip over the next month or thereabouts should be seen to be highly subjective, if not downright flawed. They will be, in other words, basically worth the paper they're printed on.

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