Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday, The Writing Life

Tuesday!! Gwen's back!! She's not here yet for our regular write-a-thon but I expect her to roll up any minute.  And she had six glorious weeks at Banff and had her manuscript turned inside out by the sounds of it. All good! I'm going to spend a few minutes getting my interview questions ready.

1. Tell us about a typical day at the Writing Studio at the Banff School of Fine Arts? For me, I'd get up same as usual and write for a bit. Oh, first I'd look at Mt. Rundle for awhile - not as usual! And then I'd go to the writer's lounge and make my breakfast and talk to any writers there and smell their coffee. I'd go back to my room and write. It was a big room with a king size bed taking up much of the room. Long about lunchtime I'd go across the walkway to the dining room and look at the mountains. The food was kind of lower end cruise ship with home-made ice cream and amazing desserts. I'd sit with any writers I could find. (there is a variety of workshops and independent projects going on at any one time with visual artists, dancers, etc...) Afternoon write some more - get feed-back. (me "huh - need more here!) Every so often I'd get feed-back from one of my mentors. More on that later.  In the later afternoon I'd do parkour, yoga or go for a walk and get a latte from the Kiln, a funny little store on campus. Make my own dinner in the lounge or go to the dining room. I might get to talk to someone like Pico Ayer or Thompson Highway which was amazing.
After dinner there might be readings by the participants and facilitators, ball hockey or other distractions. Or maybe a bit more writing. Then I'd read and get to bed around 11:30.

2. What was the most surprising element of your stay there?  The generosity and level of writing of the people in the group. The facilitators mentioned it was a pretty extra-ordinary group. I think that may be because there were five people out of the 25 from Nova Scotia! Half of the participants had published books. There was no snubbing by the stars or no ageism which in my view is pretty rare.

3. What was the hardest part of being there? Oddly, trying to get enough time to write. ie...more than three hours a day.

4. In terms of yourself as a writer, what was the most valuable lesson learned? The gift of the time was that I feel I am a writer. I understand that I'm a writer. There is a joy and a responsibility in that and getting the responsibility of it is something I've been playing at the edge of.  Jan says here: In Buddhist terms you've 'entered the action'.

5. In terms of your manuscript - the novel that is - what has happened because of this time? It has definition and shape and muscle tension.

6. How would you advise other writers who may throw themselves into this crucible? How might they best prepare themselves for this or any other intensive with mentors? Holy Jesus, you have to be ready! If you're only half ready when you get there you ain't gonna get nuthin. You have to know what you want and you have to bring the equipment to do it. You have to be far enough in your writing that it becomes worth getting that level of feed-back. Because that feed-back ain't no pussy-cat.

7. Did you find it daunting to be able to devote all your energy to writing instead of fitting it about the edges of your life?  No. I was a little hesitant about how much else to add and decided balance was going to be my quest. The process isn't to produce it's to learn how to work with the raw material - the ideas. More ploughing and seeding than harvesting.

8. Are you ruined for our mini-studio here in Prospect Bay? No - this is the only thing I truly missed being out there.

9. Did you miss me like crazy and wonder why they hadn't called for me to be your personal Jimminy Cricket? I did in fact miss you! That is where I got homesick, missing Tuesdays and you! That said, I think I'm well suited to the monastic life.

one or two more thing - I got the writers a personal invitation to the Alberta Ballet Company's newest ballet about the life of Elton John. It was amazing and also high tea at the Banff Springs Hotel and a wonderful dinner at The Three Ravens on campus and extra-ordinary hikes.


Words A Day said...

Interesting interview, thanks Jan and Gwen! What was most interesting, for me, was to hear that her time there helped Gwen accept that she is a writer and all the responsibilities that go with that. The term " playing at the edge of" hits home, I think a lot of writers would feel that and often qualify the word "writer" (when describing themselves) as kind of, part time, one day... I know I have done! So Congrats!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I love this interview! My husband has been to Banff and it was just his favorite place in the world. I can only imagine how inspiring it would be to write there!And I'm so glad it was a good group to work with.

Talli Roland said...

What a great interview - thank you Jan and Gwen! Sigh, Banff. I would love to go back there. And writing + Banff = perfect combo.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I need to find out how to apply for this. Great interview Jan and Gwen!

Jan Morrison said...
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Jan Morrison said...

thanks all girls! It was fun to get my questions ready and I interviewed her as we sat right here and just typed in her responses. Then we got to work! No more lolly-gagging about. Oh heck, we stopped a zillion times to tell each other some tidbit that we hadn't been able to share while she was away.
Niamh - I think that was the heart seed of her time too.
Elizabeth - yes, she was thrilled with her group. One of my friends who has been to the Studio and taught at Banff is gone this week to hang with five pals she made FIVE years ago at the studio program - they meet every year and work and hang and eat and play!
Talli - it is a great spot. My son lived there for many years and so I would go. I went there as a kid many times. Love those bear jams!
Elspeth - google Banff Arts Centre - look up the writing programs. This was Gwen's second or third but her first Studio - the creme de la creme of programs. I've tried a few times and might get it together to apply again! It is quite the process. I loved what she said about being sure to be ready to go!