Interview With Katrina Best

25 Nov
SC: Congratulations, first off, for being the recipient of Best First Book for Canada and the Caribbean in the 25th edition of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. How does it feel to have all of this attention and positive feedback from your first collection of stories? Do you have any advice to give to other writers who are starting their first projects?

KB: Thank you very much. I was incredibly surprised when I found out (though obviously also very pleased!) not least because the other five regional nominees are incredibly strong first books, many of which had been shortlisted for and/or won other major prizes.

Well, since the book was published last year, I’ve been fortunate to have received some very positive reviews in various newspapers and magazines as well as good feedback from readers (and not JUST my friends and family!). But honestly, all the attention since winning this prize has been quite overwhelming – especially the sudden interest from industry professionals who no doubt would never have heard of me otherwise – and I think I’m still adjusting to it, but I’m certainly not complaining! I think this speaks to the reach of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It’s a unique award and I’ve been learning a lot more about it – it’s quite an honour to be associated with this cultural organization whose mandate includes not only propelling both new and established writers and their work into the international spotlight but also such noble goals as promoting global literacy.

I hardly feel qualified to offer advice as I still think of myself as a fledgling writer. But I’d certainly encourage anyone trying to write fiction for the first time to keep going, push through and be prepared to write badly before you start writing well. When I was first attempting short stories, maybe the best advice I got was to try and at least get a first draft down. Then be prepared to revise and edit – a lot.

SC: In the Best First Book category for the Caribbean and Canada, all of the other nominees were owners of a Canadian passport. You are from England, and are now living in Montreal. I have noticed that the humour and scenarios that you create seem as if they are derived from both locations. Do you think that the move has altered your writing significantly? If so, in what ways?

KB: I am a proud owner of a Canadian passport too (it resides in harmony with my EC passport).

Yes, [I now live in Montreal,] and prior to that I lived in Vancouver for a few years, which is where my husband grew up and where I gained my Canadian citizenship. As part of the ceremony I had to pledge my allegiance to the Queen, something I was never required to do as a UK citizen. Frankly, it felt a little strange.

I’m sure immigrating to Canada has influenced if not changed me, though thankfully they let me keep the innate sense of irony all Brits are issued with at birth. It’s hard to say if it’s changed my fiction writing because I didn’t really start writing fiction seriously until a few years ago, after having children and when I was already a dual citizen. The immigrant experience and being a dual national is certainly a subject that I’ve tackled in my writing.

SC: Bird Eat Bird was published by a smaller, indie publisher, Insomniac Press. What made you decide to publish with this press from Toronto?

KB: The question should really be reversed – what made them decide to publish me? It’s a three-word answer: Jon Paul Fiorentino. He already knew (and, luckily, liked) my writing and pitched my collection of stories to Insomniac. Jon Paul edited the book and even designed the cover.

SC: I saw a video of you reading “Lunch Hour” at the Insomniac Press Spring Launch. How important of a role do you think social media has in the literary community? What is a website that you feel every writer should have bookmarked?

KB: Yes, I think it’s on You Tube though in no danger of going viral. However, it does mean I can never read that story “live” again, which is a bit of shame since it lends itself quite well to being read aloud! Actually, I’d already read it in public far too many times so it’s probably as well.

[It] probably [plays a] very [important role], but since I only just properly got on Twitter this week, I’m not exactly ahead of the social media game.

A blog-site called Literary Rejections On Display It’s run by an anonymous writer known only as Writer, Rejected.

SC: Aside from finding inspiration online, where do you go to find yours? I know a lot of writers have a groove they have to get started with their writing. Do you have any things or atmospheres that are a part of your process? Do you have a specific writing regime? Was there a moment that set Bird Eat Bird apart from the rest of your writing, or a moment where you knew it would be what it is today?

KB: That varies. I definitely tend to “write what I know” so draw from my own life experiences and observations a lot. I’ve been inspired on buses, while driving, while playing with my kids… I try to remember to write things down – far too often, I’ve had a “brilliant thought” that I don’t write down, convinced I’ll remember it later, then don’t remember anything other than it was “brilliant”. Chances are it wasn’t brilliant at all, but not remembering can cause untold mental anguish and regret.

Not that I can think of. It’s definitely easier to focus when I’m well into a project. But when I’m beginning something new, or facing a difficult editing phase, I often struggle with such enemies as procrastination and poor time management. I do usually respond well to deadlines (as long as they’re real) but I hate being so eleventh hour. Knowing that these tendencies are common amongst fellow writers is only mildly comforting.

The stories in the book aren’t really themed or linked the way some collections are, although they do all feature a female protagonist (including the pelican). Actually, the working title of the book was “Stories Wot I Wrote” – they were simply my six strongest stories, collected. The book’s eventual title Bird Eat Bird comes most obviously from the first story in which an actual bird eats a bird.

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Katrina Best has won the Canada/Caribbean section of the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book with her short story collection Bird Eat Bird (Insomniac Press). She is originally from the UK. Katrina spent several years in Vancouver before moving to Montreal, where she now works as a story editor, screenwriter and script analyst.

Steph Colbourn co-curates Synapse, a new reading series at Concordia where she is a sophomore majoring in Creative Writing and Electroacoustics. She writes and creates music.

*this interview originally appeared on LemonHound

Katrina Barton Best

21 Nov


Meredith watched, spellbound, as the package of tripe shimmied towards her. It was the only item on the conveyor belt moving autonomously, a quivering cube of translucence, its slimy off-white contents encased in see-through plastic. It wobbled from side to side in time to the Muzak. Every second beat it caught the glare of the overhead strip lights and emitted a little glint.

from “Tripe and Onions”, Bird Eat Bird (Insomniac Press,
2010)

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Katrina Best has won the Canada/Caribbean section of the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book with her short story collection Bird Eat Bird (Insomniac Press). She is originally from the UK. Katrina spent several years in Vancouver before moving to Montreal, where she now works as a story editor, screenwriter and script analyst.

aJbishop

18 Nov

synapsemtl synapseI want to dance with your wife.
synapsemtl synapseTo tide the stiff construction
synapsemtl synapseof her hide with moon beams
synapsemtl synapse& yarrow fronds. I want to
synapsemtl synapseoutrage the white’s of her eyes
synapsemtl synapsewith a slow deliberate massage
synapsemtl synapsefive centimetres above her head.

We go for a coffee.
You’re still married,
you say. Still unhappy.
I am still unmarried,
I say, still unhappy.

synapsemtl synapsemtl synapsemtl synapsemtl
from “Song for Your Wife”
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aJbishop is a graduate student at Concordia, exploring the druidic poet Taliesin and re-inhabiting Celtic indigenous perspectives with verse. Her poetry can be previously found in Existere, Soliloquies, and Headlight.

Line Up for November 16th!

10 Nov

Montrealer, CELYN HARDING-JONES is published in Incongruous Quarterly, Headlight, Lemonhound and Soliloquies and won an honourable mention in Arc. She was a poetry editor for Headlight, has worked and written for SLS and enRoute.

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MICHAEL CHAULK is a writer and seaman living in Montreal. He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Void Magazine at Concordia and the Associate Poetry Editor of The Incongruous Quarterly on the internet. His work has been published in PRISM: international.

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COLIN FULTON is twenty-four years old. His poetry has appeared in Grain Magazine and Poetry is Dead (forthcoming), as well as online, through Ditch, The Incongruous Quarterly, and Lemon Hound. He grew up in Nova Scotia; he currently lives in British Columbia. He makes a living picking fruit and is preparing for graduatest preparing for graduate studies in either poetry preparing for graduatesttfjl or philosophy.

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LINDA BESNER is originally from Wakefield, Quebec. Her poetry and reviews have appeared in The Walrus, The Malahat Review, Grain, Maisonneuve, and Canadian Notes and Queries, among others. Her radio work has aired on CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera, Outfront, and The Next Chapter. Her first collection of poetry, The Id Kid, was published by Signal Editions in April 2011. She lives in Toronto.

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SHEILA HETI is the author of five books, including the novels Ticknor and How Should a Person Be?, an illustrated book for children titled We Need a Horse, the story collection The Middle Stories, and a book of conversational philosophy with Misha Glouberman titled The Chairs Are Where the People Go. She is Interviews Editor at The Believer. She lives in Toronto.

Synapse Reading

8 Nov

Press Release

7 Nov
Synapse announces its second reading of the academic year, featuring Michael Chaulk, Colin Fulton, Celyn Harding-Jones, and special guest readers Linda Besner and Sheila Heti.

The reading will be held at the VAV Gallery (corner of Rene-Levesque and Crescent) on Wednesday, November 16th. Doors at 7. Reading at 7:30. Admission is free. Please circulate widely. Chapbooks will be available.

Synapse is reading series in its second year of operation, conceived of and coordinated by Sina Queyras. The series’ mandate is to empower students to foster dialogs across genres, disciplines, and levels of experience. Readers are selected and introduced by students from open calls and occasionally by invitation. This Winter, Synapse will be looking for conceptual writing for the February reading. Followed by a reading focused on translation this Spring. We will be looking for translation between languages, genres, etc.

Contact Lizy Mostowski, Steph Colbourn, or Deanna Fong for more information at synapse.concordia(@)gmail.com.

Join our facebook event!

or visit our twitter

Heather Davidson

7 Nov


Altars

You can make an altar out of almost anything.
Use a stack of bills and flyers on the kitchen table,
notepaper, the laptop with unsent emails.
Spring is best, if you already believe in fulfilled
wishes; winter, if you need proof. To preserve
energy and table space, it is best to keep only one
altar at a time.

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Heather Davidson has contributed to journals including carte blanche, Descant and The Antigonish Review. She was short-listed for the 2011 Irving Layton Awards for fiction.
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