You’ve lived and taught in Indian settlements. The influence of that on this piece is clear. Do you think it affects your writing in less obvious ways?
Good question, Dave! Hmm. I try to write quietly. I try to approach a reader with some reserve, with honesty and with a generous smile. It’s the way I’ve been approached by people here and I’ve come to appreciate it.
What brought you to your chosen place and profession?
If you mean teaching, rather than landscape artist, accountant, factory worker, clerk, library assistant, houseperson, parent or some other profession, then: dumb luck or perhaps the Great Goddess. I know I didn’t exactly “pick” either teaching or James Bay. I became a teacher in Iowa intending to avoid the draft. After failing miserably as a hippie in Toronto, I let the Department of Indian Affairs send me where they wanted. To their surprise—and perhaps dismay—I stayed longer than the expected year.
Congratulations on your first publication! How long have you been submitting and what was your biggest hurdle in getting your work out there?
I know this answer! (In spite of a short memory.) My first recent submission was to Clean Sheets in April of this year. (I’d sent a memoir to The New Yorker when I was seventeen and my “Collected Works” to a Toronto publisher at age twenty-one; those two rejections were enough discouragement to last me almost forty years.) My biggest hurdle? Would you believe a lack of chutzpah?
What are some things you hope to achieve with your writing both short and long term?
In the long run, immortality. Wealth and fame are not all they are cracked up to be. Collecting dust in the archive of some big library, however, is undeniably appealing to me. In the short term, I am gathering myself to re-attack a novel which seems to need either a coat of paint or a match and a fresh start. I continue to write and submit short fiction.
Tell us something else about you that doesn’t quite fit into the standard lit mag bio.
I am the grateful recipient of much assistance. Many people gave me excellent advice about this story. I owe a great debt to crack reviewers from Desdmona‘s Fish Tank and Zoetrope. One of them honoured it with her tears; nothing could mean more. (I feel Academy Award mode coming over me.) And I’d like to thank my kindergarten…