Tell us about yourself.
I’m a writer, creative writing teacher, writing coach, editor and workshop leader. I live in Toronto and am the author of four collections of poetry, including a poetry trilogy: Pupa, The Red Element, and Winterkill (Insomniac Press). My next collection, Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects will appear fall, 2013 with Wolsak & Wynn.
When did you realize you had a passion for writing?
Having lost both parents during my undergraduate years at McMaster University I was in the throes of grief when my therapist suggested I keep a journal to release my feelings. It was during this time I began playing with words. One day I worked up the courage to show my efforts to a close friend, a teacher who was older than me. She immediately saw what I couldn’t—I was writing poetry. Since that moment of realization I haven’t stopped writing. I often wonder if my parents hadn’t died if I would still be a writer.
What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?
After completing my MA in Creative Writing in Northern Ireland, I continued to live there for several years. Many of the writers I encountered had an impact on me. Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Paula Meehan, Carol Ann Duffy, Derek Mahon, Paul Durcan, Joan Newmann, Eavan Boland, and Brendan Kennelly are just some that come to mind.
How and when do you find time to write?
I always try to maintain a link to my writing life whether it’s scribbling a few random observations in my notebook while in transit somewhere, or at my desk when I have more time to immerse myself in bigger projects. If I don’t make some kind of connection to my inner life I feel disconnected to myself and my surroundings.
What has been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
One of the biggest challenges is to believe in your work and your vision. Writing, like the other arts, follows trends. What’s in/what’s out. Who’s in/who’s out. I try to stay away from this way of thinking by being true to my own way with words and yet still be open to take in the new; to be fluid like water and firm like stone; to somehow maintain that balance.
How have you changed as a writer over the years?
Writing, like life, has its ups and downs. Part of the challenge is to ride these ups and downs and not get caught up in praise/rejection. The constant thing is the act of writing—me and the page and the words that unfold.