Emerging Author of the Month: Becky Blake

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Tell us about yourself.

I’m a fiction writer who has worked as a journalist, a script consultant, an advice columnist, and a playwright. My short stories and articles are often inspired by my travels around the world. I’m a recent graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. I currently live in Toronto where I’m working on my first novel.

Tell us about the piece you’ve decided to share.

The piece is a short excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Yours to Keep. Barcelona is my favourite city in the world (so far!) and this novel was born out of the many impressions I came away with after living there. The book is about a Canadian woman who suffers a loss shortly after moving to Spain and ends up living on the streets, where she apprentices with a pickpocket. This excerpt shows her assisting in her first theft.

When and why did you realize you had a passion for writing?

According to my mom, my first word was ‘book,’ and I think a passion for reading and a passion for writing are often connected. The first story I wrote that garnered attention was called “Seaweed Soufflé.” It was about an underwater dinner party; I wrote it in Grade 1 and I’ve been writing pretty much ever since then. Growing up, my favourite place to hang out was always the library. I know a couple of writers who don’t read very much, but most of us read like our lives depended on it.

What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?

Wow. This is going to be quite a long list! When I was a young teen I remember being given Judy Blume books as a reward when I did well in school or had something scary to tackle. Her books were always provocative and important to me. As an older teen, I was reading Leonard Cohen, Barbara Gowdy, Michael Ondaatje, Heinrich Böll, J. D. Salinger, Allen Ginsberg, and Sylvia Plath. Then I became an actress for a few years and I read a lot of plays: Shakespeare and Chekhov were my favourites. When I began to focus more seriously on the craft of writing, I fell in love with many of the usual suspects: Virginia Woolf, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Raymond Carver. Then, I spent a year reading only female writers and my most significant discoveries from that exercise were the works of Angela Carter, Marguerite Duras, and Jean Rhys. My favourite contemporary writers over the last two years have been Francisco Goldman, Sarah Hall, Junot Díaz, and Daniel Alarcón.

What kind of writer do you aspire to be?

The kind who learns how to write better and faster so I can share as many stories as possible.

How and when do you find time to write?

I write in the morning. I used to meditate in the morning and then start writing, but after a while I realized that writing is a form of meditation in itself, so now I just get right to it. At my day job, I’ve been working only afternoons for several years now and it’s a sacrifice that feels right to me: to have a little less money and more time to write.