Camilla Gibb on the merits of unpopularity

The author of Sweetness in the Belly, The Beauty of Humanity Movement and the moving new memoir This Is Happy fields questions from her fellow Canadian writers - and reveals why she's glad she didn't peak in high school.

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1. Robert Currie asks, "What first started you writing?"
At six, I copied an A.A. Milne poem and showed it to my mother. She thought the poem was mine and told me I was a genius. Some combination of shame about my crime and fear of being discovered a fraud led me to begin to write poems of my own.      

2. Sharon Butala asks, "Do you ever feel trapped by your writing life and wish you could escape?"
Constantly! Thank you for asking! I scour job ads incessantly, but no one ever seems to be looking for a novelist with a PhD in a completely unrelated discipline, which just confirms the sense that I am trapped. I should probably drink wine instead of looking at job ads.

3. Johanna Skibsrud asks, "What are some of your biggest frustrations while you work? In what ways do you continuously fail at what you do?"
The way what you think is genius reads like crap the next day.  

4. Susan Juby asks, "What's your approach to reviews and reader feedback? Do you read criticism? Ignore it? Take it into consideration?"
Good criticism usually confirms something you already suspected about your work. You've been busted.  

5. Alan Bradley asks, "Does the act of writing ever have a physical effect on you? If so, describe it."
Well, there are ways you can tell if the sex scene you are writing is working...

6. Karen Solie asks, "What do you do for fun? If you think writing is fun, what else do you do?"
Anything in or on water.

7. Frances Itani asks, "When you have presented your work to an audience in the past, what was the question you were not expecting? The one you thought about for a long time afterward, the one you wish you'd answered differently? How would you reply to it now?"
A woman once asked if I was popular in high school. God, no! I replied. She responded: I was worried you would say that. My daughter is really popular at school. I worry she doesn't have an internal life.  

I've felt badly ever since for confirming what this woman must have suspected: her daughter was going to peak in high school. I should have recognized that the question wasn't about me. I should have asked her a question rather than answering one.     

8. Alexi Zentner asks, "Would you want your kids to be writers?"
Perhaps this is the question I should have asked the woman in the audience above.

Camilla Gibb photo credit: Mark Raynes-Roberts