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Writer to watch

Writer to watch: Maggie Gilmour

GG-winner David Gilmour wrote a winter tale for us. He also recommended Maggie Gilmour as a writer to watch (full disclosure: Maggie happens to be his daughter). Read what Maggie has to say about what inspires her to write.

"What makes Maggie Gilmour a delight to read is that she is the master of the quick sketch. In just a few words, she creates indelible portraits of the people she encounters in her eccentric and often comic passage through the world. If Truman Capote had been a thirty-three-year old Canadian woman, he would have sounded like Maggie Gilmour."

- David Gilmour

Getting to the truth of life
by Maggie Gilmour
I started writing seriously in high school. My English teacher made me the editor of the high school newspaper. The day the first issue was published, I walked down the hall and saw someone reading something I wrote. A got a buzzy feeling in my chest and ears. 

In university, I wrote for both papers: the earnest left wing one that banned ads from fraternities because frats were sexist and elitist (never mind that we desperately needed the revenue) and the bland, middle of the road one that had no identifiable politics and a much cheerier staff.  Writing in university gave me an identity: it was a massive campus, everyone I knew "did" something (skiing, intramurals, debating). 

After graduating, the reasons why I write changed. It became something I could do in my living room... and then get paid for. This still thrills me. The first time I got a paycheck for this illicit activity was, I think, from a city magazine. I wrote bubbly little reviews of fashion stores (I used the word outré more than I care to remember); this led to longer pieces, more writing, different magazines, more paychecks.  

In 2004, I decided I had to go to grad school in Berkeley; I knew this became Berkeley had 300 days of sunshine per year.  I wrote in grad school because I had to, because I wanted to, and because sitting in a café looking at the Pacific Ocean in the same city Jack Kerouac had lived in, it seemed like the best thing to do, really. 

In Chicago after graduation, I wrote for a business magazine.  To stay sane (annual reports are not known for their vivid prose), I started writing fiction.  I wrote a novel, moved home to Toronto, more writing, more paychecks (paltry), more cafes.  

So. I write for different reasons.  I write for love, for money, for escape, for attention, for distraction.  I write if I'm in pain or if I'm elated.  But the most important reason I write is to figure out the truth. I don't know what I think until I write.  The very act of writing clarifies, distills, and wipes clean the froth in my brain.  

Before I write, I walk around sometimes thinking: oh, that person is this, or, this experience meant this to me; then I sit down, I write, and I realize, oh. That's what really happened. Or, oh. That's what I meant.  There is no way around this for me. It only happens on the page: conversation, therapy, interpretive dance: nothing else gets to the truth of life quicker.  

Dostoevsky once wrote: "Never, never lie to yourself. Don't lie to others, but least of all yourself."  So that's why I write. So that I can't lie to myself.  So I know what really happened, what really matters, and what I really think and feel.  And there's no paycheck that matches that. 

Maggie Gilmour is a freelance writer and teacher in Toronto, Ontario. She received a Masters in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley and worked for Business Week magazine in Chicago before moving home to her beloved, beleaguered, Toronto. She is almost finished her first novel.

Photo credit for David Gilmour: Sandrine Expilly

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