Literary Triathlon: Meet the winner
We talk to Nisha Coleman, the winner of the Literary Triathlon, about her greatest challenge in the competition and the one race we've all won.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I’m 31 and I live in Montreal. I subsist on a patchwork of activities. I translate. I transcribe focus groups. I’m also a violinist so I’ve been busking this summer with my good friend who is a cellist. This has led to some pretty interesting gigs. I’m happiest when I’m writing or playing music.
2. What do you usually write?
I write fiction but I’m currently on a nonfiction kick. For the last long while I’ve been compiling my experiences living as a street musician in Paris. I’ve also recently begun the art of blogging, which is a good way to keep a steady writing practise as well as acquire readership.
3. How did you learn about the Canada Writes Literary Triathlon?
I stop by the Canada Writes website frequently. It’s a great resource and there always seems to be something interesting going on.
4. Which genre was the biggest challenge for you to complete in the triathlon?
Definitely poetry. I’ve only ever written a handful of poems. Occasionally a situation comes up that I feel can only be expressed through poetry, but it’s so rare that I tend to shy away from poetry and, most often, fear it.
5. Which genre came to you the most easily?
Nonfiction. The idea for The Great Race came to me right away and I could imagine it so vividly that the sequence played out on paper with relative ease.
6. The subject matter you chose for the three categories was diverse—ranging from a personal relationship to a Kenyan athlete to...well...a swimming sperm. How did these topics come to you?
I was on the running team in high school and while the races were gruelling, I realize now that that first race, The Great Race, was the only one that ever really mattered. It’s so dramatic when you think about it. Everyone (with rare exceptions) was once the fastest sperm. It’s a real confidence booster.
The idea for the Kenyan sprinter came from watching the Olympic opening ceremonies and seeing certain African countries enter the stadium with only a handful of athletes. It was such a stark contrast to the wealthier western countries and a heavy reminder that the Olympics isn’t only about athleticism. This inspired the idea of a runner from a poor country being offered monetary support if he represents a brand and a country with which he doesn’t identify.
The poem came after much strife. The theme was vast and in the end I decided to write about people I’ve known who blast through life at breakneck speeds. When you love someone like that, you sometimes have to choose whether to hang on for the ride or watch them go. Both can be painful.
7. If you could magically become an Olympic athlete, which sport would you most want to compete in?
I think gymnastics would be just incredible. Twisting through the air at such speeds, with such precision, and with the knowledge that a simple mistake could cost you your life. I’m such a masochist, though, I would probably end up a marathon runner. And I’d perish en route.
8. What's the first thing you plan to do with your iPod Touch?
Well, I have an energetic dog who requires several hours of walking a day so I plan to fill it with podcasts and audio books. I’ve come to realize that the only way I’ll be able to succeed in life is if I begin a strict multitasking regimen.
9. Olympic gold medallists hear their national anthem on the podium. What song would you choose as your anthem for your Literary Triathlon victory?
That’s tough. After much deliberation, I’d have to go with the first Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The Glenn Gould 1955 version. I love hearing him shift on his stool and hum under his breath and it’s a perfect piece of music. I listen to the Goldberg Variations often when writing and really no one plays it better than good old Gould.