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Surf's up: Gillian Cornwall on winning Twisting Titles

We caught up with Gillian Cornwall, winner of the Twisting Titles Twitter Challenge, and asked her about her love/hate relationship with Frankenstein and how she came up with her award-winning Tweet.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you and what do you write? 
I work in communications at a university for a living. I love to get together with my #bandofwomen—a group of friends in Victoria who all met through Twitter.  My love of the ocean and the desire to surf brought me west from Ontario in 1990 though at times I miss the wonders of the east. I wrote poetry for several decades but have spent the last five + years in the arms of short creative nonfiction and fiction. I am more than half way through the first incarnation of my first novel… it’s an awful lot of words. 

You also blog. Tell us about Gillian’s Art Blog.
The blog began with a visual arts focus until I realized that I have always been more of a writer at heart. I kept the title, Gillian’s Art Blog, as I didn’t want to lose touch with any readers and I continue to include my photographs as part of the thread. It is a place to share stories and hope through essay, fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry. In the instances where the content may elicit difficult memories or issues for people, I include links to professional organizations. I want people to feel seen, heard and valued. I want to share the beauty and wonder of a life lived. I post every Sunday.

You wrote two Tweets for the challenge, one of which won. Did you find this challenge particularly difficult?
Actually, I wrote three and that was holding back! I find it a wonderful exercise to set a person thinking about scene in a very short space, as I lean towards the verbose. It is likely you have noticed. I loved the challenge and the parameters. It was inspiring!

Your winning Tweet hit all the marks for our judge. How did you put it together?
In the case of each tweet, I looked at several top 100 book lists to start and used the titles to thread a scene that I hoped set place, person and mood within the limited real estate of 140 characters.

Are you a fan of Shelley’s Frankenstein? 
I have a love / hate relationship with Frankenstein. As a novel, I recall it as brilliant and terrifying though it’s been ages since I read it. I understand Frankenstein. I feel like Frankenstein. At seven a.m., before coffee, I generally look like Frankenstein. Aren’t we indeed all products of our genetics, history and experience? I still feel a bit like a great lumbering clod. I am a misfit of gender, sexual orientation, age and culture. I’ll stop there; suffice to say, if I weren’t a bit of a Frankenstein, I don’t think I would be much of a writer.

What are some of your favourite books?
I adore fiction, particularly Canadian fiction. My favourites include The Telling of Lies and The Last of the Crazy People (Timothy Findley), The Way the Crow Flies (Ann-Marie MacDonald), The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence), The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood), and Funny Boy (Shyam Selvadurai). The list is enormous.
Who are some of your favourite writers?
I have a particular fondness for Ann-Marie MacDonald’s work as a Canadian writer and a contemporary. She has an unearthly ability to seep the horrific experiences of her characters in prose so exquisite that one is raised up by the work as much as one is devastated by the honest brutality of the lives of those in her stories. I am also a great fan of Jeanette Winterson who, in each of her books, drops me into a dream in which I am a willing participant, wandering along through the tale without real comprehension until it is all over. I sit with her stories in my mind and soul for months after I finish reading, watching the picture clarify as slowly and beautifully as the coming of the dawn.


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