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QWC Shortlist: Q&A with Anita Anand

Anita Anand's story "What I Really Did on my Summer Vacation" is one of the ten finalists for the Quebec Writing Competition. Read her story here.

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Tell us about yourself. 
I live in St. Lambert. My day job is teaching English to members of the Canadian military. My interests are much more hippy-dippy however: vegetarian cooking, environmentalism, meditation, and playing the guitar and piano quite badly...

What do you usually write?
I usually write short stories. I have one novel that lives in a drawer.
My characters are often, but not always, outsiders, misfits, loners and weirdoes. 

Have you submitted to the competition before? 

How would you describe your story?
It's a story about a very vulnerable child seeking love. She has no idea what she is doing, and she has no sense of her own vulnerability. She barely even realizes that she is a child

What compelled you to tell this story?
I started writing this after overhearing my kids talking about a girl they knew who was very promiscuous. There was no judgment there, just a little worry. As a parent, though, I wondered about whether her parents loved her properly. Was she getting enough attention at home?

How long did you work on the story? 
I wrote my first draft very quickly--in an afternoon, I think. I let it sit for two days, went back and tweaked it, then had a friend look at it, and tweaked again. I honestly can't remember how many times I went back to it after that. I remember that I completely ignored some of my friend's comments. I tend to appreciate editing, as well as appreciative comments, of course,but if someone suggests a major change, sometimes I ignore that advice.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was six years old, one of my brothers was sent to a boarding school in Manitoba. We wrote each other letters every day. After that ended, I was left with a habit. My family made it clear to me that being a writer was never going to pay the bills though, so I eventually trained to be a teacher.

What other writers inspire you? 
Every writer I have ever read has inspired me; however, I don't think it would be easy to pinpoint anybody's influence in my stories. There was a book that I read when I was ten by a writer nobody has ever heard of. It was called A Wild Thing, the author was Jean Renvoize, and I read it over and over like some very special sort of maniac. I can't see how it could have affected my writing though, except in its choice of theme (i.e. a lost girl), as it was a very detailed account of a girl who survives alone in the forest, whereas I can barely identify three or four trees or any wildflowers. I reread that book recently; it's still very good. 

Another book I reread several times was Watership Down. Lots of wild flowers, oodles of bunnies, no lost girls. Go figure.

I have read almost everything written by Mordecai Richler, Alice Munro and Ian McEwan. 

Some Québec writers I have read this year are: Marie-Hélène Poitras, Guillaume Bourque, Louis Hamelin, and Dany Laferrière. 

English-language writers I have read in the last year or two include: Miranda July, Nick Hornby, Michael Ondaatje, Miriam Toews, Ali Smith, Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Franzen. 

Author Bio
Anita Anand was born in Montreal. She moved back and forth between her hometown and such places as the Bronx, Bedfordshire, England and Richmond, B.C. In every neighbourhood where she has lived, she has been the only person her age of Indian origin. This condition has been a priceless gift to her development as a writer. She has traveled extensively, but retains a stubborn preference for Québec, where, as someone once said, "everyone is a minority, including the majority". Her writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Frostwriting and the Louisiana Review