Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Alison Pick on saying yes to writing and no to everything else

The author of Between Gods answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Alison Pick is the author of Between Gods: A Memoir. (Emma-Lee Photography)

The Man Booker-nominated author and winner of the 2005 CBC Poetry Prize shares her thoughts on posthumous publishing, a room without a view and the writer she's most indebted to.

Below, Alison Pick answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A. 

1. Donna Morrissey asks, "What are the biggest hurdles to overcome in your personal life while you're creating a book?" 

Making time to get to the page. By definition, this involves saying no to things that are not about getting to the page, and saying no can be a challenge. But I'm getting better at it.

2. Rudy Wiebe asks, "Who helped you most in becoming a writer? How?"

I first discovered writing through a creative writing elective I took at the University of Guelph in the final year of my undergraduate degree. I had never considered that I might be a writer (or that anyone might, for that matter). My teacher that year was Janice Kulyk Keefer. I fell head over heels for writing — I think Janice knew what was happening to me before even I did. She was incredibly encouraging and hugely influential at the most critical time in my writing career.

3. William Deverell asks, "Is there a surfeit of published books in Canada? Are too many authors competing for diminishing returns?"

Maybe. But I try not to think about things like this. My job, as I see it, is to keep my head down and keep writing. 

4. Zsuzsi Gartner asks, "How do faith and science intersect for you as a writer?"

My new book, Between Gods, is thematically preoccupied with faith, although I'm not sure science comes into the picture. That said, I can see the act of writing itself as an intersection of the two: the "faith" required to get yourself to the page, to trust your own instincts, to write that shitty first draft, and the "science" of craft, of polishing and editing and reworking until that first draft shines.

5. George Bowering asks, "If someone publishes a book you had not finished writing at your death, is that okay?"

Nuh-uh. No way.

6. Cordelia Strube asks, "What keeps you writing?" 

Perhaps it's a backwards way to go answer the question, but it seems I am unable to NOT write — or at least that I'm very unhappy in that circumstance. Writing keeps me sane, at some level; it keeps me engaged in the world. It keeps me alive. 

7. J.B MacKinnon asks, "You can write your next book at a desk with a view of the sea, of a busy European plaza, or of a blank wall right in front of your desk. Which do you choose, and why?"

Blank wall, for obvious reasons (at least they seem obvious to me). That said, I love Annie Dillard's description of working in an office with the blinds closed, and then sketching a landscape on a piece of foolscap and attaching it to the inside of the closed blinds.

8. JJ Lee asks, "Superman or Batman?"

Wonder Woman.