Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Gregory Scofield shares the best writing advice he ever received

The Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize winner answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Gregory Scofield is the author of Witness, I Am. (Janzen Photography )

Gregory Scofield is the latest recipient of the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize, a $25,000 award given to an accomplished mid-career poet. Scofield recently published his seventh poetry collection, Witness, I Am, an emotionally vibrant, determined meditation on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

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

1. Caroline Pignat asks, "What scares you most about writing?"

I'm incredibly superstitious. Each time I publish a book, I live in fear that someone close to me will pass away.

2. Camilla Gibb asks, "What's the best advice you've been given in your writing life?"

The best advice I've ever been given is to be prepared for your public readings. I was told no one pays to see you thumbing through the pages of your book.

3. Phil Hall asks, "Do certain words give you the pip? Why can't you stand them? If it isn't about what they mean, what's it about?"

Generally, I'm in love with words. And because I'm a poet I love the sounds of words, especially the Cree language. If I had to choose a language that doesn't appeal to me, it would be academic speak.

4. Jo Walton asks, "What time of year is best for your creative productivity — summer or winter?"

This all depends. If I'm on a tear with a collection of poems, any season is best. However, I always associate storytelling with pîpon, wintertime.

5. Brian Brett asks, "Who is your audience?"

My audience is really anyone who'll listen to me. I do write, however, with a strong sense of the Indigenous community. I was blessed with the Cree language, so much of my work is reflective of these themes and experiences.

6. Lorna Crozier asks, "If you could come back as a musician, what area of music would you choose, and are you secretly a songwriter, and if so, what is your song about?"

This is a great question for me. I would definitely be a folk singer. In fact, I was inspired by incredible artists like Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. I also grew up with a lot of music, so this continues to inform my poetry. My song, following in the footsteps of the artists I mentioned, is about justice, resistance and celebration.

7. Douglas Coupland asks, "What does your family think of you being a writer?"

Not much, I'm sure. My Aunty Donna once told me that I got my childhood all wrong in my memoir. LOL! But seriously, they are very proud of me. In fact, my late mother was my greatest champion and editor.

8. Tomson Highway asks, "What keeps you going — first as a writer, and second as a human being?"

What keeps me going as a writer is my constant observation of the world and its injustices, and the work that needs to be done in relation to Indigenous history and contemporary realities. I'm a tattletale and I can't seem to keep my mouth shut for very long. What keeps me going as a human being is compassion, plain and simple.