Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Ivan Coyote on Muppet critics, old radio shows and really hot coffee

The author of Tomboy Survival Guide answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Ivan Coyote is the author of Tomboy Survival Guide. (Robin Toma Photography)

From the age of five, Ivan Coyote — author of 11 books — knew they were a tomboy. Their latest, Tomboy Survival Guide, is a memoir-in-stories that paints a picture of Coyote's childhood in the Yukon, their awakening queer identity and the ongoing struggle of living outside the gender binary. 

Below, Ivan Coyote answers eight questions submitted by eight of their fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. Roo Borson asks, "What would you like to do in writing that you haven't yet tried?"

I want to write a play. I'm working up an idea right now, based on a kind of an homage and revisiting of an old radio show from the local radio station we listened to when I was a kid back home in Whitehorse.

2. Gail Anderson-Dargatz asks, "Is there an object that you can't write without (that mustard-coloured old man sweater; that knickknack Mom gave you that you couldn't throw away; that photo you take on the road with you...)? Why do you think you need this particular object?"

I don't have an object, per se. I travel too much these days to make that very feasible. I do write best when there is a pot of soup smell in my kitchen, and with a coffee sitting beside me. Black, one sugar. I like it almost too hot to drink.

3. Kit Pearson asks, "How do you cope with the daily pressures of the outside world while you are deeply immersed in your book?"

For me, sadly, the question has always been how do I cope with the daily pressures of this book when I am deeply immersed in the daily pressures of the outside world. I wish I was better at writers' retreats, or a stint in a cabin. Just writing about this makes me realize how long it's been since I really tuned it all out and just wrote. I should write that on my to-do list right now. 

4. Riel Nason asks, "Do you have pets? Do they keep you company while you write?"

I did. For 17 years I had a little guy named Goliath. He just passed away on March 1, this last spring. He used to sit on my feet while I wrote. It's not been the same since he left this world. I will get a pup one of these years, when I'm ready.

5. Brian Brett asks, "If a voice starts talking out of turn in your story, what do you do?"

I just let him or her or them speak. Get it all down. See what's really happening after, in the editing process.

6. Caroline Pignat asks, "If you made a caricature of your inner critic, how would it look? What might it say?"

My inner critics are those two old Muppets that used to sit in the balcony and crack mean jokes to each other. I'm googling them right now. Their names are Statler and Waldorf. Here is a transcript of the dialogue from the first link that popped up: "What was that?" "It's called the medium sketch." "The medium sketch?" "Yeah it wasn't rare and it certainly wasn't well done!" Laughter ensues from both of them.

7. Karen Solie asks, "Do you remember who you were reading when you first realized, not that you wanted to be a writer, but that you were intrigued by writing and what it can do?"

Yes. Grade six. Reading Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh.

8. Jalal Barzanji asks, "How did you feel when you finished your most recent book?"

Equal parts proud, exhausted and terrified, I would say. For me that feeling of being afraid to push it out into the word just does not go away, even on number 11. I might even say especially on book number 11.


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