Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Tabatha Southey on the writing life: 'I know how lucky I am to have been given the space.'

The author of Collected Tarts and Other Indelicacies answers eight questions from eight writers.
Tabatha Southey is the writer of Collected Tarts and Other Indelicacies. (Basil Southey/Douglas & McIntyre)

Tabatha Southey is a writer and newspaper and magazine columnist. She is the author of Collected Tarts and Other Indelicacies, a witty collection of essays which showcase the many lessons learned from over a decade of column writing.

Equal parts funny, thorny and vulnerable, the book tackles subjects from what it's like to anger jazz enthusiasts, to the turbulent U.S. political climate, to glimpses into her own personal life. 

Below, Southey takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, answering eight random questions from eight writers.

1. Sharon Butala asks, "What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?"

All my life the question I have waited to hear has always been "Would you like me to buy you a puppy?" Not once, I tell you, not once.

2. 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?" 

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I would probably come back as a country singer, as I never tire of the music, and that way I could keep my hair. All my songs would be story songs, mostly about sad waitresses. 

3. Greg Hollingshead asks, "What role does self-doubt play in your life as a writer?"

I just don't really know if I can answer that question. 

4. Shani Mootoo asks, "Is the writing life a selfish indulgence, a narcissistic quest or a plain crazy way to try and make a living?

All of the above is the glib answer, of course, but in truth writing is demanding work, partly in that you never stop, partly in that a bad day's work is never behind you, but it ain't coal mining, as they say. I know how lucky I am to have been given the space.

5. Susan Juby asks, "What's your approach to reviews and reader feedback? Do you read criticism? Ignore it? Take it into consideration?" 

Columnists essentially face reviews every week, often very harsh ones and in the main, reader feedback has, as I explain in my book, been what has kept me at this gig.

6. Kate Pullinger asks, "Do you pay attention to the opinions of your family — parents, spouse, siblings, children, etc. — when it comes to your writing, both in terms of what you write about, but also how you write? "

Any time I mention anyone in my family or a friend in my work, even if they are to be unnamed, I ask permission. This has never happened but if they did not sign off on what I'd written, I'd shelve it and I mostly write in the hopes of making my children laugh. 

7. C.C. Humphreys asks, "What life experience do you wish you'd had that would have helped your writing?" 

The last grade of high school I completed was Grade 9 and I feel my writing would have been improved if back then someone had given me a dog.

8. Jowita Bydlowska asks, "Do you have any writing rituals and if yes, what are they?"

I try not to be too precious about the whole thing, so other than the sacrifice of a goat every new moon, I keep it pretty simple ritual-wise.