Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Trish Salah on the 5 minutes of elation when you see your published book for the first time

Trish Salah, author of Wanting in Arabic and Lyric Sexology, takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Trish Salah is Lebanese-Irish-Canadian poet, author and professor.

Trish Salah is a gender studies professor at Queen's University and an accomplished writer. Her books include the poetry collections Lyric Sexology Vol. 1 and Wanting in Arabicthe latter of which received the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for transgender fiction. In 2018, Salah was a finalist for the Writers' Trust of Canada's annual Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ emerging writers.

Below, Salah takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, answering eight questions from eight fellow authors.

1. Durga Chew-Bose asks, "If you could have any view just outside the room where you write, what would it be?"

I'm overly fond of back alleys, laneways, slivers of other people's balconies and yards.

2. David A. Robertson asks, "How much does your writing routine or process change based on the type of book you're writing?"

Not much, except that I need more time between drafts with fiction, space to get to know what's working and what isn't.

3. Douglas Coupland asks, "Do you ever say to yourself, 'I'm just tired of doing this. I'm going to stop.' If so, what do you then say to get yourself back?"

I've never imagined that I might stop. But I do take my time with writing. If a thing isn't ready to be written there is always something else to work on until it is.

4. Vivek Shraya asks, "Who is a Canadian writer you aspire to write like and why?"

There are so many that I love and have learned from, so I'm kind of hopeless at this type of question. But Gail Scott, Dionne Brand, Daphne Marlatt all exerted early and formative influences on my writing, not only stylistically but through the commitments I saw in their work, what they asked of writing. In different ways their work helped me imagine what writing could be. And though I don't emulate other writers, I would say that I still learn from what they, and many others, make of writing.

5. Donna Morrissey asks, "How do you deal with daily life while you're in the middle of creating a book?"

Not too well, honestly. I find that either writing or daily life takes precedence, and what doesn't, suffers. In the early stages of a project, in the preliminary research, or near the end, in final edits, this isn't too much of a problem, but there comes a point, as you say, in the middle, when I cannot write effectively if I'm not able to cleave large chunks of time away from my day to day.

6. Nazneen Sheikh asks, "Do you forget all the angst when the book actually arrives from the printer?"

If only! I am elated at the sight of it. But that lasts maybe five minutes and then I need to reread it closely to believe it's really there. And to be the first to find the errors that we inevitably, despite our best efforts, somehow missed.

7. Andrew Pyper asks, "Have you ever been surprised — deeply and honestly shocked — by the violence of a reader's reaction to your work, whether positive or negative?"

As I was wrapping up my creative writing M.A., a member of my committee, someone who didn't know me and whom I didn't know, but who had an interest in the genre I was working in… this person read my thesis, a collection of linked short stories and narrative poems. Then they approached my supervisor and suggested that they would support her in having me kicked out of the program and banned from campus. When my supervisor told me about it I was truly "deeply and honestly shocked." As was she, fortunately, and fortunately, she was quick to reassure me that she had had this person removed from my examination committee and found someone more sympathetic to replace him. I can only assume that his reaction was fuelled by homophobia, sex negativity and transphobia. Not that we talked about transphobia much in the 1990s. Or maybe my line breaks were Just Too Much.

8. Dominique Fortier asks, "What is the most beautiful word?"