Books·Magic 8 Q&A

What Governor General's Literary Award winner Jillian Tamaki does to break out of a creativity rut

The author of They Say Blue answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
They Say Blue is Jillian Tamaki's first picture book. (Groundwood, Reynard Li)

In They Say BlueJillian Tamaki's first picture book, a young inquisitive girl explores the wonders of colour. The book won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — illustration, a prize Tamaki previously received in 2014 for the graphic novel This One Summer.

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

1. Michael DeForge asks, "How often do you feel jealousy towards other writers? Do you feel guilty about it?"

I feel jealousy towards other writers exactly the right amount. Enough to feel spurred to greater heights yet not so much as to be negatively affected on any psychological level.

2. Vivek Shraya asks, "What is your favourite Canadian small press and why? (Not counting your own, if you're with a small press!)"

Koyama Press, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Annie [Koyama, the publisher] has a great eye and very big heart — her artists are like her family. Also shout out to Arsenal Pulp Press, which published Conflict Is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulman, which remains a book I think about a lot.

3. Rachel Cusk asks, "Name some of the rituals or habits you indulge in while writing."

I think they all revolve around eating.

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

I'm not sure they quite understand what I do on a day-to-day basis. But that's OK.

5. Joy Fielding asks, "What comes first — the character, the theme or the plot?"

I think, most often, a kernel of an idea/concept. Or, because I work with visuals, an image.

6. Shilpi Somaya Gowda asks, "Do you ever get stuck creatively? If so, what do you do to get your creative juices flowing again?"

That seems like the time to maybe step away for a bit? Sketchbook, read, go to museums, explore other parts of life. It's actually really difficult to get inspired while looking at a blank page.

7. Claire Holden Rothman asks, "Which, if any, of your characters is a personal favourite, and why?"

Hm! Probably Marsha and Wendy from SuperMutant Magic Academy. Because they were an ongoing comic strip, I spent years with them and they truly grew organically. Sometimes people would cosplay them, which was pretty amazing to see.

8. Tom Gauld asks, "Have you ever looked back on a finished story and felt that an element of it was actually better in a previous draft?"

Absolutely. I think this happens a lot, where as a project gains something it can also lose something in turn.