Books·Magic 8 Q&A

What makes Méira Cook dare to be a writer? 'The 10-gallon bravado of a terrified rodeo clown.'

The author of the novel Once More With Feeling answers eight questions from eight writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Méira Cook is the author of Once More With Feeling. (Robyn Shapiro/House of Anansi)

Méira Cook is the author of the novel Once More With Feeling. Cook, who won the CBC Poetry Prize in 2006 and has published five poetry collections, is also the author of the novels The House on Sugarbush Road, which won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and Nightwatching, which won the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction.

The Once More With Feeling author takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight random questions from eight writers.

1. Sharon Butala asks, "Do you know how the heck we separate the writer-self from the writer's life, that is, the writing from the writer's person?"

Writing is such a painfully self-conscious act for me that the only way I can stare down that blank white page is to forget myself entirely. Of course, once the writing is done, that exiled self returns with a vengeance and a terrible case of amnesia. She can't remember what she's been doing or who her characters are or why her shoulders feel as if she's been breaking rocks.

2. Lorna Crozier asks, "A question I've never been asked, and fear being asked: What makes you dare to be a writer, to think you have something to say to me?"

Bravado. The 10-gallon bravado of a terrified rodeo clown.

3. Kate Hilton asks, "Is the writing life what you expected it to be?" 

I expected it to be a wild gallop into a wall-eyed future of uncertainty, financial instability and painful rejections, so I wasn't disappointed. Although I was pleasantly surprised by the lax dress code.

4. Claire Messud asks, "What is your favourite book from childhood, and why?"

I loved Little Women with all my heart and still do. Oh, those rosy-cheeked March sisters! Jo crunching apples in the attic and casually wiping her pen on her pinafore is what I imagined writing to be. And Beth waking up from a nap, covered in kittens and sisters is what I imagined family to be.

5. Frances Itani asks, "If you were to have a silent conversation with a now dead writer, which writer would you choose, and from which period? Or perhaps you already converse with dead writers?"

Dead poets are always yakking away at me. They don't let me get a word in, though. Gerard Manley Hopkins is particularly loquacious, always going on about windhovers and binsey poplars and brindled cows. I enjoy the company and the sense of being pierced by violent wonder.

6. Nazneen Sheikh asks, "Do you have set writing hours?"

I like to write in the morning while I'm still hopeful.

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

I worry, worry, worry. Sometimes I take my worry on a nice long walk and sometimes I just stay home and feed it Werther's hard candies. Eventually we get so sick of one another that I run upstairs to write just to get away from it.

8. Alison Pick asks, "How would you most like to be remembered?"

Memory is a doozy. I'd hate to be dead and still feel self-conscious. Nope, better just burn the books with the girl.