Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Why 1980s soap operas are Elizabeth Renzetti's favourite way to procrastinate

The author of Shrewed takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight fellow writers.
Elizabeth Renzetti is a bestselling author and journalist. (Jessica Blaine Smith)

Shrewed is a collection of essays from bestselling author and acclaimed journalist Elizabeth Renzetti. The book deals with the current state of the world as it relates to feminism, as well as the social, economical and political issues of women and girls.   

Below, Renzetti takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A and answers eight questions from eight fellow writers. 

1. Eden Robinson asks, "How long is your mull time before you write?"

"Mull" is a kind word. It's more, "How much time do I waste watching clips from 1980s soap operas before I begin to write?" The answer is a lot, and I spend most of that time procrastineating.

2. James Maskalyk asks, "What does your ideal writing day look like? Location, timing, number of hours?"

I'm a journalist, so I write for a living. I'm pretty much writing all the time (when not watching 1980s soap operas, see above.) When I work on my own projects, fiction or nonfiction, I do it in the mornings and on weekends. I sit at my desk on the top floor of the house, with one or more black cats at my feet.

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

The doubt tends to appear at the beginning, as an impediment, disappears during the actual writing, and raises its ugly head again once I've read what I've written. Wash, rinse, repeat.

4. Scaachi Koul asks, "Is there any piece of writing you wrote in your past that you now regret?"

I once wrote a positive review of the Sabrina remake starring Harrison Ford and it now seems ill-considered.

5. Sigal Samuel asks, "Do you feel like being a writer absolves you from worldly responsibilities like attending political protests? Do you believe that when you're writing, that is you doing your political work, so you don't have to do the out-on-the-street kind? Or do you do both?"

I'm an opinion columnist, so most of my writing is political. It's the main way I express my activism in the world, though I also do that work in smaller, more personal ways.

6. 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 a woman who writes about feminism, I get a lot of angry email that would be unprintable on the CBC's gentle website. But I also get wonderful feedback from readers who say they've been touched by something I wrote, or that I've said something they couldn't, and that is immensely gratifying.

7. Matti Friedman asks, "What's the best thing that could possibly happen to a book you write?"

Keith Richards finds a copy on the subway, reads it and sends me a note saying that we're soulmates.

8. Anna Porter asks, "What would you love to do instead of writing if you couldn't write anymore?"

If I couldn't write and I didn't have to work, I'd spend my days at the racetrack or the courthouse, watching interesting trials. But both those things would spur a desire to write, so I'd probably sit down at my computer again.


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