Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Writing advice from Griffin Poetry Prize winner Jordan Abel: 'Know people. Do stuff'

The 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize winner answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Jordan Abel is the author of Injun, a collection of poetry. (The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn)

Nisga'a writer Jordan Abel won the $60,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest prize for poetry in Canada, for his collection Injun. The book explores the history and impact of the representation of Indigenous people in pulp western novels published between 1840 and 1950.

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

1. George Murray asks, "Who was the person who convinced you you could?"

Melissa Jacques. I was at the University of Alberta doing my undergrad degree in English, and I took a creative nonfiction class she was teaching. At that point, I wasn't really sure what I was doing (in life and in writing) and I just happened to take it. Melissa really challenged me. That class really challenged. I don't know if I can pinpoint a specific moment, but by the time the class was over I really felt like I could be a writer if I stuck to it.

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

Yes and no. I used to spend a lot of time writing short stories. Looking back on those stories, I'm not too fond of them. I think that's partly because I spend most of my time now writing poetry (which I find more rewarding). And also partly because I wasn't a very good short story writer in the first place. But, that being said, I am a firm believer in writing through/past my mistakes. So even though I don't really love any of those short stories, I think they were probably necessary for some part of my development as a writer.

3. Nick Cutter asks, "Which Canadian writer do you think would make the best drinking buddy, and why?"

bpNichol. I don't know if I'd want to drink with him exactly. But I would have loved to hang out with him.

4. Ray Berard asks, "What would be the one piece of advice you'd give to a young writer?"

Know people. Do stuff.

5. Durga Chew-Bose asks, "Is there a book you constantly gift? Why?"


But if I had a bigger book budget I'd probably hand out free copies of Peace Pipe Dreams by Darrell Dennis to the people who ask problematic questions at readings/events.

6. Ausma Zehanat Khan asks, "What form of writing do you believe is most overrated and why?"

The villanelle. Because: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.

7. Vivek Shraya asks, "What are your favourite songs or albums to listen to when you write? What songs or albums inspired your last book?"

Dan Deacon's Bromst. Specifically "Wet Wings"?

8. Douglas Coupland asks, "Sometimes when I'm on deadline, I'll check into a hotel and not have my cell phone or anything and do what has to be done. That's my way of finding seclusion and writing a book. What's yours?"

Close the door?