Earlier this month I posted a review of Lisa McGonigle’s Snowdrift. (see her profile on Book Club Buddy here.) It’s a collection of emails she sent back to Ireland while living in the BC Kootenays. Lisa and I sat down together at Weeds Café in Calgary while she was in town on her book tour.
What follows is part of that interview.
FFF: The 2009 Fernie Writers’ Conference was a life-changing experience for you. How did it come about that you decided to attend?
LM: I had just finished up a season in Rossland. In the springtime, I didn’t have any firm plans as to what I was going to do. I went back over to Fernie. I just did a load of writing on these emails, and I saw a poster up for the Fernie Writers’ Conference…I thought maybe this is a writing project. I sent off the email I ended up reading at the conference and went to work in Calgary. A few weeks later I found out I was awarded a scholarship to the conference.
FFF: What were your expectations of the Fernie Writers’ Conference?
LM: I had no idea what it was going to be like. I was afraid it was going to be all emotional and inner-child psychological writing kind of stuff, but I got down to Fernie and the first morning, I met Sid Marty , the most down-to-earth, straight-spoken person you could ever come across. It was brilliant, such a good experience.
FFF: To me, Sid is the kind of person that would sit back for fifteen minutes and just listen, then come up with the perfect thing to say.
LM: That’s exactly what he was like. It was such a diverse group of writers writing on our own individual projects, and Sid was really good at bringing discussion back and honing in on the details.
FFF: What was the format of the workshop?
LM: Everyone got their individual attention each day. Some worked on different pieces each day. One girl had a piece she was working on and she’d come back each day having edited and revised it. It was good to see how those pieces progressed.
FFF: To see how Sid Marty’s comments and input forwarded the work.
FFF: What is one piece of advice you remember him giving you that’s stuck with you?
LM: For me, I think it was just the validation. I’d been writing all this stuff purely for friends absolutely not with an eye for publication. When someone like Sid says “yeah, there is something there,” it’s validating.
FFF: Tell me about the public reading at the Fernie Arts Station that got you a publishing deal with Oolichan.
LM: Sid told me I should read something, so I read the email about my friends Chris and Ally in Rossland. Then the next day I had my meeting with Susan M. Toy [the FWC provides formal and informal opportunities to meet with those who work within the publishing industry] who was a sales rep at the time. We went over to Mugshots and met with Ron Smith [owner of Oolichan at the time, and audience member for the readings]. Ron said, “Send me the manuscript to date.” I went back to Calgary and spent ten days polishing it and sent it off to him and got an email a few months later saying they were going to publish it. It was seamless. I feel very lucky.
FFF: Do you know what you’re going to write next?
LM: I’d like to write a book about Quebec.I loved Quebec when I was there. But my next book should really be my Ph.d thesis (laughs).
FFF: Thank you, Lisa.