We were delighted beyond words when two of Greg Brown’s stories in Pulp Literature made it into the Writers’ Trust 2018 Journey Prize Longlist: ‘Bear’ (Pulp Literature Issue 14) and ‘Love’ (Pulp Literature Issue 16). Today we learned that ‘Love’ has climbed higher, and is a finalist along with ‘Mute’ by Shashi Bhat and Liz Harmer’s ‘Never Prosper’.
You can read more about the prize and Greg’s story on the Writers’ Trust of Canada site.
The first place winner will be announced in Toronto on November 7th. In the meantime, we picked Greg’s brain a bit and will share with you his thoughts on writing, reading, and the intersectionality of it all. Enjoy!
Interview: Greg Brown
So, here’s that annoying question people always ask: when did you first feel the urge to be a writer? And what did you do about it?
The first time I realized that I wanted to be a writer writer waswhen I was sixteen and I read John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp. Until then I’d been making comic books. Garp was the first grownup book I read, the first book I read that dealt with grown-up things. I think I wanted to be part of that adult seriousness. I’m more fun now.
I don’t know how to answer the second question, though I think it’s an interesting one. All I can say is that I tried to write, but didn’t figure out much of anything until I started sharing my work with other writers, which happened at some workshops in my twenties and then in grad school more than ten years after that original impulse.
You’ve earned several degrees in literature and creative writing. Can you tell us where you studied and how the programs were of value?
I studied English Literature as an undergrad at the University of British Columbia and then as a grad student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I also completed an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. The MFA was a gift. I was paid–paid!–for two years to study writing and to write. Every day I got to hang out with some of the most talented writers I’ve ever met and talk shop. It’s hard even to imagine that such a thing is possible.
Tell me about your current day jobs? And how do you fit in time to write?
During the year I teach in Vancouver at the Creative Writing for Children Society and during the summers I teach at the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshop. I also help run the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival and work for an education and publishing consultancy in New Westminster. Saying this aloud makes it sound like a lot. And it is. But I’m still able to find several hours in the morning to write. If it’s important, it gets done. Not to sound too hard-assed about it. What I’m really trying to say is, I need to write so I have to find time for it. So I do.
What do you like to read? Any recommendations?
How much time do we have? Here are some of my favorite books from the last twelve months: Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson, Everything, Then and Since by Michael Parker, Genevieves by Henry Hoke, The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis, Oh, My Darling by Shaena Lambert, Galore by Michael Crummey, and Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson. I’m also in the middle of reading a great memoir by Sarah McColl. It’s called Joy Enough. It’s beautiful. Out early next year. Check it out!
When did you write “Bear”?
If you can believe it, I wrote the first draft of “Bear” about seven years ago. It started out as a flash piece and then became a longer story and then became a flash piece again. The idea came out of an anecdote a biologist told me about a group of research scientists trying to scare deer by putting on bear skins and hiding in the forest. For science.
When did you write “Love”?
I wrote the first draft of “Love” a couple of years ago. It’s more or less the size and shape of that original draft, although it took me some time to settle on the characters’ names. Even rereading it now I feel a strong desire to change the characters’ names.
Any words of comfort, encouragement, or warning to impart to other writers?
I tell my students that their only responsibility is to follow their own curiosity. Don’t worry so much about the rules and traditions and the expectations of the market. Art-making isn’t about correctness or salability. Every great story violates some deeply held “wisdom.” Better just to follow your own curiosity and see what weird territory it uncovers.
What’s your favourite part about living on the West Coast of Canada?
Canned answer: The ocean, the trees, the mountains, the wildlife.
Truth: The people, who are endlessly interesting and decent.