ASK A SHORTLISTER: Writing practice

We asked the poets shortlisted for our 2019 Book Awards some questions about their writing lives, inspirations and -of course – poetry. Join us for our weekly series Ask a Shortlister until the winners are announced on June 8, 2019.


Do you feel that you’ve found a writing practice that works for you? If yes, can you tell us about it? If no, describe the challenges that you face that prevent you from feeling this way.

Tanis Franco: I have a 9-5 job so I try to write for an hour or two in the evening. I also like to devote one weekend day to writing if I can. Then sometimes there are times when you need a week off. 

Jenny Haysom: I truly enjoy writing, but these days, Im feeling thwarted. My hands and wrists hurt if I spend too much time on my laptop. Also, life gets in the way. When I have the freedom to do as I please, and Im feeling well, I should stick to the following routine:  

  1. Dont surf the internet or click on things… clicking hurts. 
  2. Write, on the laptop, first thing in the morning––for a couple hours only. 
  3. Go for a walk and think. 
  4. Fix problems (solved during the walk) as quickly as possible.  
  5. In the afternoons and evenings, write by hand in a notebook––or even better, read. 
  6. Read before bed. No screens. 

Jim Nason: I write every morning.  Morning is my favourite time of day and I’m usually up by 6:00. I love writing before I get busy with the normal tasks of the day. I’ve just finished a new book of poetry and I’m working on a new novel set in Montreal.  I have always had a need to have my next project in mind before wrapping up the book I am working on.   

Kim Trainor: I don’t think I have a practice and I’m happy with that. The only constant is that I like to write by hand in a small notebook. I have a stash of great notebooks I bought in a Dollarama in Penticton the summer before last, with moss green covers, stitched. There are long stretches where I don’t write at all.  

Jennifer Zilm: I do well in the morning for getting out ideas. I write in contained spaces—particularly public transit. Betsy Warland taught me to examine where and how I write and that’s how I learned that if I’m ever in a funk I need to get on a bus (or the skytrain) with a notebook and some music. I like to have dedicated notebooks– one for my own writing and pieces of ephemera I find– and one that is strictly reader’s response to poetry. Lately though I find there’s a lot of bleed and I have just one notebook. I go through phases and like to pay attention to the pages I’m writing on. Right now I’m really happy writing in dollar store sketch books. I also do well if I have a task master (a writing group, a pushy writer friend) who forces me to pull stuff the notebooks and put it into word doc and send it into the world. It’s hard to find task masters as people generally want to be kind. I’m always on the lookouts for people to bully me out of my notebooks.  


Hear more from our 2019 Shortlisters here.



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