Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Post by Alissa York

Alissa York will be joining us at our event on October 26th.

For more information on the event can be found HERE.

Alissa has written a guest post for our blog:

Where am I? It’s a thought I’ve gotten used to over the past few months—one might even call it a pervasive state of mind. It’s always a little disorienting coming up for air after the extended deep-sea dive of writing a novel, but this time the experience has been even more bewildering than usual. Why? Because, for the first time ever, the world around me bears an uncanny resemblance to the world portrayed in the book. Fauna took me into uncharted waters: namely, the here and now.

My last novel, Effigy, is set in nineteenth-century Utah—territory I’d never dreamt of exploring until a certain child-bride taxidermist grabbed me by the imagination and wouldn’t let go. The novel before that, Mercy, takes place in the 1940s, in a made-up Manitoba town. Even the short stories in my first book, Any Given Power, tend to unfold in fictional or unnamed communities. How strange, then, to find myself working on a contemporary novel set in and around my own Toronto neighbourhood. It was a powerful process: it changed me, and it changed the way I see the city I’ve chosen to call home.

Regardless of where and when a book is set, there’s no denying the relief you feel when it’s finally done. No more tinkering with timelines and fleshing out scenes, no more agonizing over who will fall in love and who will die—at least not until the next time around. But there’s a sense of loss as well; you miss the immersive experience, the sense of purpose, the very characters themselves. There’s nothing for it but to let go. The “work-in-progress” has somehow become “the work.” It doesn’t need you anymore.

Which isn’t to say it stands alone. In one sense a finished book is a fait accompli, but in another, very real, sense it remains a mutable creation. Over the years, I’ve come to learn that there are as many incarnations of a novel as there are people who turn its pages. That’s why I love to do readings—they offer the chance to connect with readers in person, and to check in on a book’s continued evolution in the world. When you’re lucky, they also offer the opportunity to meet and read with writers whose work you admire (the names Birdsell and Lyon come to mind). See you soon, Words Worth Books and Waterloo readers—I’m looking forward to it!

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