Tour de Blog

by Shaun Hunter

Thanks to Samantha Warwick for handing me the “Tour de Blog” baton.  This literary relay proposes four questions to Canadian writers about their writing. Links to other in the relay appear at the bottom of this post. I pass the baton to Calgary-based writer and blogger, Rea Tarvydas.

1. What am I working on?

After writing a literary memoir, I am back to essays. This summer, I’ve been thinking about my complicated relationship with Calgary – the city where I grew up and have lived most of my life. A quotation from Kris Demeanour, our first poet laureate, sits on my desk for inspiration: “Calgary is a place of infuriating possibility.”

Photo: Calgary Public Library

Photo: Calgary Public Library

This new essay has been a crash course in Calgary’s first boom – that gilded age before World War I. I’ve been reading history, scouring old photographs and haunting Thirteenth Avenue West, the city’s first Millionaires’ Row. My essay started out as a short profile assigned in Susan Orlean’s online writing course and has turned into something else entirely. Such is the way with essays.

Across the room, over at the Career Desk, I’m working through Andrew Simonet’s excellent Making Your Life As An Artist: A Guide to Building a Balanced, Sustainable Artistic Life. This involves setting goals and other important tasks that often seem more difficult than writing.

 2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My essays start in the particular ground of my own life. I’m interested in making connections – between the present and the past, the self and the world – as a way to discover and understand.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’m a cautious, private person but midlife has made me more bold – at least, on the page. After many years writing for other people, I’ve become preoccupied with the personal. Writing literary nonfiction is a way for me to untangle my own life in well-crafted prose that resonates with other people. The essay is a wonderful, malleable, capacious form – the perfect place to ask questions and see where they lead.

 4. How does my writing process work?

Shitty first drafts, reams of them. Fresh air and walking. Reading. Getting feedback from trusted first readers. Living a life that has nothing to do with writing but may, one day, end up on the page.

Being inside an essay-in-progress is the best part: the tug of new questions, the stumbled upon, breath-snatching surprises, the art and craft of making fine sentences and telling good stories.

Check out these other writers in the relay:

Samantha Warwick Cassie Stocks Ali Bryan Leanne Shirtliffe Bradley Somer Janie Chang Theodora Armstrong Kathy Page Lorna Suzuki Barbara Lambert Matilda Magtree Alice Zorn  Anita Lahey  Pearl Pirie  Julie Paul  Sarah Mian Steve McOrmond Susan Gillis  Jason Herou