Sunday, January 3, 2021

Guest Post: Karen McBride (writer/illustrator)

 Of all the books I reviewed in 2020, Crow Winter by Karen McBride earned the most page views. And so I invited Karen McBride to be a guest on my blog. I loved reading Crow Winter and I look forward to learning more about Karen McBride...

Karen McBride

How/why did you start to write?

I've always been drawn to writing. When I was a kid, my friends and I would create very elaborate pretend worlds with vivid and dramatic storylines that pretty much consumed our lives to the point where we'd get in trouble in class for continuing games started at recess. As I got older, playing "pretend" wasn't really an option anymore so I drifted into writing fan-fiction and then on to my own fiction from there. Creating worlds, characters, lives, and lore has always been a huge passion of mine -- one that I hope to continue. 

-How did you become an author?

Honestly, I still feel strange calling myself an author. It still doesn't quite feel real. But I suppose my journey to getting published began when I took a writing workshop during my undergrad. I got the chance to work with Andre Alexis and he saw something in me that I didn't even think was possible. I still remember how excited I was the first time he told me my writing was good enough to be published; I screamed in the elevator after leaving his office! 

From there I found my way to the Masters of English in the Field of Creative Writing program at the University of Toronto and was matched with the uncomparable Susan Swan as my mentor, who also believed strongly in my work. Then I suppose I sort of just fell into it. Not without any shortage of hard work though! 
-What did you do before writing full-time? Did it help your writing, how?

I'm trained as an intermediate/junior teacher, so I've worked teaching grades 5, 7, and 8. I think being a teacher really helped me to understand how people -- not just kids! -- learn and experience their world. This knowledge has allowed me to better hone my characters and shape their motivations. 

-What inspires you to write?

I write for Indigenous Peoples. I write stories that show our joy as well as our hardships. There's no shortage of stories that delve into the tragedies of our collective past, so I want to write books that play with our present and our future. I want to create characters that kids from the Rez can see themselves in and can be proud of. So I guess, in a way, I write for that little kid who played wild games of pretend at recess, in her backyard, and beyond. 

-Reflect on your writing process

I feel like my writing process is very haphazard nowadays. I write whenever I can find time, but I tend to write on weekends for the most part and even then not consistently. However, when I do carve out time for writing, I'll clear off my desk, light a candle, find some music that fits the tone of the piece I'm working on and dive in.

-I was very impressed with your novel Crow Winter--especially with the many-layered plot and beautiful imaginary. Please share tips that may help me develop these aspects in my own writing...

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the novel. I love the natural world and representing it in my work, so a lot of my writing will be steeped in earth imagery and teachings. I suppose my tip for achieving this sort of thing would be to be present in the world that's around you. Notice big things like the way the wind sounds in the trees in your backyard or in the park near your house. Notice little things like the taste of fresh honey in a cup of tea.  

-What are you currently working on?

A few things. Some nonfiction, some new art, and a new novel. Lots of magic, some mystery, and, of course, Indigenous truths. Stay tuned!

-Please share advice for new authors

Read, listen to, and watch as much as you can. I find creativity is sparked in me when I see the brilliant creativity of others.