Canucks

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craig
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Canucks

Post by craig » July 19th, 2010, 10:06 pm

So... any other Canucks in here? Where y'all from? I'm in The Peg. (Winnipeg.)

Difficult question (for Canadians): do you find your identity as a Canadian influences your writing in any particular way?
Difficult question (for everyone): do you feel that any certain aspect of your identity influences your writing in any particular way?

marccolbourne
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Re: Canucks

Post by marccolbourne » July 20th, 2010, 12:29 pm

Hello there,

Good to see another Canadian here. I am currently living in Edmonton but am originally from Newfoundland. I also spent about 6 years living 'overseas' before moving to Edmonton four years ago (almost four years in Cuba and the rest of the time divided between Bolivia, Guatemala and Costa Rica).

It is definitely an difficult - and interesting - question that you pose. I guess the answer for me would be yes. I do believe that being Canadian influences what I write as does my time living outside the country. I find that I read primarily Canadian Literature. At first this was a conscious decision as I made a commitment to reading all the shortlisted book for the Giller Prize. But since then I have pretty much stayed with it. I love Canadian literature and so that, in and of itself, has to influence my writing. Also, much of my work is related to the experiences of immigrants or ethnocultural communities or about how 'Canadians' experience life in other countries/cultures.

I am really interested in hearing how other Canadians respond to this question. Thanks for raising it.

Marc

Aimée
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Re: Canucks

Post by Aimée » July 20th, 2010, 1:25 pm

I'm about 100 miles or less from Canada. I'm in Michigan.
It's not where I live that influences my writing, except that maybe the crime rate is extremely low where I live, so I don't experience much of that kind of stuff. It's more of my interests and opinions and life experiences, my beliefs that influence what I write, but I'm sure that's the same for everyone.

Margo
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Re: Canucks

Post by Margo » July 20th, 2010, 2:08 pm

Gesundheit.

Sorry, bad joke, especially coming from a Californian, which sounds like something you'd slap someone for doing to you.
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Canucks

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » July 20th, 2010, 3:41 pm

Hey, I'm living just outside the ever glorious metropolis of The City of Windsor, Ontario. And I can probably chuck rocks at Aimee over in Michigan. Darn those Michiganders. Not as bad as those shifty-eyed Ohioans, though.

:)

Does being Canadian affect my writing? Probably. How? Not so sure. I admit, I'm not a big fan of a lot of the classic Canadian writers. Margaret Laurence? Twice burned. Robertson Davies? No thank you. See, I'm still polite, though. Good ol' Canada. But I'm sure Canada has a lot of influence on me - sort of stuck between the U.S. and Britain, with a few unique elements thrown in (say, an obsession with timbits...). A different sort of approach to the world at large? To multiculturalism? Plus, on account of the ever glorious City of Windsor, my writing might be a little more grim. I mean, imagine a nice field of sunflowers in France... ah. And then picture Windsor. Have you seen Windsor? They call it the Rose City, but City of Old Grey Concrete would probably be more accurate. Oooh, look, they put in some white concrete over there! Talk about snazzy. Tres upscale.

I also must admit that I like American football better than Canadian. Sorry, three downs just ain't enough. All that damn punting.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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dios4vida
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Re: Canucks

Post by dios4vida » July 20th, 2010, 3:59 pm

I can't even begin to fathom living in a place as cold as Canada. And from way way way down here in AZ (I'm about 50 miles from the US/Mexico border), y'all do seem like another world up there. I'd love to visit but I think my blood would freeze in my veins.

I would definitely say that where I'm from influences my writing, but mostly in small ways. For example, I have a hard time describing cold. I can have characters trek through endless deserts, feeling their skin roasting under the insufferable sun, dying for water through parched lips and burning throats, seeing mirages and longing for an oasis without a problem...but put them in snow and I'm lost. I have no idea how to describe seeing nothing but snow and freezing. It all turns out to be a big desert in the end. With coats.
Brenda :)

Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson

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Re: Canucks

Post by Claudie » July 20th, 2010, 4:39 pm

Canadian here, from Quebec City. And yes, this does influence my writing.

The first (rather obvious) way is that English isn't my first language. This limits my vocabulary more than I care to admit, and whenever I'm reading an english book, I carry pen and paper to note down unknown words. I still have ways to go but I've learned a lot in the past years, and hopefully one day it won't make a bit of difference.

The second way is in themes: cultural clashes, the importance of history, characters trying to define their identity, etc. I'm not trying to push a message into my stories, and the worlds are nothing like the Quebec-Canada dynamic (I write fantasy, for the record), but these things sneak into my novels all the time. They are important to me, and it shows in my characters' struggles.

Also, marccolbourne: I have problems with deserts. It's hard to imagine a place so hot! ;P
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: Canucks

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » July 20th, 2010, 10:29 pm

dios4vida wrote:I can't even begin to fathom living in a place as cold as Canada.
Cold? I wish. This Canuck is broiling in 90 degree heat with high humidity. Humidity in the 90% range. Who knew it even went that high? That's wetter than the Pacific. Every day a little more of my brain melts out my ears. Of course, talk to me in January and it might not sound so bad.
The Alchemy of Writing at www.alchemyofwriting.blogspot.com

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Ishta
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Re: Canucks

Post by Ishta » July 20th, 2010, 11:10 pm

I'm American, but I've been living in the GTA for almost 5 years now, after living in the UK for 7 years. (I used to be one of those shifty-eyed Ohioans.) I think my life experiences do influence my writing, in the sense that I tend to have a "can-do" attitude so my manuscripts tend to end on that kind of a note. I'm not sure if that's about me being American or my having immigrated and moved across the Atlantic twice, though.

And I wish it were cold here, too. I don't mind heat when it's dry, but humid heat is the worst. I feel like I should just carry a towel around with me.

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Mark
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Re: Canucks

Post by Mark » July 21st, 2010, 2:21 pm

I've been in Vancouver for the last 7 years and am originally from Hamilton, Ontario.

I personally don't feel that being a Canadian really shapes my identity as a writer. It seems like the vast majority of Canadian authors deal explicitly in Canadian content when first starting out, and I've always felt that this was somewhat of an irritating constraint on Canadian writers. I know it's partly my imagination, but I find the Canadian publishing industry to be fairly narrow. Can you imagine trying to sell a vampire series to a Canadian publisher? What about a political/CIA thriller? I'm not saying I want to write in those genres, but the subtle attitude of "we're better than all that" sometimes gets to me.

Like I said, this is just one person's perspective, but when I think through a story idea I always have that little thought trailer of okay, now how do I make this distinctly Canadian?

craig
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Re: Canucks

Post by craig » July 22nd, 2010, 8:50 pm

dios4vida wrote:I'd love to visit but I think my blood would freeze in my veins.
I get the best (or worst?) of both worlds here in Winnipeg. We measure our temperature in two scales -- real temperature and "feels like" temperature. In winter, the feels like temp calculates in the windchill factor. In the summer, it factors in the humidity.

Winter regularly sees about -35 C, but with the windchill, it feels like -50 C.
Summer regularly sees about 33 C, but with the humidity, it feels like 39 C.

(One July day a few years ago, it was 36 C with high humidity, making it feel like 46 C.)

craig
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Re: Canucks

Post by craig » July 22nd, 2010, 8:52 pm

Claudie wrote:Canadian here, from Quebec City. And yes, this does influence my writing.
The second way is in themes: cultural clashes, the importance of history, characters trying to define their identity, etc. I'm not trying to push a message into my stories, and the worlds are nothing like the Quebec-Canada dynamic (I write fantasy, for the record), but these things sneak into my novels all the time. They are important to me, and it shows in my characters' struggles.
I found this to be a very interesting thought. I'm way out in the prairies, so we don't have the same types of identity issues that you might have in Quebec, but I do find that a lot of my writing revolves around identity in some way. Are we, as a country, struggling to define our own identity? And then within the country, are we struggling to differentiate ourselves from other provinces/regions?

If we are, then I could see how these very basic struggles could arise in our collective writings, whether it be intentional or not.

craig
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Re: Canucks

Post by craig » July 22nd, 2010, 8:59 pm

Mark wrote: I personally don't feel that being a Canadian really shapes my identity as a writer. It seems like the vast majority of Canadian authors deal explicitly in Canadian content when first starting out, and I've always felt that this was somewhat of an irritating constraint on Canadian writers. I know it's partly my imagination, but I find the Canadian publishing industry to be fairly narrow. Can you imagine trying to sell a vampire series to a Canadian publisher? What about a political/CIA thriller? I'm not saying I want to write in those genres, but the subtle attitude of "we're better than all that" sometimes gets to me.
***Wide sweeping generalizations contained within this post -- feel free to disagree with me!***

I very much agree with you here -- the Canadian "culture industry" is generally defined in such a way that anybody looking at a cultural product could instantly identify it as Canadian based on the proliferation of beavers and maple leaves. (Well... not quite, but I think you know what I mean...)

I wonder, though, for Canadians who sell their product to publishing houses outside of Canada, how being Canadian shapes their writing. I find that a lot of the Canadian SF that I read, which really isn't a lot, is very dark in tone. The good guys don't always win, and when they do, it tends to be a costly victory. It tends to be more character-driven and idea-driven, whereas American SF, I find, tends to be more plot-driven and action-driven. (This could be just how my reading has happened to occur and not really be a wider trend... I dunno...)

In my consumption of sci-fi, whether it be books, movies, or TV, I've found that Canadian products tend to be defined in general by that darker tone, whether they are distinctly Canadian in other ways or not.

I write very dark SF and I sometimes wonder if that's my Canuck-ism showing...

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Re: Canucks

Post by Claudie » July 23rd, 2010, 12:56 am

craig wrote:I found this to be a very interesting thought. I'm way out in the prairies, so we don't have the same types of identity issues that you might have in Quebec, but I do find that a lot of my writing revolves around identity in some way. Are we, as a country, struggling to define our own identity? And then within the country, are we struggling to differentiate ourselves from other provinces/regions?

If we are, then I could see how these very basic struggles could arise in our collective writings, whether it be intentional or not.
I'd be surprised to learn the other provinces weren't trying to define their identity, or to make it known. I know Newfoundland does, and it doesn't take a lot of traveling to notice we vary widely from one side of the ocean to the other. This is true in the States, of course, but I wonder if the conflict over Quebec's independance hasn't brought this to light here, and made it an issue we more often think of. Whether we like it or not, the French-English issues are such a big part of our history, they are bound to influence our imagination.

As for whether or not canadian writers tend to have a darker mood, I can't really help. I've only recently stopped assuming the 'english' authors I put my hands on were american (yeah, stupid assumption, I'm aware) and gone the extra step of researching whether they were british, canadian, american, or from another country. It's silly, I know, but they rarely advertise these things here. You are either from Quebec, or you're not. (This is the downside of our efforts to preserve French. It seems to apply mostly to litterature, but you really do have to go the extra step if you want to get the information.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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rmorris
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Re: Canucks

Post by rmorris » July 23rd, 2010, 2:45 pm

Another Vancouver writer here! Like Mark, I also feel the Canadian market can be a bit narrow. It seems as though we need to include some sort of "Canadian content" just to have a publisher/agent look at it. I made the main character in my first novel French Canadian, just so that I could have "Canadian content." The story takes place in Boston but in order for anyone Canadian to show interest in my work I felt I had to make her cultural identity more north-of-the-border. It's a darker story too, so maybe that's my Canadianism coming out.
I think that living in Canada is also helpful in that more material is readily available. Maybe some local, Canadian talent doesn't make it big in the States. Authors like Will Ferguson and Timothy Taylor come to mind. I'm also a BIG fan of Douglas Coupland. I know he's popular in the States but being a local boy puts him in the spotlight a bit more for me.

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