By Cynthia Lee
Steven Heighton is a celebrated Canadian novelist, short story writer and poet. And starting in January 2013, he’ll be the Mordecai Richler Writer-in Residence right here at McGill.
The author of the collection of short stories, The Dead Are More Visible (2012), Workbook: memos & dispatches on writing, the novel Every Lost Country, the poetry collection Patient Frame and the novel Afterlands, which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice in 2005, will be giving a reading at the Department of English Year-Opening party on Thursday, Sept. 13 at Moyse Hall. The event gets underway at 5 p.m. A reception will follow in the foyer of the Arts Building.
You are starting this term as the Mordecai Richler Writer-in-Residence in January. What will you be doing in this role?
I’ll be teaching a weekly poetry-writing seminar and also, during my office hours, meeting with students to talk about their writing – short stories, poetry, memoirs, whatever. The two roles are closely related, of course; the main thing they have in common is that I’m trying to help writers develop their craft.
You are a successful writer in Canada. What is your secret to your success?
By choosing to write full-time, I created a situation where I had no option but to succeed. All published writers have some talent, but to make a real go of it you need to have a strong work ethic as well. In fact, the work ethic is more important. By choosing writing as a profession I gave myself no choice: work hard or disappear.
I should mention another factor that has allowed me to survive as a writer: low material aspirations.
Tell us about your latest published works.
My most recent book came out this past spring: a short story collection called The Dead Are More Visible. In 2011, ECW published a small volume of my memos, rants and fragmentary essays called Workbook–essentially an inspirational book for writers and other artists. And in 2010, Knopf published a novel set in Tibet, Every Lost Country–a sort of literary page-turner, or at least that’s what I meant it to be.
What are some of the things that inspire you and your writing?
Over time, writers not only develop their craft, but also expand the scope of their sympathies. In other words, they learn to be curious about everything and to find everything of interest. Once a writer gets to that point, there’s nothing that’s not inspirational, nothing that isn’t potential material.
Learn more about Steven Heighton at his website: www.stevenheighton.com.