Writer's Block: Bridget Canning
Bridget Canning, author of The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes and the more recently published Some People's Children (Breakwater Books), chats with us about bike riding to discover new perspectives, getting out of the house on a perfect writing day, finding out what a character carries around in their pockets and more!See more details below
All Lit Up: Which writers have influenced you or had the most impact on your own writing?
Bridget Canning: Writers who have influenced me: There are many – if I had to try and narrow it down, I’d say Katherine Patterson – Bridge to Terabithia was one of the first novels I read as a child – I think I was in grade 4 or 5. I remember sitting in bed and crying while I read it and my sister came in and it took a while before she realized I was just really into the book. She still refuses to read it. Wayne Johnston – two of my favourite books are The Divine Ryans and The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. So good at blending comedy and tragedy. Lisa Moore – I devour everything she writes. She does things with imagery and voice that are immediately evocative - I remember getting a copy of Open and reading a line in the first story about a lanky guy whose arms were like poles on pup tent and it sent me somewhere, like oh, I’ve never seen that comparison before and I know that guy. She is also an amazing mentor and supporter of the arts.
ALU: What do you enjoy reading?
BC: Genre wise, I would say I enjoy contemporary fiction and magic realism the most. I also love to read short stories and flash fiction.
ALU: What’s one book you always recommend?
BC: I will always recommend Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl. It’s a mystery, it’s a family drama, it’s a coming of age story, it’s saturated with film knowledge, it’s just so thorough and rich.
ALU: Do you have any rituals that you abide by when you’re writing?
BC: Mornings are the most productive. I take a lot of walks – I actually just bought a bike and I love how it changes the perspective of how you see and experience your surroundings. Both walking and biking are ways to clear my head and contemplate. I also take notes all the time on my phone – if I hear a snippet of conversation or think of a good description, I’ll jot in into the Evernote app on my phone. When it comes to writing, I work on the piece until I can’t see it anymore – then it’s time to put it down or let someone else read it for feedback. For creating characters, I like to separate the character from the piece and just focus on who that person is – I consider things like what that person would carry in their pockets or what’s on their Netflix list. Knowing who the character is means they sometimes do things on their own accord.
Bridget's best writing advice
ALU: What are you working on now?
BC: Right now I’m working on the second draft to the “Wanda Woman” script. It’s the film adaptation of my first novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes (Breakwater Books).
ALU: Describe your perfect writing day.
BC: Perfect writing day: It’s hard to say. Ideally, I’m out of my house – actually, I’m far from my house. Maybe I’m staying at a cabin where I can hike and cook and putter and have no distractions. There’s a big table or space where I can lay out paper and draw out certain story elements if I need to. I have time and space to focus or walk away when I need to. On the other hand, a perfect writing day doesn’t necessarily have to be one where I write the whole time – sometimes the best day is when I’m busy and only have a couple of hours and manage to get good focused work done in that time.
Bridget's cozy workspace setup
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Bridget Canning’s debut novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, was selected as a finalist for several awards and she just sold the film rights. She lives in downtown St. John’s, NL, but grew up on a sheep farm in Highlands, NL. When she’s not writing, she teaches writing at the College of the North Atlantic – she’s been teaching one thing or another in different places since 2003. She has a very fluffy orange and white cat named Murphy; he’s five years old and very opinionated. She lived in Taiwan for five years and would love to return. Her second novel, Some People's Children, has just been published with Breakwater Books.
Novels: The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes and Some People’s Children, both with Breakwater books.
Nonfiction piece in the Best Kind anthology (Breakwater Books)
Flash fiction series: “Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Maintain its Romance” with The Independent.
“Writing Wanda Jaynes” published with The Newfoundland Quarterly
“ Gutless” published with The Word Hoard, November 2016.
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A special thank you to Breakwater Books and Bridget Canning for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at her reading and writing rituals.
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