Poet and author Cathy Sosnowsky joins us for this edition of Writer's Block, sharing the life-changing moment that drove her to put pen to paper, the silver lining to launching her new memoir
Finding Heartstone (Caitlin Press) amidst the pandemic, and her best advice on how to get your rear into writing gear.
All Lit Up: Is there one stand-out moment or experience you had that helped you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Cathy Sosnowsky: The morning after my teenage son died in a freak accident, I was woken up by some lines of poetry rattling through my head. I had to go to my desk (fortunately in my bedroom then) and write them down. After that, I never stopped writing. (Mainly poetry.)
ALU: Which writers have influenced you or had the most impact on your own writing?
CS: Writers who have influenced me: Mary Oliver, John Fox
ALU: What do you enjoy reading?
CS: I enjoy reading spiritual quests. Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in The World, for example.
ALU: What’s one book you always recommend?
CS: I recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to people in the writing workshops I give.
ALU: Who is your favourite fictional character?
CS: My favourite fictional character is Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
ALU: What was your most rewarding moment as a writer?
CS: At my online book launch (on October 15), I enjoyed reading the chat comments of the invisible audience. I didn’t want to have a virtual launch, but having it allowed me to talk to one hundred people at once. Some of them were friends I had not seen in years. And they all expressed an eagerness to read my book (Finding Heartstone, Caitlin Press).
ALU: Why do you write?
CS: I write for therapy. I love Alice in Wonderland’s question: “How do I know what I think till I see what I say?” One sees what one says when you put it in writing. Often, it is surprising and insightful. (I write in my journal daily.)
ALU: Your best writing advice?
CS: I once had a dream (way back before I published anything) that I had written a book in spaghetti. In the dream I told a student (I was a college instructor then) that I wanted readers to eat it up. I wish I could remember the name of the creative writing instructor who used the phrase “ass to chair.” I thought I should at least admit that it is borrowed. Sit down, and keep writing!
* * *
I live on the tenth floor of an apartment building, cut off from nature except for the plants on my balcony and my scruffy Cairn Terrier. My recent book, Finding Heartstone, was written in and about the handcrafted house my husband and brother-in-law built in the wilderness of East Thurlow Island. From my writing desk there, I see tall firs and cedars. If I stand up and look out the window, I see a small bit of beach with the tide coming in and out twice a day. Sometimes a heron is fishing there. My favourite dinner at Heartstone is freshly caught crab, boiled and dipped in garlic butter. Also, the fish and chips meal cooked there by my husband is probably the best in the world. You can find the recipe in Finding Heartstone.
My two earlier books are Holding On: Poems for Alex (Creative Connections Publishing, 2001) and Snapshots: A Story of Love, Loss and Life (Granville Island Publishing, 2010).
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