Writer's Block: Luanne Armstrong

February 16, 2022

In this week's edition of Writer's Block, we are joined by Luanne Armstrong, author of  Going to Ground (Caitlin Press). Her recently released collection of essays is about aging, chronic pain and the healing power of nature. She shares with us how learning to read made her realize she wanted to become an author, the surprising thing about being a writer, and what she is currently working on. 

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Is there one stand-out moment or experience you had that helped you realize you wanted to become a writer?

Yes, learning to read. I sounded out, word by word, to my mother, using the phonics system taught to me by my beloved teacher, Mrs. Hare, at the one room school I attended for seven years.


Which writers have influenced you or had the most impact on your own writing? What do you enjoy reading?

I have been reading pretty constantly, several books a week, since I learned to read so its hard to pick one influence. I read every animal book I could find as a kid. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawling, had an impact, because it reflected much of our lives on our farm. In high school, I discovered poetry. In university, I was influenced by Faulkner and Dostoyevsky and many others, Margaret Laurence, The Diviners had a big impact.


Do you have a book that you’ve gone back and read several times?

I rarely reread books.There’s too many more books waiting.


What’s one book you always recommend?

That depends entirely on the person I’m talking to. I usually have some suggestions. I mentor a lot of writers so I am always finding books for them.


Do you have any rituals that you abide by when you’re writing? 

Yes, I sit down at nine and go to work.


What’s the toughest part about being a writer?

The toughest part of being a writer is being poor so that I have always had to work in addition to writing. At many points in my life, I have been a mother, a teacher, a farmer, and a writer. In addition, because I write from the BC interior, about the BC interior, it’s hard to be noticed. The BC writing and literary media community is almost totally Vancouver-centric.


What’s the most surprising thing about being a writer?

It’s a lot of work, with lots of niggly bits to get it right.


What are you working on now?

A book about writing, teaching, editing and mentoring, since I been teaching writing for thirty years. Also finished a new YA novel and a book about Kootenay Lake stories for my grandkids.



*This interview has been edited and condensed.


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Picture of the Author

Luanne Armstrong holds a Ph.D in Education and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She has written twenty-five books, and has co-written or edited many other books through to publication. She has published novels, children’s books, memoir and books of essays, as well as poetry. Her most recent book is a collection of poetry and photography titled When We Are Broken: The Lake Elegy (Maa Press). Her most recent memoir was A Bright and Steady Flame (Caitlin Press, 2018), and her new book of essays, Going to Ground: A Journey through Chronic Pain, Aging and the Restorative Powers of Nature, is forthcoming from Caitlin Press in 2022. She has won or been nominated for many awards, including the Chocolate Lily Award, the BC Hubert Evans Award, the Moonbeam Award, the Red Cedar Award, Surrey Schools Book of the Year Award, the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Award, and the Silver Birch Award. Armstrong lives on Ktunaxa ?amak’is, “The People’s Land.”


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