Just the Best: The Contributors to Best Kind Interview Each Other

Today, we’ll introduce you to Best Kind (Breakwater Books): a book of twelve outstanding essays from Newfoundland writers and a term meaning “excellent” – just a bit of reading into this collection and the title will make sense, fast. Rather than ask the contributors questions, they’ve asked them of each other – we just get to sit back and enjoy the best kind (are we using it right?).The cover might give Newfoundlanders a bit of déjà vu: it’s a nod to the packaging of the former Newfoundland Margarine Company.


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Michelle Porter: What’s the point of creative non-fiction for you – the truth, or the story? Which is truer: the facts you use or the story you create?Bridget Canning: This question’s hard to answer “briefly,” but I’ll try my best…At first glance, the answer seems to be facts – but can “facts” exist without context, either with how they are conveyed to us and how we interpret them? “Truth” gets discussed like it’s a static, solitary entity independent of influence, but we rewrite our truths all the time – with history we consider the biases and influences at work when our past is written down and we attempt for a fuller, “truer” story. So, for this question, I’d have to say the story – as flawed as it can be, it’s working hard to make truth (or a truth) from facts. Paul Whittle: Do you think the old adage “write what you know” is still good advice?Danielle Devereaux: Generally speaking, yes, but that doesn’t exclude finding out more and allowing room for leaps and bounds of imagination. Heidi Wicks: Do you feel an obligation to stick to cold, hard facts when writing non-fiction, or do you feel it’s okay to stretch the truth for the love of storytelling?Elena Slawinska: I never lie when writing non-fiction but I think there are many ways to tell the same fact. Some are hard and cold, some can be softer and warmer. I always go for the warmth. I’m Italian.
 Robert Finley: How is an essay like a potato patch?Eva Crocker: To be honest, I don’t know a lot about potato patches. I want to say something about hauling something substantial and sustaining out of the muck. I want to be like, reading an essay is like crouching and hauling on a bunch of leaves and, if you’re lucky, feeling a potato-like nugget of truth come sliding out of the dirt. But I just Google image searched “potato patch” and I have no idea how it feels to tug on a potato green, so I feel like a bit of a poser. Matthew Hollett: How does creative non-fiction differ from journalism?Heidi Wicks: They’re nearly opposite ends of the literary spectrum. Both require empathy and storytelling. Journalistic integrity necessitates truth, fact, current events and knowledge. Creative non-fiction is a more ethically fluid genre, some might say. Although it does stem from real life events, it still relies on imagination, elaboration, a narrative arc with story elements such as character, setting, conflict, and Jesus knows what else. There is the permission to create exaggerated, caricatured, swayed versions of real people and circumstances. The word “fiction” sidles its way in there for a reason. Joan Sullivan: Do you have any work routine/habit/ritual?Irene Velentzas: My general routine can be summed up in one word: Mayhem. My work is largely academic, which is always a deadline roulette of marking, meetings, classes, conferences, papers, and interesting side projects. I love having a creative project whenever I can, which I find so fulfilling and highly invigorating. I find this happens best during my “off-time,” away from my scheduled work, where I can put on some music, daydream, walk around the pond and think, or cozy up in a blanket and read – because reading is just as inspiring when you’re trying to write. My biggest routine in creative writing is taking a large break between drafts or stages of the work. I need the time away to reflect, think, and even *gasp* delete. 
John Robinson Blackmore: Blue ink or black ink?Joan Sullivan: Blue. But I prefer drawing in black ink (as an artist I’m nothing to write home about but do keep a sketchbook. Also like to inscribe scraps of conversation overheard in sites mentioned above, i.e. ‘No she proposed to him…’). Elena Slawinska: What unique perspective do you think you might have, as a writer, because you live in Newfoundland?John Robinson Blackmore: It’s built into our culture that some of us will leave for months at a time to fish, and/or to visit far off places. Regardless of the times, it’s skills we learn here at home that aid us as we navigate through the world. I’m grateful to be able to sit in rooms with writers of immense talent, who willingly share their craft – fostering me for when I leave to fish.
 Danielle Devereaux: What kind of stuff did you read as a kid and do you think it influences your writing now?Matthew Hollett: One of my favourite books as a kid was The Phantom Tollbooth, which is sort of like Alice in Wonderland with more puns. It has a way of stepping back and letting language become a character, a pivotal part of the plot. From there it was an easy transition to becoming captivated by Italo Calvino’s puzzle-novels and essays. And from Calvino you can go anywhere. So, yes! Bridget Canning: You have to choose a line from literature and get it tattooed on yourself. What line and where on your body?Michelle Porter: I’m not interested in tattoos. Tattoos are fictional elements written over the non-fiction text that is the body. Not for me. Eva Crocker: Describe the feeling of experiencing something and realizing as it’s happening that is will make a great piece of fiction.Paul Whittle: I have a feeling of mostly exhilaration, of needing to get to a pen and paper and mark it down. Sometimes there’s guilt, instead of being in the moment I’m observing for my own purposes. The overall feeling is as if I can stop time itself; I suppose that’s the object of all art making, the story needing to be witnessed. Hey folks, wait up, stop and look at this! 
Joan Sullivan: Are you a hunter or a gatherer?Robert Finley: A gardener. * * *Our thanks to Donna at Breakwater for her immense help with the content and design of this post. Best Kind is available now.Also, don’t miss Racket, a collection of Newfoundland short fiction edited by Lisa Moore, also with an NFLD food-inspired cover!