This is Angela here — I recently connected with Latitude 46 Publishing at local writer’s festival, and was thrilled to purchase Along the 46th — a collection of short stories by writers with ties to Sudbury, Ontario. For those that don’t know, Sudbury is a gateway to Northern Ontario, and originally an old mining town, with a ‘rough around the edges’ appeal. Life in the north is starker, and in some ways more real. Stories in the collection include a dog show on a First Nations reservation, a story of working in a northern gas station, and The Killer Beneath Me (with an excerpt and the author interview over here). Isoceles is a story of a distinctly modern feeling love triangle, starting with an awesome opening line about polyamory —
Polyamory seemed like a good idea at the time.
I bend the Star forward so I can see my wife across the breakfast table. Fifteen years ago, we were young, omnivorous and settled enough as a couple to admit we both found other people attractive.
It was a bit of a thrill, too. I admit that.
I don’t remember who suggested an open relationship – probably her. She believed monogamy was impossible at best, destructive at worst. Unreasonable, was the words I think she used. I didn’t feel as strongly as she did, but I didn’t disagree either. Polyamory appealed to my idealism and my bisexuality, both. It still does.
I’m not sure how she feels about it anymore.
Excerpt from ‘Isosceles’ by Tina Siegel, originally published in Along the 46th, Latitude 46 Publishing www.latitude46publishing.com
Tina Siegel is a Sudbury girl living in Toronto (until she can make her way back home). She writes poetry and short stories inspired by bits and pieces of real life and embellished by her imagination. She has participated in writing workshops with Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, and recently completed Humber College’s Creative Writing program. When she’s not writing, she’s teaching English, teasing her cat, or playing with the dogs that live in her apartment building.
Can you tell us about yourself and how you came to writing?
A few things about me: I love animals, music, and gnocchi, in that order. I’m nearly 40, but I feel 27 at most. The only subject I ever came close to failing was math, and I still hate it. My favourite city in the world is Berlin or Warsaw, depending on the day. I’m an only child, but I don’t suffer from ‘only child syndrome.’ I’m terrified of needles, but my nose is pierced and I have a tattoo.
As for the writing: whenever someone asks me this, I think of Anne Frank. I read her diary when I was 10, and I never got over it. But the truth is, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Diaries and letters to the editor and X-Files fanfiction. I never took it seriously until I was in my early twenties, and even then I thought I was just writing stories and poetry for myself. It didn’t occur to me that it would ever be good enough for anybody else to read.
It was only a few years ago, when I was accepted into Humber’s writing mentorship program, that I began to realize there might be something there.
‘Isosceles’ has a strong narrative voice and internal monologue, a cast of characters, yet little (or no) dialogue – what was your thought process in creating this story?
Honestly, there wasn’t one. This started out as an assignment from Camilla Gibb (she was the mentor I was paired with in that Humber program). I’d handed in a few pieces, and she said I was talking about very similar characters over and over. So she gave me homework: take the characters, put them 25 or 30 years into the future, and see what happens.
In my head, that’s all it was – a very basic rundown of these two characters’ lives. It didn’t seem to call for dialogue. And then Camilla said it was the best thing I’d handed in yet. I went back and read it over, and began to really like it.
Now that you’ve asked the question, though, I’m realizing that lots of dialogue wouldn’t have been appropriate. These are two people who can’t communicate anymore – what would they talk about?
I did know that I wanted to show both sides of the story, though. It had two narrative voices from the beginning, and I spent a lot of time choosing words and sentence structure so that they’d be distinct. I really enjoyed that process — I’d like to do it again sometime.
In the word of ‘pantsers’ and ‘planners’ where do you start your stories? How do you manage structure? What are some of the things you go through in writing?
Oh, I’m definitely a pantser! I’ve tried and tried and tried to turn myself into a more systematic writer, but it doesn’t work. Everything I plan comes out stiff and awkward.
The upside of this is that I surprise myself. The downside is that structure is one of my weakest points. I tend to build pieces around characters, and let them dictate the structure. Not very professional, I know. 😉
I find my favourite pieces come from a very specific sentence or moment or scent or visual cue. I just start writing and, if I’m lucky, I manage to keep going without editing myself every two lines. I write without worrying about where it’s going. This doesn’t always work, of course – I’ve got a half million unfinished pieces on my computer. But when it does, there’s always this moment. Something clicks, and I know I’ve got something good. It’s really exciting, and really peaceful.
What advice do you have for writers?
Buy exercise books. Not the ones that promise to teach you how to write a best-seller in four weeks — those are crap. But the ones that have writing prompts in them. I’ve got tons, and I use them every day. I take one prompt, from one book, and I write. Four-fifths of what I produce is crap, but that’s fine. It greases the wheels. That’s the most important lesson I’ve learned in the last two years — the more I write, the easier it comes.
I’d also tell them something a friend once told me. We were listening to an Ani DiFranco CD, and I said god, I wish I could write like her. And my friend said the world already has an Ani DiFranco — it doesn’t need another one.
As someone from a small-ish city (Sudbury, Ontario) how do you feel this affects your work?
I think being from a smaller city encourages you to focus on minutia, and on quiet but important moments. Although I’m obsessive and kind of a homebody, so maybe I’d focus on those things either way. =)
Along the 46th is available for purchase through Latitude 46 Publishing, be sure to drop by to see this and other fine works.