Saturday, September 27, 2008

Line of Inquiry: Lorna Jackson

After a decade singing in saloons, Lorna Jackson decided to study writing with Jack Hodgins and Mark Anthony Jarman. She has published a collection of short stories, Dressing for Hope, and a novel, A Game to Play on the Tracks.

Now an exacting university writing teacher by day, Lorna Jackson is a raucous hockey aficionado by night, and two recent biblioasis titles are hard evidence of that. Cold-Cocked has been called “absolutely one of the best hockey books of our era.” Her other new title, Flirt: The Interviews, is a cheeky collection of fake interviews with real famous people—including several notable hockey players.

Lorna Jackson lives on Vancouver Island.

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1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

I spent many years as a saloon singer in some pretty rough BC bars and learned to call that performance and convince myself that I was getting something out of it. So reading and engaging with readers at public events feels incredibly civilized and genteel, compared to, say, that one grim Halloween, 1981, at the Blackstone Hotel in Vancouver.

I've also been teaching for about 15 years, so I'm relatively calm with a bunch of folks looking at me and expecting something to happen. Even so, the transition from that "time spent alone" you mention, to "time spent entertaining strangers" can be jarring, even mortifying. At least when we're at our desks, deep inside our own imaginations, even if we're filled with self-doubt, we seem whole and unified. But when we're on a stage and reading our work (also, self-doubting), the risk is a weird sort of fragmentation, or maybe disassociation when we're back at our desks. Who was that woman? Who does she think she is?

2) What do you want people to know about Cold-Cocked / Flirt?

Both books are intentionally irreverent. Cold-Cocked: On Hockey reads the game - and certain players - and celebrates unofficial explanations as to why we watch and cheer. While I wouldn't say it looks at hockey through a woman's eyes, I think it looks at the game through the eyes of a literate, sensitive, aging and funny woman who happens to learn a great deal about herself through an unexpected obsession. I was determined to say something new about hockey, and to say something artful.

Flirt: The Interviews is essentially comic, although the stories – each takes the form of an interview with a famous person - are pretty dark and cover some unsettling topics: suicide, addiction, regret, grief, the role of the artist in an increasingly contemptuous culture. The interviewer is desperate to use her time with these people -athletes and musicians and writers who treat her with patience and even kindness - to unearth her own past and its tragedies.

3) Will this your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

This is my first time, yes, and I've heard from writers that Thin Air is their favourite festival, that the audiences are fantastic. Of course I have a deep fondness for Winnipeg as not only the home of the Manitoba Moose, but as the only legitimate next home for an NHL team.

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I've just finished Bill Gaston's wonderful, The Order of Good Cheer, Haruki Murakami's elegant little book on running and novel-writing, and my current fave writer, Tim Winton's novel, Breath, about a coupla surfer dudes growing up badly in Australia. I am full of their wonderful work.

As for writing, I'm into a novel, a collection of stories, and just gearing up for hockey season and the blogging I'll be doing.

5) Your most recent book is Flirt, a "cheeky collection of fake interviews with real famous people." How do I know this interview isn't fake?

How do you know the ones in Flirt are?! Pour me another glass of ginger ale, take this cat off my lap, and ask me something else. Ask me about that time at the Blackstone Hotel.

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Lorna Jackson will be appearing at THIN AIR, Winnipeg International Writers Festival:

September 26 - Rural Tour, Selkirk, with Cara Hedley and Randall Maggs.
September 27 - Afternoon Mainstage, with Cara Hedley, Randall Maggs, and Paul Quarrington.

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