On Writing-rob mclennan
I’ve never seen writing as any kind of romantic calling, but simply a matter of what I do. I have no interest in abstract ideas of the muse, preferring to spend my time quietly working. Raised on a dairy farm in eastern Ontario, I didn’t see my father wait for inspiration to feed or milk the cows, or harvest crops. He woke at dawn and immediately set to work. For more than twenty years now, I’ve done my version of the same, waking to sit in front of laptop (after years of longhand notebook) and begin.
It was in my early twenties that I read a quote about writing attributed to Margaret Atwood: If you want full-time out of it, you have to put full-time into it.
My workday has always been composed of multiple strands, from fiction, poetry, editorial projects, essays, reviews and publishing projects. I’m currently in the midst of a poetry collection (since September, 2013) and a collection of short fiction (since December, 2010) that I’ve been attempting to complete over the past few months, in part so I can return to my novel-in-progress, a contemporary ‘translation’ of Don Quixote. I’m reworking a memoir I completed last year around the death of my mother, and have already started composing a series of notes around my recent re-connection with birth mother. Poems and short stories are constantly being sent out into the world, and I’ve got new work in the current or forthcoming issues of a number of journals, including The Capilano Review, Prairie Fire, The Peter F. Yacht Club, Exile, The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly and eleven eleven. I’ve an essay to complete soon for a “selected poems” I put together of Phil Hall’s work for Wilfrid Laurier University Press, and a series of interviews to complete for the next couple of issues of Touch the Donkey (http://www.touchthedonkey.blogspot.ca/)
I’m currently working on a series of “Commentaries” solicited for appearance at Jacket2 (http://jacket2.org/commentary/rob-mclennan) , scheduled to run from January to March, and conducting interviews with and writing on various works by Phil Hall, Pearl Pirie, Shannon Maguire, Lise Downe, Roland Prevost, lary timewell, Fred Wah, Marcus McCann, Christine Leclerc, Nikki Reimer, Sylvia Legris, Gil McElroy and Suzanne Zelazo, among others. The eleventh annual issue of the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater comes out in later January (http://www.ottawater.com/ ), as does the eleventh issue of seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (http://www.ottawater.com/seventeenseconds/) as well as a variety of poetry chapbooks from my now-twenty-two-years-old above/ground press (http://www.abovegroundpress.blogspot.ca/ ), including new and recent works by Gil McElroy, ryan fitzpatrick, Jason Christie, derek beaulieu, Karen Massey, Jennifer Kronovet, Elizabeth Robinson and myself. Over the coming weeks, I’m even hoping to have the fall 2015 list confirmed for Chaudiere Books (http://www.chaudierebooks.com; http://www.chaudierebooks.blogspot.com), and edits completed for the spring list, which includes new titles by William Hawkins and N.W. Lea.
Writing is so much larger than simple pen to paper, or a flurry of keyboard taps in a particular order. It is about being open to a series of possibilities, and taking in as much information as can be properly absorbed. It is about allowing new strains to enter into old forms, seeing what is already familiar in a new way, and the possibility of approaching something from a completely different angle. It is about being part of a community of writers, readers, editors and publishers, all of whom share, to varying degrees, the same dedication to writing.
To be the best there is at what I do, I need to understand a scope far broader, and far deeper, than simply what it is I happen to be working on. Everything feeds into everything else. One can only improve.
And, on top of everything else, I’ve been home full-time with our one-year-old Rose since the beginning of November. Work now occurs only at her whims, naps and the possibility of weekends when my wife is home, or the occasional trade-off I’ve been doing lately with another parent or two. Everything slows. After more than twenty years of full-time writing, and more than thirty trade publications published, the shift in attention focuses what writing time I have to a rather intriguing pinpoint. The focus has shifted, but there is no less to do. The possibilities are infinite.
Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of nearly thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014, The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (http://www.ottawater.com/garneaureview), seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (http://www.ottawater.com/seventeenseconds), Touch the Donkey (http://www.touchthedonkey.blogspot.com) and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater (http://www.ottawater.com). He snt the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at http://www.robmclennan.blogspot.com