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Interview with Rebecca Rosenblum

Biblioasis and This Is Not A Reading Series join forces every September to stage a ceremony for the prestigious Metcalf-Rooke award. Winston recently caught up with last year’s recipient, Rebecca Rosenblum. 

W:
How did winning the Metcalf-Rooke award for your short story collection Once last year change your life?


R:
Getting the opportunity to make this book a book was a huge challenge and huge validation, but I don't know that it was the prize so much as the process. I actually won in 2007 after having not won in 2006, with a lot of positive comments and encouragement to keep going. Maybe it was *not* winning the Metcalf-Rooke award that changed by life, because it kicked off that year when I reworked and wrote and learned so much, with the encouragement and advice of people who knew what they were talking about. I think that the support and insight that I received from John Metcalf and Leon Rooke is the lion's share of this prize, because it made me a better writer.

W:
Restaurants play a central role throughout the stories in Once. Are you still working with that setting? Or have you called for the bill, as it were?


R:
Not yet done, although I've moved back a little from the context; most
of the people in my latest projects just eat in restaurants, but don't
work in them. But restaurants showcase so many of my favourite
intersections: work and leisure, public and private, food and
drink...that it's unlikely I'll ever stop writing about them.

W:
Who is your favourite Sesame Street character? Why?


R:
Oscar. When I was a toddler, I was given an Oscar doll that was the same size I was, and we had a very intense bond growing up (I grew up; Oscar's still the size of a toddler). I had actually no idea he was a
grouch until much later, when our relationship was already cemented.

W:
Do you want to follow-up your short-story collection with a novel?


R:
Not immediately; I had that ambition at one point, but there's so much
I want to learn about writing stories before I can move on to a new
mountain. I think the novels will wait for me.

W:
What, if any steps are taking to avoid the so-called sophomore slump? Or do you subscribe to such superstitions?


R:
Thanks for bringing up a touchy subject, Winston! I'm not taking any
steps, but that's because I don't know of any (do you?) I'm just
trying to write a really good second book without being (too)
fretful. And trying to continue to really hear advice instead of
thinking, "I did this once, I know what I'm doing." Because I really
really don't know what I'm doing.

W:
Where do you stand on that perennial conundrum: rock, paper, or scissors?

R:
Paper!! Has any writer ever said otherwise?

W:
Do you write everyday? Or are you the sort of scribe who spends time  collecting observations, let’s them germinate, and then sits down to write?

R:
Almost every day. Even if it's only 10 minutes when I should be
in bed, I really like to touch base with the characters I'm working
with, get a couple lines down, and see if anything's changed shape in
my absence. I'm not sure it's the most efficient way to work, but it
makes me happy.

W:
What trend in the world of contemporary Canadian letters would you like to put on ice?

 

R:
I mainly miss trends--I have a lot on my personal agenda to read, and
when I look around for something new, I want what my friends are
reading and writing, not necessarily what's new and popular. Besides, the nice thing about trends is that they are optional: I don't personally
want to read about hot vampire sex, but I guess a lot of people do,
and more power to'em. Although I did think things were going a bit far
when I confessed that I'd not read any of the Harry Potter novels and
someone said, "Really? But I thought you loved books!"

W:
What books are currently on your bedside table?


R:
Do periodicals count? I'm in the middle of the current New Quarterly with all the lovely long short stories. Before that it was the Journey Prize Stories, the 20th anniversary gathering, which was amazing. Next is probably Deborah Eisenberg's Twilight of Superheroes, which I'm told I will adore.

W:
What five songs would you put on a mix-tape for a bookish boy you were courting?


R:
Bookish love songs? This is hard! Ok, try

"Wrapped Up in Books" Belle and Sebastian
"Everyday I Write the Book" Elvis Costello
"The Book of Love" Magnetic Fields
"Jeannie's Diary" Eels
"Romeo and Juliet" Dire Straits

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