Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry winner for her book of poetry, North End Love Songs.
And now, one of us.
Meet Winnipeg’s Katherena Vermette, AU’s 2018-2019 Writer-in-Residence.
What is a Writer-in-Residence, you ask? The Writer-in-Residence is an appointed position held by an award-winning Canadian writer, who spends 60% of their year-long residency working on their own writing projects while devoting 40% of their time as a resource to AU’s writing community. In short, while Katherena works on her latest projects, she will also be available to help us with any questions we may have about our writing and the publication process. Lucky us!
I was able to meet up with Katherena (virtually – because that’s just how we do things at AU), and here is what she had to say about creativity, finding time to write, and the age-old AU question: what’s best – physical or electronic books?
Being a student often means long days and nights in front of a screen, struggling to come up with the right words to finally nail that essay. I imagine life as a writer must be similar! So if you’ve hit a bit of a roadblock and it’s been a few hours since being able to come up with anything, what do you do to spark your creativity?
Hahah. Hours, days, weeks, roadblocks can be long. I don’t really like to plod at the laptop too long and prefer to keep my writing times comparatively short and intense. I give myself deadlines and goals but find it’s more productive to have a good hour than a bad day. I also like to break up all my sitting time with lots of movement and chores and the like, and find that’s the best help when I’m stuck. I have the advantage of working at home so there’s so much to do if the ideas won’t come- laundry, dog walking, supper cooking. Thinking happens best while doing, I think.
One of the biggest struggles for distance education students is time management. Making and finding time is key. What is your favourite time to write, and why?
I write in the mornings because it’s when I’m most awake (read: caffeinated). If I have anything else to do I like to schedule it for the afternoons because my mornings are precious. I get everyone out of the house to daycares, schools and jobs and then it’s just me and my dogs, and hopefully the words, for a while. I have never been the kind of writer who jumps in on their lunch break or works late into the night. I need quiet and lots of it. I need plenty of time to write myself in and time after to get myself out and back to the life stuff.
AU has been moving towards electronic textbooks instead of print for many of their courses (which may or may not be a source of contention for some). What do you prefer: audiobooks, physical books, or e-books? Why?
I like anything with print- e or paper. I do love good old-fashioned paper books especially old ones well-worn and magically found but also have been known to have one or two going on my phone as well. I can’t do audio books though. I know they are great but I retain nothing audibly – I need to see it.
What do you hope to accomplish during your residency at AU? Can you tell us a little bit about your graphic novel, as well?
This year I am trying to work on some new poetry, but likely some fiction will sneak in there too. I am also writing #3 of the graphic novel series right now. The series is A Girl Called Echo about a modern-day young person who slips back in time and experiences key moments in Metis History. Right now, Echo is at Batoche during the Northwest Resistance of 1885. So, pretty exciting stuff for this history nerd.
If you could tell your “younger writing self” anything, what would it be?
Ah, I like this question. Oh, my poor younger writing self! Gosh, she would love me. She’d be so relieved or maybe just surprised that we were able to accomplish much of anything. The first thing I would tell her is to believe in herself, just a little, just try. Believe you can do it, believe you are worth it, believe in the process. I’d also probably try and get her up in front of that microphone a bit sooner, because it took me ’til I was 26 to read anything to anybody. Knowing my incredibly stubborn younger self, that conversation probably wouldn’t go my way, but I would try.
Last, but not least, what is your favourite word and why?
Right now, my baby is learning words so the tiniest details of the smallest of words are pure joy. She just picked up “hi!” I never loved that word more!