Anita Dolman is an Ottawa-based writer and editor. Her poetry and fiction have appeared throughout Canada and the United States, including, most recently, in On Spec Magazine: the Canadian magazine of the fantastic, Grain, Bywords.ca, Ottawater, The Antigonish Review, The Peter F. Yacht Club, The Storyteller Magazine, and Geist. Her short story “Happy Enough” is available as an e-book from Morning Rain Publishing. A new chapbook of her poetry, Where No One Can See You, is forthcoming from AngelHousePress this fall.
You can follow Anita on Twitter @ajdolman.
I was invited to take part in the Canadian Writers Blog Tour by this blog's host, Amanada Earl, who is also kindly lending me a spot on her blog, since I am, despite the tour, actually blogless. Amanda's willingness to delve into new and eclectic literary forms, and her ability to see both art and life as a source of constant learning is any inspiration to writers, and more than likely everyone else, who know her. I am very much looking forward to her first book-length collection of poetry, Kiki, coming out from Chaudiere Books this fall.
1. What are you currently working on?
I am working on a couple of short stories that I may or may not still try to squeeze into my manuscript of short fiction. I have also, after a long near-hiatus, been returning to poetry. My first poetry chapbook in a decade will come out this fall. I also have some essays and short stories that have recently come out or are about to come out. I actually work on things slowly and in sequence, but when things get published it all seems to happen at once, giving the illusion I’m doing everything all at the same time!
In the back of my mind, the cogs and wheels have also been starting to fall into place for writing a longer work of fiction, but I feel like I'm still building the machinery, and have much tinkering to do yet before I start it up and see if it can make something really interesting happen.
2. How does your work differ from others?
I have been told (often in rejection letters) that my work is "daring" or "ambitious" or "fearless." Which is both thrilling and a bit confusing to me, since I often still see myself as quite shy, and my writing can make me very bashful. I recently read a quote from a famous writer to the effect that, if it doesn't make you uncomfortable to publish it, it's probably not worth publishing. I think that’s not exclusively true, but for me, there’s something to it.
When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I think I wrote mostly to fit in. That may come from an immigrant sensibility, it may be part of a self-protective inclination by some women to search out and maintain a safehold in society. I have finally, however, in the past few years been learning to overcome the fear of standing out, of having my work and the thoughts that led to it scrutinized, and particularly that fear of showing the real self that seems to trap so many writers. Which is not to say that I talk only, or even very much at all, about myself in my poetry, and not at all (directly) in my fiction. But there is something about your perspective that you have to be willing to let come through in your writing, regardless of how you think your readers may react. If you don't, you aren't being honest and you also aren't giving readers anything real to connect with.
3. Why do you write what you do?
I could come up with a lot of answers to that, which is really the same thing as saying "I don't know." In the end, I write what I write because of everything I am and everything I have experienced and everyone and everything I have had the privilege to know. One summer, when I was just out of high school, I had a brief job as a potter's assistant for the Alberta-based potter and painter Jean Sheppard. I was about 18 and I was worried that I hadn't found my own art form yet at the time. She told me to keep trying new forms, because, if you do, eventually you will find the way to express yourself that is right for you. I started writing within a couple of years of that. I count myself very lucky that I found a conduit that works for me and that, hopefully, I do well.
4. How does your process work?
I read. A lot. And I try to listen a lot, too. Eventually, everything I've soaked up leads to an idea or two. I write these down in my notebook, or write a line or two in an email to myself. Then I let it percolate for a long, long time. At some point, when I sit down to write, it's that idea that I go back to, and I realize I've started a poem or a story. Once I have written something, I need more time and distance, anywhere from a few weeks to several months, before I can approach it again for an edit. I usually edit it at least twice myself for short fiction, and up to dozens of times for poetry. The difficult thing for me is gaging when it's ready for me to let it go, and when it honestly does need some more work.
Next up on the Canadian Writers Blog Tour, I have nominated Ottawa poet and fiction writer James K. Moran, whose Tour post will be available on his (Re)Viewed blog as of Monday, September 15, 2014, at http://jameskmoran.blogspot.ca. James’ first novel, Town and Train, will be out this November from Lethe Press. He is also my husband, but I would love his writing even if he weren't.