(Photo by Cris Loh)
“Writing is the best way I know to prove I was here.” – ED
Emily Davidson was always a writer. We went to highschool together and even then we all knew she was good with words. Our English teachers loved her. Emily was named for one of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s heroines, Emily of New Moon, with whom she shares a passion for writing and whose dream of “climbing the Alpine path” she was destined to follow. Like her namesake, Emily is carving out a career for herself, climbing the path to success one story at a time. Like many artists she also works a day-job which means juggling work, writing and normal life stuff like friends and housework. She has had poems published, some non-fiction, and is currently working on getting her first novel published. She recently had a piece of non-fiction published as part of a compilation entitled Boobs, all about how women experience having breasts. Being one such woman, I promptly bought the book and told Emily so. She said, “I’m so touched you ordered Boobs!” and we both had a little giggle.
Being an artist means being vulnerable, it means putting out into the world a piece of yourself that you’ve created. Writing is, in a way, one of the more vulnerable means of expression because it is one’s own voice which sculpts the poem or story, one’s experience and personality which is reflected in the soul of each piece. Emily has a way of using words to create a moment in time where you see a bit of her soul. Heck, even her answers to my email questions had me on the edge of my seat! Thanks Emily. See you soon on the East Coast!
*In honour of this post, I will be giving away one copy of Boobs: Women explore what it means to have breasts. Share this post on social media using the #createdherenb to be entered to win! (For Facebok, make sure your privacy settings are set to “Public” for this post, or else we can’t see it)*
Where in your creative journey did you decide to pursue your craft for real? How did that look for you?
Somewhere around the end of my English undergraduate studies at UNB, I realized I wasn’t an academic. I was trying to complete an honours thesis on Virginia Woolf, and I just couldn’t do it – I loved reading her works, but I was the pits at saying anything new about them. And I was still spending a good chunk of my free time writing stories and poems. It occurred to me, slowly, that perhaps I was less of a theorist and more of a craftsperson.
As a test, I sent in my application to the writing program at UBC. I figured if I got in to the program, it meant that I had what it took to be a writer. I’m not sure this is the best way to go about it. But I got in, which gave me enough juice to commit to the degree. And somewhere in there, I got up enough courage to admit that I’m probably a writer. And why that process was so long and drawn out, I’m not sure, but here we are.
Aside from your creative work, do you have a day job?
I work as a coordinator at an animation studio here in Vancouver, which for me means structure, friends, and income. I’ve been working on a brand new children’s cartoon, and seeing it come together from scripts through to storyboards and onwards has been so cool. I can’t draw stick people, but I like being alongside as the animation magic happens.
What does a typical day (or week) look like?
I work a 9-6, so my typical day/week usually involves squeezing in writing and events around my office hours. This week, for example, my friend is hosting a literary magazine bash, I’m going to a concert tomorrow, and Friday is the launch of a non-fiction collection that features some of my work. But if that sounds glamorous and exciting, it should be noted that my weekends are usually full of chores and Netflix. The writing happens in between all of these things.
Child’s Drawing, by Emily Davidson
When people ask you what you do, what do you say?
If I’m being asked by a nice stranger, I usually say that I work at an animation studio. If I’m in a more artsy setting, I’ll say that I’m a writer. If I’m in a group of writers, I’ll say that I’m a poet who’s working on a novel.
What is your creative process like? How do you go from idea to finished poem or story?
Many projects start, for me, with a sort of thrill. An idea or image will pop into my head and the hairs on the back of my neck will stand up. In these instances, I try to get to a desk or a pen as fast as possible, because sometimes the idea will fall out of my brain whole and I’d better be ready to catch it.
There are slower projects. Ones that I start, fiddle with a little, and then have to leave to germinate. Some stories grow themselves by being left alone. Some stories come out a paragraph a day, and some poems show up almost finished except for a stanza that will arrive a week later. And then there are novels, which are such a long and strange process. Adding a little, day by day, not always seeing where it will fit, cutting out whole sections. The slower projects feel much more like a ritual, a continual showing up over days and weeks and months.
The internet will often spit up listicles prescribing the “7 Failsafe Practices of Successful Writers,” but for me, at least, that’s bunk. I’m regular with my writing practice until that stops working, and then I’m fickle. I’m fickle until I crave consistency. We’re all looking for the secret formula for easy creation, and I’m afraid the secret is that hard work needs play, and play needs hard work, and somewhere in the middle of all that, there is magic.
What inspires your writing?
My writing is basically a curated bucket full of everything I manage to pay attention to. I’m inspired by movies, books, trips to the beach, new cities, people on the street. Anything that is part of being human snags my interest – families, aging, love, home, conflict, memory. We’re all here so briefly, and there’s material in a lot of unexpected places.
What brought you to Vancouver?
I came out west for school – I got accepted to the MFA in Creative Writing program at UBC, and decided it was adventure time. I stayed for three years to complete my degree, and then stayed the subsequent four because it doesn’t snow here, and I’ve lost all of my east coast hardiness.
Vertigo, by Emily Davidson
How does New Brunswick fit into your life and/or your art?
New Brunswick is integral to my creative work – which I carry weird feelings about, having decided to live away. New Brunswick is home in the very simple sense that my parents live there, but it’s also home in a literary sense – it’s full of stories. It’s where I learned to be a person, and so every pocket of Saint John is a poem. It’s a beautiful place to try and describe. New Brunswick is familiar enough that I can picture it in my mind, but it’s removed enough now that I can place imagination over top and create something new.
Writing about New Brunswick while being in Vancouver has been really interesting because I feel this need to do right by the province. People here think of me as a Nova Scotian – New Brunswick gets more and more lost from social consciousness the further west you go. The benefit of being forgotten, if there is one, is that creatively I’ve got fertile ground. People don’t know the richness to be had at home – the coastline, the traditions, the way the Atlantic rises up out of its bed. I set my novel in Saint John and the surrounding area, and writing about New Brunswick is my way of making it available to new audiences.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a writer?
Rejection and uncertainty are probably the two biggest hurdles. Much of my work is turned down, often and repeatedly. That’s the writing life. There is no guarantee my work will find a home or an audience. I face my own potential for failure constantly. That’s the deal, and I’m working to be okay with it.
What makes it all worth it?
Saying exactly what I meant to say, in precisely the right words. Having the language surprise me with something new. Holding a book that features something I wrote. Having a piece appear in a magazine. Hearing that my work made somebody feel feelings. Sending magazines home to my parents. Finishing something and feeling that sense of satisfaction that comes with putting my best out into the world.
What are you working on now?
I finished my first novel this year, so I’m beginning the process of querying agents. In some ways I’m not writing – the novel took me six years, and I’m taking a bit of an involuntary break. The well is dry. But I have the start of a new book of poetry in the back of my mind, and I’m still brushing up my graduate thesis (also poetry), so there are irons in the fire.
(Photo by Chris Loh)