This week on Unfit to Print: Canadian writers talking life and work

Unfit to Print, The Daily’s radio show and podcast, was born with a restless heart. This variety show is never content until it explores the widest range of topics possible, from pornography to partying, neuroscience to the latest news. Now we turn to the wide world of Canadian Literature. For our fourth episode of the year, we sit down with three prominent writers: Charles Foran, Tim Wynne-Jones, and Jay MillAr. We made sure to mine them for advice for any hopeful writers out there.

Below are excerpts from the conversations. Be sure to check out the complete interviews on the Unfit to Print page.

Charles Foran on staying in versus going out (a.k.a the Proust vs. the Hemingway)

“It happens to be that, for me, it was the world that turned me on. Gaining slowly and steadily an appetite, and a humility, about the complexity of life and the complexity of human society has fuelled and continues to fuel my work.”

It’s different for everyone. […]People at university now, at your age, I honestly think your job at this age is to be watching, and listening, and doing things. I don’t think young people, even if they have the  great itch to write, should be worrying too much about the writing yet. There is probably at the end a value to having done things, having had experiences.

Life does a job on you. It simply instructs. It instructs on tragedy, comedy, it instructs on failure, on success, on love, on loss. You’re going to write more powerfully and with greater authenticity and depth about those things if you have simply experienced them. And you don’t have to leave your room to do that – all those things will come to you. Or you can go out and find them. There are two different paths – there is the path of a Hemingway, who at 19 went off to basically find a war so he could write about it, or there’s the Marcel Proust, who really never wanted to leave his house in Paris. And both wrote great books from it.”

Tim Wynne-Jones on the book and nostalgia

“I read a statistic just recently – and I have no idea if it’s true, but it sounded like it might be. 26 per cent of the population reads books with any kind of regularity. And 26 per cent of the population wants to write books. And it’s really sort of funny…Increasingly, our society is much more oriented to other forms of entertainment, but that hasn’t stopped people from wanting to become writers. I think the book has become kind of iconic – even in an age when we do everything on our laptop and phone, there’s something kind of magical about a real book.

Our lives have become really small in some ways. We watch TV, movies, read a newspaper on their laptop. Everything is so small…It’s really nice to then turn to something that’s big. And by comparison, I think a book is kind of big because there it is, it just sits there, and it has no other purpose. It doesn’t tell you the time, it has no apps. It’s just this one thing – and there’s a kind of stillness to that.”

Jay MillAr on his first poetry reading while in university

“I’d never been to a poetry reading. I was interested, I’d been sort of tinkering with my own poems, so I thought I’d go down and check it out. We were sitting around [at the reading], they’d set up the chairs in a circle, and I was trying to pick out who the poet was. I decided it was the guy in the mock-turtleneck sweater and the tweed jacket. And then that guy stood up – and it turned out that he was a professor from the university, and he introduced to the audience Bill Bissett.

[Bissett] then stood up, pulled a maraca out of his back pocket, and start[ed] doing his thing. He was singing and chanting and tapping his foot and dancing around and doing a lot of things I wouldn’t expect out of a poetry reading. And it really freaked me out! It made me not only really curious…but very afraid.”

Unfit to Print airs Monday, November 5 at 11:00 a.m. on CKUT  90.3 FM.