25th Trillium Award

At The Desk: Michael Blouin

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For each book that sits on our shelves or rests in our hands, a writer has spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. In Open Book?s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Michael Blouin writes about his eclectic office, strewn with model cars and Jeep parts and always accompanied by a little bit of music. Michael is part of The Factory Reading series on February 17, 2012, in Ottawa. He will be launching the chapbook let lie/ (above/ground press) that evening.


I?ve only had a dedicated writing office for the last couple of years and having one has changed my work process somewhat. I write exclusively by electronic means now (except for making notes by writing on my hand) and so the desk is home to a PC, a netbook and a Kobo Vox which allows me to take notes anywhere and then transfer them wirelessly so that most of what I write takes place in pixel form. I never write without music playing, so good speakers are needed.

In terms of the surroundings, several things are important. There is a banner poster for I don?t know how to behave — the most recent book I?ve completed. Poet Gillian Sze is a character in that book, which is why she?s featured on the poster, as is Film Director Bruce McDonald, which is why he?s on the monitor. One of the novels I?m working on takes place in St. Thomas, Ontario, in the 1880s and the historical map of St. Thomas was given to me by the poet Sandra Ridley. I keep large bulletin boards handy with multiple clippings, all of which relate in some way to ongoing projects or current favourite music or artworks (currently there?s Johnny Cash, Jay-Z, Scroobius Pip, Basquiat, Joseph Beuys, John Scott's Trans Am Apocalypse No 2, Cai Guo-Qiang and some Greg Curnoe). These clippings change regularly like a sort of playlist.

For some reason each manuscript I?ve worked on has a model car associated with it (usually the actual car is in the book) which is the reason for the 1948 F1 Ford Pickup currently parked on the desk as well the steam locomotive — both of which figure prominently in two current novels. There is a small fleet of vehicles that rotates desk positions according to which project is taking precedence at the moment. This allows me a legitimate professional reason to collect model cars as an adult; no, really, it?s okay? I?m a writer.

Above the computer is a painting by Canadian literary and artistic legend Bill Bisset. These are all things to give my eyes direction when I take a break from the screen. In terms of process I find that once I start working I don?t really like to get up from the desk much. Music is always streaming in the background, usually from The Signal with Laurie Brown or a rotation from the site We Are Hunted or YouTube. I?m usually online while writing as well, which is probably a little unusual. This allows me to access information, distract myself when I?m waiting for the next word, live message with my son (a little strange as he?s normally in the next room) and often post samples of what I?m writing to Facebook as I write it. All the writing ends up in book form eventually (hopefully), but I find the ability to actually ?publish? live is very appealing. Writing is not a particularly social endeavour and being able to access immediate feedback is quite a change from having to wait years before anyone reads what I?m working on.

What else? There?s a backup drive — very important! In the half of the room not visible, there is also winter storage for Jeep parts. For some reason my wife doesn?t want them in the living room. This also explains the presence of the bicycle. I can?t really explain the Superman on the windowsill. That?s just where he is. The phrase Fortress of Solitude comes to mind. I spend anywhere from two to ten hours a day in this space, so lastly there is a comfortable chair. Oh, and above the painting is a sign that reads, ?Ride ?Em Cowboy.? It serves to make an almost completely sedentary activity somehow seem more active.

Michael Blouin?s critically acclaimed first novel, Chase and Haven (Coach House), was a finalist for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and won the 2009 ReLit Award. In 2007, his first collected poetry, I?m not going to lie to you (Pedlar Press), was a finalist for the Lampman-Scott Award. In 2011, he released Wore Down Trust (Pedlar Press). It received outstanding national and international reviews. He has served as a literary competition judge for Carleton University and This Magazine and has been a finalist for the CBC Literary Awards. He has been published in most Canadian literary magazines, has chapbooks with Chaudiere and Apt. 9 Press, is currently completing work on multiple projects and is represented internationally by Westwood Creative Artists. He can be found online at www.michaelblouin.org.

For more information about Wore Down Trust please visit the Pedlar Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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