Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The Proust Questionnaire, with Cindy Babyn

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Cindy Babyn

Ottawa writer Cindy Babyn's first book, Moving Out! A Young Adult?s Guide to Living on Your Own (General Store Publishing House), is a practical advice guide for young adults who are seeking the freedom of moving out but aren't informed about what "moving out" actually means. You'll find great ideas about where apartments are advertised, how to live with roommates, how to establish credibility with the landlord and how to put together a realistic budget. There are lists of household items you'll need and advice about common pests, personal security, getting your taxes done and more. First hand accounts from 26 young Canadians who have moved out on their own, either into college/university residences or into apartments, round the book out. Moving Out! will soon be available as an ebook at the end of December through Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Chapters and Sony.

Cindy is currently working on her follow-up to Moving out!: Moving Out! Moving Stories (Book 2), for which she is looking for brave souls willing to share their moving stories to include in her new book. Click here to find out how to share your story.

In her answers to Proust Questionnaire, Cindy tells us her not-so-big-ambitious dreams, her struggles with exercising and her favourite flower (a nice take on the question!).

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.


What is your dream of happiness?
I am a simple person. I don?t dream big ambitious dreams. I enjoy finding small ways to be happy with what I have and with who I am. For that, I need safety, a solid, stable income, a home I can enjoy, relax, and be fully myself in, giving to others, making art and having a small number of friends and family in my life whom I enjoy. Something I don?t yet have: I dream of having a greenhouse. I actually have no idea if I can grow anything that will survive but I hope I?ll discover that I can!

What is your idea of misery?
Injustice and poverty.

Where would you like to live?
Close to nature.

What qualities do you admire most in a man?
Kindness, humour, high intelligence, strength, analytical skills, strategic thinking and confidence.

What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Kindness, vision, excellent communication, attention to details and an ability to multi-task.

What is your chief characteristic?

What is your principle fault?
Hating exercise and stubbornly watching myself gain weight without doing anything about it for weeks on end.

What is your greatest extravagance?
My shoe habit.

What faults in others are you most tolerant of?.
Making bad decisions (when it?s largely because they didn?t know the full parameters or scope that could have helped them make a better decision).

What do you value most about your friends?
I value their openness to allowing me to share my most stressful concerns with them, having their compassion and support to face my troubles, and I value their ability to relax and present themselves honestly to me.

What characteristic do you dislike most in others?
Bullying, taking advantage of the weak and sadistic behaviours.

What characteristic do you dislike most in yourself?
Being a person prone to phases — like, why can?t I just always exercise consistently? I don?t know. I just can?t. I have periods of time when I will, and then weeks when I just won?t. I find that annoying about myself: it?s a battle against stubbornness and laziness that I don?t always win.

What is your favourite virtue?

What is your favourite occupation?
Helping others.

What would you like to be?
Successful and happy.

What is your favourite colour?
I?m a visual artist. It?s impossible for me to choose only one! I have never chosen a ?favourite? colour and I never will.

What is your favourite flower?
The one a person gives me.

What is your favourite bird?

What historical figure do you admire the most?
Samuel de Champlain. I admire the interest he had in learning, in honing his navigation, exploration and cartography skills, his diplomacy and statesmanship in negotiating with indigenous peoples, his sense of justice, his leadership, his courage and his sense of adventure.

What character in history do you most dislike?
Hitler — for his ruthlessness, his disrespect and disdain for humanity, his vileness and his evil.

Who are your favourite prose authors?
Herman Hesse, Doris Lessing, Paul Coelho, Gabriel García Márquez, Barry Callaghan.

Who are your favourite poets?
Leonard Cohen, Homer, Armand Garnet Ruffo.

Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Superman (saves people, saves the day and besides, he can fly — very cool).

Who are your heroes in real life?
Those who help others: I find ordinary people doing good by others very inspiring and heart-warming.

Who is your favourite painter?
Gordon Harrison. Aside from enjoying the way he expresses Canadian landscapes and colours in the most beautiful way, the simplest way I can say it is: his works give my spirit what it needs.

Who is your favourite musician?
I simply can?t name one favourite. Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Artur Rubinstein, Fleet Foxes, Led Zeppelin, Ali Farka Toure, Bruce Springsteen, Jets Overhead, Montserrat Figueras.

What is your favourite food?
Food that is prepared with care: delicious, complex, well-rounded and robust.

What is your favourite drink?
Traditional Indian chai, with a good dose of green cardamom, milk and sugar (hold the ginger).

What natural talent would you most like to possess?
It?s a toss up — cooking delicious food / public speaking.

How do you want to die?
At home in my sleep.

What is your current state of mind?
Besides being in my (can?t/won?t) exercise phase...pretty good. I?m optimistic. I feel I have a good life and my attitude is that I get better with age.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Teaching others at different stages in my life and seeing them feel proud, confident and satisfied that whatever I could give to them or share with them made them feel better and more capable than they were before.

What is your motto?
Be yourself. Do what comes naturally to you. Discover and nurture your natural gifts. Be kind to yourself. Trust your instincts. Allow good people into your life. Make time to acknowledge and feel success, even in the smallest of things. You will fail sometimes in some things: just try again, or try something different. When possible, let go of relationships that don?t make you feel good. Allow others to inspire you. Help others.


Cindy Babyn was born in Toronto, Ontario, and proudly wears her love for Canada on her sleeve. She particularly enjoys many aspects of Canadian cultural expression. While acquiring a degree in music performance, she worked with a mentor to influence the University of Toronto?s Faculty of Music to celebrate Canadian contemporary music by founding and directing the annual New Music Festival, which continues to exist today.

Since graduating, she has worked to support Canadian musicians? concert series, taught music at a private inner-city music school, and has given it all she?s got to further the public good through her various jobs in the Government of Canada (festival and performing arts series support — particularly making a significant impact on the increase in arts funding to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities in Ontario; cultural infrastructure support; Canadian cultural exporters support; and foreign direct investment promotion).

Although now and then she has performed as a professional musician in a variety of engagements across Canada, she has allowed that aspect of herself to sunset. In her personal life, she is a visual artist, creating oil paintings of Canadian landscapes and has taken up ballroom dance lessons. She has dreams of seeing an owl in the wild and flying with a jet pack, just as soon as they become available!

For more information about Moving Out! A Young Adult?s Guide to Living on Your Own please visit the GSPH website.

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

Check back for more Proust Questionnaireswith Canada's literati in this latest series of interviews on Open Book.

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