Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

The WAR Series: Writers as Readers, with Rhonda Douglas

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Rhonda Douglas

The WAR Series (Writers As Readers) gives writers an opportunity to talk about the books that shaped them, from first loves to new favourites.

As a young girl in Newfoundlad, Ottawa poet and fiction writer Rhonda Douglas fell in love with such childhood classics as The Bobbsey Twins and Peter Pan and Wendy. Since then, she's been a devoted and eclectic reader, constantly surrounding herself with books she'd like to read right now, if only she had about 40 other selves. But all this reading does lead to great writing: her short fiction has won magazine awards from literary journals across the country, and her first book, Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems was published by Signature Editions in 2008. Her latest poetry has just been published in the chapbook How to Love a Lonely Man (Apt. 9 Press).

Rhonda will launch How to Love a Lonely Man at Ottawa's Raw Sugar Cafe this Friday, October 18. She'll be joined by poets Jesslyn Delia Smith and Spencer Gordon, also launching new Apt. 9 Press chapbooks. Visit our Events page for details.

The WAR Series, with Rhonda Douglas

The first book I remember reading on my own:
The Bobbsey Twins series by Laura Lee Hope. My grandmother also gave me an older copy of Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie, an edition with tissue paper over the illustrations so each one felt like a present, and also Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter, which I think was supposed to be instructional in some way. (By the time you add in Anne of Green Gables I feel like I should have hit my tenth birthday knowing how to churn butter.)

A book that made me cry:
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I was finishing it at Christmas several years ago and couldn?t bear to have anyone speak to me as I got near the end.

The first adult book I read:
No idea. I have vague memories of stealing my aunt?s Harlequins after I ran out of other things (it would have been a natural progression from Cherry Ames, Army Nurse), but I can?t remember any of them.

A book that made me laugh out loud:
Personality fault: books don?t actually make me laugh out loud. An internal chuckle or kind of glee is fairly common, with writers who do a good job of skewering the nonsense of the contemporary world but with tenderness. I also like a dry wit — American poet Tony Hoagland has a collection called What Narcissism Means to Me that fits these criteria, as does quite a lot of Susan Musgrave?s work. I enjoyed her recent poetry collection Origami Dove very much.

The book I have re-read many times:
The Iliad.

A book I feel like I should have read, but haven't:
There?s a long list. I have extensive book guilt that comes from buying books with a sense of urgency and then they just pile up, because who could ever have time to read that many books? Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dilliard was given to me as a gift several years ago now and is still sitting on the shelf in my bedroom staring at me balefully. It really doesn?t like me, that book.

The book I would give my 17-year-old self, if I could:
The Making of a Poem, by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland.

A book I feel strongly influenced me as a writer and why:
I found a copy of Margaret Atwood?s Power Politics at the Afterwords bookstore in St. John?s when I was in high school. After reading her, I felt like it was possible to do anything, or anything you could make work. George Saunders (Pastoralia, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Tenth of December) also does that for me with short fiction, as does Nathan Englander (For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.)

The best book I read in the past six months:
Billy Flynn?s Long Half-Time Walk. Oh my people, read this book. It?s by Ben Fountain, who also wrote the short story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevera. In poetry, I?ve been re-reading Sue Sinclair (Breaker, Mortal Arguments, The Drunken Lovely Bird).

The book I plan on reading next:
Currently reading Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. Stunning! Just picked up Sue Goyette?s Ocean which Anita Lahey recommended to me, along with Sharon McCartney?s Hard Ass. I want to dig into Shaena Lambert?s short story collection (Oh My Darling), plus new poetry out this fall by Don Domanski, David O?Meara, Sandra Ridley, Stephen Brockwell, Peter Richardson, Ross Leckie... I think I?m going to have to pace myself.

A possible title for my autobiography:
Can I Rest Now?

Rhonda Douglas is originally from Newfoundland but has lived in Ottawa with her daughter Emma since time out-of-Memorial. She is the author of Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems (Signature Editions, 2008) and a recently released chapbook from Apt. 9 Press, How to Love a Lonely Man. Her poetry has won awards in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Competition, the Far Horizons award from The Malahat Review and the Diana Brebner prize from Arc Poetry Magazine, where she was subsequently on the Editorial Board. Her short fiction has been published in literary journals across Canada and won first prizes from both Room Magazine and Prairie Fire. Rhonda completed her MFA in Creative Writing from UBC in 2012. She spends too much time on airplanes.

For more information about How to Love a Lonely Man and to purchase your copy, please visit the Apt. 9 Press website.

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