25th Trillium Award

On Writing, with Annie McLurg

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Annie McLurg (Photo credit: Graham Davies)

Visual artist Annie McLurg is the author of No Angel (Pedlar Press), a book that was just published on May 15, 2013. Her very first published work, it is a creative-prose novel that tells the story of an old woman who purchases a heritage house in Prince Edward County that’s in dire need of renovations. After witnessing her struggle to make the repairs, her neighbour, Elmer, steps in to help and we witness the five years that follow. Today, Annie reveals the true story behind her book, explains her very visual approach to writing and the reason behind her decision to avoid use of punctuation, and tells us what she loves so much about being a writer in Prince Edward County. To find out more about writing life in PEC, please visit our Focus On: Prince Edward County page.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, No Angel.

Annie McLurg:

No Angel is creative prose. The story takes place deep in Prince Edward County. A city woman buys a beautiful wreck of a house, takes it apart board by board, then hires tradesmen to help her put it together again. By then she is broke. The acre and a half is a mess. Fallen trees, broken trees, poison ivy, piles of debris. She has no idea how to deal with the trees. A man comes to help in exchange for the wood. This is the story of the following five years.


Is there an autobiographical element to No Angel? How did the experience of purchasing "a wreck of a house" inspire you to write this book?


This is a true story about that man and myself. I was inspired to write by the character of the man. The relationship that developed was affectionate and filled with tension. The man was dearly loved in the community. He was generous, kind and protective. I took care to write about him gently and with love. I hope I have succeeded.


No Angel has an unusual format. Can you talk about why you chose to run your text down the middle and avoid punctuation?


I am a risk taker. I dislike rules. I wanted to question assumptions about what is meant by "story" and "book." I thought the rules, the way of doing things, needed to be challenged. I am a visual artist, so how the story looks on the page is important. My process in visual art is reductive. I used the same process in editing No Angel. During the editing process I challenged myself to see how much of the story I could take away and still retain meaning and flow. I was also questioning the need for punctuation. The story needed space around it so I used space instead of punctuation. I used the shape of the words on the page to suggest things I left unsaid. I pushed the idea of placement as far as I could without losing the threads of the story.


What do you love the most about being a reader and writer in Prince Edward County?


The peace. The pace. The people.


What is your ideal writing environment (and have you been able to find it in your Prince Edward County home?)


I need solitude, uninterrupted quiet. I need the discipline of regular writing time. Mornings work best for me. I need a large surface, pen and paper. My dining room table. I have a small cupboard upstairs in which I have my computer and printer. It is here that I make hard copies. I let a new scene sit for a while before I begin the editing process. I do the first editing on the hard copy at my table before finishing the process upstairs. It took longer to edit the stories than it took to write them.


What writers do you most admire?


I admire the writing of Emily Carr, Joseph Boyden, Michael Crummey, Helen Humphreys, C.S. Richardson and David Adams Richards.


What are you working on now?


I have ideas bubbling away. More stories to tell. Some of the stories I am afraid to write. Or even begin.

Annie McLurg lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario. In a former life she raised four children and studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design. The purchase of a wreck of a house changed her life. No Angel is her first published work.

For more information about No Angel please visit the Pedlar Press website.

Pedlar Press titles may be purchased at your local independent bookseller, or ordered from www.amazon.ca or directly from Pedlar. For purchases from Pedlar, contact Beth Follett at: [email protected].

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