Saturday, December 18, 2010


Various things completely unrelated to writing that somehow end up on my desk, such as my passport, jewellery polishing cloth, blank birthday cards that I never got around to sending. Also a whole bunch of history books.

The cat hogging my chair as usual.

Rachel Lebowitz for DESK SPACE

DESK SPACE Who (a one-liner or a bio)?

RACHEL LEBOWITZ Mother, writer. First book, Hannus, was shortlisted for a BC book prize and the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Second book, Anything but Hank! (co-written by Zach Wells and illustrated by Eric Orchard) is apparently “the best book ever!” according to a kid who heard us read from it last year. Third book is in progress.

DS When did you start writing, publish your first book (or when are you publishing your next)?

RL In grade 1 maybe? By the age of 8, I had ditched my early dreams of owning a bakery in favour of being a writer. And I wrote lots of poems then. Apparently, love is good to everyone, even if you weigh a tonne. Who knew?

I published my first book, Hannus, with Pedlar Press in 2006. Hoping to publish the next book in 2012 or so but I have to finish it first.

DS Where do you write (at your desk/outside/in bed)?

RL My writing process is two-fold. Because the work I do (especially for my latest project) is so research-based, I tend to just get comfortable and do a lot of research in the livingroom. I read lots and use lots of sticky notes. Then eventually I wander over to my desk (in the corner of the dining room) and type up those notes and do more research online and write.

DS Why do you work where you do (at your desk because it is a quiet space/outside b/c it helps you think/in the park b/c you can smoke, etc)?

RL I work at home, alone, a couple days a week while my son is at daycare. I can't focus on my writing in public spaces. Also, I always read my writing out loud while I'm working and feel self-conscious if anyone else is around. Rhythm is very important to me and that's the best way for me to hear it (or lack thereof).

I used to write on paper but I can't do it anymore. For one thing, I do so much research that I need the internet to do quick searches on something – often right in the middle of writing. It could be an image search or the line from some poet that I need to check, or a map of England or facts about cockroaches or coral reefs. I can't imagine writing without google. For another, I'm a really slow and picky writer. It's picking up now, but it's not unusual for me to write one poem a year. However, those pieces do tend to come out fairly finished – I edit as I go along. I can't write another sentence if I know there are problems with the first one – and seeing all those scratched out lines on paper just depresses me and makes me feel like I'm not going anywhere. So the delete and enter keys are my friends!

DS What is the last book you read (or what are you reading)?

RL Orlando! I just started a book club and we're focusing on various classic works we've never got around to reading. It's pretty exciting. Sometimes I feel like all Canadian writers do is read each other's work or the next big thing. I want to get away from that for awhile. Also, these days I'm reading lots of nursery rhymes to my son and I'm finding them pretty inspiring for my own work.

DS What are you working on now?

RL Cottonopolis – a book of prose poems about the Industrial Revolution, specifically the cotton industry, mostly focusing on Manchester. Slavery, empire, child labour, Luddites, American civil war, etc. It's pretty huge and terrifying and exhilarating.

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