Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

From Page to Stage: The Hooked Journey with Author Carolyn Smart

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From Page to Stage: The Hooked Journey with Author Carolyn Smart

Carolyn Smart is the author, most recently, of Hooked (Brick Books 2009), dramatic monologues that explore the lives of seven women, including Elizabeth Smart, Jane Bowles, Carson McCullers and Zelda Fitzgerald. Acclaimed actress Nicky Guadagni has performed the dramatic monologues in people’s homes ( Carolyn Smart is also author of The Way to Come Home (Brick Books, 1992). An excerpt from her memoir At the End of the Day (Penumbra Press, 2001) won the CBC Radio Literary Competition in 1994. She teaches Creative Writing and Contemporary Canadian Poetry at Queen’s University. You can read samples of her work here:

AH: Were there other female figures that attracted your imagination, but did not make the collection, for the book Hooked?

CS: Yes, there were several other women who I considered writing about, but in the end for one reason or another, they were left behind: some could be perceived too simply as victims; some I finally didn't want to explore further due to their disturbing behaviours; some didn't ultimately reveal themselves: I found no entry point through their actions or their words.

AH: What cautions would you offer to writers working with biographical material?

CS: I don't know if these are "cautions" specifically, but this is what I learned: don't simplify; expect surprises; trust your readers.

AH: How did you feel about readers learning about these figures for the first time, were you concerned they would be at a disadvantage?

CS: Not at all. I expect that some of the women are unexplored territory. If you do a little searching, if you're interested to know more, you won't be disappointed, but as they stand, I think all the women express themselves in a way a reader can relate to, whether you knew of them before or not.

AH: How did you feel about the dramatization of Hooked? Could you discuss some of the discoveries and/or surprises of seeing your work in a way perhaps not originally expected? On the other hand, did you ever expect that it c/ would be dramatized when you were writing?

CS: I wrote Hooked thinking very clearly about how it sounded, and seeing the women so clearly in mind -- partially from the pictures, and partially from my own imagination of how they would be, how they would move and act. I had to have a dialogue with them when I wrote about them. It made them real to me. Seeing Nicky portray these women, bring them to life before my eyes, was at the same moment deeply moving and uncomfortably intimate. That was how it felt at first, like after all these years I'd finally been heard, and very truly. I may say that this is the least confessional of my books so far, but it's still very deeply me. Each of the women have much of myself inside them, otherwise I couldn't really be truthful in the language.

I thought to myself that I could give some great readings from it (that's how it started, after all: I wrote "Written on the Flesh" for the Red Schoolhouse Poetry Primer a few years ago) but then I realized that it could be a multi-character performance, and who better to do that than my friend Nicky? She was always the one I thought of: she is a very skilled character actor.

AH: What directions would you like to move in/ are you moving in for your next book?

CS: I am still fascinated by story-telling, but I'm also interested in forms; what I am working on now is very different in form than any poetry I've written before. But the story powers it all, still, for me. That and the lives of the people.

See also on OBT, Alessandro Porco's interview with Smart:

Carolyn Smart reads "Written on the Flesh [Myra Hindley]" from Hooked at the 49th Parallel Reading, AWP Conference Chicago, February 14, 2009.

Carolyn Smart reads "Rickety Rackety" from Hooked at The Book Shop in Tamworth, Ontario. Filmed by Barry Lovegrove, July 27, 2009.
Part one:
Part two:

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Angela Hibbs

Angela Hibbs's second collection of poetry, Wanton, came out with Insomniac Press in the Fall of 2009. With Sachiko Murakami, she co-hosts Pivot at the Press Club.

Go to Angela Hibbs’s Author Page