Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with Kim Firmston

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October 31, 2013 - Kim Firmston is Open Book's November 2013 Writer in Residence. In her answers to the Dirty Dozen interview, Kim tells us about the craziest thing she's ever done, her nickname, her big dream and more.

  1. If you couldn’t make money in the writing business, what else would you be doing?

    You can make money in the writing business? Seriously? Joking (more or less). In high school I was really interested in art and advertising, so if I had to leave the writing behind, I think I would go into advertising and be the person making up weird and funny commercials like those Snickers ads or drawing funky animals in order to sell products to the masses. Either that or I would work in a comic book store. Of course I would probably spend more than I’d make. But really, I could never give up writing. Not ever. It would kill me.

  2. What’s the funniest sign you’ve seen?

    I love random signs and graffiti and I’ve seen some good ones. One time when I was looking out the window of a Red Arrow bus as I was coming into Calgary I saw a sign for Used Cars and Trucks, but I misread the sign and thought it said Used Cats and Trucks. In my exhaustion I contemplated, “Used cats? I guess that’s a good way to advertise cats who need a new home.” But that wasn’t the funniest sign. I think the best one would have to be the emergency exit sign I saw while at a conference. They were renovating the building and the huge sign was leaning up against the wall with the arrow pointing at the ground. The first thing I thought was, “Emergency Exit straight through Hell.” It just didn’t seem like a viable option in the event of a fire.

  3. Do you have a nickname?

    I’ve had the nickname, Kritter, since I was nineteen. It came out of the old Critters movies. Those guys were cute and deadly. Like me. My nickname is spelled with a K so I don’t have to change my initials. I’m lazy like that. My old friends use it exclusively. Most of my new friends don’t even know I have a nickname. I’m not hiding it. It just never comes up in conversation. You can tell how long I’ve been friends with someone by how they address me.

  4. Why do you like kids more than adults?

    Kids are clever. Not that adults aren’t but kids have this ability to think on their feet. They don’t know things are impossible or don’t want to believe it. They aren’t scared. They don’t mind failing – it’s part of growing up. By the time people are adults they figure they are over failing and are pretty reluctant to put themselves in a situation where that might happen. Kids are sponges. They soak up information, knowledge and experiences. Adults are full and figure they know it all already. It’s work to teach adults anything new. I feel like when I hang out with kids I can be myself. With adults I have to be very guarded so I don’t completely freak them out. Someone who jumps up and waves their arms yelling, “Do you think fish tell stories about being abducted to each other after a fisherman does the catch and release thing?” tends to get shunned at adult events. Kids totally get it. They will add, “And all the other fish are, yeah right buddy, sure you were. You are really messed up.” and then laugh their heads off. That’s not to say all adults are dull. I do get on with a few. But for the most part, kids beat adults hands down.

  5. What is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?

    Eaten straight wasabi. It made the base of my hair follicles hurt – not even kidding. I’ve never had my hair hurt before. It was pretty crazy.

  6. What do you like to snack on while writing?

    I have Iron Man and Batman Pez dispensers on my desk. If I run into a plotting problem, I’ll blow through a whole row of Pez. By the time Batman is empty, the problem is solved. I also like raw, unsalted almonds with a cup of tea. It’s an awesome, non-sticky, non-crumby way to eat. Having snacks keeps me alive because once I get going I often forget to have lunch.

  7. What’s the best part of making your own websites?

    I’ve made three websites so far, one for me (, one for my book Boiled Cat (, and one for my kids’ writing club ( I love creating. Websites give me the chance to explore all kinds of mediums. I put art, bad poetry, worse lyrics, animation, short films, and links to fun games, videos, and cool websites on them. I also get stuff from other people. Friends have contributed music, art, film and photos to my websites. It’s great to work collaboratively. I also make my websites interactive – some more so than others. I hate going to a website where all there is to do is look and read. I want stuff to click. I have to say my FAVORITE thing in the world though is to put big red Do Not Push buttons around my sites that lead to crazy places. Because who can resist a do not push button? Not me!

  8. What’s the best opening chapter you’ve ever read?

    Tank Girl Armadillo and a Bushel of Other Stories by Allen C. Martin. I seriously love this guy. He’s an amazing comic book writer but when I read this novel I was blown away. The first chapter, which is only one page long, catapults the reader straight into the story like a cannon blast. It’s amazing. Martin is amazing. And Tank Girl, not the one from the movie that had nothing to do with the comic or the book since they wouldn’t let Martin write or have any say in it, is amazing. Truly amazing. This is well worth the read if you don`t mind excessive swearing, violence, and true action adventure writing in Technicolor. NOT FOR KIDS though. Don’t go passing this book on to your teen.

  9. What are your guilty pleasures?

    I have waaay too many comic books. In fact I recently had to buy a new box. And now a comic store has moved into my neighborhood not a block away. I’m totally doomed. I also love superhero movies. I get tingles when I see one about to hit the big screen. And I’m a big time fan of Anime. Some of my favorites are Naruto, Cowboy Beebop, Samurai Shamploo, and Mongolian Chop Squad. I’m even trying to learn Japanese. It’s going really slowly. Another pleasure is punk rock music. I love bands that are loud and fast, like a machine gun with staccato lyrics. I can’t listen to it while I’m writing unfortunately. I have to have it dead quiet to write. But any other time, it’s just the thing.

  10. What was the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

  11. The craziest, and most successful, thing I’ve ever done was to start the Reality Is Optional kids’ writing club. The club is a child led group where anyone over the age of eighteen, doesn’t get a vote. That means, although I started this group, I really have no control over the madness that ends up happening. We started in 2009 with a whole three members. We played writing games, had treats and cokes. Simple. Soon it was up to six members, then ten. Then the kids wanted to do a play so we created a child lead theatre company called, DramAntics, and partnered up with the Alexandra Centre Society and the Calgary Fringe Festival. Then our numbers grew to twelve and we started a Dungeons and Dragons club. We went up to fourteen and made a summer day camp where we had adventures all over the city, writing and filming what we did. Now we have sixteen kids all packed into one small room. We hold workshops on all kinds of subjects, have a website with youth writing resources and a monthly E-Zine, we’ve made a close friendship with a residential youth writing camp called WordsWorth, we still have a D&D club, and we’ve created a YouTube channel. Soon we will be starting a Bad Movie club – where we watch exclusively bad movies. We also attract some pretty big name guests. RIO (as we like to call the club) is a pretty awesome place. It’s changed and grown from the little seed of an idea I had in the beginning. Still a crazy idea, but one that fills a need.

  12. What is your big dream?

    One day, when I am rich from being a world-wide best-selling author (don’t laugh, it could happen) I want to buy a big building and turn it into The Youth Cultural Centre of Calgary. We would have room for all different types of youth arts from actual art, to words, to music, to theatre, to physical arts like parkour (because writers need exercise) and so on. It would have a twenty-four hour coffee shop, catacombs for the D&D club located behind a book case in the library, and a roof top garden. We would have a theatre and an all ages music venue. It would be awesome. I just have to get rich.

  13. What is your philosophy in life?

    Have fun. Say yes to almost everything (don’t get suckered but don’t say no just because you’re scared. Everyone is scared the first time they do something). Take time to play and play often. Don’t feel guilty about doing what you love. If you get depressed or feel hopeless do ALL of these three things: Have a cup of tea. Eat a sandwich. Take a nap. After that you should feel better. You have a limited time on this Earth – make the most of it. Don’t put things off. Find a way. You won’t regret it. Life is the best game ever – so play it hard and go to bed exhausted with a huge grin on your face.