Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Be Full Of Others, Part One

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I wish the myth of the solitary, talented writer were true. After all, if it were then I could be the romantic figure who got published because of my shining, overwhelming genius. In truth though, I owe everything to the parade of writers who have supported me from first draft to finished product (of shining, overwhelming genius of course).

I only really began writing because Sheri Benning (Earth After Rain, Thin Moon Psalm) was kind enough to break a wine glass at my house. I’m thankful to this day that she’s as clumsy as she is talented (which is very on both counts). The next day she came by and offered her book as an apology and I fell totally and utterly in love with her work. Remember the post called “Stalk a Poet”? Dear readers, stalking a poet is how I got started. I followed her around and asked her for reading recommendations and was generally moon-faced. Sheri read my godawful poetry and didn’t tell me to stop writing. Instead she patiently workshopped with me, editing and offering support and instruction.

It seems to me like there are two kinds of writers. We all know that there is a limited audience for our work (especially within poetry). Writers tend to react by either wanting to quell the competition, or wanting to build up the community of readers and writers. I feel very fortunate to have landed in Kingston where every writer I’ve met here is deeply involved in the generous and generative act of building both readers and writers.

I have a theory that this healthy attitude comes from the established and well-celebrated authors that live here. If I could bless every beginning writer with one thing, it would be Helen Humphreys patting their hand and saying “You’ll be fine” which is basically what she said to me on a weekly basis as writer-in-residence as I brought her rejection after rejection of my first manuscript. There are too many generous writers in Kingston to name, but of the many who helped me, here’s a short list: Helen Humphreys, Diane Schoemperlen, Stuart Ross, Diane Dawber, Joanne Page, and Merilyn Simonds. They have set the precedent and generosity begets generosity. But how do you foster that kind of community in the first place?

(Look for Be Full Of Others Part Two, tomorrow)

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.

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Sarah Tsiang

Sarah Tsiang is the author of A Flock of Shoes (Annick Press, 2010), Sweet Devilry (Oolichan Books, 2011), Dogs Don’t Eat Jam and Other Things Big Kids Know (Annick Press, 2011) and Warriors and Wailers: 100 Ancient Chinese Jobs You Might Have Relished or Reviled (Annick Press, 2012). Her latest picture book, Stone Hatchlings, will be released in fall, 2012.

Go to Sarah Tsiang’s Author Page