We are joined by David Bezmozgis on the podcast this week. David is an award winning author, the host of the writing podcast Love and Defiance, and the creative director of the Humber School for Writers, and he speaks to us about all avenues of his career. He tells us about the different writing opportunities he’s had, how he got involved in the Humber School for Writers and what the mentor-based program involves, and he tells us about his podcast and how he hopes it can inspire aspiring writers.
- David tells us about his career as both a literary writer and a television writer, how the two writing experiences differ, and how the pandemic has changed his writing process
- He talks to us about the creative writing program at Humber College, which offers students one-on-one mentorship with a published author, and how he became involved in the program
- David explains how the mentorship aspect of the creative writing program works, including how students are paired with their mentor and whether it’s more beneficial to seek mentorship with an author who is similar to you or to work with an author who differs from your style
- He tells us about his podcast, The Love and Defiance Podcast, how the format of interviewing students enrolled in the program came about, and why he chose the name Love and Defiance
- David discusses what he looks for in a successful application letter, and he explains how this letter is an opportunity for potential students to show off their writing style and their storytelling abilities
- He talks about hosting his own podcast and how he gained his interviewing skills, and he shares his advice for any author who might be nervous about discussing and promoting their own worl
David Bezmozgis is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He is the author of the story collections, Immigrant City and Natasha and Other Stories, and the novels, The Betrayers and The Free World.
David’s stories have appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Harpers, Zoetrope All-Story, and The Walrus.
His books have been nominated for the Scotiabank/Giller Prize, The Governor-General’s Award, the Trillium Prize and won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and the National Jewish Book Award.
In the summer of 2010, David was included in The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 issue, celebrating the twenty most promising fiction writers under the age of forty.
A graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, David’s first feature film, Victoria Day, premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009. His second feature, was an adaptation of his story Natasha.
Born in Riga, Latvia, David lives in Toronto where he is the Creative Director of the Humber School for Writers.
Transcription provided by Speechpad
Tara: Hey, writers, you’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Tara, the director of Kobo Writing Life.
Rachel: I’m Rachel, the author engagement coordinator at Kobo Writing Life. This week we spoke to David Bezmozgis on the podcast. David is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He is the host of the “Love & Defiance Podcast.” And he is the creative director of the Humber School for Writers.
Tara: We had a great chat with David about how he got into the writing, and filmmaking, and podcasting business, and how he started working with Humber as the creative director there. It’s really interesting as a program as it’s mentor-based. It seems to be very kind of one-on-one intensive. So what I liked to chat to him about was the “Love & Defiance Podcast” was where some of his graduates had an opportunity to sit down with David and sort of tell their story, not necessarily the story about their books, but their life story. And then we also chatted to David about writing for “Orphan Black,” where our resident nerd Rachel just asked a ton of questions.
Rachel: I really did. It was a great conversation with David and we hope you all enjoy.
Tara: I’m delighted to have another great guest for the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast” this week. We are joined with David Bezmozgis. Welcome, David.
David: Yeah. Hi, nice to be here.
Tara: So you are an award-winning writer and filmmaker, and most recently a podcaster. For anyone that’s not familiar with your work, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
David: Yeah, sure. So as a novelist, or as a writer, I’ve written two collections of stories and two novels. My first book was the collection “Natasha and Other Stories,” and then there were two novels that followed, “The Free World” and “The Betrayers,” and most recently, my last book of stories was “Immigrant City.”
Tara: Nice. Have you found your writing changing at all during the pandemic?
David: Well, I think I’ve been affected the way a lot of people have been affected, which is I have young kids, so having children at home has made it more difficult. They’re just more demands domestically on my time. So between work and having to do all the things that need to get done at home, finding time to write has been harder.
Tara: Yeah, that’s definitely what we hear in terms of the feedback because I always assumed authors would be more tuned to it as people predominantly work from home anyway, but the added distractions of anybody else in the house must be hard to deal with.
David: Yeah, yeah. I mean, especially with, you know, the way that it’s been for a lot of people having kids, doing school from home. Having children leave your house and be out is a time when there’s quiet, you can get your writing done. So take that away, and it becomes a little more challenging.
Rachel: I can only imagine. The only distraction I have at home is a dog and he is enough.
Rachel: In addition to being a writer, you also teach creative writing, you work at Humber. Could you tell us a little bit how you got involved at Humber and what the program is like that you offer?
David: Sure. So the Humber School for Writers has been in existence since 1992. I think it was one of the first, not the first, but one of the first creative writing programs in Canada. So it’s based out of Toronto, which is where Humber is. So I got involved because I’ve done some teaching for them before. They do a couple things, it’s still the case that they have a program which is like, they call it a graduate certificate or correspondence program, where let’s say you’re a writer and you have a project you’re working on, a novel, a memoir, a collection of stories, and what you would like to do is get some one-on-one attention. Editorial attention is basically what it comes down to with a published author. And so, they’ve been offering that for, you know, as long as the program’s existed, and a summer workshop, where it’s the only time, currently the way it still works, that students are actually on campus. So for a week in July, we run this summer creative writing workshop.
So I used to teach him that and had a good relationship with the people who founded the school, both of whom were kind of like retiring one after the other. And they asked if I wanted to get more involved. And this was 2017, I just finished…I also do film work, and I’d done a season of “Orphan Black.” I was in the writing room, which I enjoyed, but sort of the thought was, do I wanna go back and spend more time focusing on writing books or do I wanna spend time, you know, doing the sort of TV writing? And I really felt like, because of the personal nature of what you can do with literature and book writing, I really wanted to kind of spend more time doing that, and got involved with the program, and have been there for about five years now or getting onto it, yeah.
Tara: I did wanna ask you about “Orphan Black.” Sorry, Rachel, I’m jumping in ahead of you.
Rachel: Oh, it’s all good. Go ahead.
Tara: I just wanted to ask because you’ve adapted your own work to film, you know, so it’s not completely new to you, but how does, like, writing for TV differ? Was there anything that kind of surprised you or that you learned from it?
David: Well, both. There were things that surprised me and things I learned for sure. So it was my first time in a writers’ room. So how a room works, this sort of like collaborative and competitive nature of a writing room. You know, writing generally is a solitary thing, whereas being in a writers’ room is pretty much the opposite. It’s, as I say, collaborative and competitive. It’s a strange sort of thing where you’re supposed to be supporting each other, but everybody wants their ideas to get up on the board. And so, you feel the sense every day of, you know, having to deliver something. So that’s, you know, you hope that you get along with the people in the room.
What surprised me? I mean, yes, I’ve done feature film work. And so, let’s say a budget for an independent feature film is like, I don’t know in Canada, a million dollars. But an episode of television of, like, dramatic television is off the bat. I mean, “Orphan Black” was a pretty high-end series for Canada, for sure. And so, an episode of that could be a million dollars. I don’t know exactly the full numbers. But what surprised me was, like, how often you spent a lot of time…First of all, how little of the season was established before the writer showed up. So let’s say we got into…you know, the room was established in June for development, and by August, we were like in production. That season, which was the fifth season of the show, it was very bare-bones, what the idea for what was gonna happen was, which was a shock, and it’s not unusual. And also how you could develop an idea for an episode, and then have all of it kind of scuttled at the last minute, and within a week, have new scripts written and things happening on the fly.
And I just realized what we’re talking about here from a pure production money standpoint is the same amount that people get for a feature film that they developed for years, and the script is kind of refined, and, you know, that was surprising to me, how quickly things change, and what a machine it can be. But a lot of fun, you know, if you’re in a room with the right people, and once you get on set, which I always enjoyed, you know, seeing this thing kind of materialize and take shape in front of you.
Rachel: I’m surprised to hear that they went in so bare-bones because “Orphan Black” is a show that had so many different plot lines going on at once. Was the overall experience really collaborative? Or was it here’s kind of the season arc, here’s your episode, go?
David: So it was very collaborative. It wasn’t, here’s your episode, go. Everybody is, you know, figuring out what the season arc is gonna be. So all the writers were in the room, and we’re like, okay, here’s episode 501, 502, 503, 504 all the way through, whatever it was, 10 of them. And yeah, you’re kind of just going through it and figuring out what the ideas are gonna be. And all the writers end up having a hand, at least conceptually, in all the episodes. If not of the entire series, then certainly the ones leading up to yours. Like, by the time mine shot, it was January, so I’d been in the room all the way through. So anything that came before 506, I’m like talking weird numbers now, I would have been involved in. Things that happened after, a little bit less, but yeah, everybody has a hand in it. And you can lean on writers and people had different strengths, which is interesting. Some people are great with plots, some people are great with, like, dialogue, some people are funny. And so, yeah, people bring different aspects to it.
Tara: It must be nice to, sort of, be able to write in that world and then come back to write in, sort of, your own fiction as well at the same time because they sound extremely different.
David: They’re extremely different. I really craved it by the end of it. I think TV writers, if you’re on somebody else’s show, you’re serving somebody else’s vision, which is not bad, and it’s a skill set, you feel like, you know, this is what I’ve been brought here to do, and there are certain strengths that I have that I’m gonna provide to the show. But unless it’s your show, the vision is always somebody else’s. So I think for TV writers, you know, if they’re not doing any other kind of writing, they wanna have their own shows because then you really feel like, you know, you’re expressing something from within yourself.
And for me, yeah, going back and writing stories and other types of creative fiction, yeah, I felt like I was able to kind of return in a way to why I wanted to write in the first place, which was there were things I wanted to say, and unless I’m doing it in prose fiction, I don’t really know how else to do it quite the same way. And that’s part of the reason why I ended up back at Humber or became more involved with it, which is sort of a decision for myself that while I still want to do film work, and I’m still doing it, that the core of who I am is a writer, you know, a writer of books and of prose, which is how I…you know, when I dreamed my dreams as a young writer, young guy, that’s what I dreamed about.
Rachel: I just kind of wanted to touch back on the Humber program a little bit and about the mentorship aspect of it. I’m just curious, how do you go about pairing the people in the program with the right mentor? What do you look for, for that collaboration?
David: So it’s student-driven. We have students come into the program in September, and students come in again in January, and each time for eight months. So if you start in September, you run through April, if you start in January, you run through August. And there are mentors who teach in each one of these intakes, and students can see who’s teaching, so and they will choose basically their top three. I wish to study with who we have, Wile Bryce, or Lisa York, or David Burgin, or Omar Ellicott. And we try, basically, to give students, you know, their first choice, the person they want to be with. Because the idea is…and students who don’t know who the mentors are, the suggestion is, you know, how do we choose? Well, read the work of these people, do some research and see who you think you fit with. So, some people come to the program just because they know the program and the reputation. Some people come to the program because they really wanna study with a specific person, and this is one of the only places where they can do it.
Tara: Yeah, I really liked the aspect of mentorship when we had chatted about this before, and like, in my mind, you were describing it to me, and I’m like, “Man, I wanna take this program. I’m not even much of a writer.” So it definitely is appealing. I like the idea of the mentorship. And also, just again, it always astounds me how generous authors are with their time and how willing people are to help up-and-coming people, you know, get better at what they wanna do. I always love that.
David: Yeah, I think it’s two things. First of all, it’s interesting because, you know, it’s this relationship that if you’re a writer and you have writer friends, you probably have to some extent. You’re writing something and you share your work with someone whose opinion you respect. So that happens between writers. I also think that in the publishing world, it’s also an editorial relationship, and the kind of close attention that people imagine they get from an editor is less and less the case, sadly, you know, in a publishing house, where editors often, for whatever reason, don’t have the time, or don’t do it in the way that one kind of envisions. And so, that’s what this program does, where you have somebody who, though not a professional editor, is a professional writer, and you really get close attention to your work, and you get it sort of in every aspect, you get it from a craft level line to line, but you also get it from a conceptual structural level. And it’s rare to get that and to have it for such a, you know, intensive, prolonged amount of time, which is whatever it is for us, it’s like 30 weeks, something like that.
Rachel: And when students are kind of choosing their top three, in your experience, do you find that they’re looking for somebody who writes in the same genre, or in the same way as them, or do you advise going for somebody who’s a little bit different to get a different perspective?
David: Oh, I mean, I think they’re looking for somebody who does what they do, and I think that’s wise, but there are people, you know, the people who teach for us, and I teach as well in the program, you know, I’ve taught students who are writing something very different from what I do. Some of it just comes down to the basics, and I think a lot of people, you know, you end up talking about the same things all the time, which is things like, you know, conflict, drama in a scene, what is good dialogue? How much do you need? Which then always goes into things like show not tell, which I speak about a little differently. I talk about it more in the breakdown between the subjective and the objective voice. How much are you, like, in somebody’s head? And how much are you actually seeing what’s going on in the world? And I think no matter what kind of writing you’re doing, you’re dealing with those elements pretty much all the time.
But having said that, like if you were to say to me, “Okay, you know, David, who would you like to study with?” Yeah, I’m like, you know, “Is J.M. Coetzee available? Because I really like his work, and I’d love to do that.” You know what I mean? Or Sigrid Nunez or, you know, I could come up with a few. Because I think that’s it, you’re kind of drawn to the people who have done things that are akin to what you’re doing or people whose work you admire.
Tara: Yeah, I was gonna ask who your mentor would be, but you beat me to it.
David: There’s a couple. It’s a longer list, yeah.
Rachel: From a mentor perspective. So we had somebody on the podcast recently who said that there is a big difference between a good writer and a good storyteller, and I was wondering if you kind of find the same thing, and if there’s one aspect that you find easier to mentor people on, whether it’s coming up with, like, creative prose or the overarching structure of a story?
David: I mean, I think that the basic components of writing is the sentence. And if your sentences are no good, I think it’s hard to tell a good story. And when I say your sentence is no good, it depends, like it just has to be, just to begin with, you know, in terms of style, people have different styles. But you can tell a good sentence, depending, you know, one style, you know, for multiple different styles, but you can still see this sentence achieves what it aims to do, and it’s clear. And it’s, like, clear from a functional standpoint, but it’s also clear, like, emotionally, what it’s trying to achieve. So to me, I think if you know your story, that’s fine, you should know the story you’re trying to tell, but often it’s not like, what, but it often comes also down to how. And I think how, without the how, the what doesn’t matter so much. The two are so, I think, inextricably linked.
I guess the last thing I’ll say is like my standard for things I like to read, I should be able to open your book at random anywhere, in the middle, last third, read a sentence and wanna keep reading. I don’t care what happened before. I mean, if your book doesn’t make me wanna do that, then it’s probably…I mean, it’s not for me.
Tara: Well, I wanna talk about the “Love & Defiance Podcast” that you’ve been doing kind of in tangent with your Humber students. So it features Humber students and graduates who’ve lived interesting or extraordinary lives and have brought those experiences into their writing. So first and foremost, why love and defiance? Are those the two things that you kind of see as a theme throughout writing, or was this specific to the group of people, or is that at the core of every story?
David: I think it’s at the core of art-making, I think, maybe there was a time in some, like, ideal past where you could be an artist and feel like you’re not experiencing any kind of resistance from the greater culture. But I do think, you know, if you wish to make art, if you wish to write, that there’s some aspect of that that is defiant, which is probably everybody in your life is not saying, “That’s a great idea, you know, Tara, you should definitely go and do that.” Whether the culture, the messages that the culture is sending, you are not supportive of, you know, sitting down and writing, you know, any kind of writing, I think, but like I do, okay, whatever, literary writing, but mostly, you know, what is the culture telling you to do? Like, buy some stuff, look different than you look, you know, go places that you’re not at right now. I don’t know. All those various things. So I think you have to feel like this is a thing that may seem esoteric to a lot of people, but it’s important to me, and I’m gonna do it, and that’s the defiance part. And it has to come from a place of love, which is, you know, you have to love whatever it is that you wish to write about that it moves you that you’re connected to it. I talked about writing, but I think it’s true of all art-making. So that’s really what it is, why, you know, I titled it that.
And, you know, the nature of what the podcast is, like, we’re kind of talking about a little bit before when you say, you know, what type of writing? What’s good writing or what is the program? And I described the program, which is, you know, this idea of mentorship, where you have a student and a mentor. And it’s also because it’s not, you know, we call it distance learning, or correspondence, or whatever these things are. So we have students from all over Canada, and all over the world. Well, all over the world is a bit much. But we did have students from the States, I mean, you have to be English-speaking. But let’s just say from across Canada, who have come to writing and have come to this program at different stages of their lives, often later in life, that this is a dream that they’ve nurtured for a long time and a story that they’ve wanted to tell for a long time. And some of these stories, and the people, and the lives they’ve led her so interesting.
When I, you know, joined the faculty, I promoted, like I pitched, you know, oh, whatever, it’s 2017, podcasts are interesting, we should do a podcast. But it’s like, what would it be about for the school? And I thought, you know, I first sort of like facile thing is, well, we have a lot of kind of famous writers who are teaching for us, we could just interview them. That’s one thing. I feel like, you know, you can get that elsewhere. And what I saw when I saw the applications come in, as students write these application letters, and it’s really like a statement of intent, but also, like, an emotional statement of who they are, and what’s brought them to this point in their lives, and it reads like a little biography. And some of them were just so compelling. And I could usually tell if the letter, the application letter was well written, you’re like, okay, this person can write. If you can write this letter, I’m pretty sure you can write whatever else it is you wish to do. And that was the idea for it that we would feature students who have led these interesting lives, and that their life experiences, pretty much in all cases of the podcast, not always, but mostly a factor into what they’re writing about.
And so, you know, the podcast, I think works on multiple levels. One is, if you are an aspiring writer, you can hear another aspiring writer talking about where they are, not a published writer, but somebody who’s kind of in a stage of becoming, which I think is rare to see. You can hear just a great life story. And then you can find out about, you know, what we do at Humber, the mentorship model, what that experience has been like. And simultaneously, we feature students who, I think, deserve to be known, even, you know, if they haven’t published a manuscript yet, but they’re close. Just as a form of validation for them. And I think all the episodes, to me, are just like these fascinating stories. Like, I can give you an example.
So, we had in the season that just…this is season two, so we had a Turkish journalist Onder Deligosz who fled Turkey, but he was like…you know, talks about his experience of being a journalist from the opposition at a certain point in Turkish history. It’s like 2016, really, I remember because I was on “Orphan Black” when they had the attempted coup, and that was very much what was happening in his life. And he wrote a novel when he came to America, and then subsequently to Canada, just about Syrian refugees appearing in Turkey and, you know, religious extremism, and secularism, and all this stuff, informed by what he’d done. You know, we’ve had people write about…you know, there’s a memoir of a woman who had like stage four cancer, and thought she was gonna die, and then by one strange coincidence and another was helped by indigenous healing, and just like remarkable, remarkable stories.
And so, that to me is like, okay, if we’re gonna do something, that’s the sort of thing I wanted to do, and also just, if we think about writing, in general, but in this country as a type of ecosystem, which is what you guys are doing as well, it’s like, how do we add to that ecosystem? You know, what is it for people, you know, who are passionate about writing? How can we make these people feel less alone? How do we create a sense of community? How do we make this whole project feel more accessible? And I think it does that too.
Tara: Yeah, I definitely agree. I haven’t listened to season two. I don’t think it’s out yet, is it?
David: Just dropping now, so it’s out. It’s showing up on Spotify and that sort of thing, so yeah.
Tara: So I went through season one episodes because I clearly didn’t do my research well enough. But I was very intrigued about the whole fact that the application letter is what kind of appeals to you. And I think it was your interview with Colin Buchanan that really jumped out at me because I think you or he read the application letter, and it was like a story in itself. So I thought that was sort of incredible. It was really impressive to me that you could really get the tone of what he would write from the letter itself.
David: Yeah. And people open themselves up so much, right? People are so vulnerable in these letters, and just in these conversations that we have that, I don’t know, how else do you get this sort of intimacy? I mean, podcasts can give it to you, actually. And so, yeah, it’s a place where you can get that. And it’s a place where we have our students who are kind of bravely and openly telling kind of the deepest and most personal parts of their lives.
Tara: I noticed a few students have changed their story ideas completely while going into the program. It’s not something that you see happening, like, quite commonly?
David: That’s a really good question, Tara. Yeah, it happens a lot that people, you know, especially if they…some people come to the program, they have like a draft of their manuscript or halfway. So those don’t usually change quite so much. But people who have, you know, an idea of something they wanna do in the process of doing it, yeah, it could change considerably. It changed…I mean, Colin is an example, it changed for him. He had a different model in mind. So yeah, there is that space, I think, that opens up when there’s a conversation between the student and the mentor, and all of a sudden you see a direction that you hadn’t seen before.
Rachel: I’m just curious because you said you received these application letters and that’s what a lot of this podcast is based on, is there something, in particular, you are looking for when you’re receiving these application letters, or is it just something that speaks to you on a personal level?
David: Yeah, I mean, it’s a story that people…I mean, the idea is, you know, you’re supposed to apply and say, why are you applying to this program? It’s such a simple question, but what people do with it, and some of them, you know, they take it as an opportunity to really be reflective, and to express, you know, who they’ve been up to this point in their lives, and why it is that this is so important to them. And often, you can see style, like there’s no template for how to do it. And you can see, you know, storytelling that people really do tell a story. And I think, immediately, you can see what the skill behind it is. And ultimately, really, in a more professional sense, you kind of have to learn to do this stuff, you have to do it when you’re writing grants, you have to do it when you are applying…you know, you wanna submit your work to an agent. So, I don’t know how much attention is paid to these sorts of application letters, but strangely enough, we have to present ourselves as writers sometimes in a professional sense for people to get a good grasp of who you are in order to enable you to get to where you wanna go.
Rachel: Nice. So you said season two is on. Where can people find it, on Spotify and Apple, if they’re interested, or any of the podcasting platforms?
David: You know, we have a site through Libsyn. But yeah, if you’re on Spotify, just search “Love & Defiance,” you can find it there. And it’s in process of being on Apple. So it’ll be on Apple Podcasts as well. So those two places for sure, and Google Podcasts, and on our site, just under “Love & Defiance Podcast.”
Tara: You’re very good at interviewing, I have to say. Was that something that was like another new skill that you’re kind of diving into? I mean, I know you’ve sort of written for, like, press and magazines and stuff, but I wouldn’t say your background is necessarily journalism.
David: It’s not, though, you know, I went to film school in Los Angeles. And I went through more of the documentary stream than the narrative stream and learned how to listen, I guess, and learn how to interview, I think, there. But I’ve always been interested in people’s stories, and I try to shut up enough not to get in their way. And I think, honestly, for the work that I’ve done as a writer, which a lot of it is drawn from personal experience, and it’s drawn from the stories of my family and friends. This is like Russian Jewish material. So listening to my grandparents, and parents, and family members. Yeah, just learning to listen to people. So I enjoy it, I enjoy, like, getting informed enough that I’m prepared before I sit down. So I always read whatever it is the students have written. If they have a, you know, working manuscript, I’ll read it. And we’ll pre-interview, so I basically have a sense of, you know, what their story is, and then just try to speak…like, try to talk as little as possible, and give them the space.
Tara: This question has just come to me now that you’re saying that. So a lot of our listeners would be authors that sometimes go on different podcasts as a way of, like, promotion, and they’ve been on the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” or some others there. Would you have any advice about for an author that’s maybe a little bit nervous speaking? I don’t know if any of your authors were a bit, like, shy to be interviewed on that sort of thing? I know some are, you know, the more you do it, the better you seem to get at it, but just wondering what your advice would be to kind of put people at ease or make them feel better.
David: It’s a really good question. I guess, as an interviewer, I guess you have a responsibility to try to put someone at ease. So whatever that is, you know, sometimes there isn’t time to prepare and be able to speak to somebody to get a sense of who they are and forge that connection, because it’s an element of trust, right? If you’re gonna speak to somebody else, they have to trust you enough to be able to say what it is, you know, that’s on their heart. But as far as people going on it, you’re right, I think the more you do it, the easier it gets. And I also think that having confidence in what it is just that you’re there to present, you know, if you’ve been invited on the show to talk about yourself, and whatever it is that, you know, a book you’ve written or whatever, yeah, just feel secure that you’re there for a reason, and talk to the essence of whatever it is that you’re supposed to do, and you’ll be fine.
Tara: Great. And if anyone is interested in the program that you’re talking about, you said it’s available in Canada and the States. Is there a website that they can go to to learn more?
David: Yeah, I mean, so it’s the Humber School for Writers and it’s Humber College. And, I mean, it’s available to anybody, you know, who speaks and writes English, really. But, primarily, we get students from Canada and you would just look up the Humber School for Writers, google it and you’ll find it. I think that’s the simplest way to go about it these days.
Tara: Great. Maybe in a few years I’ll get there because…so I was talking to you about this that Kyo Maclear is one of the mentors, and I adore her book “Birds Art Life.” It’s very good.
David: Yeah, Kyo, I mean, she’s tremendous. She’s also a tremendous teacher. So come to the program and ask for Kyo, and you won’t be disappointed. But yeah, she’s an example of somebody who does so many things. I mean, you’re talking about her very interesting memoir, but she’s a very accomplished children’s writer of picturebooks and is so articulate about the idea of writing words for images. So, therefore, like, you know, people who are interested in writing for children could work with Kyo, somebody who’s interested in…you know, have a memoir, you know, Kyo does that sort of thing as well. So it’s a level of versatility too that I think a lot of the people who are teaching have.
Tara: Me and Rachel, just out-waiting one another.
Rachel: If you’re okay with it, we would like to end with some kind of rapid-fire book questions, if that’s all right with you.
David: You haven’t asked them yet, so it seems all right. Well, let’s start [crosstalk 00:30:55].
Rachel: We’ll see.
David: We’ll see.
Rachel: We’ll start off easy. The last book that you read and enjoyed.
David: I read “Maus,” the first “Maus” by Art Spiegelman…
Rachel: It’s very good. Highly recommend, if you haven’t checked out “Maus,” read it.
Tara: The second question is inspired by “Birds Art Life” because that is a book that I have gifted several times. But what is the book that you give as a gift the most often?
David: I give “The Collected Stories” of Leonard Michaels. I think I’ve given most often as a gift.
Rachel: Nice. And is there a book or an author who has inspired you as a writer, or who you keep going back to, to improve your craft?
David: So, there’s a reason why I gift “The Collected Stories” of Leonard Michaels because, yeah, I’ve read all of his work. There’s a book called “Sylvia” that, you know, I’ve gifted a few times as well. He’s somebody who I got to know when I was, you know, kind of formative time for me as a writer in my mid-20s. And insofar as I ever had a mentor, he was my mentor, and he’s somebody whose work I think about all the time.
Tara: Nice. So he might also be the answer to this last question, but a book that you use an example of great writing or story structure?
David: Well, there’s a number, but let’s say…I mean, we talked about Coetzee, J. M. Coetzee, “Summertime” by Coetzee is a book that I love, and structurally, it’s so interesting. I’m interested in…you know, we talked a little bit about not the what but also the how of story. How do you tell a story? And he does something, like, remarkable in that book. So, it’s like, it’s about John Coetzee, who’s him, but he’s dead. And there’s a scholar, an academic, who was interviewing people in the life of John Coetzee about him. And so, it’s this remarkable thing where he’s writing about himself, sort of like two or three steps removed. And formally, it’s this, like, tremendously, really, really moving and interesting thing, mostly through the voices of the women in his life, and not flattering. So, yeah, that’s a book I love.
Tara: Nice. Well, that was the last of our questions. So thanks for answering those. And thank you for coming on and discussing this. This has been really, really interesting, and I’m excited to check out season two now that I know where to find it.
David: Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me and for bringing attention to “Love & Defiance,” and to the Humber program. I’m really, really appreciate it.
Rachel: Thank you so much for being here. It’s been wonderful.
Tara: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in picking up David’s books, we will include links in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. Be sure to follow us on socials. We’re at Kobo Writing Life on Facebook and Twitter, and at kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Rachel: This episode was produced by Tara Cremin and Rachel Wharton, editing was provided by Kelly Robotham, and our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker, and big thanks to David for being our guest today. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.