Conversations with Susan Juby, Julie Paul, and Marguerite Pigeon
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Three writers from BC will come together at the Vancouver Public Library to read their latest works at Vancouver Writers Fest’s Inciteon February 25. The twice-monthly reading event will feature novelist Susan Juby from Nanaimo, short story writer Julie Paul from Victoria, and multi-faceted author Marguerite Pigeon from Vancouver.
Juby, author of the Alice MacLeod young adult series, will be reading from her latest book, Republic of Dirt, an adult novel and sequel to The Woefield Poultry Collective. Paul will share an excerpt from her short story collection, The Pull of the Moon, which made it on the Globe and Mail Top 100 Books of 2014 list. Pigeon will read a short story from her recent book, Some Extremely Boring Drives.
The Other Press spoke with each of these writers about their upcoming readings at Incite and their latest books.
What can guests expect from your presentation at Incite?
Juby: For my part, I’ll be reading from Republic of Dirt. The book is a straight-up comedy, so it will be humorous stuff. I’ll probably read something near the beginning that sets up the scenario and how dysfunctional the characters are.
Paul:Normally I try to read something entertaining, on the funnier side, at public readings, although not all my stories have humour in them. If I have enough time, which I think I will, I will try to read a complete story.
Pigeon:People really respond to the second story in my collection because it’s about a woman who’s surviving cancer. That one’s called “Locks.” I think I might read from that because it reads well in public.
Are you familiar with the works by the other authors?
Juby:I’m looking forward to reading their books. At least one is a poet, one is a short story writer, I’m a novelist. One has the greatest book title ever: Some Extremely Boring Drives, which indicates that it’s very funny, or at least it’s got a very funny title.
Paul: Susan’s writing is extremely funny—laugh-out-loud funny—and Marguerite has a real knack for getting into the psyches of her characters, who are often in unexpected situations. People tend to think of my work as humorous, with a strong focus on character, so I think we’ll be a good match at this event.
Pigeon: I’m going to try to read their books before I get there. I love to read with people I don’t know because then I usually get a chance to be introduced to their work.
What inspired you to write your latest book?
Juby: I read all those books about being sustainable and farming at home and all that kind of thing, then tried some of that and was wildly unsuccessful. So I decided to write a book [The Woefield Poultry Collective] about a young woman who inherits a farm outside of Nanaimo and has all of the enthusiasm but none of the skill and how she tries to keep this farm going. And this next one [Republic of Dirt] is the same thing: they’re trying to get this farm established and they’re barely even able to operate it over the winter when there’s nothing happening.
Paul: A few of the stories [in The Pull of the Moon] were directly a result of travel or living in another place—Montreal, Belize, Portland, different parts of Ontario—as well as my current home in Victoria. A couple of stories were inspired by having crazy neighbours. All are firmly fiction, meaning that I’ve changed circumstances and made stuff up, but at the heart of every story is an emotional truth, and I hope those truths come out.
Pigeon: The stories [in Some Extremely Boring Drives] all relate to travel and moving around and mobility. That’s something that’s been a really important part of my life. I wanted to understand my own interest in travel, but then I also wanted to trouble it because I think it’s a more complicated experience that can be both positive and negative. I think about it historically, too. The culture encourages a lot of travel, but it’s not quite clear what you’re getting out of it these days, especially as places get more similar and sort of homogenized.
What do you hope readers take away from reading your latest book?
Juby: I hope that they have some good laughs and find some characters that resonate with them and take away a sense that, no matter how incompetent you are, if you have friends and at least a little degree of optimism, you can achieve all sorts of things.
Paul: My biggest hope is that readers will feel engaged, involved, and entertained. I don’t set out to teach anyone anything, or make them feel a certain emotion. I guess if they feel the humanity of my characters, and maybe even put themselves in their shoes for a little while, I will be extremely happy.
Pigeon: I hope that they pick up on the theme of mobility and explore with the characters the subtle psychological changes that can take place when you move around or change location.
For more information about these authors and their works, check out their official websites at SusanJuby.com, JuliePaul.ca, and MargueritePigeon.wordpress.com