Monday, August 22, 2011

Behind the Blog: Hard Stare

This week I talked with Amy of Hard Stare. She was a pretty obvious choice for one of my first interviews, as I have known her for quite a while & loved her writing for ages. We met teaching at a terrible little private ESL school about ten years ago & have stayed in touch since we both 'escaped' that place. She's one of those people that I love getting into a conversation with--I never know where it's going to lead, but I know it will always be fascinating & make me laugh. Despite being one of the most literary people I know--check out her Finnegan's Wake Readers page--she's also one of the least pretentious. She has a talent for finding beauty in the mundane, writing with a child-like wonder about the things most of us overlook.

How long have you been writing? Blogging? 

I've been writing since I was very young though poetry was my primary medium until fairly recently. I still have several notebooks of writing from about age 8 or 9. I guess I started blogging about 3 years ago as an outlet for some of my creative impulses, but also as a way to take writing less seriously.

Where do you get your inspiration for posts from?

From the world around me, from long walks through the city's neighbourhoods, from interesting people I meet, from images, from the tiny details that tend to be overlooked -- cracks in sidewalks, plants growing under a bridge, the hidden things. I just see something strange or beautiful and I know I have to start writing.

Do you have any rules for yourself regarding blogging? (e.g. frequency/length/subject matter of posts, photos)

I don't but I should. On strolls or long walks, I like to take photos, and often the idea springs from an image. I try not to make the posts overly long, but certain subjects are hard to reign in. I would like to post more often, but I don't want to write just for the sake of writing. I need to be inspired to a certain extent. I do have a list of topics that I can work through if nothing else strikes my fancy. I tend to enjoy writing about neighbourhoods or places I walk, simply because I have so much time to observe them, take pictures, and think about what they might mean in the larger context of the city. A lot of the writing seems to be about the little bits of nature that shine through the urban environment.

Your most recent post about the table Mark built is probably one of my favourites, though it's hard to choose. What's your favourite post that you've written?

I definitely don't have a favourite, and tend to be critical of past writing. That said, however, I love it when I get lost as I write, drifting away in the pleasure of language. I sometimes find myself literally reaching into the air to pluck out words -- feeling the shape and weight of them. There is such satisfaction in finding the one I've been looking for.

Do you write with any particular audience in mind? Do you keep track of your blog's stats at all?

I don't keep track of stats, but I do think a bit about audience. Ideally, they are engaged with the environment around them, curious, and interested in exploring. I hope that the observations are universal enough to appeal to people unfamiliar with Vancouver. I sometimes fantasize that the posts might inspire readers to get out of their cars and do more walking or biking, or just to take the time to look at things more closely. I am inspired by the poet Bronwen Wallace, who was a close friend, to find the poetry in the everyday -- the common magic in ordinary life.

Coming soon, is a blog about Bronwen Wallace, which will seek to give Bronwen's writing and ideas an electronic presence -- a space where her work is widely accessible to readers both old and new. I also hope to offer a forum for the people that knew Bron best --friends, caregivers, family, students, co-workers, writers and fellow activists -- to record their memories of her, to talk about how she influenced them, and, ideally, to engage in conversation with a wider community of Wallace readers.

Your writing always seems so well-crafted. How much time do you usually spend writing each post?

That very much depends. Sometimes I'll start something and just keep working on a draft incrementally over the course of a few weeks or even a month. Other times, it'll all come out in a burst and I'll be done in half an hour.

Anything else you want to add about writing or your blog or life in general? :)

I guess I'd just like to add that I'd love feedback and comments -- I think the best writing inspires dialogue. It's good to feel that you are not writing into the void. I love that blogging is instantaneous and democratic; it's amazing how many voices are out there. There is something beautiful about this electronic choir.

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