Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Emil Sher

Share |

December 30, 2009 -

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Emil Sher:

Making Waves, a collection of three radio plays first broadcast on the CBC, was published by Dundurn Press in 1998. While it’s true that scripts — be they for the stage or screen — are meant to be performed and not necessarily published, there is much that can be mined in a narrative that is essentially told only through dialogue.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

ES:

I attended a concert by jazz vocalist Sophie Milman and enjoyed the warm-up act as much as the artful songs of Milman herself. Meaghan Smith performed on stage as her husband accompanied her on guitar and I found her lyrics and music a timely inspiration as I continue to work on the books and lyrics for a children’s musical.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

ES:

Any short story by Alice Munro, to remind a new arrival that we live in the midst of a wonderful writer. When I was young I read The Scalpel and the Sword (Ted Allen and Sydney Gordon), a chronicle of Norman Bethune, the complex physician who I believe embodies the values many Canadians claim to embrace. Having been born and raised in Montreal, it’s hard not to absorb hockey by osmosis. Given that it’s the game that defines us, Roch Carrier’s The Sweater is a must-read, an endearing and enduring children’s tale that speaks volumes about our political culture.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

ES:

Virginia Woolf spoke of “a room of one’s own”, and that’s all I need. It needn’t be a big or offer an idyllic view. In the end, it comes down to a quiet place where thoughts, ideas and characters can roam.

OBT:

William Faulkner was once asked what book he wished he had written; he chose Moby-Dick (with Winnie-the-Pooh as a close second). Is there a book that you wish you had written?

ES:

I can’t point to a book so much as think of authors who inspire and humble me. Grace Paley, Rohinton Mistry, J.M. Coetzee, Barbara Kingsolver…

OBT:

Is there a book that you think you should have read by now but haven’t?

ES:

War and Peace. And when I do, I’ll drink tea from a samovar.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

ES:

Robert Hough’s The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, a lively novel inspired by the real-life story of a tiger trainer and circus performer.

OBT:

Do you have a specific readership in mind when you write?

ES:

I don’t think of a particular readership so much as a reader’s state of mind: may they be engaged by language and the layers beneath words, as I have when I have sat down with a good book or surrendered to a play.

OBT:

What are you working on right now?

ES:

I wear different hats as a writer and, typically, stoke a few fires at any given time. Currently, I’m working on the third draft of a commissioned play about wrongful convictions for Studio 180. I’m finishing off the first draft of a children’s book, laying the groundwork for a non-fiction book and giving shape to two new plays.

OBT:

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to get published?

ES:

Add patience and perseverance to your daily diet.

Related item from our archives