Toronto’s Word on the Street Book & Magazine Festival runs June 11 & 12 at Queen’s Park Circle. In preparation for the event, we’re profiling some of the writers who will be featured during the festival.
The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.
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“Lindsay B-e is a writer and filmmaker. Their first full-length poetry collection, The Cyborg Anthology, is published by Brick Books. Lindsay B-e grew up in the village of Clavet, Saskatchewan and currently lives in Toronto. They have two kids, two dogs, and two cats.”
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think of myself as a writer, actually. I went from writing Sweet Valley fan fiction as a kid, to writing poetry mimicking Jim Morrison’s “American Dream” as a teen, to writing nonsensical experimental film screenplays in university. At this point, writing is more of a need than a want. I can feel it in my body when I haven’t written in a long time, and I feel better when I find the time to put words down.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I destroyed the notebooks containing my childhood writing in a regrettable early-adult moment. The only writings I still have are some stories/poems written on looseleaf inside a binder that survived the purge. The oldest item in there is a rhyming poem called “My Bratty Brother” from Grade Five. There’s also a short story from Grade Nine that my teacher liked so much she called my Mom on the telephone. The story is about not knowing what to write about and it’s called “Gravy” for no discernable reason. My first two published pieces were in my high school’s anthology. There was a short story about the death of the last person on earth, and a poem about a doughnut that actually made it into The Cyborg Anthology in an altered form.
How did you develop your skills?
Well gosh, thank you for implying I have skills. I’ve been privileged to attend loads of different writing courses and programs through the years. There’s something about sharing and reading unfinished works that teaches me about the process of writing more than any manual ever could. I’ve also read lots of manuals. I read widely so I’m exposed to all sorts of genres and writing styles. For example, right now I’m reading a graphic novel teaching teens about sex, a Japanese yuri sci-fi series, a non-fiction book about trauma, and Janelle Monae’s new short story collection. Witnessing other writer’s skills helps me develop my own.
What are some of your biggest literary influences? /Do you have a favourite book/author?
I always want to submit a list of hundreds of books, in no particular order, when I’m asked this question. This list contains books that I enjoyed so much I wanted to do backflips, that I wanted to give a standing ovation to when I finished those last words. But instead of hundreds, I’ll mention the two most recent entries. The first is Yes, I Am a Corpse Flower by Travis Sharp, a poetry collection that’s like a human body made out of text. I was so excited about the George of the Jungle poem I sent it to my friends. The second is Little Blue Encyclopedia (For Vivian) by Hazel Jane Plante, a cross-genre book that’s a romance novel, an obituary, and an encyclopedia about a tv show ALL-IN-ONE. I loved it so much I wrote to the author to tell her, and I don’t make a habit of emailing strangers. I have a favourites list on Goodreads and Storygraph that contains all my backflip books since 2012.
How would you describe your work?
I think my work is playful, nerdy, queer. It draws on a wide variety of influences, but my rural prairie background, love of animals, and the ups/downs of parenthood often poke through. I adore a good pun and multiplicities of meaning, so I include these in my poetry as much as I can.
What’s your writing process like?
My writing process is a mess! It took me ten years to finish The Cyborg Anthology. I have trouble writing during the day, and my best work comes out after midnight. On the extremely rare occasion that someone else takes care of my kids, dogs, and cats for a spell, I’m able to marathon write. I write first drafts of poems by hand into notebooks. I have an in-progress folder on my computer, but once a piece gets put in there, I usually forget about it. When I finally finish a draft of something, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and treat myself to a tattoo.
Tell us about your most recent book.
The Cyborg Anthology is a poetry collection from the future. Structured like an anthology, it includes biographies of cyborg poets and a selection of their poems. It takes place over 200 years in the future, after the earth has encountered a cataclysmic event that destroyed all mechanical lifeforms. It’s my first full-length work, published or otherwise, and I have the cyborg tattoo on my back to prove it.
What are you working on now/next?
I have two half-completed novels in the works. The cascading traumas of the past few years have made writing even harder than usual, but I try to get a few sentences in here and there. The first book is about a group of queer teenagers attending an art school in High Park, some of them able to communicate with animals. This team of youths and critters are trying to take down an evil developer who wants to turn High Park into condos. The second novel is a poetic reflection on growing up queer in a small Saskatchewan town, very loosely based on my hometown of Clavet. I’ve taken the third act in a strange direction, so who knows what it’s going to look like when it’s done. I certainly don’t!
Lindsay will be at WOTS Saturday June 11th from 6-7 PM @ The Across The Universe Stage