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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“Daniel Sarah Karasik (they/them) is the author of five previous books, including the poetry collection Hungry and the short story collection Faithful and Other Stories. Their work has been recognized with the Toronto Arts Foundation’s Emerging Artist Award, the CBC Short Story Prize, and the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Award. They organize with the network Artists for Climate & Migrant Justice and Indigenous Sovereignty (ACMJIS), among other groups, and are the founding managing editor of Midnight Sun, a magazine of socialist strategy, analysis, and culture. They live in Toronto.”
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a small child! I mean, I was always writing, from when I was…seven or eight? Something like that. And I think by fifth or sixth grade I understood that a writer was something you could be as, like, your job. I read a lot of popular genre authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz when I was 11, 12, 13 years old, and I remember I owned a book called The Dean Koontz Companion and a lot of it was about how he built a career, working 12-hour days nearly all week to churn out material. That’s obviously, uh, only one model, and I have a lot more questions about it now! (I also just…don’t do that.) But I was nodding along to that book and its writerly career counsel before I was in high school.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I wrote a play about…kidnappers?…maybe?…when I was in first or second grade. Then a sequence of short stories, similarly action-y, with heroes who were my age at the time. And I first completed a draft of a novel when I was 13: speculative fiction with Tom Clancy-ish characteristics. (I know this is more than one “first thing,” but I don’t remember much about any of these documents, so I’m going for quantity in lieu of quality.) I didn’t really write poetry till I was a teenager, for whatever reason. I needed more chaotic hormonal activity in my body before I could write poetry.
How did you develop your skills?
Absurd amounts of trial and error. I still don’t know if my skills are “developed.” I resist understandings of literature that foreground “craft,” much as I appreciate when literary work is elegant and effective at what it’s trying to do. I guess I just find concepts like “skills development” or “craft” so often disguise dogmatic assumptions about what literature should do or be, assumptions that themselves often reflect unspoken or even unconscious political commitments.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
Many faves! Wendy Trevino’s poetry. Anne Boyer’s poetry. Ursula K. Le Guin’s fiction. Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel The Ministry of the Future is currently influencing what I believe fiction can do. And C.L.R. James’s The Black Jacobins has informed my belief in the power of political writing that has beautiful literary qualities.
How would you describe your work?
Grappling for answers and trying to make a dance of it. Or a song, to be more precise, but that doesn’t fit the grappling image as closely. (How I would describe my work: attempting to choose precision of thought over the pristine image, for better or worse.)
What’s your writing process like?
The opposite of Dean Koontz’s.
Tell us about your most recent book.
Plenitude! Gay poems! Gay socialist poems. Can a poem in itself be socialist or gay? Probably not, but it can try! Oh, also autistic poems. Gay socialist autistic poem book. Read it if that sounds like your idea of fun.
What are you working on now/next?
Trying not to get overwhelmed by the state of the world and fears about the future. Trying to figure out where to put my political energy—where it can be useful and not dissipated. Working extremely slowly on a literary nonfiction/prose poetry manuscript about performance, politics, mass movements, queer and trans life, and the revolutionary party. About ambivalences and contradictions and desires. Possibilities.