RUSTY TALK WITH DAVID HICKEY
Elan Paulson: You’ve recently published a children’s book after two poetry collections. What inspired you to write this book, and in what ways do you find writing stories for children different from (or similar to) writing poetry?
David Hickey: Since writing poetry is such a solitary pursuit, the opportunity to work with an illustrator definitely held some appeal for me. If there's a difference between the two I'd say it lies in that collaborative process, where you trust someone else to pick up where you left off and to imagine the world of the story.
EP: You define poetry writing as a “solitary” pursuit. How else would you describe your writing process?
DH: Uneventful. I write very slowly and often take in excess of a year to complete a poem. A year, in a very on-and-off sort of way, that is. My writing sessions are intermittent and typically consist of a lot of trial and error. Mostly I'm just trying to bring whatever I'm writing to comfortable state of completion, but I've learned that requires some patience. There's just no rushing poetry. Each poem takes its own sweet time deciding how it wants to be.
EP: How does revision figure into your process?
DH: Revision and writing are one and the same for me. I write a line, I change it, I write another, I change that one too. I don't think in drafts, but rather in terms of how long I've spent with a given line, stanza, beginning or ending. When I find I can't possibly do anything more with it, I either toss it out or consider it done. For every poem that I've published, I'm sure there's at least two others lining the drawers of my desk.
EP: What is the best thing about being a writer, and what is the worst thing?
DH: The best part is the actual writing itself. I'm quite content to sit and stare at a few lines on a computer screen for hours on end. I've been doing it for years. I'm sure there's something wrong with me.
In my mid-twenties, though, I was putting in what felt like monumental efforts, but my writing still wasn't going anywhere. Meanwhile my friends were getting jobs and buying houses and settling down and doing those things that adults do. I believe at this point I was saving up for a timbit.
In any case, writing has since provided me with a different kind of abundance. That's the best and worst part of it. I wouldn't have it any other way.
EP: This quiet (but abundant) relationship that you have with your work must change when readers encounter you and your writing. What is your funniest literary moment, if you have one?
DH: Somebody puked at the launch of my first book. Then a stripper-mobile drove by. All in all it was an interesting evening.
EP: What advice would you give to new writers (aside from how to deal with book launch surprises)?
DH: As is the case with all trades, writing begins with an apprenticeship, the length of which varies from person to person. But how long you take to develop really doesn't matter at all. What does matter is that you find a mentor you can work with and whose feedback you're willing to trust. And that person doesn't have to be someone famous or wildly talented or anything ridiculous like that--just an insightful, empathetic reader who isn't afraid to mark up your work.
The good news is that such mentors aren't very hard to find. As the saying goes, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
A Very Small Something, Biblioasis, 2011
Description from Biblioasis :
Olive Bezzlebee might live by the world's biggest bubble gum factory, but she can't blow a single bubble. Not one!
Setting out to solve the mystery of her missing bubbles, Olive travels to the edges of her imagination, where a very small something is waiting to happen. And a miraculous adventure awaits.
With lush illustrations by Alexander Griggs-Burr, David Hickey's tale of enchantment and belonging is sure to uplift aspiring bubble blowers of all ages.
Praise for A Very Small Something
"I like this book mainly because it’s about gum, and gum is one of my favourite snacks ... My favourite kind of gum flavour is raspberry. I don’t know how to blow bubbles yet, but my sister can. She’s nine. In the back of the book, there is a guide to blowing bubbles (it’s pretty funny actually). There are 10 easy steps. I’m going to follow it – but hopefully I don’t get lifted up to the clouds!" - Myles, aged 7, Papertrails Family Book Blog