LH: Emily, I have been wanting to interview you since reading your collection of poetry Songs for the Dancing Chicken (2007), published with ECW–it’s a gorgeous little book. Tiny narrative haikus. Would you call yourself a poet or a fiction writer, or do you see a distinction?
ES: I define as bi-textual.
LH: You have published several books including your first novel, Joyland (2005) and a biography of Michael Moore. Are you one of the lucky few who actually get to make a living as a writer?
ES: I pretend to be. Truthfully, I make most of my daily bread doing freelance book editing, everything from substantive down to proofreading, often nonfiction–sports, TV books, music. But several times I’ve quit jobs to be a “writer” so off and on over the years I have been a full-time writer I guess. The Moore biography was commissioned by ECW, so that one was written like a full-time job.
LH: Joyland is awesome. I love the different editors, and cities, with a unified sense of fun in the hubness of your vision. Where did this begin?
ES: I was jealous of Brian’s website. It has so much to download and participate in. I didn’t like the vanity of just posting my book reviews, so I asked him how we could make my site more comparable. Publishing others was his suggestion. The two of us workshopped it from there. We chose all of the city editors together, and hoped a real diversity would come through from the autonomy and the writers they would select. Our web designer, Bill Kennedy, was vital. The project wouldn’t have happened without him behind it.
LH: Can you tell me about your new novel, Heaven is Small? What made you decide to put it on line for the week (details at the end of this interview)?
ES: I’d love to take credit for this, but it was all House of Anansi Press! It took some doing, I’m sure. All I did was say yes. I think we’re at an important point in publishing and that reaching people in any form is a good thing. I love traditional beautiful book objects, but it’s the words and stories inside them that really matter. The ideas and emotions.
In one day online my book has been seen by people I played soccer with when I was fifteen, and people who work with acquaintances of mine. The reach is just incredible, and the relationship occurs between the reader and the text immediately. There’s not the long lapse between referring someone to the book and the search for the object.
LH: Joyland, Dancing Chicken…you are going to have people believing that writing can be fun. Is this intentional?
ES: Writing has to be fun, and seem fun to others. When all you own is a mixed breed mutt who’s half-trained and a laptop and everything else in your life could be sold for fifty bucks–yes, you’d better believe writing has to amuse! It is a grim sense of humour to be sure though. I think of the new novel, Heaven Is Small, as being a slapstick dystopia.
LH: What is your least favorite novel?
ES: I’ve thrown a few novels across the room in my time, but I don’t want to speak ill of anyone. After all, most of the novels I pick up are not by people making fortunes or going on Oprah.
LH: Canada produces a lot of comedians and yet not a lot of funny poetry or novels. Any ideas why? What is the last good, funny Canadian book of poetry you’ve encountered?
ES: David McGimpsey’s Sitcom.
Emily Schultz runs the online short story hub Joyland, which the CBC called “the go-to spot for readers seeking the best voices in short fiction.” She is the author of a novel by the same name (Joyland). Her collection of poetry, Songs for the Dancing Chicken, which was named a finalist for the 2008 Trillium Prize for Poetry. Her first collection of short stories, Black Coffee Night , was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award for Best First Fiction in Canada, and for the ReLit Award. A story from that collection was adapted for television, airing across Canada and the United States. Her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Eye Weekly, the Walrus, Geist, Event, Descant, and appears in the current issue of the Black Warrior Review.
Announced today, House of Anansi Press makes Heaven is Small by Emily Schultz available free of charge as a digital download exclusive to Shortcovers. This marks the first time a Canadian publisher has made a new release available digitally in its entirety for no charge through the Shortcovers distribution channel. This limited time offer runs Monday, April 20 to Friday, April 24, the book’s official publication date.
“It’s our first attempt beyond making electronic text available on Anansi.ca to see if the promotion of a new book through a digital channel can affect book sales,” says Sarah MacLachlan, President of House of Anansi Press. “We continue to believe that reading a physical book is the preferred medium for most book lovers. However, we felt we should try to create one of our books for the digital platform offered by Shortcovers — a ‘made in Canada’ addition to the increasingly popular mobile reader applications.”