Sheree Fitch has been a published author since 1987 but her mother swears Sheree was born talking and named her Sheree–short for Scheherazade. Fitch’s most recent book is award winning Pluto’s Ghost (Doubleday Canada). Currently she’s at work on a new novel (for adults) partially inspired by her late father’s life and work as a Mountie and private investigator in the Maritimes. She lives in River John, Nova Scotia.
You call yourself “an ever beginner” on your website. What do you mean by that? And how important do you think it is for writers to be perpetual learners?
For me the idea of maintaining a beginner’s mind means surrendering to knowing I do not know. Anything. For sure. Writing is, as poet Fred Cogswell once said “a long apprenticeship.” So yes, I’ll never know all there is to know about writing anymore than I will know all there is about being human. Ever learning as a writer and human is simply my experience. I think you can grow old and wise-(er) maybe come into a certain uncertainty that gives you more confidence as a writer. For me, the process is scary every time. Even the nonsense! Entering a work with the intention of exploring as well as creating is still exciting to me. I think many writers wrestle with various states off mind as they create. There is that line between trying to maintain faith in the work (published or unpublished) or feeling like everything is shite. So saying ‘here I go again’ to find out something new, or retrieve a forgotten image, or dive deep and mine the underground or just discover new territory–well that attitude is also a reminder to myself and necessary for my mental health. A stab at balance.
You write many genres–children, young adult, poetry, educational–what is the most challenging for you? And does a new genre bring new doubt?
As above and all of the above. Yes, new genres bring new doubts and challenges. There’s the rub. I love the basic challenge of what will I tell and what way will I tell it this go round–insecurities are part of the process. Doubt is inevitable at least for me but not really a problem unless it paralyzes. The only remedy is to let go, explore, keep on going. Visualize the back cover blurb of your book if that’s what it takes. I repeat “I can only do what I do. I’m not Ts Eliot nor was meant to be. OR Alice Munro. But maybe just maybe, I can try to be Sheree Fitch and write true from that place. And maybe someone will get it.”
Sometimes it’s hard for writers and artists to put an amount on the worth of their work often charging minimal cost for their talents. How do you get beyond that?
Um. Not sure I have. But I’m better than I used to be. There’s a true story a lot of my writer friends know and share; about this moment in my life when I was paid 2.50 not 250 for a one hour reading. I forgot the word “hundred” when she asked my fee. I had no salary from any regular job and was single and had two children. Few groceries. There’s nothing heroic about that Hunger and Necessity can cut to the chase.That was an eureka kind of day–made me furious and fierce and I stood up for my fee. I’ve not felt too guilty asking for CC fees or more since then. There is that thing about if we do not value ourselves, who will? Yes, I still do freebies by times.
Some people think children’s book are easy to write. What do you say to those who have that belief?
Shut the fook up and write your own. Oopsie. Yucky kids books are dime a dozen… so are yucky adult books. Taste is subjective so develop your own standard of excellence (that means read read read READ the best you can) and create the world you are here to create, tell the story you most need to tell and write the book you’d love to read to adults or kids. (I once spent seven years on one nonsense poem so if it is easy I’m a total HUGE and I mean HUGE failure. Simple does not equal EASY!)
Oh and also: Read my master’s thesis (Acadia 1994). It is a (ahem) brilliant manifesto on children’s poetry and answers anyone who dares to call children’s literature kiddylitter.
In a 2008 interview with Quill & Quire , you said: “People think that if you write nonsense, that’s how you see the world. . . I have a different theory: it’s actually a dance in the light in spite of the darkness. I started doing [children’s stories] at one of the lowest times in my life.” How has the idea of hope trickled through your writing and how important is it to your writing process?
I see life as sad, terrible, amazing, absurd and beautiful. If I lost hope, I’d lose my childhood sense of wonder– and capacity to imagine and laugh–and without that the darkness would be overwhelming. Maybe “hope” is the way my eyes get accustomed to the dark. A crack of light underneath a closed door– and if/when you can open the door — joy. As William Blake so wisely advised: kiss the joy as it flies. For me, telling stories is one way to do that.