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Spotlight On #IFOA2017​​: Julie Cameron Gray, Author of ‘Lady Crawford’

Every year, the International Festival of Authors grows in size and scope, featuring both established novelists, poets, playwrights, short story writers and biographers, as well as emerging writers to note. We chatted with a handful of IFOA writers whose work we think you’ll love.

Julie Cameron Gray is originally from Sudbury, Ontario, and currently lives in Toronto with her family. She is the author of Tangle, and two chapbooks: The Distance Between Two Bodies and Coordinating Geometry. Her work has been published in Carousel, Event, The Fiddlehead, Prairie Fire, PRISM International, and The Best Canadian Poetry in English.

Her latest work, Lady Crawford, has been shortlisted for the 2017 Pat Lowther Award. We chatted with her this week.

SDTC: Walk us through a typical day in your life, from getting up ​un​til going to bed.

JCG: My days are so boring! I wake up to the sound of my kids, usually my youngest, calling for me. The next hour and a half is a flurry getting everyone dressed, fed, washed and out the door by 8:30 a.m. My husband drops off our youngest at daycare, and I walk my five-year-old daughter to school. Then I walk home, mentally sketching out the rest of my day, thinking about the day’s projects.

I’m a freelance social media content creator (I ghostwrite online content, take photos, schedule posts for clients) as well as a writer, so I divvy up my day according deadlines. I try to write for at least a couple of hours every day. Some days that is much harder than others.

I pick up my kids at 5:30 p.m., take them to the park where I meet my husband when he is finished work, then it’s dinner, bedtime for the little ones, and an evening of either catching up on reading or more work, or possibly going out – Toronto is at its most gorgeous at night.

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know if there was ever a time I didn’t want to be a writer, but I had no idea how to go about making it my career. I was the first person in my family to go to university, and while I had a lot of encouragement and support from my family, none of us knew what exactly that trajectory could look like from an academic perspective – this was before MFA programs were everywhere!

I spent most of my early twenties thinking that being a writer was something that just happened. It took a while to connect the diligence of sitting down and writing every day to the end result – finished writing projects. Some work out and some don’t, but I learn something every single time I sit down to the task at hand.

Julie Cameron Gray

Best advice to other young women wanting to get their work published?

Read everything. And don’t just write, revise. Put your work through multiple drafts. Then find others, either peers or even editors who offer feedback and edits professionally, and have them read your work. You don’t have to take everyone’s suggestions and advice, but if you aren’t taking anyone’s suggestions or advice, you are probably making the same mistakes in your writing over and over again.

What literary trends are you loving? 

Though it’s not really a “trend,” I’m really enjoying the current evolution in Canadian poetry towards a more unapologetic, defiant voice. We tend to associate the Canadian identity with one of patience and mild manners, and it is fascinating to read new work from writers who are expanding the boundaries of what Canadian poetry can be, and reflecting the diversity and confidence of that identity.

What should we be paying more attention to?

The dark horses. Don’t just read things because they were shortlisted for multiple awards or are reviewed everywhere. Pick up books that you know nothing about and haven’t seen anywhere. Read the first few pages in a bookstore. If you want to keep reading, buy it. There are so many incredible books published every year in all sorts of genres, and it’s worth exploring out of bestseller zone once in a while.

What is your next project?

I’m working on a few things simultaneously, which is the quickest way to finish nothing! I’m working on a novel, some short stories, and sketching out ideas for my next poetry collection. Every day I wake up really excited about the work ahead. That’s the thing about writing- you have to love the process, the act itself, or there’s no point in bothering at all.

IFOA takes place at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen’s Quay W) from October 19 to 29.

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