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Sheree Fitch Interview Transcript

Additional (poetical) Interview Bio:

Let me introduce to you
Sheree the formidably word happy Fitch: Maker of sense through nonsense
Believer in children and the positively transformative powers of silliness
Inspirer of all those who do not fit the “normal” mode
A writer of lipslippery sensorability,
Sheree has gained recognition for all those things too many folks take for granted
words and Poetry, children and Literature, dedication and Craft…
Let me introduce to you
a national poetic treasure
she can talk mighty Quick
and rhyme in a Flick
she’s written books galore
and performed them even more
an Advocate of literacy
a reading Activist—hear her Roar!
an Alumna with a multimedia Masters of literature
oh, HA HA HE!
it’s utterature
She writes synaesthetic symphonies for the mind’s ear
and for playful and perspicacious poetic performers: long live polyphony!


Q. 1 General
ASW:
Could you talk a bit about how and when you came to writing, what your process is, and the role it has played in your life? What drew you to the various audiences you write for and the characters you’ve created? Do you have particular objectives in mind when you write, and how do you choose your subjects?

SF: Okay, so I started writing really when I was grade two. I have to go back to that because it's all because of Mrs. Goodwin that I'm here. But Mrs Goodwin was the teacher who came in and said, "Today class we're going to write poems."
And she was a teacher who read to us a lot, and this is grade two we're talking; given my age, this wasn't a time when teachers went, you know, “children are authors too.” She was really ahead of her time in terms of introducing a creative writing component.

And the first poem I ever wrote was for Mrs Goodwin, and she said, "You can write about the sun, or your shoe, or your last name, but I just want you to write. So my first poem was,

I'm an itchy Fitch
and I live in a ditch
and I'm not very rich
and I look like a witch
and sometimes I itch.
Itchy itch.

That was nothing too profound or anything, but it was word play and it was a tongue twister, and Mrs. Goodwin did what good teachers do, and she said, "Oh Sheree, it's a kind of a poem. It's a poem called a tongue twister." She made a big deal about it to the point where when we had a school fair, and I was left handed and I wasn't very good with my printing, and I still remember her hand on my hand helping me print this little crazy tongue twisting poem. And she thumb-tacked it with a red thumb tack on a piece of blue felt, probably the colour of these walls. [Picture] this red thumb-tack and little piece of paper with my printed “Itchy Fitch” poem on it. And we had to stand and kind of like be the hosts for our class display in the school fair, and we all had to take turns doing that.

So it was my turn and I watched people come in and it really was the pivotal moment in my life. It changed my life. Because people came, I saw them look at people's math books and science projects and all this stuff, and then I would see their eyes go up and see them read my poem. And when they read it, you know, they made their lips move, and when they finished the poem they smiled. And it was this visceral... something I wrote made somebody happy! Like that would be the little girl that I was, I thought “Whoa!” Again, it was like I just discovered fire. It was like, “Wow!” Something that came from my pen and went there and they read it, and the power. The power that was had.

Now, I come from a family where my dad recited poetry, he was a storytelling Mountie; my mom sang tongue twisty songs. I was surrounded by words and the musicality of words from the time I was little. But that was the moment when I realized that I could do with words something that somebody could receive. It was about connecting with another. So it was never about “I want to create a poem.” It was like, “Whoa, look what words can do!” So I went to Mrs. Goodwin and said, “Mrs. Goodwin, Mrs. Goodwin, I know what I want to do when I grow up. I want to write things that make people happy." And she said, "I think you can."

You know, she didn't say, "Oh, no, you grow up in Moncton, nobody grows up to be a writer." But at the time, there were no real writers in our neighbourhood. There was nobody you could point to and say that person's a writer. So Mrs. Goodwin started the process. I had her for grade three, and I wrote for her all that year. But then fast forward to—you know I always read, the man across the street brought me books—but then fast forward to high school when I'm trying to decide what it is I'm going to do.

So I go into the guidance counsellor and I say, “Well I, really, secretly, I would like to be a writer. It's what I'd like to do.”
And they kind of went, “Well you want to be a journalist."
I'm like, "No. I want to be a writer, writer.”

And I was writing in my notebooks and short stories and things but you know, again, nobody said well you should go to university and get your Bachelor of Arts and study English. I don't know why they didn't say that to me. Or maybe they did and I didn't want to hear it. But I heard journalism and I knew I didn't want to do journalism.
So what did I do? I became a nurse. So I went into nursing and I didn't graduate from nursing. But when I graduated from high school I went in to nursing, left nursing, had a baby, and then started writing for him.

So the process from the dream was there from the time I was little, like wouldn't it be cool if I could grow up and be like Lucy Maud Montgomery. My parents did actually take me to Lucy Maud's place, and I saw that she was dead and you know, Anne of Green Gables was huge, growing up in the Maritimes. So when I had my son and I was very young and he'd go down for a nap, that's when I started actually taking the pen to the paper again and thinking, well again one more time I had someone to write for. Someone to write to. I had this person who I wanted to make happy and very, very quickly I realized that to get a perfect ten-line tongue twister I was re-writing fifty to sixty times. So which made me think, I'm a terrible, terrible writer. I wouldn't let anybody know that I re-wrote forty times to get “The Blug in the Plug in the Tub.”

So I didn't think I was a good writer. I thought I was a terrible writer because I obviously worked so hard at getting [it right], but in the mean time I go to the public library and I would be reading all the Paris Review interviews, I was reading Alice Munro, I was reading Margret Atwood, I was reading literature. I was writing short stories, I was sending away to magazines, I was getting rejected. All that, I started doing that, you know, and that's when you had a self-addressed stamped envelope, and I would see the envelope come back and it would be heavy and I’d know it would be rejected and returned back to me.
But the first thing I ever got published, I was I think it was a story I wrote when I was nineteen, and it was called—it was a bad, bad, bad story—it was called the “Adventures of Penelope the Penny” and it was for Ahoy magazine, which was a magazine here in the Maritimes, and I saw the envelope come back and it was heavy and [I thought] I've been rejected again and I didn't even open it. I put it in my drawer cause I didn't want another rejection and then a few weeks later took it out and thought, I'll see what they said if it was a nice rejection or a bad rejection, and I took it out and they'd accepted it and just wanted a few changes. But those were the days of typing, right, so they sent back the original so I could [fix] my original. So I sold that story and I bought shower curtains with the money. It was forty-five dollars and I got shower curtains and you know I laugh about it now, but it was really important because I saw that I could make money, and it wasn't about the money, but it was like, this isn't so crazy. Like if I could sell some more stories, I'm actually starting to make money a little bit with that, and I can just, maybe, still be a writer.

Anyways, so when I was maybe twenty I went to a writer's workshop. And again, going there you feel like a fraud, like, I want to be a writer when I grow up. You know, I was trying to be a grown up. And then I met a whole bunch of people like me. People who were poets in their soul, people who were poets in their heart. And that's where I met Fred Cogswell who became a mentor to me. And by the time I was twenty-four, divorced, had two children, I had a group of friends who were writers. I mean, Fred used to come, bring Oreo cookies for my kids, cigarettes for me cause I smoked then and I couldn't afford them. You know, back in the day we didn't think there was anything wrong with that, "Oh, you brought me cigarettes, what a nice thing to do.” His wife Pat would bake, you know, chocolate chip cookies, for the kids, and after she died it was Oreo cookies that Fred bought. But he would bring me poetry chapbooks.

And Fred was the one who said to me, "If you can, Sheree," cause I was working as a government clerk at the time, "If you can, find your way to university.” Like, “Cause an imagination is one thing, an educated imagination is what a true writer needs.” And of course, just having somebody say you should go, [isn’t enough, so] he brought me to his Masters class [in creative writing], you know, with my little group of poems, and I think he wanted me to see that I could hold my own in a Masters class. He didn't tell anybody in the class, but I sat in on his class and I saw them go around and critique each other’s poems, and then he said before the class was through, he said, “I want you to [read this], here;” he passed out one of my poems that he'd photocopied. And then I heard them go, and they didn't know it was mine, I don't think it was a setup or anything, it was very genuine. Fred knew. And they critiqued my poem, and it was an adult poem, and they critiqued it the same way they critiqued each other's. And I was like, oh my god, I really could go to university. I don't know why I had no confidence in myself at the point in life; well, I think I do know why, but it was the possibility that I could go to university.
And come to find out, I did really well in university, you know, I did. I loved English, I was a great English student and stuff, but Fred, the other thing Fred had told me was, “you know, to be a writer you have to read and read and read and write and write and write.” And that's what it takes. And going to university and taking an English degree is one way to read and read and read and write and write and write. So during the course of my university studies again, I was still writing for my children, I was still writing poems, I was still getting rejected, but during that time I realized that I really believed it was the most important literature. Not just because I had children, but because I knew how hard it was to write. I knew that if you were to write you have to bring all you can to the craft of writing. And it didn't matter whether it was children's writing or not.
So that was kind of how it all happened. And then by the time I was thirty I graduated with my BA from St. Thomas [University], and was going on to study children's literature, and that was the year Toes in my Nose was published. So the year I was thirty, that's when it all came together. And I have to say that, even with Toes in my Nose being published I didn't go, "Oh there, now I can be a writer.” It was like, "Wow. That was a fluke." Like I kind of have the one thing I really want to do. And it wasn't until I was at Acadia actually studying, doing my Masters in children's literature, that I got a phone call from John Pierce at DoubleDay, and he said, "So Sheree, what are you working on now?"

And I went, "John, how did you know I was working on something?"

And he went, "Sheree, you're a writer. Of course you're working on something."

And I was like, "Yes as a matter of fact, I suppose dragons and it's a line from Keats and da da da da da." But that was the turning point. John Pierce from DoubleDay calling and asking me what I was working on. Cause he thinks I'm a writer.
You know it took a lot; I didn't have, I mean, it's hard to say, “I want to be a writer.” It's hard to own that. It's hard to, and then you're doing something like Toes in my Nose. So what is the title of your book? And I go, “Toes in my Nose.” And of course, people who want to love children's literature had no problem with it. Other people, and I did come across a bit of prejudice at the time, but that's all so far away. But I do remember some of the times, “She has a book published, what's it called?”

“Toes in my Nose.”

“Uh, would you want to be the author of a book called Toes in my Nose?”

And it makes me laugh now. It's like twenty-five years ago this fall, and there's a new edition of it coming out and I just think,

“Wow, that's amazing to me.” And now you know, I have my grandchildren.

So that's kind of the story of how I grew up to be a writer. And you can too. As long as you have a Mrs. Goodwin and a Fred Cogswell and a whole bunch of great teachers and librarians who say, “We know how to use this in a classroom, we know what we're going to do with these books.” Grandparents and parents who read to their kids. So you learn really early on, I did. At least for me, it goes back to that little girl, who was in grade two who went, “writing is about connecting with another.” It's about community, it's about people sharing in this image on the page together or the sound of the words together. That was the magic to me, the storytelling, sharing part of it. I work still really really hard at all the other stuff of it, but that's still the part I love the best, too, that, when somebody says, you know, well my sister, the other day was at a meeting, she's a police-chief right, and she said she was standing in line at the buffet and somebody asked her if I was her sister. And she said yes, and this great big man is a police chief somewhere, and he was like, “shh… shh… there are sleeping dragons all around,” and he started reciting sleeping dragons, and she's like “Sher, that's so cool!' I'm so like, that's why you do what you do!” Yeah, it's that amazing part of poetry. It's so...it's magic.

Q. 2 Poetic Process

Sue Fisher: I’m going to ask you a question about the creation of that magic.

You refer to your poetry as lipslippery, a term that makes sense given the way you combine and re-imagine individual words while also using more conventional poetic devices. Could you talk about your poetic process by expanding on the term, "lipslippery"? What do you think makes a good children's poem work?

SF: Okay, great, great question, Sue. I want to preface this by saying, at a certain level, it’s kind of mysterious. I don’t really understand, still, sometimes how the burble of syllables that kind of well up in you happen, and why you follow that and why one gets finished; I mean, I don’t understand it at a certain level. For me, and I do, as much as we make jokes about I’m a talker and I talk a lot and stuff like that, I actually do spend a lot of time in silence. I do. And that internal silence is really important for, I think, for how you start to listen. Listen to the music in words.
And so I remember when I interviewed Dennis Lee for my master’s thesis. Because I was trying to understand why it was that I was gravitating towards that, I thought I would study one of the best, and I started asking him. And he described it as an itch. He described it kind of like an itch inside, that just kind of won’t go away until you’ve scratched it. Until you’ve explored it. So that’s a good thing, but it is felt in your body, so the closest I can come to it, and I know that you would know this, anybody who has children would know this; when you watch a young child, walking down the street or playing in the sandbox or something, and all of a sudden they’re going, “Dadadadebobdadedadoodoodum,” that kind of thing. Well, that’s what’s happening. At some level I’m going, “Doodoodoodoodudapddupadoo.” Okay, maybe in another life I wanted to be a jazz singer or something, or Leonard Cohen, or somebody, but I can’t; words are my medium.

So what I’m doing is, there is an internal cadence, rhythm, something happening, and then I start to listen, and then I suppose maybe it’s like how a musician scores music, only I use words and it comes out that way. So sometimes it’s actually that, you know it’s like there’s a rhythm in my head and I sit down and I start to explore it. Like, “Da,da,da,da,da,da,da,da,da.” Okay, “Maple Murple’s house was purple/So was Mabel’s hair,” Okay, so that was in me, okay, and I started to explore. And how it came about was I love the sound of ‘purple,’ ‘murple,’ ‘wurple,’ so I’m working with those syllables, so it all goes in together in this weird word song business stuff that I do. And it’s like, and [although] some people say, “I don’t like the word inspiration, because that means we don’t work very hard at what we do.” Well I’m the opposite, I so believe in inspiration, and you can, and then you still have to work really hard after you’ve been inspired. So you can be inspired by that ripple of syllables that you feel in your body or that itch like Denis Lee said, or it can be very deliberate. So, very intentional, I would say, is a better word than deliberate.

So I’m in the kitchen and the dog comes in and I drop a bagel on the floor, so there’s a beagle, and a bagel and I go “Whoa! Beagle bagel!” And I always say, “WHOA!” Every neuron in my body starts going crazy and I kind of put it the back of my brain, and I’m like “beagle bagel beagle bagel,” I can work with that. And it might be three months later that I see the beluga whale and I’m like, “Oooh!! The beluga belongs with the beagle bagel poem.” Right, and then seven years later, I have:

There was a beagle who loved bagels
In fact he loved to beg for bagels
Wagged his tail for bagels
Whenever bugles blew
One day the beagle met a beluga
Who played the boogie woogie bugle
The beagle giggled : Hi Beglua!
Then played a jig with his kazoo.
Then the beagle and the beluga
Eating bagels, blowing bugles
Met a eagle who was eager
To eat some buttered bagels too
So...
The eagle and the beagle and the bugle playing beluga sailed together
Saw the
seven
million
wonders
of the world !!!!
Such a boondoggling
Mindboggling
Hornswoggling time !
It was the boogie woogie eager eagle beagle beluga blues!

I mean what is that? I don’t know what that is; I can’t explain what that is; it’s just really weird. Really weird person!
And, but that is, once you’ve given yourself permission, “so this is what I’m going to do,” you start hearing it everywhere. You’ll see the beagle and the bagel and you’re just really open to that. But that’s a very different process than saying I’m going to write a novel and I’m going to sit down and develop plot and character and dialogue and all the rest of it.
But I truthfully think that my ear was atuned very very young because I did have a father who went, “Oh wild west wind thou breath of autumn’s being” and he recited like, amazing poetry to me and because he had a storehouse in his head, because he had grown up in that time when you had to memorize great poetry, and he knew it and he loved it. And then my mother did all of those wonderful tongue twisty songs from the forties. You know, “Merzie dotes and little lambsey and chicory chick chala chala...” So that wordplay was a part of my early childhood. And I guess, you know, that’s the best I can describe it except I know that the older I get the more it happens. And then I still get excited when, you know, I can do it on Twitter, I can have fun. Like “Sun shimmers on river swimmers.” I did that the other day and, you know, I should be writing, not doing in on Twitter, but, you know what? It’s still fun. It’s that maybe there’s someone on the other end going, “Ahahahaha” or whatever, you know exactly, Sue. So you know, there is a form there that fulfills that little itch in me, you know, to do that.


Q. 3 Poetry collections vs narratives

Sue Fisher: Your books for young children divide mainly into two categories: collections of poetry such as Toes in My Nose and If I Had a Million Onions and extended poetic narratives such as There’s a Mouse in My House and Mable Murple. At what point does a poem become a story for you? Is your writing process different when you are working on a collection of discrete poems than it is when you are crafting poetry into a cohesive picture book? Would you say that works like Merry-Go-Day and Sleeping Dragons All Around occupy a middle ground between these two types of books?"

SF: It’s really difficult to say if I sit down and do individual – oh, this is an individual poetry book? I think what happened was, I had poems and I put them together for the first collection Toes in My Nose. Very, very, very deliberately with Sleeping Dragons All Around, I knew I wanted linked narrative. I wanted a narrative, I wanted the poem to tell a story and I wanted it to have a journey. And so the way sleeping dragons came to me is that I wanted every dragon to be like a portrait. So to me those are like portraits of dragons with a narrative built in that tells a story, which is very different from There Were Monkeys in my Kitchen, which begins with a dilemma, a situation, and then is carried through to its conclusion. And so, from my point of view, it’s like there’s the self-contained poem, like I’m playing with the words, or I’m playing with the image, or it seems like its brevity on the page made sense.

I always think that it’s really interesting there were so many times that I worked on little poems that were self-contained on the page because when my children were little and life was busy and I had a million other things to do, it was more containable. Just one thing on a page that I could go back to and tinker with and add to. It was less overwhelming than thinking I’m working on a book, or a project, or a novel or a picture book even. It was like I’m working on this page, on this poem and that’s what I’m crafting today and I can work on that, you know. So it was manageable too. But I think the biggest difference is when you have a “story poem” or a “narrative poem,” what you have is a dilemma. You know, you have “something happens” and “there’s something at stake.” And right away, you know,

There was a mouse in our house
I guess it came in from the cold
My mother got hysterical
(and SHE’s thirty-six years old!)

Right away there’s a problem, a situation, there’s characters and there’s a situation. You know, my mother hated violin, she taught me not to hit, and all of sudden it’s like, “oh, I got to go until this story gets played out.” Which is different than “Zelba Zinnamon ate some cinnamon.” It seems like there’s no situation there. There’s a character but there’s no “what’s at stake.” You know, and what obstacles might get in the way before we get to know, so there’s yearning, there’s a situation to be solved. And I think that’s the difference with anything that’s narrative. You know, there’s a problem and there’s the character and we want to see if that can be resolved, or do we care enough to watch that character go long enough.
So the other one, I think the other ones are wordplay, and narrative poems involve word play but that’s not their reason for being. That’s another difference too, is the other one is a play. And I would say that they’re both hard to write and do well in their own ways too.

I think that answers the question, and I do think Merry-Go-Day was very middle ground. That was a very intentional book too; it’s like I wanted poems that didn’t rhyme; I wanted poems that were shaped differently. It is still one of my favourite books, but it didn’t do well. And I took the Ferris wheel out of Merry-Go-Day and then developed it into Night Sky Wheel Ride because I still loved that world of Merry-Go-Day. The art in it I think didn’t work well for a lot of people, in that book. And ah, but it was one of my favourites, and it was one of the ones that teachers used, and they did a lot of stuff with language with it, which made me so happy. But it was one that came and went out of print really, the rest of them all kind of stayed in print but that didn’t. But that was where I was like, “You know what, I’ve gone beyond iambic pentameter and rhyme and Toes in My Nose, and I want to show my poetic chops, and I love Merry-Go-Day, but it’s funny how people are like, “I like Toes in My Nose” because the poems were more understandable, and what I realized in that process of being a writer, of children’s poetry, for years, is a lot of people are still afraid of poetry. So if you do

Simply discombobulating
Jumbled up and mumbling
Topsey turvey tumbling,
Tipsy-tummy tied in knots
Somebody’s going, “No, I want ‘there’s a Blug in the plug in the tub” because I can understand that a little bit better. So I thought I took better poetic risks in a book like Merry-Go-Day, and I’d really like to do another book like Merry-Go-Day again, where it’s individual poems but there’s a loose connected thread narrative, but the individual poems are really kind of, you know, kind of exploratory, really outside the boundaries. But you know, again, you know, it’s what comes next that I, you know, I’ve never really sat down going “Okay, I want to write a book of collection of poems,” or “I want to write a book that’s a narrative.” It’s like it comes, and that’s the book I pay attention too.

Q. 4 Books, General

ASW: Given the wide variety and the sheer number of books you’ve written, could you tell us a bit about some of your favourites and about the books that came the easiest or the hardest or were the most surprising? Are they linked to particular influences? In other words could you tell us a few stories about your stories and about how other stories have shaped your own development as a writer?

SF: I think I’ve been influenced by every book I’ve ever read. I mean that’s for sure. You know, I don’t know how it all goes in, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that never had an effect on me. That can be good and that can be bad. Because I, as a reader, I’m just so impressionable, so sometimes when I’m working on something, I won’t even read for the period of time I’m working on something because I’m so afraid that something, by osmosis, could go in.

Sometimes you’re the writer that you are and maybe you’re not the writer that you really want to be. And it’s not good enough. So if I read somebody whose work I really love, dang, I want to be that writer and not me. And I still go through that, and I do, because I am a, really I think, impressionable reader I want to say, but I’m hungry for all of it and I love so many different styles. So I would say that, truthfully, and people will be surprised maybe to hear this, but my favourite form is the short story. And I’ve yet to write a collection of short stories, I’ve yet to really write a children’s collections of short stories, or what I consider a short story. So short story, to me, is still there, waiting for me. And I’ve been influenced by, it goes back to my childhood, you know all those, “best in children books” short stories; I loved the world that was contained in those. Now I love poetry more than short stories, but I think in terms of like, I’m like I want to write, I don’t know, Sheree-Tales not Fairytales, I don’t know where I’m going with that. So I’ve been influenced by ever book and every author I think that I’ve ever come in contact with. Specifically as a children’s writer I was really, really influenced as a child by Walter de la Mare. And again, you might be surprised by that, it isn’t, maybe, obvious in my work. I mean, yes Lewis Carroll, yes A. A. Milne, they, A. A. Milne especially with Winnie the Pooh, that was my first book I read when I was six years old, and all the work in Winnie the Pooh, you know when you look at “the more it snows, tiddley-pom. The more it goes, tiddley-pom” I like the word play in A.A. Milne, but Walter de la Mare in terms of opening the doors to that world of the imagination. So, you know, I just think,

Someone came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Someone came knocking;
I'm sure-sure-sure;
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right,
But nought there was a stirring
In the still dark night;”

I just think, to this day, that’s beautiful. People have said they think he’s too romantic, he’s too sappy, he’s too whatever. He was, I think, a brilliant writer and I’d like to, I’m trying to, I’d like to study more about Walter de la Mare. I’d like to do critical work on some of his poems at sometime. There’s a Walter de la Mare society in England, I just found that out, and I contacted them, and he still has a grandson living and it would be so great if I could go live there and do something. I’d like to, I think, write a group of poems based on Walter de la Mare’s world, and I don’t know, that’s kind of where I am in my head for my next big project for children. I’d really like to do that. So I know for sure Walter de la Mare influenced me. You know, I know the Romantics influenced me through my father, but deliberately in my own work have I sat down and thought I want to write a book like this? No. Because I think that’s like me thinking, no, that’s what you’re not supposed to do. You know, I think, T.S. Eliot’s cats influenced me a lot, when I was reading, doing dragons. You know, the cats each have a different personality and they’re not even linked, I don’t think, but that had a big influence.

So, that’s a really hard question for me because there’s no one I can single out and say, “that’s the writer for me.” I love, I think even that I look at writing that’s supposedly “not good” and find something good in it. So that’s the other thing too; I just think that every little thing is kind of like a littler miracle that’s done. The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell was a very, very influential book for me. And Russ Hunt [English Professor at St Thomas University], when I was studying children’s literature, Russ Hunt gave me that book and said, “Sheree, I think you’re really gonna like it,” and it took my head off. Because it was about a little bat who wanted to be a poet, it was about the mockingbird who was the critic, it was about ah, you know the chipmunk who said, “say it again,” you know, the two responses of critic and just the reader. It was such an allegory for the poetic process and I mean I still go back to that book over and over and over again and read it over and over and over again and think, “oh, if I could ever write a book like The Bat Poet.” I haven’t found it yet, it’s not there yet, [but] that would be my goal. You know to write a Bat Poet book. A book like The Bat Poet because I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful book. So that’s been a big influence too and like I said you know, everything from Swiss Family Robinson to Treasure Island, all those classics.
The man across the street from me, when I was a little girl, he worked for the St. John’s News Company. And I mean, it was illegal, I was getting contraband books. You know when they say if the cover’s been ripped off, this is damage? Well, he worked for the St. John’s News Company—he’s long dead so I can tell this story now—and my parents didn’t have a lot of books in the house, but every two months Bill would bring over a great bag and set it down cause they knew I was this weird little kid who just went off with books all the time. And I had books, I had like the best, I had the classics, I had The Red Badge of Courage. For five years I read books that had no covers on them. He kept me in my supply of books. “Oh, look, there were damaged books again.” Like, I don’t think so; I think he took them and ripped off the covers, and went Sheree needs books. I think that’s how I got my books, illegal, and my dad was a Mountie, for shame.

Q. 5 Illustration

Sue Fisher: Your words have been paired with illustrations from a wide range of diverse artists over the years, from Molly Lamb Bobak to Yayo. Can you explain your experience of how the process of pairing an author with an illustrator works? What degree of communication have you had with your illustrators during the publishing process? What do you think it takes to illustrate a Sheree Fitch picture book and get it right?

SF: Two things, one thing right away, I think people will be surprised: I never have communication with the artists of any of my books. So from the time I give over my manuscript, sometimes from the time it comes from the printers and I’ve opened the box, sometimes I’ve seen nothing, until that moment. That’s rarer now, because I’m older and crotchety and they want to keep me happy. But it has happened, you know, and to be honest, I kind of like that.

Because I’m the writer and they don’t come to me and say “Sheree change a word cause I want it...” I so honour their art, that I think it is their job to take my words and work with the managing editor, but it shouldn’t be me saying, “Oh I don’t like that colour, or oh;” it should be their creative process. Now having said that, I’ve had one artist in all this time, only one, who came to me before she started on the book and said, “Sheree, do you have any images in your head that you would like to see in the book? Just talk to me about how you see this book.”

I couldn’t believe it. That’s the first time anybody’s asked me what do you see in your head, because of course I see things in my head. I have so much respect for all the artists who did my books, but that meant a lot to me. And that book was No Two Snowflakes and the artist was Janet Wilson, and I really, really, really love that book. And she did; one of the images I had was I wanted the two pages to come together where the girl and the brother, they’re in the backyard, yeah and when they’re in the sand and when the others are in the snow, they’re making snow angels and sand angels and she put that in. And I got an image that I had when I was writing, actually in the book. I don’t think anything less of the other artists, that they didn’t ask, because they are professionals and they are working with a managing editor. I liked it, when at a certain stage in the process all of sudden the managing editor was like, “Sheree do you want to take a look at the sketches? Do you have anything to say?”
Usually I got a chance to approve of who the artist was, um, not always. They would say, “We want to pair you up with this [illustrator], what do you think?” And they would send me a sample of their artwork and I’d go, “Yes,” or I think once or twice I said no, and they went to somebody else. It has happened that books have come out that I’ve really not liked. There has been one book that came that for three days I walked around the house just fit to be tied. But like anything, you learn to live with it and you realize okay, this was somebody else’s interpretation. There is one book that I forget about sometimes because of that. But that’s me, and it doesn’t mean it’s not a good book. And actually I’ve been told, “Actually my baby really, really responds to the pictures in that or that book.” So I feel like I know when I open up a book and I think there’s a magical complementary thing that the text and the words go together. I think a few of my books really have that. Um, I won’t even say which ones because it’s not fair to all the other artists, but I can honestly say that I really feel that every artist tried their most to respect the spirit of every book. And so I’m somebody [who], I like to think, I don’t repeat myself too much, so I do feel that the spirit of a book manifests itself differently in every book. And so it’s up to the artist to kind of ask, “What’s the spirit in this book?”

And I also can tell you that I’m really, really excited with Yayo, the last interpretation. Like that, to me, it’s been my dream book, I have to say, because he took the Ferris wheel I worked so hard on expanding and taking that poem [from Merry-Go-Day] and expanding it into a story and what I thought was a good picture book. And then he went beyond the words in a magical way. And to me, I pick up that book all the time and I’m still picking through it, I’m going “Whoa,” like he did such an incredible job with it. And not anything, like if he had come to me and said, “Sheree, what do you have in your head?” What a horrible thing that would have been! Because what he did was so beyond what I saw. So that’s why I go back to the early days when I say, “You don’t have any say, you don’t have any input?” And I go, “I don’t really want any, I want them to do their thing.”

Nimbus are very good, letting me see, at some point, what Sydney [Smith] has done. But again, you know, unless its an error, like I think that might be a wrong interpretation, like I think “that grandmother’s younger than he portrayed her to be,” it might just be something like that, and Sydney’s so great, he’ll go, “Oh you know, of course I’ll change that.” But I don’t want to interfere with his process either, because he’s re-doing a backlist, so he kind of has to forget everything that was out there, and he’s starting over again in a new way. And I just really, really love his work a lot. So, um, that’s kind of the way it’s worked for me, it’s been very hands off. Sometimes I’ve been overjoyed with the results, and sometimes I’ve been less than happy, but I think that’s why I always said I started to write novels because then I didn’t have to worry about pictures. It was time to tell a story without pictures, right? But all of the magic of a really good illustrator artist, and what they bring to the interpretation of a text, again, there’s that magic element.

Q. 6 Place/Region

ASW: Your stories are mostly set in Eastern Canada, particularly New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Even though setting is not always the central concern, place seems to be an important aspect of your stories. Do you feel you have a particular role to play as a Nova Scotian, a maritimer, or an Atlantic Canadian writer? Do you have any views on the notion of region or regionalism? Would you say that there is some defining feature or indelible mark to literature from the Atlantic Provinces or from Nova Scotia?

For example, in your YA novels The Gravesavers and Pluto’s Ghost, you include some delightful commentary on maritime stereotypes and the marketing of our provinces as picture-perfect holiday destinations, such as the grandmother telling tourists that maritimers are only being nice because they know the tourists will be leaving and her joke on another visitor about “jellyfish cream salad,” or that what seems like the “quaint” town of Poplar Hills actually “ain’t,” as Jake’s dad says, on account of various sulphurous aromas that permeate the air, from manure to pulp and paper plants. What are you up to here? Does this sort of commentary have more of a place in YA books than books for younger readers?

SF: I feel like I have yet to do what I’m supposed to do for my region, I, it’s just so... what can I tell you, I feel like I’ve been living in the country that is childhood and the landscape of the imagination. And it’s been more of a universal no-woman or person’s land that I’ve created in. Like, I believe that now, that changed with The Gravesavers. When I sat down to do The Gravesavers it was very much, I am going to try to recreate the texture, and feel and experience of what it was like to be me at twelve, to go to my grandmother’s house and the south shore of Nova Scotia. Which I love. I so love Nova Scotia, I love the ocean, I loved the ghost stories I grew up with there, I loved the shipwreck stories, and so very much it was like, I want to retrieve that essence of living on the edge.

And I think if there’s a defining thing of what it’s like to be an Atlantic Canadian, I think we all live on the edge. I mean that metaphorically, but also we do, we live on the edge, we live in sparsely isolated communities mostly, I mean, save for the cities, but even then we’re all edgers. We all live on the edge which means the sense of, you know, the expanse of the sea and the sky and life lived on the edge in many ways. We can have nests, we do, we nest, we have communities that mean everything because I think there’s a big difference in living in urban centers. Halifax is our biggest in Atlantic Canada, so I think the sense of growing up on the very edge of Canada put us somewhere, emotionally, spiritually, geographically that we create from that space. I think we’re very [much] people who are influenced by our environment. You know, I’m influenced when I look out every day and I see the river and I see the kayaks. I think we are people, and part of who we are is where we live. And where we are.

And so even if I’m writing Toes in My Nose, there’s something in Toes in My Nose that comes from that, you know. But, specifically saying, you know, I’m going to write from this landscape and this place, the first time that happened for me was with The Gravesavers. And even then I didn’t want to put handcuffs on myself, I want to say, because I was writing about a historic event that had happened in the eighteen hundreds, so it was real, but I didn’t want to be to tied in by the history of it; I wanted to have room for my imagination, so I wrote in and out of the research but more out of it than in, but I tried to keep some details. But Boulder Basin was obviously Chester Basin. Then why didn’t I call it Chester basin? Well, because the shipwreck happened in Terrance Bay. So I wanted to keep enough of the magical, fictional part and integrate that. But when I was writing that, I realized there’s another story that I have to tell, and it’s about growing up in Moncton, the French and the English influences I had, the Catholic and the Protestant, and I’ve been trying to write that story, Andrea, for the better part of fifteen years, and I keep going back to it and I keep going back to it, and what’s the story, what are you trying to say, do you have to write autobiography? No of course not, but that little place, Moncton, New Brunswick, where I grew up, from three to thirteen, the Acadian history, my mother was Acadian, who was the ninth of twelve children, lost her French language, transplanted to Moncton, I was there when Mary Jones, I, the book starts with they killed, they killed a pig and left its head on the front step of the Mayor’s house. Like that’s kind of the way that that story, in to that.

So that is yet to be done. I have yet to explore my history, my space, my, that I haven’t done. And I think it’s vital. I know I have do it at some point, if I’m going to honour this region and the roots and the history that I have.
You know that quote from [The Gravesavers], “That’s because we know she’s not stayin.” You know that’s something I actually heard, when I was growing up my grandmother would take my hand, and I’d be in Chester, we’d go to Chester, the village of Chester in the summer, and she lived in the basin and she’d go, “See that person over there?”

And I’d go, “Yeah”

And she’d go, “They’re American!”

I mean, I grew up with that right, so I was like, “Yeah, they’re American” But to her, Americans were coming and buying up all are land! And that kind of stuff, and I grew up with that, of a very, she was the worst, like a CFA, like that was a person who came from away and that was evil. Like my grandmother really was that stereotypical. I know it still exists because I still travel in the Maritimes and I still meet a lot of people and there still is that. But instead of thinking, “oh, that’s a bad thing about us,” I think, “oh, that’s real.” That’s what it was. And at the same time that I grew up with a grandmother doing that, you know, my mother used to be like, we had two channels on TV. And my mother would go, “Oh, turn the channel cause that’s one of those Canadian things!”

You know, CBC TV in the early days the sound wasn’t great, right, and she’d, she would rather prefer that we watched an American show, let’s watch Bewitched or something, you know. I grew up at a time when there was this kind of like, talk about double messages being given about what Canadianism was and what Canadian was. And so my grandmother fierce, regionalist, and my mother like, there’s something more than us; quality-wise we have a ways to go. So you know, to me, my region and where I live and what I know, I’ve also gone away from it. Washington for eight years. That was when I wrote The Gravesavers; it was like a love letter home. I love everything about who we are what what we do. And yeah, I mean we can call it small-mindedness or you can call it you know just what, a grandmother growing up and seeing her land and surrounding areas being bought off by people who aren’t family or friends, that’s a very universal thing, it’s ours, you know, it’s our land, it’s our home, it’s, you know anywhere you go probably people feel that way about what’s theirs or what they think is theirs even. I’m not judging it, it’s just human nature. So, I hope when I write, those kind of things, it is a truth telling, and there is a little bit, I have to admit, of thumbing nose. Of course there is. A little bit of, you know, who we are, you know.
I remember once writing a poem about my cousin from Toronto, and it was this horrible thing, about my cousin from Toronto says for sure and not forsure, and it goes on and on and then I was like, I grew up with this because my cousin from Toronto was the one who had the nice clothes and sent me the second hand clothes down in a box. So I think I’ve gotten over that a long time ago, but there was a sense that where we lived was not good enough, or people came and took over and there was all this stuff when I grew up. And so now as an adult I think it’s my chance when you tell a story to tell the truth, you know to tell a little bit of truth about who we are, and what we are and what our prejudices might be as much as what our good qualities might be. And I mean that’s what you’re doing, you’re telling the truth as you see it. Little corner of the world, little corner of one person’s mind. You know, not every person is like Nana Vinegar, but there’s still some Nana Vinegars around. Exactly! They keep us honest.

Q. 7 Your Readers

ASW: You do a lot of public readings and have described much of your work as utterature, so your conception of audience is not a merely theoretical one. You have written for very young children, older ones, teens, and adults. Do you have particular guidelines in mind to distinguish between the different audiences you write for? (Do you find the term “crossover” book useful to describe a book that speaks to more than one audience?)

SF: You know what you’re doing when you sit down to write, whether it’s going to be an adult story of a children’s story, I mean you know, it’s not like, “Oh today, this is going to be, am I going to write a children’s story or...” I know, I’m very deliberate and intentional in terms of what project I’m working on and, you know, when I’m not writing something creative I find the other work kind of really hard. So, it’s like, there’s always a project. The trouble for me has been focus, especially since I’ve been moving in the last, I’d say, five years. So it’s really important for me to say if I’m going to work on an adult thing, like I can show you in there, I have envelopes. So I’ve got an envelope for this project, I’ve got an envelope for this project, I’ve got an envelope for this project, and when I’m working and I know what I’m working on, that stuff goes and it’s very focused on what I’m going to work on.

I have a writer friend who writes for adults, teens and young children as well and he has different desks in his house. And he goes, “I go to that desk, I’m writing for children, I go to that desk I’m writing for teens, I got to that desk, I’m writing for adults.” I’m thinking, “I could do that here, this house is big enough, but I don’t want to do that. So that’s just in terms of writing process, but in terms of guidelines I can tell you, for me, when I’m writing for young children, and I do have a theory about this that would just bore you, but it’s very academic actually, the theory.

So I believe that the oral tradition of children’s literature is about community and it is about sharing and is about the musicality of words and so I write for the ear. Absolutely almost as much as I do, whether Mable Murple gets a purple parrot or something. So I’m writing for the ear for children, more than any other. Okay, so the lip slipperiness that we talked about before, that’s very intentional. So I am writing because I know that this story is not going to be read by a baby, it’s not going to be read by a two year old, it’s going to come through an intermediary.

Okay, so this is part of a triangle, and actually there’s a student in Vermont who took my thesis and used it as a corner stone of her PhD thesis and she called it the vibrant triangle. And I’ve always loved that she took my thesis and did that. So she talks about this vibrant triangle, you know, between the writer, the intermediary, you know parent or librarian or whatever, and then the child who receives it. Because they are hearing it through another person, okay and they’re usually hearing it through the human voice. Knowing that, I mean it’s very rare the two year old that can pick up the book and read the words, but, so knowing that, when I’m writing for children, I’m thinking, it is my responsibility above all else to make sure those words do not thunk on the page.

So everything I can possibly do to make that [happen], and it’s not [easy], it’s hard, it’s still hard to me cause we can get lazy with reading rhythm and cadence and all that stuff, and like I said, I think there’s time for [something] like,

I am small,
I cannot reach the light switch,
the juice glasses in the kitchen cupboard,
the taps to turn on water.
That’s a slow gentle rhythm, but it’s every word and every sentence and every [pause]... I made a decision about [these], right.

So now, let’s fast-forward up to YA, let’s go to a novel. It took me eight years to write The Gravesavers because I didn’t know if I could write a novel. And what I discovered, and it wasn’t every day writing, but what I discovered is that I still wanted to write for the ear. Even though it was a novel. Okay, that’s fine, it makes beautiful word sounds on the page, but you have to move that character from point A to point B, you have to have dialogue that crackles, you have to have some narration, you have to have... So all of a sudden it was like I can’t write a book unless it’s a verse novel, which I’d like to do some day. I can’t write a novel with the same kind of attention to every line on the page and word on the page as I can with a picture book for children, two-year-olds, or so I thought. But in the end, that’s exactly what I did.

So I didn’t write for the ear as much, but I couldn’t ignore that I hear the clash and clang of every word. Because I hear words as music. So the poet part of my brain has to be a little bit dull in order to write a novel, so again that’s a guideline for me. It’s like, Sheree, remember you’re writing a novel now, it’s for an older child, they’re not going to have as much patience if you go higgily-piggily all over the page. Like you have, I have to set that guideline. There’s a narrative arc, something has to be revealed, what’s at stake, are there are obstacles, have you solved it, have you, do we care about the character... all the things that you care about in what you think makes a good book. You know, interest. I don’t want pages of description. Pages and pages and pages. As an adult writer I can admire writers like that, but if I’m bored, I’m going to skip pages.

I don’t want somebody skipping pages in my book. I don’t want that. At the same time, I’m so in love with language, it’s really hard to let go of that part. For adults, same; when I decided to write a novel for adults, I went, I just want to have fun. And that was very much my guideline. It was like, I don’t want to win the Giller, I don’t want to do this serious [book]. At this point in my life I need to write the story I need to write, and if it makes a few of my friends laugh that’s good. I’d love it to be nominated for the Stephen Leacock award cause that’s really what I’d like, and it did, right, so I’m thinking good. I don’t look on GoodReads to see what people think of Kiss the Joy as it Flies because it’s not as good as I would have liked it to be, right.
And then you think you can’t write to please other people. You can’t write for awards. In the end you have to write because there’s nothing else you can do until you’ve written that story out of you. Mercy Beth Banjo had to come flying out of me when she did at that point in my life. I’m really glad she did. And when I hear from people, and I do, “I just picked up this book; I didn’t know you wrote for adults!” You know, and I get the really good feedback, that’s the stuff I hang on to. So I am aware of audience, for two reasons. It’s like a book doesn’t exist if it’s not read. You know, creating art for the sake of art is a beautiful thing to do, but for me, it becomes, it has its life when somebody opens up the book and they read it. So I am conscious of creating beautiful, beautiful as I can, music on the page for young children, for having a story and a character that’s going to grip a younger reader and take them along a journey that’s called a plot. And then for an older audience again, I’m still trying to discover what it is.

I think my next book, I have no idea, I think it will be short stories. So there are guidelines; in Jake, in Pluto’s Ghost for example, I should be careful here, but, Jake in his character, might have, you know, have sworn every second word. I didn’t want to put that into a book for late teens, so I found a way, the best way I could wrestle with. I know Jake would use the other word, so I’m going to have him writing an essay in which he has to watch his language, and that way, I can be authentic to his character and still not use the word I think Jake would use the whole time, do you get what I’m talking about? So I think, and, you know, when I finally figured that out, it’s like, “Jake’s not real cause I know how he would talk,” and I’m like, “Ah! He’s writing an essay, he’s telling a story and he knows that Shep’s going to read it, so he’s trying to be respectful.” And he bleeps out of that every once in a while, but, and you even see him watching himself, watching his language, watching how not to say ain’t, watching his grammar. And that’s the only way that I could find the truth of that character and not betray myself, which is, I don’t want to write a book that every second word is the F word, I just don’t. So, like I said, there’s too many beautiful words in the English language. And to have to do that, [find] my way out of that, which is probably why I won’t ever write a character like Jake again because I can only use that once. I can only get away with that once, right?
So guidelines are there, they’re internal […] the internal ones of what do I think makes excellence. I give everything I can give to this story, but do I compare with the outside standards there? No, because that would make you crazy cause nothing would ever be good enough.

Q. 8 Learning Differences & Activism

ASW: You have written many works that might be considered educational, but not all of these are categorized as such by your publisher. If You Could Wear my Sneakers is listed as a picture/poetry book, for example. There is a fine line between books that illuminate the many differences your characters embody and books that purposely set out to “teach” and are thus seen as “tools” rather than “literature.” I’m sure you have thought about these matters a great deal as practically all your books cross this territory in one way or another. Could you comment on the relationship of the ludic [playful] and the didactic [educational] in your work?

SF: I think it goes to the heart of what I’m always trying to understand, why I write. So, how can I explain this? I think there’s two things. Even Toes in My Nose at some level is educational because you’re teaching children to love language, by having them hone their own voices, by having them have faith in their own voice. So on some level, even though it doesn’t appear to be, I would argue that Toes in My Nose is an educational book in terms of it helps children to love language and have faith in their own voices. Okay, for the more intentional ones like If You Could Wear My Sneakers, UNICEF came to me, this is a book about children’s rights, and asked, can you do, in a way to have fun [and] to help us link to children’s rights?” Well, I said no to them four times before I said yes to them. I said no to them four times. I said,
“No, I’m not the person you want. You want a non-fiction writer. What I do is nonsense; this is like contriving nonsense; I don’t think I can do it.” And then, truthfully, what happened is a little elephant walked right into my office and said,

Did you hear the elephants
Trumpeting last night?
They thundered past my bedroom
The earth rumbled back in fright.
They were going to fight a battle
Thump-galumping off to war.”

And that’s the only poem in twenty, thirty some years I’ve been writing that ever came full blown and I hardly changed a word, ever. It’s the only one. And when I finished the elephant poem, I went, “Maybe I could use animals to do a book about children’s rights.” And then I went, “That’s nonsense.” And I went, “Aha! That’s what I do!” And I went, “okay.” So I wrote them back and said, “you know what, I’ve reconsidered; I will do this for you. I want the poems to be able to stand on their own and at the end you can do something about you know, what you need to do.”

I made that decision at a time. Up until then I hadn’t done anything educational. And I knew, because I don’t like didactic books. I don’t like the word didactic, the last thing I want to do is hammer-head a kid and say, “Be kind. Read this poem. Do this.” No, I don’t believe in that, right. So and actually, I know there is a whole other body of thinking that says that kind of lit has its place. Not for me. Right, you know what I went through. I’m an English Literature student. I studied children’s literature; I know that’s not what I want to do. That’s not what I want to create. So making the decision to do that book for UNICEF was really scary. And I got slammed from some people, “Oh, now you’re doing a do-good book.” Well you know what I find really funny is that, that was a long time ago. A book about the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child; now, there’s all kinds of books about children rights. But that was early days, and I used nonsense poetry, and I’m really glad I did it. And yet I know some people were like, “Oh, now you’re trying to teach the kids things.” And I thought, well, I’ve always tried to, you know, I mean, if they learn to love words, that’s still, that’s a part of me.

And it was Joyce, I have to say this on tape, it was Joyce Sparghouse who allowed me, gave me the permission to travel in the direction that I needed to go in. In terms of, don’t be ashamed of that, don’t apologize for that, you know why you did that, Sheree, you do think children’s rights are really important. You were asked to write a book about that, you wanted to use your words. And Joyce came to me and she said, “Sheree, doing that book for UNICEF was a very, very good thing, don’t ever let anyone tell you that it wasn’t.” And it was from Joyce. And I was like, “Joyce, thank you.” Joyce was an incredibly kind, kind, kind, permissionary woman. Very generous to other writers. Joyce Sparghouse, just, she was [great], and so Joyce saying that, at that time, and then come to find out, Joyce started out writing Sunday school poems. So did Catherine Parr Traill back in the day, you know. So all of us who write, probably have that instructional, educational, you know, social justice part of us. And for me, that was probably the most, that I ever did it like that, connected. After that though, I gave myself permission, you know. I really care about children with autism, I really care, I mean Pocket Rocks, today I was thinking about Kelly [Sheehan, an Educational Assistant], today I wondered if she knew, but it’s about a teacher’s assistant who helps a child who learns kinaesthetically to write his names with rocks. And of course I work in schools with kids who fall in love with language even though it’s difficult for them. I had, and I’m allowed to say this, you know, two sons who, like I said, they were both premature, and they both were diagnosed with learning variations really early on, and they both struggled within the school system. So as a mother, you know, they’re not in my books that way, but those issues, how does a child learn, how do our brains work, all that stuff. So writing Pocket Rocks just seemed like a natural thing, at that time, to write. And actually it was a little boy that I met at a school named Ian, his last name was Ian Gooby, who did write his name upside down and backwards; I used him [as a model for] Jake [in Pluto’s Ghost] as one of those kids who fell through the cracks. I saw them.
You know, I remember going into a poetry class, you know a whole poetry class, you know, grade eleven poetry. Just seeing this kid at the back with his thatch of hair and his, I’m doing this, and tapping his pencil, and like when can I get out of here, when can I get out of here, the whole time I was doing the class. And when the bell rang and every other student who’d been sitting there listening to me cleared out of the classroom, he’s the one who moseyed up from the back of the class and went, “Hey miss,” And I’m like, “Yeah?” And he’s like, “Can I have that poem, the one about your grandmother?” He was the one who connected with the poetry. And yet he was the one who looked like he so didn’t want to be there. And that, he’s my Jake, you know, he’s where Jake came from, that sensitive, inside, human being that we can’t always see because we’re looking at the outside.

And also, what would it be like, I wanted to know, what would it be like to not be able to read and write the way I do. It was really, totally, putting myself in somebody else’s shoes.

I mean, I read when I was four; it’s my life, it’s how I stay sane, you know, I order, I read, then that makes sense of the world. But what if you couldn’t do that. And what would it be like to be in a situation where you actually had to know, I mean he’s [Jake, Pluto’s Ghost] given that diary of Skye’s and he can’t read it. And as a result a series of choices are made. That was an incredible journey. To go so, first of all to be male, and then to go inside somebody else’s head. And so I hoped, truthfully I can say, did I just want to write a book about Jake, an eighteen year old? Did I hope that one person, in reading that book, would care about a Jake? Yeah. Yeah, I care about that, it’s just so, and I don’t know, do you remember that kid in class, like when I was in class and the teacher would say, “Stand up and read.” And the guy would get up and read out loud but he really couldn’t read, and you would sit in your seat and you’d go, why did you ask him to read? Why did you do that to little David so and so in the back? Sorry David, his name was David, there was always a kid, you know, who couldn’t do that. And just the embarrassment that you felt for them, right. I think that comes from that same place. Sorry, I don’t want to end my time crying about Jake; I just do, I still do care [like] when I wrote that book. Get one person to give this to, you know, and you know what UNB did? They gave that book to their first year education students and said read this book. One teacher said, “This is required reading if you’re going to be teachers.” Do I, am I happy that [Pluto’s Ghost]’s being used as an educational tool? Damn shootin’ I am. You know, but it’s not why I did it. Jake shouted to me, “Tell my story.” But then you’re thinking, use it, yeah, use it. I don’t have any problem with that. But I would hope that it wasn’t didactic. Sheree trying to give a message to the world or something. No, it should, right, what do they say—it should emerge from the story and the character, even if [readers] go, “Hey, you know what, that might be what it’s like.” And they just think about it for a second; that’s enough. That’s enough. Yeah it’s funny, you don’t know why you write some times. I still don’t know why.