Wayde Compton is the author of two books of poetry, 49th Parallel Psalm (Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize finalist) and Performance Bond. He also edited the anthology Bluesprint: Black British Columbian Literature and Orature. His non-fiction book After Canaan: Essays on Race, Writing, and Region was a City of Vancouver Book Award finalist in 2011. The same year, he was the Vancouver Public Library’s Writer in Residence. Compton is the director of the Writer’s Studio and the Southbank Writer’s Program at Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies.
We asked Wayde 10 questions about his writing process, his inspiration, his nominated book and his advice for aspiring writers. You can see Wayde on January 14 as part of the UBC Locution reading series.
Wayde Compton answers our 10 questions!
1. When did you first know that you would become a writer?
When I tried to write a 40-page chapbook and overshot the mark by 135 pages and instead realized I’d written a book.
2. How did it feel the first time you had a book contract with a publisher—when you were still working on the manuscript and before your book was released?
To compose the book I allowed myself to be possessed, in a sense, and so I was worried about what it was I had surrendered myself to and brought into the world. After it was published I was better able to appreciate the experience.
3. Who inspires you? Why?
My daughter, who is six years old, inspires me more than anyone because of her eyeball-illustrating skills and the fact that she is working on her red belt in aikido.
4. What book(s) are you reading right now?
I usually read several different books at the same time and right now they are: The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, Paper Lantern by Stuart Dybek, and Prior to Meaning by Steve McCaffery.
5. Where and when do you write? How do you balance this with your position as program director of Creative Writing at SFU?
I can write non-fiction in cafes and fiction at the library but I only seem able to write poetry at home.
6. Your publisher describes The Outer Harbour as a cautionary tale of the future culminating in the final story with the offshore detainment of migrants under a government immigration policy known as the Burrard Inlet Solution. Is this fate pre-determined or is it changeable?
“The Burrard Inlet Solution” is an allusion to Australia’s brutal policy of detaining migrants on remote islands, far from Australian shores — which they called “the Pacific Solution.” My book begins in 2001 just before 9/11, and pivots on that historical moment; the Pacific Solution was enacted in 2001. Given the recent discussions of Syrian refugees, I think we are definitely still within the grip of the type of inordinate fear that leads to such compassionless responses.
7. Page 82 of your book references an unpublished short fiction from 2009 by a writer named Wayde Compton called “The Reader.” Does it exist?
Not anymore * the character John Pembrey Lee convinced me that I should delete it!
8. Can you share any advice with emerging and aspiring writers?
Find a community of writers, in whatever form that takes, and write within a social field.
9. What unexpected person has contacted you about your book?
I was asked to read from The Outer Harbour at the Gothic Migrations conference at SFU this past summer, and that was a pleasant surprise. I had not previously thought of the book as related to gothic genres, but there are indeed ghosts and even a sort of haunted house (well, condo tower) in it, so it can be accessed from that perspective.
10. Do you have any public events (festivals, readings, podcasts, etc.) taking place in 2015 that we can help to promote? Where and when are they?
I am reading on January 14 as part of the UBC Locution reading series, and over at the Vancouver Island University on March 2.
The 27th annual City of Vancouver Book Award will be presented at the Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre on November 12, 2015. The books on this year’s shortlist cover a range of genres: non-fiction, short stories, poetry, and a children’s book. The short-listed books create a street-level walk through our city to amplify our pride and understanding of the flawed and beautiful, young but wise city we inhabit.