Q&A with Clea Young

September 20, 2017 | Victoria Festival of Authors | Q&A

Clea Young’s stories have been included in The Journey Prize Stories three times and anthologized in Coming Attractions 13. Her work has appeared in EventGrainThe FiddleheadThe Malahat ReviewPrairie Fire and Room. Clea completed an MFA at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver where she lives and works as the Artistic Associate at the Vancouver Writers Fest. Her first collection of stories, Teardown, was published by Freehand Books.

by Barbara Pelman

Barbara Pelman: I’ve known you from junior high school days and have watched your life blossom. Can you talk about your school influences? How did your education help or hinder your writing?

Clea Young: I always loved coming to you class! All it took was a few teachers throughout my high school years, who recognized and responded to my interest in writing, to feel encouraged enough to continue. Once I got to University, some of the teachers I encountered in writing programs were such revelations it was impossible not to want to keep going.

BP: What about your parents? Since they are both writers and teachers, how has that made a difference for you?

CY: My parents have always been my best teachers, readers, editors. But they’ve never pressured me to write. In fact, at some points I think they may have liked to dissuade me from it, nudge me toward a more practical vocation. Though they never did that either. They’ve always remained neutral and supportive.

BP: What is the best thing that writing gives you?

CY: The freedom to explore aspects of human behaviour I don’t understand. To push situations toward outcomes I wouldn’t have expected. Room to play.

BP: What is the most difficult thing about the writing life? The cliffs? The chasms?

CY: When life gets busy it’s sometimes hard to have the discipline, to keep up the practice that maintains those writing muscles. I feel anxious when this happens, but if I can’t bring myself to write, if nothing’s working, I read. I’m always reading and I remind myself that’s part of the practice, too.

BP: How did you move into writing short stories, rather than poetry? Or is that next? Or a novel? What are you working on next?

CY: At UVic I took a survey writing course. When it came to the short story component, I felt like my writing world opened up. Lorna Jackson invited Zsuzsi Gartner to read to the class to read and I remember being wowed by that experience and wanting to write like her. I’m working on more stories (in earnest) and a novel (in theory).

BP: I loved how your characters seemed like ‘ordinary people’ in extraordinary situations. Can you talk a bit about how you find/create your characters?

CY: Thank you for saying so! My stories often start with voice, a line of dialogue that piques my interest and makes me want to learn more about the person uttering those words.

BP: My favorite question when I was interviewed was this one, a total non-sequitor: What’s in your fridge right now?

CY: Ha! Good question. My brother gave me a SCOBY in November of last year and I’ve become a bit of a brewer of kombucha. There are many bottles filled curious liquids in my fridge.

Clea Young will be appearing Saturday, September 30th at Close-Up Magic, 3:30 at Intrepid Theatre.