Jaime Forsythe is the author of two collections of poetry, Sympathy Loophole (Mansfield Press, 2012) and I Heard Something (Anvil Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in publications across Canada including This Magazine, The Puritan, Matrix, and Lemon Hound. In the following post, she answers our questions about writing, her work as a mentor, what she loves about life in Nova Scotia, and more.
How long have you been writing? What drew you to writing in general, and poetry in particular?
I’ve felt compelled to write for as far back as I can remember, filling tiny spiral notebooks, Hilroy scribblers, and photocopied zines. As an older teenager/young adult, I was obsessed with short stories and thought that was the form I most wanted to write in and figure out. During my graduate degree, I had to take a workshop in a genre outside of my primary genre (which was fiction) as a graduation requirement. I warily took a poetry workshop and was like: oh. OH. Maybe all my plotless short stories were actually trying to be poems. I still love reading fiction, but poetry is the form that resonates with me as a writer, and that I feel most excited about continuing to explore and push myself in.
In addition to being a writer, you have also worked as a mentor as part of the WFNS mentorship program. Do you find that mentorship is an activity that feeds or informs your approach to writing?
Yes! I loved working in the mentorship program, and I no doubt learned as much, if not more, from the writers I was paired with as they learned from me. I find it really helpful to have to articulate aspects of craft, or pinpoint what makes a piece work or not work, in a way that is clear and useful to another person. It helps me to be more precise about my own goals and philosophies. I’ve also facilitated writing workshops for teens, younger children, and university students, and in all of these cases I come away from different kinds of in-depth conversations about writing feeling refreshed and motivated.
What do you love about living in Nova Scotia?
I love that I live downtown, but can be at Point Pleasant Park in five minutes, where I can walk in the trees for an hour and both my dog and kid can wear themselves out. I love being close to lakes and the ocean, and that a 45-minute drive takes me to visit my relatives in the small community where my mom grew up, Cheverie, right on the Minas Basin, where my family spends a lot of time in the summer. Also: lupins, Moon Mist, lots of art and music weirdos.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a writer?
That being a writer means writing full-time. Most writers I know juggle multiple roles and jobs; I will never make a living from writing poetry and that’s OK.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I recommend reading lots, both within and outside of your comfort zone. Connect with other like-minded writers, in-real-life if possible. Give yourself space and time to experiment. Take and consider criticism that resonates with you, and discard what doesn’t.
Where do you like to write?
Anywhere, but if I have a choice and the time, finding a corner in the Central Library for a couple of hours works well. I like the idea of writing alone in a cabin by the ocean somewhere, but the cabin (or the solitude?) has yet to materialize.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I don’t know that I really feel guilty about any of my pleasures currently. Stuff I do that I’m probably supposed to feel guilty about: keeping up with my horoscope, watching reality shows like Terrace House and The Bachelorette, looking at photos of dogs up for adoption even though I have a dog and absolutely do not want another one. I could go on!
What do you do when you have writer’s block?
Finding time is the bigger challenge for me – the upside to this is that when I do carve out that time, it feels precious and urgent, so I don’t experience writer’s block, exactly. By the time I sit down, I usually have a backlog of notes and fragments I want to work with. If I’m stuck on a particular piece, I walk around, pull books off the shelf and flip until I find something that spurs me on again. If I’m feeling empty of new ideas, that usually means I’ve been neglecting to read.
What’s something you’ve done that many others probably haven’t?
I don’t think I have many life experiences that are all that unique, except maybe attending a ventriloquism convention in Kentucky when I was working as a speech researcher at Queen’s University. I was there to collect video data of people speaking without moving their lips. As a result, there’s a ventriloquist poem in my first book.
What are you working on right now?
Fragments, notes and blocks of text that exist handwritten in notebooks or as memos on my phone. These may eventually turn into new poems, or may not.