Sina Queyras is primarily a poet. She even blogs for the Poetry Foundation, which seems to be about as high-profile as a poet can get. However, she has just released her first novel, Autobiography of Childhood, which makes me incredibly curious about Queyras.
I suppose another reason I’m curious about her is because she’s a professor at Concordia, though we never crossed paths. I pretty much avoided the poetry department, for reasons I can’t entirely explain, and while I had heard many good things about the teachers and their work, I never really engaged with that part of the Creative Writing department. Instead, I stuck to the fiction side and dabbled in playwriting.
However, it seems Queyras is currently in charge of both the established “Writers Read” series (featuring big names like Roddy Doyle) and a new one called Synapse, which features “established, emerging and student voices across disciplines.” Nice! I always wondered why the school had so few reading outlets for the many writing students; no one was staging regular open mics, and people seemed kind of afraid of discussing their work, much less performing it. But where else can you test your wings if not in school?
So I’m impressed with the things she’s doing for Concordia, and for the writing community in Montreal. I wish I had known more about her when I was at school, but I’m glad that up-and-coming writers will get the chance to benefit from her presence.
On a related note, a website called The Underground Book Club (OMG, great title, so jealous) said this about her, in relation to her book, Unleashed (which is a collection of blog posts):
The Canadian Encyclopedia notes Queyras has worked diligently to create an encouraging and challenging environment for writers, especially Canadian women writers. In her September 3, 2005 post (“To blog or not to blog”), Queyras credits a friend with suggesting her blog is “a place to praise and inform.” She then says this is “a combination of things I can get behind.”
A place to praise and inform. Yes, exactly! Isn’t that what blogs should be about? Sure, we can also be critical and engage with literature from that perspective, but too often criticism is taken to mean “tearing down.” Even so-called “constructive criticism” is more often about what the reader would be pleased to read, rather than what would truly make the written work in question better. (See any workshopping class for proof.) So, yes, I quite like this idea of using a blog to praise and inform. To engage with literature, highlighting its best, rather than its worst.
Of course, let’s try to do this without pandering. Without false flattery or praise where it is not due.
So let’s “leave the lover’s quarrels in the bedroom,” as The Underground Book Club puts it, let’s not feel we must destroy writers for making mistakes or writing bad books, but let’s try to see what about their books is actually good or interesting or worth saving. Sometimes there may be nothing, and in these cases perhaps a better education in writing (and reading) is the answer. (There must be some reason, after all, to attend a Creative Writing course or complete an entire degree in such!) But let’s try to make books better. This is what good editors do. This is what good writers do. The bad ones become cranky, bitter critics and write snarky reviews to make themselves feel better about their own inability to produce works of genius; the old “those who can’t do…” dictum.
And finally, a quote from Queyras to leave you with:
Make the world your salon.
Here here, Ms. Q. I look forward to someday attending yours. In the meantime, I will be learning more from your blog, Lemon Hound.
Who’s your favorite Q author?