Exchanging words with WordFest author
Jeanette Lynes is a Canadian-born author who has written five collections of poetry and, more recently, released her first novel. The book, titled The Factory Voice, is a fictional story of four women working in a military factory.
In addition to being a writer, Lynes teaches at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and co-edits The Antigonish Review.
Lynes is one of around 70 authors that will be attending WordFest, which runs from Oct. 13-18. She will be taking part in two of the festival’s events, including Poetry Bash on Oct. 16 from 9:30 p.m. to11 p.m., as well as Through the Glass Lightly on Oct. 18 from 11 a.m. until noon.
How long have you been writing?
I began writing poetry and some creative prose about 15 years ago. Before that, I wrote academic articles. I also wrote “creatively” as a child, which makes this question a bit tricky to answer. I feel like I have been writing all my life, which in a way is probably true. But in terms of a concerted effort to write and publish poetry and fiction, about 15 years.
Do you have a favourite author?
There are many authors I love, but right off the top, Margaret Laurence, L.M. Montgomery, and Alice Munro. I am also very fond of American literature; The Great Gatsby remains a favourite book, and I love the American short story writer Lori Moore. I also love many Canadian and American poets.
After working at post-secondary institutions like St. Francis Xavier, have you noticed that teaching has influenced your writing?
I think it’s more the other way around: my writing has influenced my teaching. I teach literature more now from the point of view of craft; how a piece of writing is “made.” I teach literature in a more “writerly” way, if that makes sense. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. My teaching of creative writing is closely linked to my own writing, as I am often trying to think through similar craft issues as my students and it can help to articulate and discuss them in a writing workshop setting where we are all just writers. I like teaching writing a lot; it energizes me and the creative process is an endlessly fascinating one.
What was the experience of writing your first novel like?
In a word, painful. I had little confidence. I didn’t even know if I could write a novel. It took seven years to write my first novel and it was such a proving ground. I had no track record with fiction. I re-wrote the novel many times. It brought me to my knees. It was a very humbling experience.
How would you describe your style of writing?
I’m not sure if you’re referring to poetry or fiction, so I’ll generally say – with respect to both genres – I think my style is quirky, populist, and unconventional.
It seems as though you have experience with a variety of different forms of writing, from poetry to fiction. Do you have a favourite medium?
Yes, my Mac computer. More seriously, I am fairly fixated on fiction these days, but I will always return to poetry in one form or another; it is the homeland. Fiction is an adventurous journey. Poetry is a homecoming.
How powerful do you think words can be?
Words can change the world. The Charter of Rights (and Freedoms), civil rights documents, speeches, testimonials, prayers, manifestos. Words are our greatest tool as humans.
Is this your first time at WordFest?
Yes. I was lucky enough to attend the Spoken Word Festival (in Calgary) earlier this year and it was wonderful. But this is my first WordFest appearance.
Are you looking forward to being in Calgary for WordFest?