News and Interviews

The Dirty Dozen, with Jesse Ruddock

Jesse Ruddock

Athlete, musician, and writer -- Jesse Ruddock isn't easily pinned down or defined. Much like her debut novel, Shot-Blue (Coach House Books), which has drawn comparisons to Winter's Bone in its sparseness and toughness, but which is also deeply moving, beautifully lyrical, and intimate in a way that will stay with readers long after the book is put down. Telling the story of single mother Rachel and her son Tristan, Shot-Blue explores notions of home, of loss, and of the wildness of both landscape and love. 

We're excited to welcome Jesse to Open Book to spill some secrets in the form of our Dirty Dozen questionnaire, where authors share 12 unexpected facts about themselves. 

Jesse tells us about how writing is like fishing, the highlights and lowlights of her hockey career, and her (very impressive!) keg stand stats. 

1. I have always dreamt of being a fishing guide, not a writer.

2. I don’t care if I catch anything out there. I will fish for nothing all summer. 

3. Growing up, I always returned the fish I caught to the lake and thought of them swimming in the deep as I was falling asleep. I’d map their routes, imagine them cutting across shoals and drop-offs. Then I dated a commanding anarchist—glorious in her contradiction, we called her the Goddess of the Utopians—and she made me keep the fish, clean them, and cook them for her supper. 

4. Most of what I write, I toss. Never cling to it, you know? It’s like catching the fish, releasing them, and dreaming of them holding down the void later on.

5. My greatest accomplishment is playing AAA boys’ hockey in Guelph, Ontario. My greatest failure is not making the OHL. 

6. I was the Golden Donkey at Harvard my freshman season playing goal. The Golden Donkey is a classified title bestowed by the team judge upon the player who has caused the most embarrassment for the team at parties.

7. My keg stand always broke a minute.

8. A dozen or more nicknames were forced on me playing hockey. My least favorite was not the Golden Donkey but Thumper. Not a nice name for someone sensitive to language. The sex jokes knew no pause. That’s when I played with the Toronto Jr. Aeros— before US college hockey softened my rock ’em sock ’em edge. In college, I wasn’t supposed to fight, that was the rule; in junior, you had to fight to defend and prove yourself. My coach named me Thumper for how hard I hit people with my blocker.

9. I used to go eat at the dining hall at Harvard when it opened, at 6am, because I found the social life there incomprehensible and generally pretty terrifying. I’d pack my pockets with these huge apple muffins they made fresh every day so I wouldn’t have to come back to the hall for lunch.

10. After all that school, I played in bands. Sometimes my band toured and played shows for one or two people, then we’d drink up and dance with them after. I love to dance in the arms of strangers.

11. My wife, sister, mother, and one old friend generously give me all the clothes I wear because I hate shopping.

12. At about 13 or 14 years old, I had an epiphany. It was weird. A very strong feeling overtook my body. I was up north, cleaning out my boat down at the dock. I was living with my sister and her boyfriend for a month in summer. I ran hard to find them. They were the only other people on the island. I broke through the screenporch door, shivering with a kind of cold fever. It felt like I couldn’t talk but had to. I told them: “Me write book.” 

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Born in Guelph and based in New York, Jesse Ruddock first left Canada on a hockey scholarship to Harvard. Her writing and photographs have appeared in the NewYorker.com, BOMB MagazineMusic & Literature, and ViceShot-Blue is her first novel.

Related reading

Shot-Blue

Shot-Blue is that rarest species, a genuinely wise novel.’ – Rivka Galchen

Rachel is a young single mother living with her son, Tristan, on a lake that borders the unchannelled north – remote, nearly inhospitable. She does what she has to do to keep them alive. But soon, and unexpectedly, Tristan will have to live alone, his youth unprotected and rough. The wild, open place that is all he knows will be overrun by strangers – strangers inhabiting the lodge that has replaced his home, strangers who make him fight, talk, and even love, when he doesn't want to. Ravenous and unrelenting, Shot-Blue is a book of first love and first loss.

The road was like a portage: an opening that lets you in but makes no promise to bring you out on another side. Maybe the road narrowed to a dead end or was blocked by a swamp raised by a beaver dam. Maybe it led to a place they weren't welcome. She walked through the cut slowly and stopped, her dark hair falling across her shoulders heavily, and Tristan imagined that she meant to let her hair sweep the ground as it did. Most boys would have run out to meet their mothers. But he knew he couldn't understand. She was always telling him,you can't understand everything.