Writer in Residence

The Dirty Dozen, with Sandra Ridley

By Grace O'Connell

August 25, 2014 - Poet Sandra Ridley is Open Book: Toronto's September 2014 writer-in-residence. Get to know her by checking out her edition of our Dirty Dozen interview series!

Sandra's most recent book is The Counting House (BookThug), which has been praised for how it "soothes and bites" and "lives fiercely".

Amongst other honours, Sandra has been shortlisted for the Ottawa Book Award, the ReLit Award and the Archibald Lampman Award. She also captured the coveted title of winner of "Battle of the Bards" at the International Festival of Authors at the Harbourfront Centre.

Today Sandra takes our Dirty Dozen series, which asks authors to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves, and tells us about the allure of science, summer toques and an unusual holiday movie choice.

 

    1. What’s the frequency, Kenneth? I range Chaotic Good with a little Neutral Evil.

 

    1. There’s a small farmhouse off Highway 16, near the hamlet of Leslie, Saskatchewan. I grew up there with eight older siblings. Our house didn’t have plumbing until the late 1980s. There was a red hand pump for non-potable water in the kitchen. There was a double-seater outhouse eighty paces back from our only door; one small seat, one large. We had a pail in the basement for winter. As the youngest, I never had to carry it up to empty it. One rabbit ear TV. No books. Our reading material was the Western Producer for wheat, barley and rapeseed prices. (Canola wasn’t a term we used until the 1990s.) Physical labour needed to be done from before sunrise until well into (and at harvest time, all through) the night. There was no possibility for idleness — eat, work, sleep.

 

    1. Reading is not idleness. Reading is work. Writing is work. Daydreaming is work. My father rolls over and over and over.

 

    1. When I was 13, and living in the city, a man tried to abduct me. He flashed a jackknife and growled obscenities as he chased me. I ran into the closest building, a postal office, and stood in line, to cry to the staff, as he crouched in wait for me in the shadow of a nook outside. Several male mail carriers ran to restrain him before the cops arrived, intent on beating him, before restraining him. He escaped by jumping into a beige sedan that squealed up — a full car. The next morning in my school’s auditorium two police officers spoke about ‘safety’. Be vigilant. Report odd behaviour. Travel in pairs. Be watchful for beige sedans. My classmates were thrilled to miss science class.

 

    1. Science is my favourite subject. Two years ago, a blue mud dauber wasp became my writing companion. She flew in and out an open window, carrying tiny balls of mud, and built a small tubular hive in a drawer of my desk. There’s a squirrel wanting a peanut as I type this. She’s actually about to traipse into the room — the fourth generation progeny of one of two pups raised by hand to adulthood. (Her mother was run over on the road.) Here she is now. Have I passed the Voight-Kampff test?

 

    1. I wore a toque too many days this summer. I’m wearing it again now. It’s in the shape of a wolf’s head. There are four kites in my closet. I haven’t flown any of them in years. I dream, lucidly, but only in the thick of nightmares. I have recurring imaginary cities. I’ve mapped them. There’s a great Irish pub. I love peat fires, but I worry about the bogs. I’m perpetually cold. Most nights it’s difficult to sleep. Not a case of chronic insomnia — I fall asleep easily but wake up a lot. My arms go numb. The live one has to lift the dead other. Does anyone wake up feeling refreshed anymore? Either the nerves or the arteries will get me.

 

    1. The only thing that saves me during the last two weeks of each December is The Planet of the Apes film series on marathon replay. Blade Runner (Director’s Cut) is benison for the rest of the year. There’s beauty in Roy Batty’s smile after he howls through the acid rain.

 

    1. Sometimes when someone smiles, it doesn’t mean they’re happy.

 

    1. When the rheumatoid arthritis finally sets in, before my hands calcify into claws, I’ll teach myself kite-surfing. This will involve a move to Prince Edward County. I’ll need a NASA designed, heat-circuited drysuit of vulcanized rubber, and my toque. I’ve always learned by doing. Some things I’ll never learn. I’m dreadful at darts. Please don’t explain how to throw them. Really. I have always had a problem with authority. No — authority has always had a problem with me.

 

    1. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

 

    1. Why not quit and become a long haul Tannhäuser trucker… for the disconnected silence of the road, and the c-beams glittering in the dark. The truth is out there.

 

  1. Sorry I missed your call. Don’t take it personally. I never answer the phone. A CB or Ham radio transmission, on the other hand, I could easily be tempted by. Call me again. Call sign: Casey. I’ll learn all the rest later. Roger that. (Butterfly decal, rear-view mirror, dogging the scene.) [Cue static.]

 

Sandra Ridley’s first full-length collection of poetry, Fallout, won the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for publishing, the Alfred G. Bailey prize, and was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award. Her second book, Post-Apothecary, was short-listed for the 2012 ReLit and Archibald Lampman Awards. Also in 2012, Ridley won the international festival Of Authors’ Battle of the Bards and was featured in The University of Toronto’s Influency Salon. Twice a finalist for the Robert Kroetsch Award for innovative poetry, Ridley is the author of two chapbooks: Rest Cure, and Lift, for which she was co-recipient of the bpNichol Chapbook Award. Her latest book is The Counting House (BookThug 2013). She lives in Ottawa.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.


Grace O'Connell is the Contributing Editor for Open Book: Toronto and the author of Magnified World (Random House Canada). She also writes a book column for This Magazine.

For more information about Magnified World please visit the Random House Canada website.

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