Writer in Residence

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me about Becoming a Writer #2: Elisabeth de Mariaffi

By Zoe Whittall

In my early 30s I went back to school to do my MFA at the University of Guelph-Humber. I was afraid I'd be older than everyone else in my cohort, and thus I was happy to meet a contemporary in Ken Babstock's poetry workshop.  I was impressed by Elisabeth de Mariaffi's writing and so happy when she went on to write a Giller-nominated short story collection, and then a blockbuster thriller, her latest book, The Devil You Know.

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Here are how she answered my two questions in this series:

What do you wish someone had told you before you published your first book?

The one thing I wish someone had told me before I published my first book is: Don’t worry so much. There’s no one ‘right’ career or artistic path and you can’t predict things or control them, so may as well take all your worrying energy and do something else with it. Like more work. (Incidentally I still need people to tell me this.)

What advice do you give to emerging writers?

The piece of advice I like to give to emerging writers, especially emerging women writers, is to be ambitious. I mean that both creatively and in a career sense. Be ambitious. Wildly and joyfully and intelligently ambitious. 


Zoe Whittall’s next novel, The Best Kind of People, will be published in fall of 2016 with House of Anansi Press. Her novel Holding Still for as Long as Possible, won a Lambda Literary award, was shortlisted for the Relit award, and was an American Library Association’s Stonewall Honor Book. She’s published three books of poetry, and works as a freelance TV writer and journalist in Toronto.

Her books have been translated into French, Swedish, and Korean.