Monday, June 11, 2018

Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt : my (small press) writing day

I’ve just finished a collection of short stories called Playing the Man. Now, I’m working on a new draft of a novel about an environmental activist-turned-fugitive, which I started in 2015 for my MFA thesis.

For several years, I wrote from my bedroom. I couldn’t write until I’d made the bed and picked up all the dirty socks. I sometimes cursed my partner for leaving said socks on the floor, although to be fair, a lot of the socks were mine. Montreal is cold, and I wear a lot of socks.

Last summer, we decided to move so that I could have a Room of Mine Own. I now have a small office filled with plants, books, and cephalopod art. It’s green out my window. The birds are chirping, and there’s a snoozing cat on the back of my chair. Also, my neighbours cook the most delicious-smelling things. I appreciate every moment I spend in this space.     

I am disciplined about writing, but the most helpful thing I’ve learned is to let it be okay when I don’t get as much done as I hoped. To do my best work, I also need to do other things: sleeping, cooking, exercising, spending time with my partner/friends, reading. A lot of the writing process happens outside of the time I spend at my desk.  

I do my best work in the morning, but it isn’t always possible due to my other hustles as a freelance writer and ESL teacher. This past winter, for example, I was writing whenever I could squeeze it in—ungodly morning hours, weekends, between classes, etc. I’ve never had much luck writing at night, though. My brain just shuts down. 

This spring I got a grant from the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Quebec which means that for the next few months I can prioritize writing. Because I spent a lot of the last two years or so working jobs I wasn’t totally wild about, these days I’m able to wake up and write for three or four solid hours.

In the afternoons, I do Everything Else: critiquing manuscripts, editing, emailsemailsemails, applications, marking/prep for an evening course I’m teaching, reading, researching publishers, sending invoices, submissions, translation, writing book reviews, writing nonfiction, writing pitches, writing song lyrics, and all the other stuff languishing on my to-do list.

I am slightly anal about making whatever is on my screen look it’s a page in a real book. I just started using Scrivener and I love it. I use Full Screen Composition Mode zoomed to like, 350%. The margins have to be really wide and I always use a serif font with 1.15-1.5 line spacing.

Sometimes, I listen to music while writing. I like dreamy music. Last winter, I did a lot of writing to Maladie d’Amour by Quebec City musician Jimmy Hunt. I liked the album so much I borrowed the title for one of my stories.

Carly Rosalie Vandergriendt lives, writes, and teaches in Montreal. Her writing has recently appeared in Room, QWF Writes, CVC7, Montreal Review of Books, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, and elsewhere. In April, she placed first in the Humber Literary Review’s Emerging Writers Fiction Contest. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @carlyrosalie

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