Ontario Author Profile: Sylvie Berard

As part of this month's Ontario's Best Books Digital Residency, we're profiling some of this province's prominent authors. See all.

As part of this month’s Ontario’s Best Books Digital Residency, we’re profiling some of this province’s prominent authors. See all of the profiles here.

What’s your most recent work (Oubliez) about?

Forgetfulness, in various forms: the forgetfulness of love, of Alzheimers disease and political forgetfulness after the fact.

Do you have anything specific you do for your writing process?

I dont have a set method. My projects sometimes percolate within me for a long time until I get flashes of inspiration and start writing very fast. Other times, an idea suddenly comes to me and I write, and its only later that I think about what Ive put down on paper. My method in writing Oubliez was a mix of several processes: automatic writing day after day, more conscious writing as my projects direction became clearer, and reflecting on my writing at the end of the process and then re-writing!

Describe one opportunity that improved your life as a writer.

Id say that Im very fortunate to be a professor of French and French-language literature (at Trent University, an opportunity that came to me 16 years ago). Of course my day-to-day work doesnt leave me much time to write, but it does keep me close to writing. Im even able to teach creative writing from time to time. And when Im not teaching literature, I can spend my downtime on my writing projects.

Whats one thing Ontario creative industries could do to be more inclusive of authors from indigenous and diverse communities.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind would be writing grants (there can never be too many), and also author visibility. As a French speaker in Ontario, I often find that my books are invisible to my immediate community Peterborough and Trent University because I write in a language that the majority of people there cant read. Increased support for organizations that distribute books in languages other than English would surely help (like an incentive for non-francophone bookstores to have our books in stock!). Likewise, additional assistance for translation, to make a stronger case for our work.

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you when you were first starting out as a writer?

Ive received a lot of support throughout my career, but at the same time, I can be hard to handle (I am stubborn when Im writing, although more flexible at the proofreading and revising stages of my manuscripts), so I dont know what more anyone could have said to me. Maybe to be patient, because our efforts arent always immediately rewarded.

Do you have any favourite Ontario authors or books?

I have a lot, in many different genres (Im an avid reader and a lit professor!). And those books and authors change, too, over time. Here is my current list:

One book of poetry: Manifeste Assi by Natasha Kanape Fontaine. One poem: [les chevals sont des animals] by Michel Garneau. Other poems: those in the collection Sudbury by Patrice Desbiens. Three contemporary novels: Le figuier sur le toit by Marguerite Andersen, De synthese by Karoline Georges, and Le cercle de Clara by Martine Desjardins. One comic book: Jaime les filles by Obom. One science fiction short story: Sur la plage des epaves by Laurent McAllister (the collective pseudonym of Yves Meynard and Jean-Louis Trudel). One classic that I love to re-read and teach: The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy. One foreign novel: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The two authors whom Ive read the most (nearly everything theyve written): the Quebecoise science fiction author Elisabeth Vonarburg and the French author Boris Vian.

Lists are frustrating, because its impossible to list all the ones I love!

Name a person in your field who you think deserves more attention.

This is a difficult question, because I find there are many authors who deserve more attention. But since I work in a variety of fields, Ill position myself at the crossroads of writing and research, and mention Elise Lepage from the University of Waterloo. Shes a poetry specialist and professor, and I consider her to be one of the greatest talents when it comes to reading and analyzing poetic forms. People dont read enough poetry. Even I dont read it enough. But every time I hear Elise speak about poems or I read what she has written about, I want to read more poetry!

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