10 Questions with Author Amy Stuart
Just as distance makes the heart grow fonder, stepping away from writing can be exactly what’s needed to ignite something truly special. At least that was the case for the Toronto-based author Amy Stuart.
“I was always writing to some degree,” she says, “but I took some time away from it in my twenties as I focused on my teaching career. When I got married in 2005, I knew I needed to focus more closely on writing if it was going to be a meaningful part of my life.”
And so, Amy signed up for the Humber School for Writers summer intensive program, and a few years later she started her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. She then entered – and won – the Writers’ Union of Canada Short Fiction Competition with a story she wrote in class, which helped her land an agent.
“My first novel, Still Mine, was my thesis project for my Masters,” says Amy. “So, really, it was the MFA program that helped me become a professional author.”
Here’s what else Amy shared with us:
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
In life: Learn how to say no!
In writing: Focus on the actual writing, because the rest of it – the publishing industry, book sales, etc. – are beyond your control to some degree. Your job is to get the writing part right and to listen to the professionals like your agent, your editor, your publicist, etc. when they give you advice on other aspects of the industry.
- What’s your dream brunch date?
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. I’m a hockey coach and would be thrilled to pick his brain while eating some eggs benny!
- What’s on your bookshelf?
A mix of everything. The last three books I read and loved were Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey and Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice. The past few years I’ve been incredibly grateful for the many Indigenous writers in Canada publishing incredible fiction and non-fiction.
I try to read at least two [books] a month. My pace is way faster in the summer months – I probably read 10 books a summer. If I can read 25-30 books in a year I’m happy. I find when I’m super immersed in my own writing, it’s harder to find the time – or the brain space – to read.
- What does a typical day in your life look like?
Until recently I was teaching full-time on top of writing and raising three kids, and when I think back to what a typical day looked like then, I’m not quite sure how I did it. These days I get the kids off to school then spend the morning writing. Afternoons are reserved for administrative things and meetings or appointments. I pick my kids up at 3:30 pm and from there we launch into the extra-curricular vortex. All three of my kids play hockey and I coach one of them so I spend a lot of time – and I mean a lot – at the rinks.
- What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am a head coach in the GTHL, which is the largest youth competitive hockey league in the world. In my time as a head coach, I’ve never met another woman on the bench, even though I’ve heard there are a few more of them around. Being the only woman on the scene makes for a very interesting experience!
- What’s your go-to meal or recipe?
These days I’m keen on homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs. I get my kids involved and we make large batches to freeze. I’m also decent on the BBQ.
- What helps you get in your flow/zone?
The key for me is to disconnect from the outside world. I do this by using a software program called Freedom that literally disconnects me. While it’s active I can’t use the internet on my laptop. I just don’t have the willpower to disconnect on my own. After about 10 minutes, I find I go into a deep dive and can write without the temptation to look away. I can usually write about 90 minutes at a time before I need a real break.
- When do you feel most alive?
When I’m swimming. In a pool, in a lake, in a river, in the ocean. Water is my happy place.
- How close is your offline life to your online life?
As a person who has balanced two careers (teaching and writing) with motherhood, I feel a responsibility to depict my life somewhat honestly. In my online persona, I try to paint a realistic picture of the struggles of getting it all done – or not getting it done. I’m also pretty political in my online life and in my real life too, and I’m not terribly good at hiding how I feel about the current climate…just ask my family and friends ;).
- When you’re writing – where do you write? What is the setting?
I’ve gotten better at being flexible with my environment, especially when I’m short on time. My Instagram feed has pictures of me writing in my office, in bed, in coffee shops, on a dock, and even in a hockey locker room. I actually like the variety and I’m grateful that technology has made it easier for me to work from almost anywhere.
So, what’s next for Amy?
“I’m closing in on a draft for the third book in the Still series. I’ve also recently started doing some public speaking, which has been incredibly fun and challenging,” she says. “It’s an exciting time.”
Photo credit: Simon & Schuster Canada
Shannon Hodgen is a lifelong writer, DIY enthusiast, and homebody. She satisfies her need to put pen to paper–or, more accurately, fingertips to keyboard–as an agency copywriter, blog contributor, and freelance editor in Toronto.
Favourite Book: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Favourite Brunch Spot: Dirty Food Eatery in The Junction