Excerpt: Tell Everything on CBC Canada Writes

Tell Everything by Sally Cooper

My mother told me a story once about a foolish princess. We were hiking up the path to Banana Rock. Sunlight slanted through the branches. She made up the story, and I held her hand and matched my steps to hers. The princess was vain and not very pretty. When an old baron asked to marry her, her mother celebrated. The baron called the princess beautiful. She believed him and fell in love. The night before the wedding, the baron invited her to his house. Her mother insisted she wear a veil until she’d sealed the union. But the princess wanted her fiancé to admire her. When the princess walked into a hall of mirrors inside the castle, she threw off the veil and found herself in a dungeon packed with demon brides. A sorcerer turned her into a toothless old woman with a smelly, aching body. Because the princess was vain, the sorcerer made her sit in the hall of mirrors, where her ugly image stretched out in every direction. She warned each of the baron’s new brides-to-be not to look at herself, but none would listen. Even her mother said she’d be better off dead. “It’s not my fault,” cried my mother in the foolish princess’s voice. Her own voice rang with a smug glee that meant she thought it really was.

 

Read the full excerpt on CBC Canada Writes here.

Starting in medias res: Strong Beginnings with Sally Cooper

Sometimes you have to go for the end without being fully aware of the means.
In light of our collaboration with the Luminato Festival, we’ve decided to reach out to Canadian writers to find out how they begin their work. Today’s author is Sally Cooper who spoke to us about her novel Tell Everything. Click here to read the prologue to Tell Everything!

What came first for you—the story or the characters?
The characters came first, Ramona and Pauline. I wanted to write about a woman who was a sex offender and a friendship she’d had outside of her criminal activities. As the story grew, it taught me what it was. I learned that I wanted to write about consent, where it can blur, and about the cost of living with a disrupted sense of home or place. As a teenager, Pauline moves from a rural Northern community to an suburb north of Toronto. This dislocation informs her character in surprising ways.

Click here to read the full interview on CBC Canada Writes (2013):

Blog Hop: “I’m it!”

Two weeks ago,  Krista Foss tagged me as part of a writers’ blog hop. It’s been two years since I abandoned my blog, but I’m game for a one-off so here we go. I’m tagging two long-time writer pals, Diane Baker Mason, author of Last Summer at Barebones Lake and the novelization Men with Brooms and Tess Fragoulis, author and editor of four books, including Stories to Hide from Your Mother and most recently, The Goodtime Girl. Watch for their blog hop posts at the end of the month.

What are you working on? I’ll take the literal approach. In recent weeks I’ve been playing, using exercises, lists, scenes, essay ideas, whatever’s on my mind in the moment. I’m writing in the backyard, at cafes, at the college where I teach, in front of my students and in my my writing office on a Pilates ball using a variety of notebooks ranging from tiny to big, never on the computer, always by hand. After being felled (truly) by a series of injuries this year, I turned to writing my novel by hand and found the connection to the story visceral and energizing. And that. Yes, I am, how should I put it, in the middle of writing a novel, but saying it that way doesn’t feel quite right as I’ve recently completed a first draft. My two most trusted readers have it now, which is why I get to play.

notebooks

purse notebooks

How does my work differ from others of its genre? A tricky question, as the ‘genre’ of my work is literary fiction and what makes this genre unique is that each work has its particular sensibility; there is no formula. That said, my work concerns itself with issues of place and displacement in our province of small towns; suburbs and downtown spaces. My most recent novel, Tell Everything, addresses issues of consent and always in my writing I’m shining a torchlight on the dark and unexpected places love takes us.

Why do I write what I do? Why does anybody? Because we want to, or at least I hope we do. I could honestly say, I write and what I happen to write is what it is because I am who I am. This statement is especially true of the work I did as a younger and mostly intuitive writer. Plan? What’s that? My subconscious feeds my work, baby. As it does everybody’s. But I get that now, and I’ve learned that a plan doesn’t need to suck the energy out of a project. Rather it can provide a spine on which to build the story. My current novel needed a plan, and I was happy to stray from it.

Boxes of Manuscript

How does my writing process work? It’s a process and is subject to change and as such, is mostly dictated by my life. I am adamant about designating certain days and times for writing and cannot be swayed by offers to meet for coffee or to get my ears pierced. When I arrive at my desk or café table, there’s little ditzing around as I usually have a time limit dictated by my children’s school schedule, so I get right to it. I stop when my time is up, make some notes about what I’ve written and move on to the next piece of my day. Admittedly, it can hurt to let go of the written world, but then I greet my children and all is forgiven.