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Tracey Waddleton

Location: St. John's, NL
ArtsNL Program Funded Under: Professional Project Grants Program
Amount Funded: $3,586

Tracy Waddleton

 

Dates: November 15, 2015 to February 15, 2016
Website:
https://twitter.com/traceywaddleton
Artist E-mail: tracey.waddleton@gmail.com

Originally from Trepassey, Tracey Waddleton is an emerging writer and while she is based in St. John’s, she splits her time between there and Montréal, PQ. Her work has appeared in a number of publications over the years including Current, Riddle Fence, two Cuffer anthologies (VI and VII), Paragon 6, and The Telegram.

She has been developing a series of short stories for the last number of years, and in 2013 she was shortlisted for the NL Credit Union Fresh Fish Award for an earlier version of the Send More Tourists manuscript.  Individually, some of those stories have picked up second and third place wins in the Cuffer Prize competition. Collectively, after hours of writing, workshops, and editing they will form Waddleton’s first published collection, which will be called Send More Tourists, the Last Ones Were Delicious. The ArtsNL grant she received is for the refinement stage, so expect to see it on shelves soon.

Waddleton shared the results of her creative process publically for the first time in 2012 when she enrolled in a creative writing series at Memorial University. She shared a classroom with Larry Matthews, Andy Jones, Rob Finely, and Jessica Grant and enrolled partially as a means of creating a fixed deadline schedule for herself so she would get the figurative pen to paper. The resulting product of her efforts formed a draft collection that was then workshopped under the Writers Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Mentorship Program that paired Waddleton with Mark Callanan.

Cuffer Cover

In February 2015, Riddle Fence forwarded a short story of Waddleton’s that it published in its eighteenth issue called Old Ben Walsh as a nomination for the 2015 Journey Prize for short fiction. That particular narrative deals with a young woman who is trying to cope with the aftermath of sexual abuse.

At the time, the publisher’s editor Alexandra Gilbert said that the piece powerfully explores "the way in which trauma is sublimated when victims are ignored, how it is destined to reappear in some very ugly ways if it is not confronted."

Each short story is not linked to one another, and Waddleton feels they fall into a ‘dark realism’ category with some magic realism in the mix, as well. The story behind the title of the book is an interesting one as well, that Waddleton shares in our latest feature project interview with the artist.

Q and A with Tracey Waddleton...

ArtsNL: How did you decide on the title of your upcoming short story collection?

manuscript photo

Tracey: I was driving through the Bay of Fundy in summer of 2012 and came across a tourist trap with crab-shaped felt hats and other kitsch. There was a mug that had the image of a shark with blood dripping from its teeth and the saying “send more tourists, the last ones were delicious.” I grabbed it as reminder of my first solo road trip. On the way back to the ferry a day later, rushing due to a cancellation, I narrowly escaped a head-on collision with a set of tractor trailers. When I managed to pull over and bawl and breathe, I felt the warning of that saying. I later wrote about the incident in a story about driving mishaps, and realized it fit as a title. Send More Tourists, the Last Ones Were Delicious. How easily I could have died and just been another tourism casualty. Newfoundland Woman Kills 20 on New Brunswick Highway. Some time later it hit me that we’re all tourists on earth, essentially, just a hair away from death. I realized I had been exploring that theme for some time in my writing. It made sense to the wider body of my work.

ArtsNL: Where do you find inspiration for the short stories you write, how do they start and develop?

Tracey: That’s a difficult question. I want to say the inspiration comes from some unseen force, a muse, but maybe that’s too romantic, and selling me short. I guess the easy answer is that they develop kind of subconsciously. I don’t plan stories or map them out, or know the ending ahead of time. I know writers who do that successfully and I envy that skill, but I learn along with the reader. I write a throwaway sentence like “Johnny walks to the store” and then just keep writing, see what comes out. Sometimes I get a paragraph, sometimes half a story. Sometimes I’m writing the same story I wrote three years ago and agonize over why it’s appearing again, as if the original piece is unfinished. In the instances I get a full new story, I can look back and see what inspired it. I may recognize the story is based on the song I listened to on repeat the day before, or reflects a real-life drama a friend is experiencing. Inspiration comes from everything you see, hear, feel, and touch. I think it’s all just knitting back there, waiting to be extracted. Of course, if I have something due for a class, if I have to force inspiration, I find it helpful to turn to visual images, paintings, photographs, or stills from a film. Music works well, too.

ArtsNL: How and where do you like to go about your writing?

Waddleton inspiration


Tracey: I have a desk in a quiet room near a window with a comfy chair. On it sit stacks of stories and notes from classmates and professors and friends, as well as a host of pens and pencils and paper, my favourite books, quotes that inspire me. It’s the perfect setup for a writer. Of course, I’ve never actually written a story there. I write on the couch, on my phone, on pieces of napkins in bars, in the fray of parties and funerals, on the subway. Crouched and wincing in a hard-backed chair at my kitchen table. Writing comes when it comes. It’s kind of an out-of-control thing for me.

ArtsNL: Some people find creative writing to be daunting or anticipate it being a great challenge – what would you say to them, and what advice do you have for aspiring creative writers?

Tracey: In 2009, I quit a great job in Alberta to move home to “become a writer,” whatever that meant to me at the time. My family was not amused. I had a story that I was particularly proud of so I gave it to a writer friend for feedback. It came back covered in red ink and criticism. He wondered if it was finished, if it even qualified as a story. He didn’t believe in the characters. He said don’t worry, though, first drafts always suck, keep trying! But I was so broken, I went right back into hiding and three more years passed before I worked up the nerve to share a story again.

Maybe we’ve been led to believe that creative pursuits are out of reach for the general population. It turns out however, that writing is work like any other trade or profession. It’s something you learn by doing. Write and you will get better. Read the work of authors you admire and you will absorb technique and form and your work will benefit. If you don’t know where to start, start with “Johnny walked to the store” or pick your own throwaway sentence.

And yes, remember that first drafts always suck. Failure is part of the creative process. With each attempt you make, the work gets better, the technique stronger. Eventually, with some work and forgiveness, you will find your voice.

ArtsNL: What are some of your favourite short stories in the collection, how many are there?

Tracey: There’s a story called The Creation of Water that I quite like. It was my first foray into magic realism, written for a workshop class with Rob Finley at MUN. It came out of nowhere; last minute before class, but fully intact. It was the first time I’d allowed myself to fully think outside of the box.

The Phonebook is a short piece, kind of fun, so I pull it out for public readings as much as possible. And I’m quite proud of Old Ben Walsh. I almost abandoned it after the first paragraph, thinking it was terrible, but forced myself to finish it. It turned out to be one of the best pieces I’ve written. I decided Riddle Fence was the perfect place for it to be published. I was overjoyed when they accepted it. 

Currently there are 25 stories in consideration for the collection.  Not all will make the cut, though.

ArtsNL: What is the timeline for the project now, and when will the public be able to read it?

Tracey: I’m finishing up the last few stories now. I’m hoping it will be out to publishers for consideration sometime in March or April.

ArtsNL: How did you find the collaborative process in your classes, and in the mentorship program?

Tracey: Invaluable. Some of the best writers in the province are honing their craft in MUN’s Creative Writing Program. It’s inspiring to be in their company, to read their work and learn about their processes. And there is nothing better than having your stories ripped apart by a room full of strangers. It’s the best way to figure out how your reader will be affected by your work, and to grow as a writer.

The Mentorship Program felt like my first foray into the business side of writing. It was wonderful to have a professional writer sit in on my project, to get advice and feedback and have someone to call on when questions arose. Send More Tourists was born and raised in the Mentorship Program. I’m just working through the tumultuous late teen years with it now. Applying for colleges and whatnot.

ArtsNL: You’re also working on a novel as well; can you share some information or news about that?

Tracey: The novel is called Norman. It’s inspired by a memory from my childhood, and the secrets that small towns keep. It’s an exploration of the themes we’re taught in rural Newfoundland. How children should be seen and not heard. Don’t tell tales out of the house. What happens behind closed doors... I’m interested in exploring the truth in a society that can often be in denial. It’s a big project, and still in the writing phase, but I’m hoping it will be finished by the end of 2015 so I can let it loose in the world.

ArtsNL: What do you hope readers will take from your collection of short stories?

Tracey: I hope that the stories resonate somehow, or provide some kind of catharsis, or provoke thought about the day to day. But I’m not sure that’s up to me. Each person reads a story in the context of their own experience, so each interpretation is very unique and personal.

ArtsNL: While the stories aren’t linked themselves, do characters reappear at all or are they exclusive to one story – in which case, was it difficult to develop so many characters?

Tracey: The main criticism I get is that my characters could be better developed, but character is simply not my focus. The story comes first for me, and character is secondary—a tool to reach the reader. I often don’t identify characters by name or provide details about their lives or even reveal their gender. I want to draw the reader into the situation, have them identify with those parameters rather than another person.

ArtsNL: How does the ArtsNL funding from the Professional Project Grants Program help?

Tracey: ArtsNL funding is vital to the success of artists in the province. In the development stages of these projects, you’re pretty much on your own, working unpaid. The Professional Projects Grant Program provides money to assist with living expenses during this time. With funding, I’m able to pull back on my other work obligations and focus on my writing project. Without funding, this would not be possible and these projects might never be fully realized. It’s a lifeline.