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20 Questions with Tracey Waddleton

Newfoundland born-and-raised author Tracey Waddleton published her first book this year, a collection of short stories. She says the manuscript was “just sitting there” for about six years until friends “pried” it out of her hands. Now, she’s writing full-time – working on both a novel and a stage play. — Submitted photo/Twiggy Saint Skookum
Newfoundland born-and-raised author Tracey Waddleton published her first book this year, a collection of short stories. She says the manuscript was “just sitting there” for about six years until friends “pried” it out of her hands. Now, she’s writing full-time – working on both a novel and a stage play. — Submitted photo/Twiggy Saint Skookum - Juanita Mercer

This is a big year for Tracey Waddleton.

She released her first collection of short stories, “Send More Tourists…The Last Ones Were Delicious,” garnering praise from bestselling author Brooke Davis who called it a “moving, ferocious, confident debut” and Governor General Award-winner Joel Thomas Hynes who said the collection is rendered with “fiery, passionate authority”.

Waddleton also turned 40.

That got her thinking about her mortality and all of the projects she wants to pursue.

The 2015 Lawrence Jackson Award winner and 2013 NLCU Fresh Fish Award finalist is currently working on a stage play commissioned by Liz Solo and Jenny Naish’s theatre company Roles 4 Women. Waddleton said she’d like to do more work in that field, specifically directing and writing for theatre.

She’s also working on a novel and writing full-time – “a real gift,” she said because it’s not often she is able to do that.

Waddleton won’t give any hints about that next book.

“I feel like it interferes with my ability to finish it,” she laughed.

But she did take time to answer The Telegram’s 20 Questions via telephone from her home in Montreal.

Waddleton speaks candidly about facing her demons, and why she’s so grateful to her father, to whom she dedicated “Send More Tourists”.

Juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @juanitamercer_
 

1. What is your full name?
Tracey Marguerite Waddleton, but I was actually born with a different name. I was born Tracey Marguerite McGrath; I was adopted when I was 14 months old.

2. Where and when were you born?
St. John’s, 1979.

3. Where do you live today?
Montreal.

4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
There’s a little spot out by Middle Cove Beach, down off Silver Mine Head Path. It’s kind of hidden; if you walk down a little bit and go down over the hill, there’s all these flat rocks and you can lie out and have a beer, and the waves are washing right next to you, and there’s a big tidal pool.

5. Who do you follow on social media?
Writers, friends, antifascist organizations (laughter). Cardi B. Existential philosophers.

6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve had, like, 800 careers. … I’ve worked in admin jobs on and off since I was 17. I’ve worked in mail rooms and reception desks. I’ve done accounting and financial analysis, and legal work, and communications, grant-writing. I build websites myself sometimes. I do tech – sound and lights – for burlesque shows, drag shows, theatre stuff here in Montreal sometimes. I want to be writing – that would be the ideal – but if I’ve got to work the day job, then I try to find fun stuff and sort of switch it up. I’d write full-time if I could, but it’s not always possible.

7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
I think this year is probably my favourite year. I turned 40, which is strangely liberating. I think for the past couple of years there’s been this strange shift leading up to that kind of milestone; I’m much calmer and more focused on what I need to get done. Also, I’ve published my first book. I was sitting on it for about six years. The manuscript was just sitting there, and I was having some trouble letting it go, but friends sort of pried it out of my hands. And I get to write full-time this year.

8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
I think maybe getting over my own hang-ups, so I could get to this point. Like, facing my demons. I mean, I’m still working on that. I think you never stop. But it took me a really long time to start moving forward. I think I was kind of angry at the world — and in denial. And now I’m older, and I feel calmer, and sort of just excited about all the projects that I can complete. I think it was really hard to take that internal look at myself.

9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
I think moving to Montreal (four years ago) had a really profound effect on me; I got a whole new sense of independence being in a big city far from my family, and not really knowing a lot of people. It just opened my eyes to the world in a lot of different ways.

10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
I love disaster movies, like earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, animal-related rampage stuff. (Laughter) The worse the production, the better.

11. What is your favourite movie or book?
For the movie, I generally say “Wonder Boys”. Hard to pick a favourite book. I could give you some contenders: I’d say Italo Calvino’s “Numbers in the Dark,” George Saunders’ “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline,” Kelly Link’s “Magic for Beginners,” and Zsuzsi Gartner’s “Better Living Through Plastic Explosives”.

12. How do you like to relax?
Relaxation for me is being alone. I love just to hang with my cat and watch a movie, or read something. Order take-out. I’ve been on this hot and sour soup kick lately, like, I can’t stop ordering Chinese take-out.

13. What are you reading or watching right now?
I’m working on the novel, so I realized recently that I can’t read novels when I’m writing one, or it really messes with me. … I’m just mostly reading poetry, and a scattered short story because I’m trying to stay focused on writing, and not let too much interference in.  I’m watching “GLOW” and I think everybody needs to know about “GLOW” (Laughter). It’s on Netflix. Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. It’s like the most amazing Netflix thing that’s ever happened.

14. What is your greatest fear?
I’m really afraid that I’ll die before I get all these projects finished that I’m in the middle of. Maybe that’s a morbid thing to say. Maybe it’s turning 40; I’m like, ‘Oh no, I’ve hit the middle point.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, no – I have limited time.’ And there’s almost panic that’s set in, but I think it’s good because it’s prompting me to really focus for the first time.

15. How would you describe your personal fashion statement?
Maybe, like, strange, broke writer? (Laughter) Is that a fashion statement? I wear a lot of black. I always have a Batman T-shirt around, so I can feel like a superhero when I need to. I love Doc Martens, but I’m usually pretty broke, so I think the starving artist – poverty – kind of prevents me from doing any real shopping, but who knows, that could change someday.

16. What is your most treasured possession?
I’ve been carting around my first guitar for about 20 years. … I guess you learn how to play on an instrument, and you become attached to it somehow.

17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
I dedicated the book (“Send More Tourists”) to my father because when I was growing up, he would always sit me down and he would say, ‘You can be a garbage man or you can be a doctor, or anything you want, and I’ll be proud of you. Just follow your dreams.’ I’m really grateful for that because I think it gave me the guts to live my life on my own terms. I’ve never doubted my ability to take on new stuff, and I really attribute that to him. It gave me courage.

18. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
I think my Scottish grandmother – this is my birth family – (named) Marion. She passed away before I found my birth family, so I’d love to chat with her. And authors Heather O’Neill and Jorge Luis Borges because they’d just make really interesting conversation.

19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
I’m pretty compassionate. I care a lot about people and animals, and I go out of my way to help them. I think that’s also probably the worst quality because people can take advantage of that. And cats, too – they move right into my house without permission, and it can get really out of control. I have issues with strays.

20. What’s your biggest regret?
I don’t really believe in regrets, so to speak, but I wish I’d started off in the writing world a little earlier. … Maybe it’s the (turning) 40 thing, but I feel like I’m getting a better appreciation for the fact that time is very limited, and every moment is really important, and I don’t want to waste any more.


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