9: Rosemary Nixon, "Wrestling"

It's December 9. Rosemary Nixon, author of Are You Ready to Be Lucky?, knows there are no atheists in sinkholes.

How would you describe your story?

ROSEMARY NIXON: Mike asked for something McSweenian. This excited me. Made me want to push boundaries (always fun to do). I guess “McSweenian” for me, in the end, translated into disturbing, troubling, sprinklings of the dread and alarm we as human beings can carry through our days, and the wacky behaviour that ensues. All buoyed by an undercurrent of grim humour. That’s what I went for. Having been brought up religiously (don’t get me wrong: I have a deep respect for my pacifist upbringing!), a religious character seemed perfect! 

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

RN: Mike asked if I had a piece that would fit the bill just as I was heading off to Greece to teach for 2 weeks in early July. I didn’t, as I’m working on a novel. I came home to a crazy busy summer, but I loved the idea so much of this creative anthology that I absolutely didn’t want to be left out. I had a myriad of freelance editing deadlines awaiting, I presented at a conference, had a family reunion to travel to, several sets of out of province guests… But I was damned if I wasn’t going to give this a go. So I didn’t sleep much for the next month. I lived and breathed the story that started out pretty fuzzy around the edges, as all my stories do. How did the process compare to my other work? I never know what I’m doing when I start a story. I have little more than an image and a load of angst. This time as I sat down to begin, out of nowhere, the Bible verse about cast-out devils entering a herd of pigs unfurled itself in my head, and having just been in Europe, this conjured a pop-up image of a clutch of cast-out devils sailing about the Italian countryside on the look out for a convenient herd of pigs. Hence “Wrestling” was born.

The writing process was more or less the same as usual, just fast-tracked: an image, scribblings, restarting numerous times, an editor friend telling enthusiastically that I have 4 worthy lines in the whole first two pages! Slashing, rewriting, starting overand overuntil finally the story revealed itself. 

What, for you, are the essential elements of a good short story?

RN: Above all, probably, defamiliarizationthe element of surprise. I’m so disappointed when I begin reading a story, think I know what’s coming next, I turn the page and find I’m right. I love a story that takes risks, breaks rules, refuses to censor itself, in both content and structure goes somewhere I would never think to go. And I love when the story’s form emulates its content so the way it’s written is an integral part of its power. 

Did this story require any research?

RN: I did a bit of digging on Scrabble and vehicles and Little Lake Manitou. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

RN: I have a website at rosemarynixon.com (that I’ve been too busy to return to lately!). You can find my last two books, Kalila and Are You Ready To Be Lucky? in bookstoresor they can be ordered if the bookstore is out. My first two books, Mostly Country and The Cock’s Egg, are sadly out of print, though people tell me they’ve found them in secondhand bookstores. I also have a site, Writing Away with Rosemary Nixon, where you will find information on my summer classes on the Island of Samos, Greece.

What's on your Christmas list this year? 

Unsurprising but true: I love getting books. I can’t take them out of the library because I have conversations with books I loveI scribble all over their pagesso I look forward above all to books.