Updated: Nov 11
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Creative Spotlight on Author Anne Lazurko
In this post, we meet author Anne Lazurko and dive into how her mind works. Check out the videos or listen to the podcast. Do you know what a Dollybird is? Have you read books similar to hers? Let me know.
Tell our readers briefly about yourself.
I am a writer, farmer and mom of four grown kids. Alongside my writing, I love to hike and ride horses and kayak, but I'm also a political wonk and love an intellectual challenge. All of these things I am, and that I enjoy, are important to my writing because I think that living a full life is important to the creative process. It is also fed by the relationships I've developed with other writers through mentoring, teaching and editing. It takes a village as they say; even to write a book!
Can you tell us about your most recent release? Album? Song? Art piece? Etc.?
My novel, Dollybird, came out this year in a second iteration with Shadowpaw Press Reprise. It's the story of Moira Burns, a woman with a promising future as one of Newfoundland's first female doctors, who is sent west by parents who can't handle the shame of her unplanned pregnancy. It's 1906 in Saskatchewan and Moira has to navigate the unforgiving prairie landscape, the scorn of others and her position as a 'dollybird', a term that can mean anything from housekeeper to whore, or both.
This novel won the Willa Award for Historical Fiction when it was first published in 2013 and was shortlisted for a Saskatchewan book award. My second novel, What Is Written on the Tongue (ECW Press) was published last year and received the Saskatchewan Fiction Award and was shortlisted for the Glengarry Book Award.
What inspires you?
The answer to this question depends on the project. My first novel came about when I stumbled upon the term dollybird as used historically on the prairies. I created the character of Moira to carry the word, and the story to explore what it meant. My second novel is based on my dad's time under Nazi occupied Holland and later with Dutch forces in Indonesia. And the novel I'm working on currently is inspired by events in my own life, the lives of women I know, and, behind it all, the art and life of German artist Kathe Kollwitz. As you can see the inspiration for these is as ecelctic as the topics for my novels!
What is your creative work routine like? Do you balance it with another job?
I am fortunate to be old-ish with fewer responsibilities to others and so more time for the writing. We still farm, but I am able to devote a significant of time to my writing, which is important. My routine is,well, routine! I have breakfast and coffee, do thirty minutes of yoga, and then hit the desk for three hours every morning. I try to use this time for new creative work when my brain is fresh. If I have more time in the afternoon, I'll work on research, editing, planning etc.
Do you plan out your creations? What is your creative process like?
Again, the answer to this depends on the project, but for each I like to have at least some of the research complete or I can't seem to move forward. If my character is a carpenter, I can't start writing him or her until I know enough to put them in the appropriate setting with the right tools. Or, for example, if there's some history that is important I like to have a good sense of the events and timeline before I embark on the writing. I dont' outline as such, but I try to have some kind of container for all of this information that helps it to make sense, whether that's a timeline, a chart, or a graph. That process also helps me to structure a story and avoid some complications that might come up later.
Do you have a self-care routine, or do you want to have one? What do you do or wish that you did to take care of your mental health?
Hmmm... the yoga every morning is a big part of that self care. It grounds me in the moment and allows my sometimes overactive brain to be empty for a bit. I also walk--a lot. Walking definitely clears my head. Both exercises help to keep me fit as well. I think something I wish I did, or should do, is to talk to a therapist, even just once a month, to help deal with some of the difficulties that inevitably come up with family, and also with the existential crisis we find ourselves in with climate change, the economy, the divisive politics all around us. These things weigh a person down much more than we realize, and I am not immune, though I'd like to say I am:)
What is your favorite creation thus far?
Oh boy, this is tough. I am proud of each, but I think I am always most proud of the most recent work and then a new project comes along and I get super excited about it and the pendulum shifts. I don't think I can choose.
Do you have a character that is your favorite over others you've written into creation?
I have always really liked the character of Dillan Flaherty, who appears in Dollybird. Moira is the main protagonist in that story, but it is also told from Dillan's point of view. He's a young man, alone on the prairie with a toddler. He starts out seemingly inept and uncultured, but as the story progresses, his character and life are changed by Moira as she is by him (no it's not a love story). I think he becomes a sympathetic character for the reader because deep down we all, at some point in our life, have the same insecurities as Dillan. He reflects those.
Are there any recurring themes in your work?
The beauty and power of the natural world; love and family; what it means to overcome; what it means to both succeed and fail, and to grow as a person.
What does success look like to you, considering your creative passion?
As a novelist, and I imagine for any writer, success is to have readers who connect to my work, to the characters and the story they portray. Of course sales of the book are important to keep the whole operation afloat, but in terms of the thing I create, it is that people get it. I often find that readers astound me with feedback about themes or ideas they find in the story that I hadn't thought of as its creator. It's wonderful to send a book out into the world and have others reflect it back to you depending on who they are and their experiences. It's such a dynamic thing.
What has been one of the biggest lessons you've learned since starting this journey? A writer needs a good editor. My books have been made better by having excellent editors. You can't be too precious with your work. Sometimes you can't see where it falls down or needs more, and a good editor makes all the difference. In fact, I've learned more from my editors than from any workshop or class I've taken.
What advice would you share with new or aspiring authors/singers/artists/etc?
Keep at it. Writing is hard and getting published (traditionally) is even harder. I don't really believe in waiting for inspiration or for the muse to appear. I think you need to show up ready each day, and if something isn't working, jump to something else and keep at it; ass in chair as they say. Let other trusted readers have a look, but not too soon. Let it percolate on the page and in your head until you can handle critique and editing and then take what makes sense and use it.
What genre do you prefer to read?
What hobbies do you have?
Reading--a lot. Hiking and kayaking, gardening.
Where can our viewers/readers/listeners find you and your work?
You can find me at annelazurko.com; https://shadowpawpress.com/product/dollybird/; https://ecwpress.com/products/what-is-written-on-the-tongue