Oyster River Pages: What does becoming a “better” writer or artist look like to you? How do you define success?
Rachel Laverdiere: I become a better writer each time I push past my comfort zone either through experimenting with form and the voice in a piece or by writing something that is very difficult to write. These days I am pushing past the fear of being vulnerable because I know that what I am sharing is important.
ORP: What is your relationship to language, and how does that feed into your work? Do you speak or write or dream or create in more than one language? And if you do, does your multilingualism manifest itself in your work? How?
RL: Language tops my list of passions! I’ve studied English, French, Spanish, Latin and Korean and am trained as a second language teacher. I’ve been teaching immigrants for the past twelve years and am fascinated by language acquisition and the link between culture and language.
My first language is French, but I grew up in an anglophone world, so I learned English at school. I’ve spent my whole life immersed in both of those languages—speaking, writing, dreaming (and teaching French for over two decades).
Before reading this question, I’d never really thought about how my multilingualism manifests itself in my work, but I see that I tend to lean towards words with Latin roots. I often use snippets of French in my writing when writing about events from my childhood. In my twenties, I lived between Canada and Korea. Sometimes I forget that the Korean that’s in my mind isn’t just an extension of French or English. You’ll see Korean sprinkled in “Choosing Stones.”
ORP: Does having a work published alter the way you think about it? Does it alter the way you think about yourself?
RL: When a piece of my writing is published, I sort of feel like I did when my son left home. I am relieved and apprehensive. Working so hard—pouring my heart and soul into perfecting something—and then watching it find its place in the universe is liberating, but then there is a also grieving process in letting go of something that’s played a critical role in my heart for so long.
ORP: What role does research play in your work? How much do you research do you do before or during the creation of your work?
RL: The role of research depends on the story. When I am writing CNF, I often call my mom or someone else who experienced the event about which I am writing. Google Maps helps me “see” the layout of places that are far away, old photos add a lot of layers, and of course sometimes I turn to the Internet or an encyclopedia for inspiration or knowledge. If a story is still intact and fresh in my mind, I simply write from my heart, then, if I can, go back to the central location of the piece to do a walk through what happened or to get exact details of the setting.
ORP: What are you currently working on?
RL: Next year is a big year for me. I call it the “22-44-66” because those are the ages my son, me and my mother will be by next September. (Don’t tell my mom I revealed her age though!) For the past couple of years, I’ve been compiling stories that involve them. I’m not sure what the project will look like in the end, but it will be dedicated to them. After that, I think I will return to the world of fiction for a while because I’ve got a couple of novels and a book of short stories waiting for revisions.
Rachel Laverdiere is a language instructor and writer living on the Canadian prairies. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction pieces are published in over twenty journals, including The New Quarterly, filling Station, and FreeFall Magazine. Rachel's flash fiction story was shortlisted for the Geist 2015 Short Long-Distance Writing Contest. Find more of her writing at www.rachellaverdiere.com or on Twitter @r_laverdiere. Read her essay, “Choosing Stones,” here.