Meet the Jury: Casey Plett
January 30, 2022
Casey Plett is the author of A Dream of a Woman, Little Fish, A Safe Girl to Love, and the co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender Writers. She has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the Winnipeg Free Press, and other publications. A winner of the Amazon First Novel Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award, her work has also been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She splits her time between New York City and Windsor, Ontario.
When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
When I was 8, I was typing on a word processor for a school assignment. I realized writers wrote books on these things. I was like “Hey, I could write a book too! I have everything I need right here! I just gotta do it!” Words of wisdom, 8-year-old Casey.
Where is your favourite place to write?
“Third spaces,” basically. Cafes, bars, restaurants, libraries. I wrote much of the beginning of my novel Little Fish at the Tim’s on Broadway and Maryland in Winnipeg. Third spaces are kinda hugely important to me, both for working and for my mental health. Has COVID-19 intensely disrupted both? Alas, you betcha.
If you didn’t write, how would you spend your time/what would you do for work?
I’d probably be a high school teacher. English, maybe history. I almost was, actually. I was finishing college in Portland, Oregon and was preparing an app for a one-year certificate program that let you teach in Oregon high schools. My plan was to do that and “write on the side”. I almost had my app ready, and then I realized: “If I do that, I’m not actually going to write. I’m going to be someone who once dreamed of being a writer.” I’ve never looked back (though I teach some creative writing at the uni level now and I really enjoy that.)
I’ll caveat that experience though, for all the would-be writers out there: There are lots of high school teachers (and those with other kinds of stressful, time-intensive careers) who do manage to write on the side. I just knew internally, for me, at that moment, that wasn’t something I was capable of doing. It’s not impossible, I just knew it was impossible for me.
I think the challenge for would-be writers is to solve this equation: “If I do X, I doubt I personally can be able to write, but if I do Y, then maybe I can.”
Is there a book you enjoy rereading?
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (shortlisted for the Giller Prize in its day, come to think of it!) I must’ve read it nearly ten times by now. It’s fluid, witty, heartbreaking, and the writing just washes over you like a clear, strong stream. I can’t think of another novel whose voice is so identifiable and so easy-to-read, so comfortable. And Nomi and her dad break my heart every single time.
Submissions for the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize are open. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest news and updates.