Meet the Jury: Donna Bailey Nurse
February 4, 2019
Donna Bailey Nurse is a leading literary critic, editor of the ground breaking Revival: An Anthology of Black Canadian Writing and author of What’s A Black Critic to Do. A former member of the Toronto Arts Council’s Literary Arts Committee, Bailey Nurse has curated reading series in conjunction with the Toronto Public Library and the Art Gallery of Ontario. She is a contributor to Maclean’s, The Walrus and The Literary Review of Canada, and a columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star. She lives in Pickering, Ontario.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’m not sure. Writing was an evolution of my love for reading. It felt like the natural next step.
What is your writing routine?
I prefer long days beginning at 4 or 5 a.m. with meditation, morning pages, reading and then writing. I nap for a couple of hours mid-day and then write again until dinner. After a few long days in a row, however, I take a nothing day.
Who is your favourite Canadian author?
The short story is my favourite genre. So of course, my favourite Canadian author is Alice Munro. Nobody anywhere does it better.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
The same thing I continue to tell myself every day: Relax! You got this.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do an insane amount of research before I write anything, way more than necessary, in order to feel confident and comfortable. It’s draining.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Outdoors in a garden or by a lake. Or indoors before a big picture window, (so I can feel as though I am outdoors in a garden or beside a lake).
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Sometimes I wish I had focused more on my piano. I would have loved to have been an accompanist. I would also like to work with refugees. It’s probably not too late to do either of those things.
What is your favourite childhood book?
I remember being very caught up in What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. I read it again and again. For years. Even before that, though, I adored Anne of Green Gables and still do.
Which piece of writing are you most proud of and why?
I once wrote this piece on the N-word for the Toronto Star. I liked it because I managed the right balance of humour and seriousness and because I felt it conveyed something important about the subtlety of Canadian-style racism.
What are you most looking forward to being a juror for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize?
Long before I was invited to join the Scotiabank Giller Prize jury, I knew 2019 was going to be a spectacular literary year. I am excited for the opportunity to read every one of those books. I am also looking forward to discussing Can Lit with my fellow jurors and to making a significant contribution to Canadian letters.