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20 Questions with... Sara Dobbie

Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her stories have appeared in Fictive Dream, JMWW, Sage Cigarettes, New World Writing, Bending Genres, Ghost Parachute, Ruminate Online, Trampset, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Her chapbook "Static Disruption" is available from Alien Buddha Press.

Her collection "Flight Instinct" is forthcoming from ELJ Editions (2022). Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie, and on Instagram at @sbdobwrites.

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?

My name is Sara, and I’m a Canadian writer. I grew up in a small town called Thorold in the Niagara Region of Southern Ontario. It’s quaint, and close to Niagara Falls. I was very lucky to spend a lot of time with family; my parents and siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles; lots of great memories!

Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?

Yes, I can remember writing pretend stories that were just squiggly lines on paper before I knew how to print letters. Seriously though, I’ve always been an avid reader and totally fascinated by stories, so I knew I wanted to write them myself. I work in a manufacturing plant full time, but of course the dream is to one day write full time.

Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.

My most recent published work is a flash fiction story about marriage and raising kids, and how sometimes we forget to appreciate where we are in life, wishing away the time hoping for some distant “better” future. It was published in Potato Soup Journal on September 7th.

What are you working on right now?

Too many things to mention! I’m trying to find a home for a novel, a middle grade fantasy trilogy, a flash fiction collection, as well as editing a poetry collection and writing a few different flashes all at once.

Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?

I’m not a routine person. I write when something comes to me, so it might be any time of the day or night. I move between projects depending on how I feel.

Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?

I do write on the move! I’ve done quite a few stories on my phone in the notes app while sitting in a parked car, or at a function when I can sneak away for a minute. Usually, though, I work on my laptop at home. I don’t currently have a specific writing desk; I just find somewhere comfortable in my house and hash it out.

What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?

It sounds like a cliché, but you really can’t let rejection get you down. If you submit to 20 places 19 of them will reject you, but if you really believe in the story and continue to hone it as you glean bits of feedback from editors, it will find a home eventually.

Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?

I have never done a live reading. I don’t see myself doing one, I’m a very shy person when it comes to public speaking. I enjoy watching other people read their work, but for me personally I would rather not.

Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?

There are definitely recurring themes in my work, I guess I write a lot about the prisons we create for ourselves, and the way small moments can have long lasting impacts. Most of my characters are women, and often they are finding their voice or choosing to finally make some change that will set them free from whatever is holding them back. These themes must emanate from my own experience as a woman or women I’ve observed, though the situations are completely imagined and sometimes totally surreal.

Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?

I don’t know about a moral purpose per se, but I do think we have a moral obligation. It’s important to tell stories in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s the writer’s purpose to expand views, to open minds to new ways of thinking. If we can tear down some of the walls that were built by past generations while we’re at it, all the better.

Do you write between genres or not?

The bulk of my stuff is literary fiction in one form or another, but like I mentioned earlier I have done middle grade fiction, as well as children’s fiction. Hopefully there is a place for it all!

Which living writers do you most admire?

Obviously, I’m a big fan of female writers, and if they’re Canadian that’s really inspiring to me. Miriam Toews is an example, and of course Margaret Atwood. Lately I’ve read a lot of Otessa Moshfegh (not Canadian, but still) and she’s been blowing my mind.

Which dead writers do you most admire?

Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro.

What’s the book you wish you’d written?

I’d probably say “Cat’s Eye” by Atwood. When I read it for the first time it truly resonated with me for so many reasons, and it made me want to write even more.

What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?

For me it’s water; rivers, lakes, oceans. Creeks. Beyond that I would say being out in the woods has an effect on my thinking when it comes to writing. Where we live there are woods bordering lakes and rivers so we spend a lot of time walking through these beautiful natural landscapes.

Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?

I think it’s natural to have periods of time where you’re not writing. It can be worrisome, for example, sometimes I feel as though it’s impossible for a new idea to occur to me. But then something clicks, usually something that strikes me in nature, and that will set a story in motion. I don’t force the issue; I just wait for something to come to me.

What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?

The great thing about social media is that people leave comments when they’ve read a story, and so I would say anytime that happens I’m delighted. If people can relate to it, or it made them feel emotional or made them laugh, it’s really satisfying.

How do your family and friends feel about your writing?

They are very supportive of it, and I think they like it. At least that’s what they tell me!

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

Oh gosh, any bookstore is my favourite when I’m in it!

How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?

I think as Indie writers we are afraid of the big corporations taking over, but realistically Amazon is a great option for making books available on a scale that it’s just not possible to reach any other way. I sincerely hope there will always be small presses and bookstores, because those are the people who champion my work and the work of so many of my friends. Those are the places that support us and promote us, but if we can use Amazon as a tool, the main thing is getting the work out there. I believe the two can co-exist.

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