Quick, short stories from local writer

By Claire Cummings

Local fiction writer Barbara Scott is caught up in the warm winds and icy chill of the prairies. Scott, who will be reading from her work at next week’s PanCanadian WordFest alongside Mordecai Richler and Todd Batyuk, says that whether she intends them to or not, her writings reflect the world she occupies.

"I’m in love with the place I inhabit," says Scott. "I live close

to Glenmore Park and walk there all the time. I don’t choose to write regionally but the landscape infuses me."

Scott’s recently published collection of short stories, The Quick, has received local and national attention. The author describes her journey towards writing as "a long apprenticeship."

Scott began writing comparatively late in her career. She describes her undergraduate years as time spent reading "dead white people from other places in the world." She was overwhelmed by the academic approach to literature but eventually found her place as a creative writer. The author now divides her time between writing and teaching a foundation course in literature and western culture at the Alberta College of Art and Design. She says the experience of bringing her book out into the public eye was the most challenging aspect of the process.

"I have to write, saying to myself, ‘No one is going to ever read this.’ I can’t think about the public’s perception or I wouldn’t be able to do it," says Scott.

The author ends this balance of distance and intimacy with the public a little uneasy.

"What’s frightening is that people see what you think about. People come up to you and say ‘I feel like I know you…’ and I think no, you may know the work but you don’t know me. But at the same time, I write about my obsessions. It makes you a bit vulnerable."

Many of Scott’s characters, from the detached teenager of Lifeguard, to the simmering housewife of Surface Scratches, try to break free from the pressures of life that bear down on them and from the places in life where they are stuck.

"I think they have stuck themselves, and realizing that is when the breakthrough comes," says Scott. "Like Claire from Surface Scratches. She seems to be so self-defeating. She didn’t mean to compromise, she just didn’t speak up for herself. Once she realizes this she can undo it. That’s where I like to end, with the question: ‘Now what do you do?’"

The author said it’s important for her to leave those questions unanswered, but still allow the reader to be satisfied.

Scott is fascinated by how important it is to people to have "stories from their place," and to have artists and writers bring those stories to them.

"You see and express what’s around you so that others will fall in love with it. Not in a tourist brochure kind of way–if you do it well enough it will speak to others."

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