Quantity Can Lead to Quality

“You know, we still don’t have to do this,” says Marcelle Dubé just after the digital voice recorder had been switched on.

Dubé is a reluctant interviewee. She’d really just rather have a nice chat about writing.

But Dubé might have to start getting used to this sort of attention. Her short story, Aptitude, is in Polaris: A Celebration of Polar Science, an anthology that won a Canadian Science Writers’ Association’s Science in Society book award earlier this year.

And she has also been awarded three grants by the Yukon government to support her writing, the most recent being a $2,000 Advanced Artist Award to enable her to attend a short story workshop this September in Lincoln City, Oregon.

The workshop is run by prolific authors and husband-and-wife team Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.

“The third person who’s going to be teaching this workshop is Sheila Williams,” says Dubé. “She’s the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Big name. Very, very exciting.”

Dubé has been to a Lincoln City workshop before so not only does she know how useful they are but she also has an idea of what to expect.

“You had to write a 3,000-word short story overnight and then you had to write a 10,000-word short story in three days,” she recollects.

The tutors aren’t looking for top quality, Dubé explains, but what they want to prove to writers is how much you can produce even if you’re trying to write at the same time as holding down a full-time job.

“The amount of time you spent in the workshop, in the lectures and reading other people’s work, that was a full-time job. That was your nine to five job. And we wrote three short stories in two weeks following that schedule,” says Dubé.

“If you write that quickly it can be crap but it can also be some of the best work you do because you’re getting out of your own way. You’re not letting your little editor sit on your shoulder and say, ‘Oh, that’s awful, you don’t want your mother to read that.'”

Dubé, however, doesn’t seem to have much trouble with the writing process. She’s written nine or 10 novels over the years, she says, adding with a chuckle: “Not all of them worth discussing.”

She describes her novels as predominantly fantasy but also suspense. “I like what used to be called the ‘woman-in-jeopardy novels’. I always like a plucky heroine who finds herself in a situation and needs her brains and her courage to get herself out.”

While Dubé hasn’t yet had any of the novels published, her short stories have appeared in such prestigious places as Storyteller magazine, the Open Spaceanthology and the online magazine, Challenging Destiny.

Dubé’s name may be familiar to Yukoners because of Northern Writes, an annual series of writing workshops and conferences she organized with fellow writer Barbara Dunlop up until a few years ago.

After doing so much to help Yukon writers, she’s now able to attend some workshops for herself.

To find out more about the Advanced Artist Award go to www.tc.gov.yk.ca/207. For information about the Lincoln City workshops visit www.deanwesleysmith.com.

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE [email protected]

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