Humber School for Writers grad Jacqueline Markowitz recently published her first book, Conversations for Two. We asked her to tell us about the book, publishing, and life as a writer.
HC: What are you currently working on, and what excites you about the project?
JM: This summer I started a small press, The Jam Press, to publish my book and attract other writers whose books I am interested in. I had always wanted to be traditionally published, but as I got more invested in the writing and vision and creative process, I became very interested in how I could do this myself. I cared deeply about the design of my book, Conversations for Two. The beauty of the book was essential – the paper, how the words visually filled the page, the specific colour tones on the cover, the small details. During this journey I found wonderful people who shared my vision. I now hope to do this for other writers who need a more hands-on, curated approach to publishing their own work. I would, of course, like to write another book, and I’m working on some ideas now.
HC: Tell us more about the process of writing Conversations for Two.
JM: The story came to me. Twenty-five years after I lost my brother, John, I discovered a box of his writings in a most unusual way. The writing flowed organically. It explores death and grief, but it’s not a dark book. My prose is in conversation with his poetry, and I get to know him after his death, envisioning his life. The narrative is rooted in a varied consciousness; at times reflective, or grounded in real time, or imagined. There is an interplay between past and present. The story evolves with a dreamlike quality, through moments of magical thinking, and even though laced with great sadness it’s a way into the light. Although it is based on certain truths, the characters take a fictional journey. The writing of this book was extremely powerful. It has passed through many phases over about ten years.
HC: How did Humber help in the process of writing Conversations for Two? Are there any particular memories you’d like to share?
JM: After the first cathartic writing, the book sat in a drawer for a good many years, yearning to get out. The Humber School of Writers summer workshop proved the catalyst for re-envisioning the manuscript. I spoke to Antanas Sileika and he recommended that I work with Lisa Moore. It was my first writing workshop and truly a remarkable experience. I took advantage of the daily writing assignments to consider various pieces/ideas in the book, and it opened my writing mind to the sound, texture, breath and soul of language. Steadying myself at the podium at the culmination of the week, looking out at the faces of teachers, authors and peers, was a liberating hurdle. I discovered my voice at Humber.
HC: Are you doing other forms of writing at the moment?
JM: I have been writing my blog, Recipe for Life Club, for a few years now. This project evolved because I had this idea about the relationship between what we eat and the memories we have. I had hosted an evening where I invited people to bring a recipe over to my house and their story behind it. It was a fantastic night. Bits and pieces of details of life that women of my generation like to explore. And that is how the blog was born. It’s a different sort of writing from what I did in Conversations for Two. I also love poetry. I didn’t know how much I loved it until recently. It has probably been the thing that has helped me the most with my writing. To immerse yourself like that in short form, so economical, but getting to the heart of what you want to say, is a fabulous feeling.
Jacqueline Markowitz is a writer and creative producer with a background in filmmaking, visual art and advertising. She lives in Toronto. Conversations for Two is her first novel; it can be purchased at Type Books and at www.thejampress.com. Jacqueline is available to speak at book clubs and literary community events, to find out more, click here.