Cathleen With


Cathleen’s first book, skids (Arsenal Pulp, 2006), about street kids on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, was short-listed for a Relit Award. Among her many adventures, Cathleen has worked at a camp for disabled kids in Squamish, and in Hawaii and Australia. She served as a drama educator in Kathmandu, a caregiver at Mother Teresa’s Home in Calcutta, a teacher to former sex trade kids in Cambodia, and as a teacher in Inuvik, NT, and Seoul, Korea. Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison (winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Award), is her first novel. She was proud to be in the City of Vancouver short-listed anthology V6A: Writing from the Downtown Eastside (Arsenal 2013).

What do you enjoy most about being a VMI mentor?
I love working with many different writers and helping them see their story, their unique book come to fruition. I've met such fascinating people.

What is the most valuable insight or skill that your VMI writers have learned from you?
I think I've learned a lot about editing during my Master's and other schooling. I hope to teach succinctness and beauty in the simple form.

What book, poem or other written work has been most inspirational to you?
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. I reread it yearly.

What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?  
I'm going to name the writers as some have several books: Jack Hodgins, Marge Piercy, Betsy Warland, John Vorhees, John Gardner, Donald Maas

What are you currently working on?
I'm working on a book about a young woman with Cerebral Palsy. It's loosely based on the Latimer case.

What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript that you know now?
Outline outline outline. And finding the outline that works for me.

What do you gain from the mentoring process?
Every new writer teaches me so much. About myself, my writing. I love the scope of writing and reading people's lives on the page. I feel energized.

What will VMI participants gain from the program?
A comprehensive semester-like schooling that is highly personal. I know each mentor works hard to understand the world of the book or project their mentee is working on, and the person behind the book. I love that I am close with each of my students, even long after the program is over: getting writing updates, hearing successes, being at book launches. It's like being part of a writing fraternity. With more work getting done, though.

What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have received?
Sit your butt down and get it done.
Write until The End. Seems simple, but true.