Evelyn Lau

Poetry and Creative Nonfiction

Evelyn Lau is the Vancouver author of thirteen books, including eight volumes of poetry.  Her memoir Runaway:  Diary of a Street Kid (HarperCollins, 1989), published when she was eighteen, was made into a CBC movie starring Sandra Oh in her first major role.  Evelyn’s fiction and non-fiction have been translated into a dozen languages;  her poetry has received the Milton Acorn Award, a National Magazine Award and the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a Canadian woman, as well as nominations for the BC Book Prize and the Governor-General’s Award.  From 2011-2014, Evelyn served as Vancouver’s Poet Laureate;  she has also been writer-in-residence at UBC, Kwantlen, VCC and Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Calgary.  For many years Evelyn has worked as a manuscript consultant and led poetry workshops through SFU Continuing Studies.  Her most recent collection is Pineapple Express (Anvil Press, 2020)

What will VMI participants gain from the program?
Hopefully they will feel their work is in the hands of someone who will give it the thoughtful consideration and careful critique it deserves.

What do you gain from the mentoring process?
The deep engagement with another person's work is often extremely satisfying on an intellectual and creative level.  I never forget that it is always an honour to be trusted with someone's words.  As someone who has never had children (or a maternal bone in her body), I nevertheless consider past protegees as my "children" and am over the moon for their personal and professional accomplishments:)

What is the most valuable insight or skill that VMI participants have learned from you?
To pay attention to sensory detail, and in poetry to consider every word/image choice, every line break, the difference the choice between a comma and a period can make.

What book or poem has been most inspirational to you?
John Updike's body of work - for its honesty, brilliant craft, detail.

What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?
That would depend on the individual, on their project and their voice.

What are you currently working on?
My eighth collection of poetry, with many of the poems centred around the theme of depression (not as bleak as it sounds, I hope!)

What do you enjoy most about being a VMI mentor?
The combination of one-on-one meetings with correspondence and group gatherings is an excellent mix.

What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript that you know now?
If I knew what I knew now, I would never have written or published my first manuscript, which was based on my teenage journal.  Sometimes you need to embrace the risk and not overthink it, particularly when it comes to personally revealing work.