Gurjinder Basran is the award-winning author of two novels: Everything Was Good-bye (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2010; Penguin, 2012) and Someone You Love is Gone (Penguin Canada, 2017; Harper Collins US, 2017). Her groundbreaking debut novel, Everything Was Good-bye, was the winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was listed on many must-read lists including Chatelaine magazine’s book club pick, and CBC’s Writers to Read. A former SFU Writer’s Studio alumna, Gurjinder has taught fiction workshops at SFU, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the Vancouver Public Library. A director in the technology industry, Gurjinder balances the demands of her career and her creative life as she works on her third and fourth novels.
What is the most valuable insight or skill that your VMI writers have learned from you?
Though I haven’t mentored with VMI before, I think what writers learn with me is that there is no right way to tell a story. Every writer approaches their work a different way and that is not just okay, it’s necessary! As a mentor, my goal is to simply ask the questions that help a writer find the way into their story in a deep and meaningful way. As someone who came to writing later in life, I know how daunting it can be; I want to create a safe space for all writers to improve their work without judgment.
What do you gain from the mentoring process?
A sense of community! I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and those relationships continue to nourish me.
What will VMI participants gain from the program?
Participants will gain perspective on their work through active questioning and a respectful feedback loop. The feedback they receive will enable them to write their best work and even teach them how to read their own work with a critical eye.
What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have received?
“Hard work beats talent.” There are many talented people who don’t have the discipline to write. Be willing to work hard, and over time your hard work will look like natural talent. Great writing seems effortless but it is not without effort.
What book, poem or other written work has been most inspirational to you?
I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Strout. Her writing is attentive, and yet the details don’t overwhelm, they simply inform. Not a word is wasted. She is a masterful storyteller that doesn’t rely on high drama plots; she sees the tension and drama in the every day and through her telling, we see ourselves.
What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?
A Passion for Narrative – Jack Hodgins
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on final edits of my third novel and starting my fourth one as well.
What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript that you know now?
I wish I knew that most of writing is re writing. Editing isn’t about “correcting” things, it’s about writing into the story, unpacking its layers and finding depths that you as the writer, were not even aware of.