Rachel Rose is the author of four collections of poetry, including Marry & Burn, which received a 2016 Pushcart Prize, and was a finalist for a Governor General’s Award. Her memoir, The Dog Lover Unit: Lessons in Courage from the World’s K9 Cops, was shortlisted for the 2018 Arthur Ellis award for best non-fiction crime book. A former fellow at The University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, she is the Poet Laureate Emerita of Vancouver and has taught creative writing at Simon Fraser University’s The Writer’s Studio (TWS), Simon Fraser University’s Continuing Education Program, Washington State’s Poets in the Schools, the University of British Columbia, Kwantlen University, and, at present, Vancouver Manuscript Intensive (VMI). Recent fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bellevue Literary Review, The Antioch Review, The New Quarterly, The Alaska Quarterly Review and Joyland. https://rachelsprose.weebly.com/
What is the most valuable insight or skill that your VMI writers have learned from you?
To separate and protect the creative self from the fraught realities of publishing; to nurture creative joy.
What do you gain from the mentoring process?
Many gifts: I gain new ways of seeing, of thinking, of approaching creative challenges; I gain opportunities to collaborate with writers who in turn teach me, and I am forced to clarify my own techniques.
What will VMI participants gain from the program?
The opportunity to work with someone who is invested in the success of their project.
What is the most valuable piece of writing advice you have received?
As Elmore Leonard says, "It doesn't get easier, it gets harder. But it's fun, it better be fun. Otherwise why spend all that time doing it?" So for me, it's that hard fun--very difficult, maddeningly challenging joy.
What book, poem or other written work has been most inspirational to you?
Impossible question! I will limit myself to four, with difficulty: Robert McKee's Story, Kate Braid and Sandy Shreve’s In Fine Form: A Contemporary Look at Canadian Form Poetry, Czeslaw Milosz’s A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry, and Vivian Gornick's The Situation and the Story.
What books do you recommend VMI participants read for additional advice?
The four above are a good place to start.
What are you currently working on?
A collection of fiction about damaged people who have done or survived terrible things and must make their way in an unforgiving world, where animals offer a kind of solace that the human world withholds. The book is called The Octopus Has Three Hearts, and it is forthcoming from Douglas & McIntyre in Spring 2021.
What do you enjoy most about being a VMI mentor?
The opportunity to work with one individual, and one project, over an extended period of time. It is a deeply satisfying way of working, as I can give the writer and the work precisely what they need to flourish.
What do you wish you knew when writing your first manuscript that you know now?
Critics can be cruel; editors can be sloppy or unfair; thus, a community (even of one or two other trusted writers) is sustaining and essential.