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Author Archive: "Sheila Heti"

Advice Column, Part Five: Sarah Manguso

Sarah Manguso is a poet and writer of nonfiction novels, or whatever you want to call them. They are poetic and spare and true. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and child. I met her at a writer's colony in 2006, and I vividly remember an early discussion we had in which we admitted to each other what part of our bodies we liked least. What was nice about it was that neither of us had even noticed what the other was complaining about, and when it was pointed out, we thought the other was absurd. That made an impression on me. My favorite of her books, The Two Kinds of Decay, was about an illness she suffered in her 20s, and her most recent book (also great), The Guardians, is about the death of a friend. She is a writer I truly admire, for she never shies away from writing about the most difficult things. She also has these incredible eyes, which means just what you think: she is indeed always looking.

Sheila: At what point should one abandon the decisions one has made? ...


Advice Column, Part Four: Roxane Gay and Anne Theriault

Roxane Gay seems to be everywhere, always. I follow her on Twitter where she has tweeted over 50,000 times (and none are annoying); she blogs compellingly at roxanegay.com; and she has two new books coming out, a novel, An Untamed State, and an essay collection called Bad Feminist ("A bad feminist is just a feminist who's human, who's a mess of contradictions but still believes in the feminist project," she has said in an interview). She works at The Rumpus as essays editor. She always writes with such swiftness, ease, intelligence, and confidence; therefore, it was a surprise to receive an email from her recently (sent to a bunch of undisclosed recipients) asking all sorts of questions about self-doubt and confidence, as it pertains to writing. Of course, that mixture of confidence and vulnerability is part of why her work is so well-loved.

Sheila: I decided a few years ago that, moving forward and making choices, I would only make the most comfortable choice: the choice that made me feel the most calm, restful, peaceful, taken care of, secure. In the past, I was always pushing ...


Advice Column, Part Three: Kathryn Borel Jr. and Kathryn Borel Sr.

Kathryn Borel (Jr.) is a close friend of mine from Toronto who moved to Los Angeles with her boyfriend a few years ago and who is, as we speak, writing a pilot for ABC which is loosely based on her memoir, Corked. I still remember when she was calling her memoir Chateau Shitfaced. Too bad the publisher nixed that. The book is about how she accidentally killed a man with her car when she was in her early 20s and the aftermath in which she tries to grapple with the inevitable eventual death of her own beloved father. I asked her to answer my question, and also to give it to her mother, whose advice and insights I have come to rely on as much as I do on Kathryn's — her mother is a serious, girlish, super-intelligent person. I have never known a family who so much enjoys spending time together as the Borels (there is also a brother, Nico).

Sheila: I have noticed that women spend a lot of time trying to make themselves better, happier, smarter, more perfect. How can one tell when ...


Advice Column, Part Two: Susan Swan

Susan Swan is a Canadian novelist. She is the author of seven books, has received numerous awards, and has been published in over 20 countries. Her latest book is called The Western Light. I remember how, many years ago, her novel, The Biggest Modern Woman in the World, was confiscated by Customs for obscenity. She has a big public presence in Canada, always speaking out powerfully about feminism and politics. She even served as the chair of the Writers' Union of Canada for many years. She has a grown daughter, Samantha Haywood, who is a literary agent. I think we first interacted for real when we were doing a panel over email for the Globe and Mail on writing about sex. Recently, we have been exchanging long and personal emails. The first book I remember reading of hers, as a teenager, and absolutely loving, was The Last of the Golden Girls, which I recently ordered to reread.

Sheila: I have always found romantic relationships difficult. I think this is true for many people, but have you noticed that for some people they're not difficult? What are those ...


Advice Column, Part One: Tao Lin and Heidi Julavits

I was asked to blog this week, but I didn't know what to say. So this is an advice column — with questions by me. I asked friends and acquaintances to play the role of helper. On some days, I asked more than one person to answer the same question.

I first heard about Tao Lin when he came to Toronto for a reading. I don't know what he did wrong, but all my friends went, and many were angrily disappointed. At this point I became fascinated and started reading his books and following him online. I truly admired how he was not playing "the role of a writer" in either his books or his online persona. His Shoplifting from American Apparel is my favorite of his books, but that's maybe because I'm only partly through his latest, Taipei (not for lack of wanting to finish it, but he kept on telling me to stop reading and sending me new copies; the final book arrived yesterday, so I can begin again with ease). This past spring, my friend Margaux Williamson and I met him in ...


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