Friday, July 26, 2013

Interview Sessions: Volume 2.5

Maggie Thistle: "Less 'emo-vampire-teen' and more 'Courtney Love circa 1993'."

How to best describe Maggie Thistle? This is the question we've been asking ourselves for the past few hours.
Talented? Of course.
Clever? Absolutely.
Charming? Sure, if you think that dry wit, a serene demeanor, and a finger on the pulse of culture is charming. (So: yes.)

But none of these things really comes close to capturing the essence of the reticent, red-haired riddle that is Maggie. Here in the Ruckus basement offices, after a maddeningly long afternoon of attempting to put a thumb down on a decent description, the bit that follows is the closest we've been able to come to really painting an accurate picture of our fourth and final reader for the July 28th show. It is an intimate, if imagined, portrait of a life in the day of a woman we admire and respect. Please enjoy. (Also, Christopher Nolan, if you're reading this, please feel free to get in touch about the film rights.)


Toronto, at night. A few lone streetlights glow weakly. We zoom into a grungy alleyway. Three punks have an orphan up against the brick wall.. They shove him intermittently, and we can hear the usual assortment of threats and blue language directed toward the poor kid. In his arms, the orphan clutches a canvas. 

PUNK 1: Come on, kid! Your perspective is all wrong! You think that's how a human leg would look from that vantage point?

PUNK 2: Your colour choices could also use work in my opinion.

PUNK 2 shoves the orphan again. Suddenly, we see a flash of movement from above. Into the frame drops BAT-MAGGIE, a woman dressed in an intimidating (if well-coordinated) outfit, a shock of red hair dangling from her cowl. She growls politely: 

BAT-MAGGIE: Let the kid go.

The PUNKS turn away from the orphan, and assume aggressive positions toward BAT-MAGGIE. BAT-MAGGIE moves quick as lightning, and delivers an enormous roundhouse kick to each of their chins with the bottom of her tasteful battle-flat (functional AND fashionable!). The PUNKS fall to the ground, out cold. 

ORPHAN: Gee, thanks *pitiful cough* Bat-Maggie!

BAT-MAGGIE: No problem, kiddo.

BAT-MAGGIE takes a glance at the ORPHAN'S painting. 

BAT-MAGGIE: ... I would have made different colour choices on this, though.


Okay, so Aaron Sorkin we are certainly not. Regardless, this is a pretty decent way of thinking about Maggie: part badass mystery, part benevolent artist, all wrapped up in one fashionable package - complete with battle-flats! (ED.'S NOTE: No, battle-flats are not actually a thing. (Yet.))

All jokes aside, Maggie is a young artist worth keeping an eye on. Though we are focusing on her writing, Maggie is also a talented visual artist and well educated in Art History, having interned for Luminato and placed in Art Writing competitions in the past few years. She's also a mom, which leads us to believe that she somehow has access to hours of the day that most people are not allowed to use (barring that, we have no idea how she could possibly accomplish everything she does).

Her fiction is balancing act between electric imagery and a deep-seated authorial compassion that binds you to the characters she writes about. With Maggie's writing, the heartbreak is often in the details - she has a talent for knowing exactly which minute points to focus on at pivotal moments in her stories in order to emotionally invest a reader more fully in her work. Combine that with a sense of humour that, when it needs to be, is sharp as a whip, and you have an author whose work never fails to win over the uninitiated. Of course, why bother hearing us talk about it when could get a profile straight from the author herself? Check out our interview with Maggie below.

1) To give people who have never experienced your work before an idea of what they’re getting themselves into (and in the cinematic spirit of ‘famous sequels’), riddle me this: If your body of work was a Hollywood movie, what would it be about, what genre of film would it be, and who would star?

If my body of work was a Hollywood movie, it would be documentary meets musical meets film noir meets manga. Obviously Raquel Welch would play me, (the resemblance being uncanny) but it would also star Christopher Walken and have cameo appearances by Tarantino and Burt Reynolds.

2) And (most importantly), what would its 80s-action-blockbuster style tagline be?
“Serenity now, Insanity later…”

3) Can you identify when it was that you really began to write (seriously or otherwise)? Was there anyone or anything that inspired you to start writing?

I have been writing ever since I can remember (my first completed classic being a completely illustrated 23 page epic about a killer whale named Kayla) and I am lucky enough to have had consistent encouragement. I was a shy child so writing allowed me the opportunity to say what I wanted without having to actually participate socially. Initially, I was much more focused on my visual art work but as I grew older, I began to gravitate more towards writing as my craft of choice. Ani Difranco and Kerouac could probably be named my earliest writing inspirations.

4) Now that you’ve gotten a little older, are there any themes or images you find yourself coming back to? If so, what are they, and why do you think resonate with you?
I tend to focus on colour and texture, perhaps because of my visual art training. Colour is something that is so vital to description but also highly interpretative so I think I like to play around with the dualities, inconsistencies and manipulations of it. I also focus a lot on the theme of endings, specifically where one thing ends and another begins, and the relationship (whether broken or continuous) of the two. There tends to be a solid dose of angst in my writing as well, but in a way that is, hopefully, much less “emo-vampire-teen” and more “Courtney Love circa 1993”.

5) In the works of other authors, are there any particular subjects or styles you are drawn towards? For that matter, are there any writers who you specifically admire?

I admire anyone who is ballsy enough to sit down and write something with the intent of having others want to read it. It’s not always an easy process and I think writers don’t get enough praise for their required brazenness.

6) Moving away from written work for a moment: what sorts of things do you do when you’re not writing?

Sleep. Drink. Parent. Cook. Hike. Gallery Hop. (The order of these activities vary depending on the day)

7) In the booze-friendly spirit of Ruckus, give us a pairing: one of your favourite works/authors and one of your favourite beverages (alcoholic or not). Why do they go together? How do they complement one another?

There should be a drink named “The Atwood”. It would be one part Canadian Club Whiskey, one part screech, one part club soda, a touch of lemon juice and a maraschino cherry to package it all together.

8) Can you give us a little written trailer of what you’re going to be reading on July 28th?
I am not sure yet but it will most likely be reading the nutritional information listings from the back of my favourite breakfast cereal boxes.

9) Last question: give us a short (less than 75 words) third-person bio blurb about yourself which covers any awards/distinctions you're proud of and what you're tackling right now.

Maggie Thistle holds a BA in Art History and English from the University of Toronto. In 2012 she was awarded second place in Canadian Art Magazine’s Annual Art Writing competition with her review of Grayson Perry’s exhibition and publication, “The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman.” She has recently completed an internship with the Luminato Festival, where two of her pieces, a reverse Proust Questionnaire and a Pros and Con’s argument (subject Booze vs. Pot) were featured in the daily festival newspaper. She is currently attempting to expand her knitting skills beyond the sole production of scarves while also scouring the world for solid work experience and contemplating graduate school.

It is our extreme pleasure to also announce that Maggie will be reading not only once, but twice on July 28th: As one of the distinguished winners of the UTSC creative writing contest, she will first be reading for the UTSC Creative Writing Showcase at 5pm, then later for RUCKUS VOL. II at 7pm. Twice as nice, at half the price! (Free divided by two = still free.)

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