When Sad Mag first interviewed Jesse Donaldson, a couple of months ago, we were all aflutter with issue no.12/13 Mad Mad World and the amazing piece of Donaldson’s included in it. We were stoked to meet him at a rooftop launch party and misremembered the colour of his hair in the auburn glow of the setting sun. We asked him questions, he gave us responses, and we promised to hold on to the interview for him until closer to the launch of his first book, This Day in Vancouver.
Now that the book is set to be launched at the Portside on Nov 19th, and we’ve had time to dwell productively on what it means to have written such a book, we have more questions. Like, how many of your days did every day in Vancouver take to write? And what is your favourite day? The shark in the Georgia Strait? The declaration of an official town fool? In 365 well-researched and beautifully written entries, readers will have to judge for themselves.
Sad Mag: Who are you?
Jesse Donaldson: I ask myself that at least twice a day.
SM: Is there such a thing as a “literary scene” in Vancouver, and if so, how did you get involved in it?
JD: I’m not sure there’s a single, cohesive “scene” so much as a collection of smaller reading and writing communities, each with a different focus.
There’s the Vancouver Poetry Slam, which happens every week at Cafe Deux Soleils, where poets can share their work and win money, and hone their craft. There are the journalists – the old guard at the Pacific Newspaper dailies and the Straight, and the newer generation writing for folks like Megaphone and The Tyee. There are small, community writing groups like the West End Writers’ Group, who tend to be mostly passionate amateurs, and who share everything from portions of novels to upcoming blog posts. Then, there are the folks who write and publish legit books. I’m only occasionally invited to their parties – which is a wise choice on their part.
SM: What was the first piece of writing that you felt proud of?
JD: Probably a short story I submitted to a writing contest when I was 14 or 15. It had a snarky little twist ending, and I think it ended up doing rather well – first or second place. Up until that point, it had never struck me as something to do for anybody other than myself, so that was a nice little revelation. Before that, probably an epic comic book saga I wrote with my younger brother about a laxative with super-powers.
SM: What do you think literary life in Vancouver is lacking?
JD: More chances to drink heavily and bellow at each other.
SM: Favourite Vancouver writer/poet(s)?
JD: Oh, man. From a history-nerd perspective, Daniel Francis has written some of the most in-depth and interesting stuff about this city I’ve ever read. In that vein, Jean Barman’s book on Stanley Park, and Aaron Chapman’s book on The Penthouse are both marvelous reads, too. On the poet side of things, folks like Jillian Christmas, Chris Gilpin, and R.C. Weslowski continue to blow my mind with their insight/hilarity. Also, a Vancouver gal named Moira Walley-Beckett, who’s written some of the best episodes of the best television series ever made, period. This show called Breaking Bad that not many people have heard of.
SM: Favourite literary genre?
JD: Henry Miller.
SM: What is the book you fantasize about writing?
JD: I’m in the midst of finishing up a Canada Council Grant for a travel book I want to do about New Zealand. I rode a motorcycle around the country a couple of years ago, and I’d love to combine that narrative with some solid research and humorous observations about the place in general.
Either that, or an epic comic-book saga about a laxative with super-powers.
SM: Where are you as you answer these questions?
JD: Up to my nose in research for my first book, THIS DAY IN VANCOUVER, due out this fall from the good folk at Anvil Press. Which geographically puts me somewhere between a state of euphoria and a panic attack.
SM: Last album you listened to?
JD: M-83’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”. About a billion times.
SM: What are you most excited about right now?
JD: The release of my first book, THIS DAY IN VANCOUVER, due out this fall from the good folk at Anvil Press. Seriously. There are actual pre-sales, and a book launch at Portside on November the 19th, and it’s just in time for the Christmas season, and it’s chock full of photos and the layout looks fantastic, and it’s just generally a whole big pile of awesome. Bring your parents. Bring your friends. Bring your parents’ friends. We’ll drink heavily and bellow at each other.