Five Questions for Paige Cooper

Black and white photo of Peige Cooper
Photo credit: Adam Michiels

Posted on: 8 March, 2019

Category: Five questions for

Paige Cooper edits fiction for Cosmonauts Avenue. Her first book, Zolitude (Biblioasis), was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, and won the Concordia University First Book Prize. She lives in Montreal.

1. Hi Paige! What are you reading at the moment, and is it any good?

I’m reading hundreds of stories for Cosmonauts Avenue’s fiction contest. I’m horrified because they are—almost all of them—very good, and choosing the longlist is going to be excruciating.

2. Congratulations on your amazing 2018 with your debut book Zolitude – longlisted for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize; finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction; finalist for the QWF Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction; and winner of the QWF Concordia First Book Prize! I loved Zolitude with a fiery passion (as I told you at length in a bathroom at the QWF Gala…) but – have you found that the accolades have changed your relationship with your writing at all?

Ha, you were so nice! And I was just like, ‘uhhhhh thank you I’m sorry wow thank you.’

What I learned last year was that I am morbidly shy, still. So now that I’m writing again I have to pretty much promise myself no one will ever read it, otherwise I’d never have the gall to type out all these incriminating words.

3. Do you have a writing community that you work within? If so, how would you describe it – and what community means to you?

I’m very grateful for little rooms full of curious minds—i.e., the spaces where ego isn’t, generative/creative conversations that don’t really dwell on the mysteries of professionalization. I need a safe place to ask dumb questions and play out bad ideas. So much of my thinking and reading has been shaped by the intelligence and joy of my writing group here in Montreal over the last few years.

And then what’s also exciting is going out into the world—to a reading or book fair or festival—and seeing the results that come out of everyone else’s little room.

4. What do you find particularly rewarding – or challenging – about being a writer in Montreal?

I’ve lived in a lot of cities in Canada but Montreal is the only one where I’ve lived as a writer, which isn’t an accident. The city draws artists because the economy here isn’t predicated on grinding down everyone’s will to live into wet sawdust. It’s okay to have priorities that aren’t ‘Be rich’ here. Montreal is the kind of city that allows artists to participate in the project of being a city.

5. What’s next for you?

I’m teaching a fiction workshop at Surplace in March/April. I’ve never taught one before, so it’s gonna be wild.

Paige Cooper will be leading a short fiction workshop for QWF in the fall of 2019.