October 30, 2006

Home Schooling

Carol Windley on deciding to become a writer: "I love the way language can be used to create a faithful facsimile of real people living real lives, although changed, of course, by fiction's magical prism. As a child I fell into the world of books with great relief and joy -- in a book's pages, life made sense. Perhaps it's a natural process to go from reading to writing, to want to join in that wonderful community of writers and words. Besides, it happens to be the only thing I can do reasonably well."
I've been a fan of Carol Windley's writing since discovering her first book shortly after moving to Canada 12 years ago. So I was thrilled to hear this summer that her newest book, Home Schooling, a collection of short stories, had just been published.

No, not about home education the way you might expect. And not nonfiction. Ms. Windley's latest is about looking "at how family is the place where we first learn about relationships and community," she said in a recent interview. She continued, "Parents hope to give their children a sense of family history as well as certain attitudes and values and while children are very receptive, very willing to learn, they're also very critical and sceptical. In a child's imagination, received wisdom can undergo startling changes. And in a family, everything is fluid and mutable, anyway, as a result of personality and temperament and circumstance, so trying to give of a sense of this in the fictional families in Home Schooling became my main concern."

Impatient for my interlibrary loan copy to arrive, I've been happy to discover two recent interviews, the one mentioned above and this one with the CBC; happier still to learn that she's working on another novel. Even in Canada Carol Windley has been rather overlooked, maybe because of the spans between books. It's been eight years since her last book, the novel Breathing Underwater, and that came out five years after her debut work, the short story collection Visible Light. But now Home Schooling is one of the five shortlisted titles for this year's Giller Prize, the winner of which will be announced on November 7th (on live television no less), and I'm hoping that Ms. Windley will get more of the attention she deserves.

Carol Windley on what she would do with the Giller prize money ($40,000 CAN) if she wins: "If I were lucky enough to win, the first thing I'd do would be to go to a bookstore and buy a completely scandalous quantity of books. I'd also do what I think would be at the top of any writer's wishlist: buy the necessary time in which to write."

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