“When you read a book you get to turn pages.” —Shannon Bramer
A new season means new conversations, or, rather, new In Conversations! We talked to some of our Fall 2020 authors about their forthcoming books, and about the essential but frequently elusive art of writing. For the next couple of months, we’ll be sharing their wit, their wisdom, and their work with you on the blog. You can also subscribe to the Book*hug Press e-newsletter or follow us on social media—we’re partial to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter—for updates on upcoming author events. Happy fall, y’all.
Our conversation continues with Shannon Bramer, whose collection of plays, Trapsongs, celebrates its official publication today; congratulations! Trapsongs is by turns comedic, grotesque, and profane, but is all the while a tender exploration of the human condition in all its hilarious and humbling glory. It’s hard to think of a candidate more qualified to do this work than Bramer: both her books—which include Trapsongs and Precious Energy—and her answers to our questions reveal a bright, full soul, and a mind deeply curious about the world and its inhabitants. Her book recommendations are no exception: they, too, are thoughtful and diverse. Our recommendation is to curl up with a hot beverage, a copy of Trapsongs, and a joyful and radical openness. Anything less, we think, would be futile and not nearly as fun.
Why do you write?
I write because I love words and people. I love the challenge of trying to get it right. I love making people laugh or seeing eyes sparkle with recognition when I’ve written something that resonates. I write because I love books and think books are beautiful to hold. When you read a book you get to turn pages.
Who, where, when, and what influences your writing?
People everywhere moving, listening, conversing, trying their best—making mistakes, falling in love, hiding, feeling tired, making art, hugging their children, watching squirrels out the window, going to funerals, stirring soup, shouting at giant piles of laundry, trees, poetry, bits and pieces of story that you hear when you’re walking down the street. Dreams. Failure. Hope.
Where do you write?
I’m so lucky to have a cosy little office in my bedroom. It’s crowded with books and little treasures and visual art by my friends. I work here most days but pre-pandemic I also loved working in my favourite Toronto café, UB Social.
What makes you happy?
Music and art and my family and my friendships. Fred Eaglesmith’s new album (ALIVE) with his wife, Tif Ginn, makes me exceptionally happy.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading The Blue Clerk by Dionne Brand. It’s both so beautiful and destabilizing. I keep losing my place inside it and so I start over again. I think it’s a book that’s meant to be read multiple times. I also just started reading alfabet/alphabet by Sadiqa de Meijer. I have been drawn to memoirs this year and this one has a playful, magical, poetic form that reminds me of the work of Heather Christle and Maggie Nelson.
What book—or books—would you recommend to a new friend?
Most of my new friends are children as I work part-time in a school supervising grade two students at lunchtime, so I’d recommend picture books by all my favourite authors: Irene Luxbacher, Cindy Derby, Cozbi A. Cabrera, Dennis Lee, Kate Hoefler and Andy Jones, just to name a few. I love picture books; I used to work as a bookseller and before I had children I already had a growing collection.
Do you drink tea, coffee, neither, or both?
I love coffee. I can’t get by without it, to be honest. It elevates my mood as long as I don’t drink too much, and that’s two cups a day when the weather is dark or cold. I also love tea; I’ve just discovered sage tea and it’s wonderful.
Can you tell us about a book you want everyone to read?
I will tell you about five books! This past summer I read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, who is a criminal defence lawyer (and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative) in the U.S. He defends prisoners on death row. I was so overwhelmed by this heart-expanding memoir that both my 16-year-old daughter and husband read it immediately after me. Next, I read Annahid Dashtgard’s Breaking the Ocean. Her story of fleeing Iran with her mixed-race family during the revolution in 1979 and landing in Alberta, Canada was eye-opening, heartbreaking and wildly inspiring. Her experience of systemic racism in Canada alongside the journey that led her to become a leader in the anti-corporate globalization movement of the 1990s was so gripping and moving that I could not put the book down. Two new Canadian novels that stole my heart this year are I Can’t Get You Out of My Mind by Marianne Apostolides and The Ticking Heart by Andrew Kaufman. Both of these novels are about love and being lost. Both are about singing in a trap.
Describe your favourite article of clothing.
My favourite article of clothing is always just a black dress and maybe a sparkly scarf or sweater with it. I’m quite restless and impatient about fashion; I really admire people who always look well put together because I often feel a bit scraggly and aspire to being more polished someday!
Tell us your favourite word, and why it’s your favourite.
My favourite word is travel. It was a word my grandmother loved and also her most consistent advice to me as a child: Make sure you travel, Shannon. I still try to follow her advice, both in my life and on the page.
Join us on Thursday, December 10th at 7 p.m. EST for the virtual launch of Trapsongs. Bramer will be joined by special guests Kirby, Sara Tilley, and Ruth Lawrence. All are welcome! Please pre-register here for this free online event.
Shannon Bramer was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and now lives in Toronto. She is a playwright and poet who writes books for human beings of all ages. She is the author of suitcases and other poems (winner, Hamilton and Region Best Book Award), scarf, The Refrigerator Memory, Precious Energy, and Climbing Shadows: Poems for Children, illustrated by Cindy Derby. Shannon also conducts poetry workshops in schools and is the editor of Think City: The Poems of Gracefield Public School. Her plays (Monarita, The Collectors, and The Hungriest Woman in the World) have appeared in juried festivals across the country, among them: New Ideas (Toronto), the Women’s Work Festival (St. John’s), and Sarasvàti FemFest (Winnipeg). Shannon’s plays have all been developed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, thanks to the Women’s Work Festival, where she has returned with a new script-in-progress four times since 2009.