Lost and found
While Toronto-based writer Claire Cameron's latest novel, The Bear, may not push the envelope like some other artists, writers and thinkers at Spur, it certainly reimagines some literary conventions.
Written from the perspective of five-year-old Anna, the novel follows the protagonist and Stick, her brother, as they struggle to get off an island in Algonquin Park after their parents are mauled by a bear.
Make no mistake: while there may be shades of Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel to this lost-in-the-woods tale, The Bear's not for kids.
From the outset, Cameron heard Anna's voice as she drafted her sophomore novel. "I had the voice in my head, and I just jumped in. What I did for that first draft was impulsive."
Cameron will detail the creative process and more at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café on Sunday, March 23, starting at noon. The event will be moderated by former Free Press books editor Morley Walker. Tickets are $25 and include brunch.
The Bear has been a critical success, most recently long-listed for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize). After the success of her debut The Line Painter, approaching her second novel was a daunting task that resulted in a few so-called "dead books" -- attempts at writing something only to have it fizzle out and die.
"A lot of people have trouble with their second novel -- the dreaded sophomore jinx. I wrote three books in between the two novels, and they just weren't very good."
Cameron also experienced some significant life changes in the interim. "I had my two kids in between the novels. My creative process was all about sleep."
And while having kids didn't specifically spark Cameron's decision to write from a child's perspective, she was able to engage with her children to help shape Anna's journey.
"I bounced a lot of ideas off my kids. Like Anna, my son was five at the time. And while Anna is very different than my son, we had long conversations about feelings.
"Parents spend a lot of time talking over kids. My son went through a vocabulary burst as I was writing The Bear. I thought 'What if I just stopped and listened?'
While Cameron is at work on her next project, she's hesitant to disclose too much information.
"I just can't tell whether it's going to be one of the dead books."