Literary Birthday – 2 June – Carol Shields

Carol Shields was born 2 June 1935, and died 16 July 2003.

Quotes On Writing

  1. Words are our life. We are human because we use language. So I think we are less human when we use less language.
  2. I wrote as a child. I was a schoolgirl writer. Every school has one of these girls, you know, who writes the class play, and writes the class poem, and everyone says, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a writer when you grow up’.
  3. I couldn’t have been a novelist without being a mother. It gives you a unique witness point of the growth of a personality. It was a kind of biological component for me that had to come first. My children gave this other window on the world.
  4. I loved being a poet. I think partly because a poem is such a small thing. I always think of it as a kind of toy. You can get it almost right, and you can never get a novel almost right because a novel is just too big.
  5. I wanted to write a novel because I loved to read novels. I wasn’t finding in the ’70s the kind of novels that had anything to do with my life or the sort of women that I knew. I wanted to write a book that I couldn’t find, as it were.
  6. The first manuscript that went out came back. It was never published. It was a novel that I think of now as my apprenticeship novel.
  7. But I really only had about an hour or an hour and a half a day. This was how I organised my time, that I would give myself one or two pages a day, and if I didn’t get to my two pages, I would get into bed at night with one of those thick yellow tablets of lined paper, and I would do two quick pages and then turn off the light. I did this for nine months, and at the end of nine months, I had a novel.
  8. I love writing novels because the novel is such an accommodating form. You can do such a lot within one.
  9. I develop a novel as I go. I have a structure in mind, though. I always see the structure before I know what’s going to be in the structure, and it’s a very physical image that I can call up.
  10. This is why I read novels: so I can escape my own unrelenting monologue.
  11. Can we tell our own life story with any sort of truth at all? Of course, we know we can’t. I mean, our life stories, whether we write them or not, are a tissue of evasions, or, perhaps, enhancements. So, that story that we carry around in our head, the story we call our life, we can’t know our birth and death, but we create them somehow, imaginatively. There are other parts of our lives in which we’re quite happy to erase. There are other parts that we want to touch up just a little bit. So what we end with is a fiction. Our autobiography is a form of fiction.
  12. My hobbies — this is a word I never think of using — are reading and writing (I long ago gave up the notion of being well-rounded). I also like to walk, which helps me to think better. I have no interest in yoga or meditation or attempts to clear the mind of thoughts. My thoughts are all I have.

Carol Shields was an American-born Canadian author. She is best known for her 1993 novel, The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and the Governor General’s Award in Canada.

Amanda Patterson

by Amanda Patterson

Please click here for our Literary Birthday Calendar

Posted on: 2nd June 2013