Sleeping Funny in Stauffer

Celebrated author Miranda Hill spoke at Stauffer Library


To write effectively, you first have to be bad in order to be good.

That was Miranda Hill’s advice to the small gathering at Stauffer Library when she visited Queen’s on Monday as part of the Alumni Review’s “Write Thinking” speaker series.

Acclaimed for her spectacular collection of short fiction titled Sleeping Funny, Hill is inspiring the Canadian literary scene and setting off on an enticing journey of creative writing.

The back of Stauffer Library was occupied with a small but highly engaged audience that came to listen to Hill’s talk, which was moderated by creative writing professor Carolyn Smart, who interviewed Hill regarding her literary endeavours.

Ken Cuthbertson, the editor of the Queen’s Alumni Review Magazine, introduced the audience to Hill’s background, and to her collection of innovative short stories.

Sleeping Funny is a collection of nine extremely diverse short stories, each with its own unique essence and beauty.

“The stories are so different, just like the characters and settings in each of them. There are characters and stories ranging from 19th century Kingston to a grade eight kid in a sex education class to a war widow’s life,” Hill said.

When asked by Smart how her drama degree at Queen’s has contributed to her writing, Hill talked about how the intensity of dramatic performance reverberates in her writing.

“Even though I’m a drama major, I never wrote plays because I’ve never been comfortable with writing dialogue. I always knew that I wanted to be a short story writer but I was always scared of it. But now, I am embracing this passion,” Hill said.

The most engaging section of the talk occurred when she answering questions from the audience, many of whom were students interested in finding out the key to becoming a successful writer.

“You will start off being really bad. But it’s better to start early and be bad at 15 or 23, rather than start writing at a later age. Your writing will eventually become better. You just have to plough hard at your talent,” she said.

She also spoke about how Canadians have always been excellent short story writers, but that the demand for short fiction is not as great as the appetite for novels.

“There is definitely more recognition now for Canadian cultural artists compared to when I was in school. I have always been a short fiction lover though, despite the appetite for long novels,” Hill said. “I was the kid who set an alarm two hours before I had to wake up just so I could read more.”

She also talked about the number of authors who have influenced her writing style, including Deborah Eisenberg, Jim Shepard as well as Alice Munro, who revolutionized the short story genre, due to her innovative writing style.

Hill is not only a writer, but she also has a full-time job running Bookmark Canada, a national charitable organization that takes creative poetry and prose and places it in the exact physical location where literary scenes are set.

“We envision a network of these installations, and I have visited numerous libraries and made the public aware of this project. It really got a number of librarians excited. I also asked the City of Kingston to install the poem called ‘Mexican Sunset’,” she said.

Next up: Visiting author Jason Heroux will be reading in Watson 517 on Mar. 6.

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