Reality Skimming

Interview with Colleen Anderson

Colleen Anderson has lived a varied, artsy life. She graduated in photography (Visual Communications) and later also graduated with a degree in Creative Writing. She has a strong sculptural design aspect and loved glassblowing. Her piece “It Came from the Glass Studio” was juried into an art show at the Vancouver Public Library. She started writing around twelve, with poetry, but she hid it for years until she took it somewhere for a critique in her early twenties. These days she freelances in copy editing and writing, including manuscript editing. She is a past editor for Aberrant Dreams and ChiZine. She has edited many first-time novels for individuals as well as working with publishers and magazines. If you are looking for an editor, you can contact her through her blog. On 7 October 2014 she hosts the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver, which will feature Lynda Williams as one of the authors. More information under

Interview by Christel Bodenbender

About two weeks ago I had the pleasure to meet Colleen for an in-person interview in a cozy pub at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. The rustic interior was a nice backdrop to our chat about the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in Vancouver and Colleen's life as an author. After we settled in and ordered a basket of fries, I took out my notebook with the questions I had prepared.

The Chiaroscuro Reading Series began further East, when did the reading series start in Vancouver and how did it come about?

The reading series was started by Sandra Kasturi in Toronto about five to six years ago. Sandra and her husband Brett Savory also founded ChiZine, an online magazine featuring poetry and short fiction, but due to funding issue the project changed its course and developed into ChiZine Publications ( through which they publish books.

Colleen was friends with Sandra and during a visit in Toronto she had a taste of the monthly reading series and immediately wanted to bring the event to Vancouver as well. She was excited to hear Sandra was thinking of expanding to other Canadian cities just around the same time and gladly took the lead to organize the reading series in Vancouver. The first local reading event was in April 2013, after which it has run on a quarterly schedule. The event has been thriving ever since, with the next upcoming set of readings commencing on 7 October 2014, featuring Alma Alexander, Paula Johanson, and Lynda Williams.

What draws you to live reading events?

Most of the arts involve a creator as well as an audience appreciating the artwork. For visual artwork there are galleries to facilitate the interaction between creator and viewer, but writing, in contrast, is a much more solitary endeavor. The reading series tries to bridge that gap as it provides a venue to share and experience the work. Additionally, the reading series helps to establish a community, where you buy the book but it also brings together readers and writers of the speculative fiction realm.

When did you start organizing reading events? What do you like about the work, what not?

Organizing the Vancouver ChiSeries is a new experience for Colleen. She likes the interaction with the authors and the audience. This pooling together of energies generates new ideas and inspiration. Furthermore, she loves the community aspect. Yet it isn't easy to market the event. In today's age of information over stimulation, it is difficult to reach people and make them understand the event is free to attend, although a donation is appreciated to pay the authors an honorarium.

Do you feel the audience changes with authors or is there a particular, dedicated crowd?

The reading series is still fairly new in the scene and hasn't run long enough to see a dedicated crowd, though she would love to see that for the future. So far the authors, the location, and even just the season can have a large impact on who is coming to the event. The focus of the ChiSeries is for the audience to get to know more local talent. That said, she had some Americans read as well, who either came through town or live in communities not too far south of the border.

Do you select authors and contact them or are you approached by authors?

So far it has been Colleen who has contacted authors and asked if they are interested to read for the series, in which case they would get back to her. She also mentioned that Sandra sometimes lets her know about a writer who expressed interest to read in Vancouver.

The reading series features a great variety of writing. What is your favorite?

Having different authors read each time makes it a fresh experience. When you have a wide range of interests, it is difficult to read all of it. Yet the reading series provides the opportunity to experience a multitude of authors and their worlds first hand. Since there is no guarantee that good writers are also good readers, the organizers of the series focus on published authors to make sure the writing is of a certain caliber, which the audience appreciates.

Tell us what writing means to you?

Colleen enjoys writing dark fiction and morality tales -- stories that feature a rich set of symbolism. She likes to dive into poetry that is mythic or fairy tale based, but can also be all over the map. Writing is a chance to explore worlds of what-ifs, taking familiar conflicts, yet highlighting societal issues by putting what exists into a different view. She stressed that we can have stories that have been told before but we can individualize them and then share them with others. By putting yourself into the viewpoint of the character, you can imagine how it would be like for you in that situation. Yet the reader still has his or her true emotional reaction to it. People sometimes try to identify the author in the story, but Colleen points out that no story or character can be representative of a person or their life, though some aspects of the writer can leak into it.

Could you tell us about some of your future projects?

Having worked on it for many years, Colleen has finished the draft of a novel and found an agent who is interested in it. Yet it is part of a series and the agent requested outlines for the following novel to see where the series is going before committing to the work. Colleen also writes away on the Compendium of Witches, consisting of thirteen poems with the first one coming out in OnSpec. Furthermore, she is co-writing a story for an anthology as well as in negotiations to co-edit another anthology, and is currently writing two articles--one about the types of monsters that are universal to all cultures. All in all, there are a host of stories on the back burner to be written and rewritten, which she focuses on when she is not working in her day job or going to conventions, such as VCON in Vancouver in October and OryCon in Portland in November.

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