For background on this series, see my first post. So far we’ve talked with Rebecca Lawton, an environment writer based in California, and Abby Palmer, a nature writer based in the Lower Mainland of BC.
Our third interviewee is Korice Moir.
As with our previous two interviewees, I first met Korice via Twitter through our shared interest in Canadian water issues. That connection deepened into a shared love of books and writing, and we eventually formed an informal, two-person, cross-country book club (which I wrote about here). Since then we’ve shared emails back and forth about books, reading, writing, and life in general. I hope this interview will convince Korice to put her written words out there in public, rather than keeping them to a select few people.
Korice Moir works as a freelance water policy researcher. She reads and writes on time, memory, and rivers. She was born and raised in a small town in Alberta, and now lives in Toronto, the biggest city in Canada. To take advantage of the best of both worlds, big and small, she resides in Mimico, an urban neighborhood with a hometown feel. When not working on water, or playing in it or on it, she is advocating for bees, mapping her nearby ravine, and admiring local street art. You can find her on Twitter: @waterpuppetry.
Does your writing community comprise a diverse array of people, or do you find it clusters around a particular group/type of people?
I don’t have a writing community in the traditional sense. I write to a few friends and family, and for others in a work context. But my writing is usually a solo effort, both in the act and in the audience.
By nature, blogging involves a writing community. Mine is unpublished. It’s more like a journal of environmental writing and personal reflection. I pick individuals or clusters to direct my writing. Are you a writer if few read your work? Can one have an invisible writing community, unbeknownst to those to which you write?
Do you find the online world conducive to building community? Why or why not?
The introvert in me believes the web simultaneously presents an opportunity to build community and avoid it. Much of it is one-way communication: thoughts, messaging, curation of news, and – *bonus offering* – the sandwich I had at lunch. If there are no bites (not a bad thing, just reality), it can be like having a conversation with yourself. That’s cool. It’s also hilarious, and sometimes lonely. As of result, other ways of connecting more deeply are avoided.
Life online can also suck time dry. More avoidance? I mainly tweet to keep up with news in my field, and share other people’s work. I look for personal reflections, too. People are interesting. They can’t help it. But not everyone feels comfortable offering a play-by-play. And it’s hard work to sift through miles of messages to find the good stuff.
We ought to be able to engage with social media in various ways, although it may not contribute to cohesive community. But it can build one-on-one connections. Through Twitter, I have discovered individuals and organizations doing fascinating work. I include you in this list. For this, I am grateful.
Have you had any specific experiences that led you to adopt – or alternatively to shun – online community building?
Social media can feel like exhibitionism. “Look at me! I just did/ate/saw this! Aren’t I awesome!”
Shunning social for its faults may be an introvert’s excuse. To generalize (as if we all fit in neat labels): extroverts share widely; introverts are more selective. I doubt it is that simple. But I personally get tired of thinking I should share, versus actually wanting to share.
I jumped off Goodreads for a while because it felt like show and tell in a “books as trophies” kind of way. There is potential to build community around a particular book or genre, but I wasn’t engaging like that. I find the site useful as a tracker, and I will occasionally throw in a comment. I respect those that utilize it more fully. To each his or her own.
Addiction is another reason to shun, or at least take healthy breaks from social media. If you admit to checking in at ridiculous hours, or find yourself easily distracted by its lure, I recommend reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. It discusses what the Internet and information overload might be doing to our brains, fueling an unhealthy obsession and inability to concentrate. Long reads are losing their appeal (I know, sacrilege!). We now go “shallow” in what we read and scan. I found truth in this while reading that very book, checking messages instead of finishing it!
When you tell the story of your life thus far – either to yourself or to others – what are two key events you focus on, and why?
For my first 18 years, I wanted nothing more than to move away from the small town in which I was raised to join what I called “the real world”. This period of time, and the inevitable moves that followed, helped shape my story, good and bad. I had dreamt up a wondrous future ideal full of opportunity and goodwill. I looked for this world for a long time. “Temporary” became a mindset.
In some ways, I am still looking. I am most comfortable in travel mode. It is when my feet are firmly planted that I get anxious and forget to pay attention to the beauty and joy right under my nose. Intellectually, I know that no place or set of circumstances will ever be as wondrous as a childhood dream for the future. But in searching, I keep my eyes open and remain mindful. The two acts of dreaming and searching continue to shape my storyline.
Where is home?
Home hasn’t been a permanent spot for me. I feel at home in many places: my hometown, the cities and countries I have lived in since, and the community I reside in today. In time, each place became home.
Describe in two sentences what makes this home to you. Has this changed over time, and what may have driven that change?
In three sentences: I have travelled widely in search of home. The feeling of home comes and goes. It is impermanent.
Habituation is the act of getting used to something so much so that you stop noticing it. You become so familiar that you forget to appreciate the everyday until it disappears. The trouble with defining home is there is an expectation that it will be permanent.
I have felt more at home in a temporary, rented space than the one I own. Home ownership is a privilege, and an ideal. It allows you to invest, both in a financial and a physical sense, and provides space to nest. But it also tricks us into thinking of it as permanent. I don’t regret the experience, but owning a house changed what I think of as home. I feel most at home when I have few keys to carry.
Name two writers on writing whom you would recommend.
In our two-person book club (something I treasure), we have devoured and critiqued several books by writers offering tips on writing. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing come to mind. Their collective advice is as relevant to the art of writing as it is to life in general:
- Good writers are good readers.
- One phrase, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter, one step at a time.
- Be mindful. Remain curious. Activate all the senses. Pay attention to detail. You never know when what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel can be woven into your work.
- Write about what you have the capacity to experience and share through words.
- Take risks. Be vulnerable. Remain open to trying, and trying again.
- Make it happen. Others don’t. You are not a writer if you don’t write. So write.
I recommend these books, but I don’t always follow their advice. Why don’t we feel more comfortable with our own writing voices – and what will we do about this?
Do you have a theme(s) you tend to come back to in what you read and write?
In my free time, I read and write about time, memory, space, mindfulness, and bees. For work, I focus on rivers, water policy, and data visualization. I love when the two bundles mix and mingle.
I prefer long reads. My least favorite part of a book is the ending. My second least favorite is the beginning. For me, collections of short stories and essays have too many endings and beginnings. The pieces don’t always flow together. It takes time to get into them. And then, just when things start rolling, they’re over, and you’re required to jump to another piece, with a different context and cast of characters. I need more time.
But I sense that I have been missing out. Thanks to many of your book suggestions, I have been reading shorts lately. I hope to come around.
You were recently in Indonesia for several months, where you took the time to learn the language and engage in the culture. What effect did that experience have on how you perceived your life – and your writing – when you returned to Canada?
I grew fond of Indonesia. I spent time exploring the streets of Manado in North Sulawesi. All senses were activated. At first, everything my eyes, ears, nose, and taste buds took in was new. And yet, it was amazing how quickly my husband and I got “used to” new. Travel invites you to see differently.
As an archipelago, Indonesia is home to countless languages and cultures. “Bahasa Indonesia”, the national language, was described to me as a simple one to learn. I wished it were so.
Language learning is humbling. You are at the mercy of tolerance and compassion, by those around you, and from within. The only way to learn is to try. Take a few steps, and stumble. And stumble again (with a step forward here and there to keep sane!). One can’t learn without being humbled by what you don’t yet know. I had a hoot trying!
I also discovered Manadonese love to ask personal questions. Strangers and new friends alike did not hesitate to ask how old I was, whether I was religious, if I was married, and whether I had kids. On the subject of kids, I was told “no” wasn’t a polite way to respond. A more appropriate answer in Bahasa Indonesia is “belum”, which translated as “not yet”. What does this mean for someone who is unlikely to have children?
Then they would ask “why not?” I chuckled at first, until I realized they were serious. It was explained that the purpose of marriage is to have children, so they were naturally curious why a married woman would be without child. This is difficult to explain in one’s mother tongue, let alone in a new language. I muddled through at first, but realized it was indeed easier to whisper again: not yet. It seemed to satisfy. And when I got home, I wrote fast and furious about this. Canadians rarely ask such questions. Another culture tested my own.
What are you working on right now – and what are you finding most challenging about it?
One of the projects I am currently working on involves scanning for river health data and knowledge across Canada. Lack of integration and accessibility are the biggest challenges.
I am also getting to know my neighborhood ravine, Mimico Creek, by walking and paddling it whenever I can, and creating a map to visualize the challenges it has faced over time. This urban stream has many stories to tell.
Thanks Korice for your honest and humble answers.
Stay tuned for the next installment, with Kimberley Moynahan of Endless Forms Most Beautiful.