The This Magazine family is thrilled to welcome Andrew Battershill and Stevie Howell to our team as our new literary editors!
Our new fiction editor, Andrew, is a writer and teacher currently based in Toronto. His novel, Pillow, was longlisted for the 2016 Giller Prize; another book is forthcoming in 2018. He was also the co-founder and editor of Dragnet magazine.
And our new poetry editor, Stevie, is a Canadian-Irish writer and former small-town bookstore owner whose first collection of poetry, Sharps, was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Stevie also has a second book of poetry forthcoming in 2018.
We caught up with Andrew and Stevie to talk about their new roles and what they have in store for This readers!
When did you first discover This? What did you like about it?
AB: The exact order of events of my undergraduate education is still more than slightly foggy to me, but at some point in there I was going to school in Montreal, and I started reading This at my local coffee shop (shouts to La Patisserie).
The thing I like most about This is that it’s one of those increasingly rare magazines you can read and be surprised by. Too often these days, I find that I sort of know what I’m going to read and how I’m going to feel about it before I even start an article. And so, less so than learning or changing, I find I’m often just getting what I already knew or felt reinforced and using that to palliate some part of my psyche.
This has never really felt like that to me, it’s always felt more like a magazine I can read that will tell me about a less-trafficked story I wasn’t aware or provide a genuinely fresh and nuanced take about a story I did know.
SH: I first read This Magazine in Grade 9, when I got into a regional arts high school, and they had an excellent library, which made up for the fact that I never got a gold star for attendance. To me, This Magazine was compassion in action: full of curiosity and driven by a demand for justice.
What are you currently reading? And who is on your must-read list for all CanLit lovers?
AB: This is pretty non-Can-con of me, but I’m reading Perfidia by James Ellroy, which is a black-hole level noir about the start of Japanese internment in Los Angeles in 1941.
As for must-reads, Marian Engel is a straight-up boss. Bear’s gotten a lot of play in the last couple years, but she’s just generally awesome. I recently read One-Way Street, and it’s hilarious and thought-provoking and great. For contemporaries, I’d have to go Pasha Malla as a writer who I’ll read anytime new work is available, and Jeremy Hanson-Finger as a writer whose book is coming out imminently (Death and the Intern launching any minute now).
SH: I tend to read a few books at once, but if I had to say one book is breaking ahead of the pack, it’s a memoir called In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country by Etel Adnan. She’s a 92-year-old poet and painter from Lebanon (apologies CanLit, I got waylaid half-way around the world…).
But re: Canlit must-reads, I anticipate and am never disappointed by the words of Sasha Chapin, Kerry-Lee Powell, Ken Babstock, Gwen Benaway, Phoebe Wang, Karen Solie, Dionne Brand, Naben Ruthnum, Phil Hall, Ian Brown, Lisa Robertson, Aisha Sasha John, Owen Pallett (and dozens of other names—forgive my brevity, everyone).
You both have books forthcoming. What fuels you to get it all done (coffee, binge-watching Netflix, petting cute puppies)?
AB: I’m going to go with fun. I’ve never really bought into any of the “write every day,” “write 1,000 words or you’re a slacker”-type ethoi, so I write pretty much when I feel like it. Since I’m not any good at any of my other hobbies, I end up feeling like writing often enough to get things done.
Sadly my access to cute puppies is limited at the moment. There is a very great deal of coffee-guzzling and binge-watching Netflix involved, but by the time there’s flames in the air it’s like “what’s the fuel and what’s the fire anymore?” Y’know?
SH: Your guesses are so uncannily close! My top muses do include a beverage (light beer), a form of entertainment (music), and an animal (my rescue cat, Pearl).
What do you hope readers will get out of your section?
AB: The main thing I hope people get out of my section is a good time.
Just right this minute, I feel like a lot of toggling between abject terror and sadness and despair at the state of things via the news and straight-up disengage, zone out and scrolling through vast oceans of adorable dog pics is going on (I might be projecting that out onto others, but I’m sure doing it). And, in its best state, I think fiction can offer a super valuable middle-ground of thoughtful, mentally engaging enjoyment, a chance to both escape from and immerse oneself in the complexities of the world in enjoyable and personally rewarding way.
SH: Reality and escape, and every place in-between.