Bev Brenna’s background as a classroom teacher and special education consultant has inspired various portrayals of characters with special needs, and her writing often explores issues and topics from socio-political viewpoints. Bev’s most recent intermediate novel is Fox Magic, a story about hope and transformation for twelve-year-old Chance Devlin after her two friends have taken their lives. Bev’s most recent young adult novel is The White Bicycle (Red Deer Press/Fitzhenry & Whiteside), a continuation of the fictional story of eighteen-year-old Taylor Jane Simon, a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. This trilogy was begun in Wild Orchid and extended in Waiting for No One. The White Bicycle was a Printz Honour Book from the American Library Association and shortlisted for a 2013 Governor General’s Award, and Wild Orchid is listed on CBC’s 100 Young Adult Novels That Make You Proud To Be Canadian. Bev is now a professor in Curriculum Studies at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan, and her research interests include literacy and children’s literature. In addition to her new academic text Stories for Every Classroom (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2015), she has published eleven fiction books for young people. She has a passion for hiking and long distance cycling. For more information about Bev and her writing see: www.beverleybrenna.com.
Describe your workspace.
My workspace is often our dining room table. I like the ability to spread out photographs, artifacts, newspaper articles, and notes to myself, while trying to synthesize something on my laptop.
Describe a typical workday.
I have a gloriously rich teaching load at the university where I teach from 80 – 120 Education students each semester. They come first, and after I am finished meetings and planning for the next day, I switch gears to work on my usual goal of 5 good pages in whatever draft I’m working on creatively.
List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
Proximity to the fridge; ability to look into the backyard where the outside world is always a welcome relief from writing problems; a blanket. When I sit still I get cold pretty fast!
Do you have any rituals in your work habits?
Just reminding myself that my work is generally bad to start with. “It will get better. It always/usually/sometimes does. Keep going!”
Actual sounds in the environment, never anything digital or electronic. I have an obsessive brain and song lyrics or melodies stick with me and plug my thinking.
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
Cinnamon tea. Lentil soup. Celery. Gummy dinosaurs. When things are going really badly, chocolate chips.
How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
Most of my work is character driven and so I start with a character and then see what happens. Sometimes current events take hold, as in my newest novel Fox Magic, and make me think about writing to change the world.
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
My husband Dwayne. We were together at the Wellstone Centre Writing Residency in California, and when it rained we did share a writing space—a very small wooden kitchen table. He sat at one end and I sat at the other. It worked great! His work motivated mine, and then we’d take breaks and read aloud our newest stuff.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
Read. Read copiously the kinds of things you want to write, and the kinds of things that escape you. And write. Just keep writing.
Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.