Meet Our Members: Paula Jane Remlinger

Paula Jane Remlinger is currently the President of CANSCAIP Sask. She has been involved in children’s writing for about 20 years, and has written several (unpublished) picture books, poetry, and would like to explore more young adult writing. Her first book of poetry, This Hole Called January, was published in May 2019 by Thistledown Press. “I’m so pleased to be part of the CANSCAIP community here in Saskatchewan!”

Describe your workspace.
I tend to move from place to place in my house with my laptop.  Often I’ll sit at the kitchen table so I can see outside, watch the birds and squirrels in those moments when nothing seems to be coming.  I used to have a writing desk, but I found I rarely used it, so now I’m a free-range writer.

Describe a typical workday.
At this point in my life, there’s no such thing.  I’m working half-time for the Sask. Human Rights Commission, and on those days I don’t write. I published my first book (poetry) in the spring, and since then, I’ve been having a hard time getting back to regular writing practice. I’ve always tended to be a binge writer–I write a lot when the spirit moves me, and not always on a day-to-day basis. But I’m trying to do ten minutes a day to get back into the rhythm of regular writing practice.

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
Tough question since I’m a collector of small things that speak to me. 

  1. A stone with a labyrinth symbol on it that reminds me writing is a journey, and even when I feel lost, it’s important to keep moving forward. 
  2. A Snoopy plaque that says, “I’m a great admirer of my own work.”  It helps to remind me not to take myself too seriously. 
  3. Letter-writing materials. Sometimes if I’m stuck, I write a letter and tell one of my friends the problem I’m having with whatever I’m writing. It’s surprising how many times I’m able to sort out the problem by “talking it through” with someone on paper, and then I can go back to writing, plus I have a letter to send.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?
Often I’ll start by writing a letter or even a postcard to a friend just to get into writing.  (Yes, I often write poetry by hand still, but it works just to get my brain in a creative space.)

What do you listen to while you work?
I’m not someone who can work with a lot of distractions, so I prefer silence. If I listen to music, which is rarely, it would be classical or in a language I don’t understand. Words distract me.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
Earl Grey.  Hot.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
I’m often struck by an image or an idea, and then I need to let it lead me in the right direction. I find myself asking questions on paper … why would that happen?  what does that person want? — so I make notes of the ideas I have, as well as letting the writing itself develop organically.  I have an idea of where I’m going, but not always how to get there.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
My husband Trent would actually be a good choice because he’s very respectful of my writing time and he’s also willing to answer my questions or read things over and provide an opinion when asked. (He’ll also tell me the writing is fabulous and to keep going if I just need encouragement.)  Chai, the cat, is also welcome.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
Poet Karen Solie once told me, “Mobilize your oddity,” which I took to mean, I should allow myself to be quirky.  Write about the things I’m interested in, not just things I think I should be interested in. Let my unique point of view shine through. That’s really what finding your voice is all about – being authentic in your work. Writing about what matters to you.  I’ve realized that humour finds its way into almost all my work, and I need to be open to that and not stifle it.

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

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