Meet Our (National) Members: Paul Coccia

Paul Coccia has an English Specialist BA from U of T and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. He is a great cook, although he prefers to bake. His favourite thing to make is holiday cookies, cakes and cupcakes. Paul lives in Toronto, Ontario, and can most times be found in the kitchen with his family, three dogs and a little grey parrot.

Describe your workspace.

I don’t have a set writing space currently; I’ve been shifted around the house so much. I do miss my old desk and desktop but I keep telling myself that the plus side is now I’m adaptable and can work anywhere. I try to work at the kitchen table when I can because I like the windows and light but sometimes end up on the couch, in a bedroom, or working at my brother’s or cousins’ places.

Describe a typical workday.

I’m a late night person. When everyone goes to bed at night and after I’ve got things done like making dinner or doing groceries, I usually have several hours to work and go until past midnight into the wee hours. I do find even if I’m not sitting and writing, I do think about my characters and stories a lot so I can get things done and settled in my mind before I sit down. I think daydreaming and thinking are underrated parts of the creative process.

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

I usually try to keep only functional items around me when I work. Part of why I shift around the house are our three dogs, Holly, Lacie and Ivy. The smallest, Ivy, tends to get agitated when I work at the kitchen table especially at night. She’ll come to find me wherever I am and whine in an attempt to get me to go where she wants me to be. The other two girls come and go as they please but will settle down wherever I am if they want to be near. While not things, there’s three of them.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

I don’t know if I have any rituals. I don’t really like clutter around where I write, so I’m likely to tidy a space to work in and put things like a pen, paper, notes, pencil and sharpener nearby.

What do you listen to while you work?

I can’t turn on anything to listen to when I work usually. I find music distracting unless I can get to a place where I tune it out but up until that point, I’ll focus on the music and not the writing. I usually have a song that reminds me of each project I’m writing, so I guess I assign a theme song to my writing. Cub’s theme song is “I Can Cook Too” from the musical “On The Town.”

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

No snacks but I will drink either water or coffee (or forget to drink it depending on how good the work is going.) I’m usually pro snacks.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

Because I love a Cosmo-style quiz, I’ve taken online tests and every time the results are I am a “plantser.” I suppose I can go either way. I love getting to know a character and seeing where they take me with only a general direction. Outlining can make the writing go along like a breeze and all the stuff published or to be published was outlined first.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I prefer not to share my workspace as I already do… a lot! If I absolutely had to share, I’d pick my younger brother because he is quiet when I work and plays on his phone and also seems to know intuitively when I need a break.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

In terms of the actually getting writing done, sit down and put words on the page is the best advice. Susan Juby also told me to learn to trust my instincts as a writer which is great advice because it assumes I have instincts! In terms of the business of publishing, Susan told me years ago to be friendly with everyone, because everyone knows everyone else. It’s so true! It’s also really easy to do and want to do with the Canadian KidLit community.

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

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