WIPs Conversation: Carole Glasser Langille on Her Work in Progress

Carol Glasser Langille

Carole Glasser Langille lives in Nova Scotia and teaches poetry in the creative writing program at Dalhousie University. She is the author of four books of poetry and a collection of short stories, as well as two children’s picture books. Her book Church of the Exquisite Panic: The Ophelia Poems, published in 2012, was recently nominated for The Atlantic Poetry Prize. Carole has also been nominated for The Governor General Award and one of her children’s books was selected for “Our Choice Award” from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Several of her poems can be found at Canadian Poetry Online.

Carole, “Red” begins with a gripping opening line, and then reveals Rhiannon as a woman stricken by grief and confusion after the death or her fiancé. Does her apparent obliviousness to his drug problem indicate another character trait? Like Jill finally asked: how could she not have known?

Thanks for your question. In this story Rhiannon does seem to be a woman who is self involved and unaware. Several characters in this collection aren’t clued in to the world around them, hence the title of the collection, “You’re Stunned, Girl.” But I have sympathy for Rhiannon as well. Hard as we try, everyone has times in their lives when they’re stunned.

Rhiannon’s relationship with Ross seems both destined and doomed at once, the memory of Jill in part bringing them together but also looming over them like a raincloud. Is theirs one of a number of relationships explored in your manuscript collection?

Yes, several relationships are explored in this collection. In my first collection of short stories, When I Always Wanted Something, the summary reads: these are “stories about our blind spots, and how, despite them, we try again and again to connect with each other.” This too is about how inscrutable love and connection are. I find relationships the great mystery.

You have at least a dozen stories in your manuscript, which you’ve described as “connected” stories. In what way are they connected? Do any of the characters in “Red” make appearances elsewhere in the collection?

Rhiannon does not appear again, but Emma does and so does Rhiannon’s mother. In this collection of connected stories, characters that are peripheral in one story, are central in another.

In addition to short stories, you’ve published works of poetry. The story here, in fact, quotes from the poets Rilke and Tsvetaeva, while providing brief biographical info on each. As a writer, do you find yourself having a preference for any particular form?

I have written poetry for most of my life. I have great admiration for poets and would be grateful to write one or two poems that impact a reader the way I have been impacted by poems I love. I only started writing short stories about ten years ago. I learn so much from writing and reading short stories. I love Alice Munro as much as I love some of the great poets. There is always one sentence in each of her stories which unlocks something mysterious or obscure. When I read it I think, “Yes, that’s exactly the way it is.” As in poems, a great short story will show us what we didn’t know we knew.

At what stage do you consider your manuscript? Are you shopping it, polishing it, or still in the compiling process?

I am polishing the manuscript. Soon I shall send it out. HELP!

Thanks, Carole. Is there anything else you’d like to share or explain to readers?

I think short stories are similar to poems in that they pare experience to its essence and, hopefully, remove the extraneous. John Irving said, “When I choose my subject I ask if there is the anything about it that I am afraid to write, that is disturbing. When the answer is no, I think, why bother writing!” Unless the writer is surprised by what he or she has discovered through the short story or poem, no one will be surprised. That’s one of the gifts of writing. You think, “Why I am writing about his?” and then you have to figure out the answer.


Read “Red” from Carole Glasser Langille’s story collection in progress