Writers' Rooms: Billie Livingston

Billie Livingston

(c) Billie Livingston

I can’t be counted on to write in the same spot every day. Right now I am writing on a friend’s couch in Laguna Beach, California, for instance. She doesn’t mind. She’s in New York. At home in Vancouver I might be on the couch, or smooshed into a corner on the floor, stuffed with pillows. It is unlikely that I’d be at my dining table/desk but I might hole up in bed. This picture shows the closest thing I have to an actual writing room. It’s at my sweetheart’s apartment in LA where I was two days ago and where I’ll be again tonight. Tim says this picture is a fat-arsed lie because I have shoved the chair much closer to the window than it normally is. The chair is normally situated across the room where I can look at the light streaming through those translucent floaty curtains. I’m okay with this sort of lie because I’m fiction writer and a poet and in my line of work, one often has to take elements that might not hang out together normally and shove them into close proximity. In doing that one is able to illustrate a notion, a situation, a state of being with more brevity.

What I need most are quiet, light and comfort. But I will briefly give up the two latter elements if I can have a little of the first. In my old apartment, I lost my quiet for six months when the clods across the street knocked down their house and began rebuilding. I have never imagined a more gruesome revenge scenario involving a nail gun and a jackhammer before or since. I went on daily hunts for quiet. This was when I found out what big blabbermouths people have become in Vancouver public libraries. I tried cafés but I don’t like yappy music when I write. I tried churches only to discover that most of the time, every church in the neighbourhood kept its doors locked. Few things feel quite as soul-slapping as a locked church door. In the end I wrote a story where the protagonist was besieged by the noise of construction workers only to be assaulted by a lone gunman at the library. This is when I discovered that in one way or another I can’t help but shove chairs into places that they do not normally reside.


Billie is the author of two novels: Cease to Blush and Going Down Swinging (both Random House Canada). Her poetry book, The Chick at the Back of the Church was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a Canadian woman. Livingston’s shorter work has won numerous awards and appeared in newspapers, magazines, textbooks, and city buses. Visit Billie's website.