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March 2012: Greg Hollingshead

Photo by Kim Griffiths

Greg Hollingshead, president of TWUC

Our featured member this month is Greg Hollingshead, writer professor Emeritus and president of the Writers Union of Canada (TWUC). Greg has published more than five dozen stories and essays in magazines and anthologies in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. His book The Roaring Girl (Somerville House) won the 1995 Governor General’s Award for Fiction.

Writer or professor?

cover of Bedlam by Greg HollingsheadI was a professor for 30 years, but now I’m retired. From about Year 20 of my teaching career, I was mainly teaching creative writing. I have always defined myself as a writer first, but teaching literature can go with that just as well as teaching creative writing can. My academic field was eighteenth-century British literature. It was a pleasure to bring my interests together in Bedlam, a novel set in the London asylum by that name, around 1800. I could almost hear the voices, because I had read enough on the eighteenth century.

On being involved with TWUC

Thirty years this year, I think it is, I have been a member of TWUC. For me the Union provides what most of our members value most: a sense of community and a voice for advocacy. More personally, I was a friend of Matt Cohen’s in the days when he was part of the fight for the Public Lending Right (PLR), which has continued to be a wonderful program for writers. I think of my service as chair this year as in memory of Matt.

Important issues at TWUC – Is there a life after bill C11?

Canadian books in the schools is a big one. Otherwise what is now dominating our members’ attention is digitization and all its implications, including royalty rates for ebooks and the growth of self-publishing.

In September we launched A Writers’ Bill of Rights for the Digital Age, in which we attempt to stake out some claims concerning what a writer should expect of publishers, agents, and libraries in these shifting times.

On the importance of the CCA

It has been tremendously enlightening to hear voices from other arts organizations–particularly those from Quebec. I find French-Canadian arts sector people very sympathetic, and I appreciate the remarkably sane way they often go about things. The 75-page document of proposed copyright amendments, signed by 68 arts groups (English and French) and disseminated under the aegis of the CCA, has been a milestone of cooperation and good will.

“Solidarity” is what our members most consistently seek in us, and that is what we find in the CCA.

World Poetry Day – And your favorite poet is…

I love the work of Don McKay and Anne Carson for such completely different reasons that I couldn’t say one or the other. Don has a relatively new poem about ferries I don’t remember the title. I heard him read it. It’s a very fine, moving piece, about death, really. I love Anne Carson’s poem “Good Dog.”

Greg Hollingshead by Rosa Spricer

Photo by Rosa Spricer