August 12, 2015
Kathleen McConnell, aka Kathy Mac, is an award-winning poet and a professor of English at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick. Her essay collection Pain, Porn and Complicity: Women Heroes from Pygmalion to Twilight came out in December 2012.
Here, she writes about the firsts that helped to shape her both personally and professionally.
1. What is the first book you remember reading or having read to you?
Saturday mornings, Mom took us to the public library. For months I resisted leaving the picture book section; finally, one week I stayed home and she came back with only a book called “Baby Island” which had more words than pictures. I was furious. But it was there, so eventually I started reading it – two little girls and four babies stranded on an island until they were rescued. The librarian told Mom it would take me all week to read. I finished it in one sitting.
2. What was the first thing you ever wrote (creatively)?
I always scribbled but the first creative writing that’s lodged in my mind was a grade five assignment to write a poem about the sky. I wrote about the sun and the moon marrying: the last line was “and the stars are the diamonds he will give to her.” (Gaak). I remember it because Mr. Wilson pointed out to the class that the marriage was a metaphor. I had no idea that I’d done a metaphor. I didn’t even know what a metaphor was.
3. When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?
Though I always wrote, I always drew too, and I initially trained to be a visual artist; I have a degree in Fine Arts. However, in my early 20s, I just couldn’t figure out the business side of visual art – how to get gallery representation, how to afford a studio, how to get grants. Writing seemed so much simpler – you write a poem, workshop it, send it out, and every now and then you get published. Neither field was at all practical, but the writing world seemed to be more about the work and less about the gallery owner.
4. When did you first feel like a writer?
When did I not?
5. What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Take care of my teeth. Those poor discoloured bits of exposed bone.
6. What was your first job?
Strawberry picking with my friends Kathy Skeldon and Catherine Jenkins. (Variations on the name “Kathy” were big in my birth year.)
7. Tell us about the first time you got in trouble: what did you do, who were you with, how’d you get caught, and what was the punishment?
I was a Goodie-Two-Shoes (unlike my older brothers -- that’s a whole ’nother set of stories), but in grade seven, my friend Sharolyn and I got kicked out of the Glee Club. She said it was because we were giggling and talking too much; I said it was because she was singing off-key (she’s a tad tone deaf. Mr Olmstead probably thought she was doing it on purpose). Probably it was an intolerable combination of the two.
8. What was your first alcoholic beverage? (No need to tell us how old you were at the time!)
Vodka. Upon taking my very first sip, I could feel every cell in my body scream “POISON! You’re feeding yourself POISON!!!”, accompanied by mental klaxons.
9. What was your first major illness or injury? How old were you, what happened, and how did you recuperate?
I was six. Mom was driving us home from town and I was fussing. She turned to tell me we’d be there in five minutes when someone sideswiped our car. Shoulder seat belts were not standard equipment then, so I bashed my head on the dashboard, which damaged the nerves that direct the muscles that pull around my right eye, which is why, despite six weeks in hospital and two operations, I’m still partially cross-eyed on that side.
10. Where did you go on your first date?
Date? What’s that?
11. What was your first car?
The first car that I drove was the family’s Vega. We called it, not surprisingly, the Vegamatic. (Remember K-tel products? “It slices; it dices; it juliennes!!!"). It was a great drive. It was also the car that my mother killed herself in when I was sixteen. Carbon monoxide poisoning.
12. When was the first time you felt like an adult?