On Community: 5 Questions with Award-Winning Writer Casey Plett

Casey Plett is the award-winning author of A Dream of a Woman, Little Fish, and A Safe Girl to Love, as well as the co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender WritersShe has won the Amazon First Novel Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and the Lambda Literary award twice. Her 2021 short story collection A Dream of a Woman was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and Plett then served on the Giller Prize jury in 2022. Plett grew up in Morden, Manitoba and currently splits her time between New York City and Windsor, Ontario. On Community, her first work of nonfiction, is available soon. 

Questions by Andrew Unger

1) Since you last chatted with Mennotoba in 2018, your career has really skyrocketed, with more award-winning books and heading up the Giller jury last year. Has this success and increased fame changed you in any way? 

I dunno, ask my old friends how much of a jerk I am now. 😀 In all seriousness, I don’t think so? But by definition it’s probably a hard thing to self-measure.

2) Your first book A Safe Girl to Love was reissued this year. How did it feel to go back and look at your writing from 10 years ago?

It was eerily cool. I was dreading it, but then when I re-read it I was like “Hey, that’s a good sentence! Who wrote this?” lol. Definitely there’s a bunch of stuff in there I would write differently now, but that’s just part of going on with a writing life, and also part of aging in general. Sometimes you encounter an old thing that’s so intensely part of an older self, and you viscerally get brought back to it and you’re like “Crap, I remember that person.” It’s a little melancholy, for sure, but not bad.

3) I believe that your latest book, On Community, is your first published volume of nonfiction. Is your approach and methodology different for nonfiction compared to the fiction you usually write?

Completely. Nonfiction is more difficult, though fiction’s scarier. Nonfiction feels a lot more artisan-like to me, like I’m carefully and painstakingly putting something together in a workshop. Fiction feels like I’m wrestling a monster in an attic in the dark but the monster is also my best friend. That’s on the conceptual, anyway. On a craft sentence level, a lot’s the same.

4) Despite technology that supposedly connects us, sometimes it feels we live in a very divided and divisive time. Why was writing about community important to you right now? 

I started it in the summer of ’21, when we’d just gone through lockdown and most people were newly vaccinated. Community was on my mind for all the reasons you might imagine. The possibilities and limits of technology did also feel very raw and relevant to me in that moment.

5) Have you given any more thought to the proposed cross-Manitoba book tour of all the Chicken Chefs? Casey Plett and Andrew Unger: Live at Chicken Chef. It has a nice ring to it. 

Bring some rye whiskey to sneak into the Pepsi cup and I’ll be there, Unger!!!

Join Casey at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg on Saturday, October 7, 2023 (7 pm) as she chats about her books A Safe Girl to Love and On Community with host Jonathan Dyck.

(author photo by Hobbes Ginsberg)