I’m pleased to introduce you to Canadian freelance arts journalist, artist and performance poet DAVID BATEMAN, who currently resides in Toronto, Canada. David has published several books of poetry and contributes literary reviews in several leading national and local newspapers & magazines. He has also taught creative writing and literature at post-secondary institutions across Canada. He has recently published his debut novel DR. SAD, and although Covid quarantining and stay-at-home directives have forced him to cancel live readings and book signings at bookstores and coffee houses around Toronto, David is utilizing the internet and social media to reach his fans and attract new readers (and book sales!).Story synopsis: Discover the difference between living a life and simply enduring on in this cross-campus, cross-country comedy of manners, queerness, poetry and HIV.
Bateman has crafted a brilliant novel featuring a main character, Stephen, who is a middle-aged teacher who is also gay. He’s content, except when he isn’t. He’s a poet. He has a new teaching job in Kamloops, British Columbia……Stephen has HIV. DR. SAD is the story of one man’s journey across Canada and through his diagnosis. It is the story of the distance between queer urban spaces and a small campus in small-town BC. It’s the story of discovering the self within the world and the world within the self, of discovering the difference between living a life and simply enduring one. This is a tragicomic cross-campus, cross-country romp that believes in the power of romance. Weaving together narratives of past and present, of Toronto’s Gay Village and the streets of Kamloops, this lively and dynamic semi-autobiographical novel dives deeply into gender and queerness, class and privilege, and the realities of aging. It is a dynamic and engaging hybrid, stylistically daring while remaining intimate and human. Leaping through time and mixing the playfully serious with the seriously playful, DR SAD blends poetry with prose and finds the humour in despair in one complete, glittering tragedy of triumph.I recently spoke with David, socially distanced, of course, and he shared his thoughts on the writing process and of life under Covid:
Congratulations on your first novel, David. What inspired you to share your small town/big city experiences in the semi-autobiographical DR. SAD? The diagnosis that begins the novel motivated me to write the openings chapters. It was a very curious and startling way of receiving the news, and I thought it would work well as an introduction to a kind of tragicomic, semi-fictional narrative around survival and endurance under challenging circumstances. The diagnosis was revealed in the first chapter, in the fist draft of the manuscript. After a variety of editing suggestions from various editors, I decided that moving this to a slightly later chapter would work better.
Your career has included arts journalism, book editor, poet and performance artist – now you add novelist to your CV; compared with your other pursuits, how difficult was it to complete the book? It was much more difficult with a longer project to find the time to develop it. With arts journalism, poetry, editing, and performance, over the years there have always been deadlines in those areas, so that made it easier for me to focus on an end result. But with a novel there was no sense of a deadline so it just kept being put off. But I had always wanted to write a novel, and started a few but never got very far. I was writing poetry more at the time, in my thirties and forties, and had a publisher in Calgary who published four collections of mine over a ten-year period, and that was my main focus. A longer narrative project always seemed out of reach, never enough time to devote to a novel length project. Soon after I returned to Toronto, after living and teaching in Alberta and B.C. for close to ten years, I applied for a year long Fellowship and was delighted and surprised when I got it, so basically, the funding and the lengthy time period, one year, motivated me to sit down almost every day and work on a first draft of the novel. The application for the fellowship included the original first chapter for the manuscript.
Covid has obviously put a stop to live readings and bookstore meet-n-greets with your fans – what’s been the most difficult or inconvenient part of the lockdown/stay home situation for you as a writer? Actually, I have found that the pandemic has afforded me more time to write, and develop various projects. I have been very fortunate to be in a relatively safe and comfortable environment over the past year and have had a couple of small grants that have supported my creative work. It is disappointing, of course, not to be able to take part in live readings and events, but I have found zoom and various online platforms to be very satisfying and inspiring to be able to continue to take part in events with a variety of other artists across the country, and beyond. But the hardest part of this I think has been not being able to go out and exchange ideas and hear other writers present their work in community settings. That was a very inspiring and motivating part of my life as an artist, and a lot of that has disappeared during the lockdown/stay at home period. And yet, on the other hand, online platforms have extended some of my connections as an artist to people from parts of the world I might never have had the opportunity to connect with through readings, festivals, interviews etc.
So many people are utilizing the pandemic stay-home time writing their own books of short stories, poems or novels – what advice can you share with them? I try to have a routine, dividing my time between painting and writing. Deadlines give me a focus, and even if there isn’t a set deadline from a gallery or a press or an arts publication, I try to write down rough deadlines, and creative ideas, and follow them as much as possible – with a list of projects itemized by priority. Of course I often stray from those deadlines, but just having them there, written down and always present in a way, can keep me interested and motivated in continuing the creative process within each separate area – poetry, painting, editing, arts journalism, and longer prose and performance works. And searching online about various grant possibilities is also helpful. Even if I don’t get them, which I often don’t, it can be a great source of motivation to re-consider various projects in the context of a grant application. This helps me to develop the project in formal ways I might not consider outside of a grant application framework – when I am sitting around just thinking or jotting down lists around ideas for a number of projects. Applications often ask artists to describe various ideas in specific itemized ways. I find this very helpful as I move forward with any given creative idea.
Any other comments you’d like to share? I try to think of everything I do as part of the creative process. Sometimes it can feel a little silly, and enormously privileged to be able to just binge on Netflix, or any of the big movie and television channels available. But especially now, within this pandemic, watching a variety of narrative structures, flash across the screen, whether they be contained within a kind of documentary style or pseudo reality tv show about a painter, or something as mainstream as Ozark or The Queen’s Gambit, or a series like Flowers or Fleabag, well, it all acts as inspiration for ideas and images that contribute to the ideas and images racing through my head. This has always been the case, as we live in an image world, but now, confined more to our homes and workspaces, film and television, and some reading, can be a welcome and nurturing distraction.David has a number of interviews in May, including the popular HOWL! radio show on CIUT-FM 89.5 with host Valentino Assenza on Tues. May 4th (10pm to 11pm) and another scheduled for taping in mid-May with Mark Tara of Rainbow Country radio (for broadcast in July). Follow David on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/david.h.bateman
DR. SAD, Soft-cover, 310 pages
Price: $28.99 Cdn. (hardcover) or $15.94 (Kindle e-book)
University of Calgary Press (Dec.2020)
ISBN: 9781773 851037
Available from: Amazon.ca, Type Books & Glad Day bookstores in Toronto & Waterstones Books (UK)