By Elizabeth Obermeyer

It has been a little longer than we’d hoped between writing contest judge introductions – those darn holidays, messing up all our plans – but we are back, and extremely pleased to present the second of our three contest judges, Hamilton’s very own John Terpstra.

John has published several books of poetry and nonfiction, and has been a longtime supporter and friend of gritLIT festival, and we are so grateful that he has taken the time to participate in our 5 Questions With series.

You can read more about John on his website http://johnterpstra.com/, and of course keep reading for John’s five answers here!

1. You’re a writer who moves between poetry and nonfiction. How difficult – or not – is it to switch gears between the two? And, does your nonfiction ever stray into poetry or vice versa? 

Some of my poetry has found its way into my non-fiction, especially early on, in Falling into Place, and there are some readers/listeners who have told me that when they attend my readings they cannot tell the difference between the prose and the poetry, so maybe it’s only a matter of line-breaks. I hope not.

One difference for me, from the writing side of things, is that the non-fiction is requires a lot of time, and that you stay on a schedule or it will never get finished.

Poetry is without schedule. It is outside of time. So there.

2. You write a lot about places and locations and you have a real eye for the details of your surroundings, whether it’s a forest, a city, a building. Have you always been a keen observer of detail, or is that something that has come out of your writing?

The writing itself is what makes me an observer, I think. For some unknown reason something will call attention to itself and I have to begin pursuing it. Then I get kind of obsessive, and the details start emerging, and i love them. In normal, everyday life, I get easily distracted.

3. You’ve been involved with gritLIT since the very first festival – I think that was determined at an event back in the fall! What is your impression as to how the festival has grown and evolved since the early years?

It’s still evolving, isn’t it? It’s always cast a wide net when hauling-in the authors, and has also been pretty sensitive to the feelings of local authors who may or may not get invited to read. I like that it is a Writers and Readers Festival.

4. As someone who writes both poetry and prose, what advice would you give to writers entering the gritLIT contest who might be new to the creative nonfiction or memoir genre?

My advice would be don’t be afraid, you have nothing to lose, write whatever is right in front of you to write. 
5. Finally, can you give us a glimpse into what’s next for you, creatively?

My latest project, which is supposed to be handed in to the publisher by the end of this month (!), concerns a captured creek that no one knows about that runs through the city of Hamilton. It’s called Daylighting Chedoke and Wolsak and Wynn (ever heard to them?)(just kidding) is publishing it for next fall 2018.


Many thanks to John for answering our questions candidly and with his signature sense of humour, too!

Our memoir and creative nonfiction contest is now closed, but we still have one more judge to reveal to you, so please stay tuned for our next 5 Questions With, coming soon!

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