Sally Cooper, author
Sally Cooper is the author of the novels Tell Everything and Love Object. She writes short fiction, too, and has a new story in the current issue of Great Lakes Review. She generously shares with LFF about working hard to become a writer; her evolving writing process; what she’s working on now; the thriving literary community in Ontario; feminism and more…
Where are you from?
A town of 400 people in the Caledon Hills of Ontario, Canada, an hour north of Toronto. These days, I make my home in the city of Hamilton, Ontario, known for its waterfalls and steel factories.
How did you get into art?
I’ve written poetry since grade school and always wanted to write/be a writer. I’ve learned that if I don’t structure my life around time to write that my wellbeing suffered. I took Creative Writing courses, went to readings, chatted up the writer-in-residence at the local library, joined a writing group, read at open mic nights and wrote and wrote and wrote. So, writing was always there, I always did it, but I also dreamed it and wanted it and worked hard at it.
Tell me about your inspirations/process.
My process has evolved over the years. Ideas come to me in different forms: a character; a place; a question; a voice. I used to immerse myself in the writing as soon as the idea came, if not before. With my current project, a novel, I wrote a plan. I also gave myself challenges or restrictions that push me outside what I’m good at, push me into unknown territory. For instance, in my recent work I’m using multiple voices where in the past I’ve told stories from one point of view. Walking the tension between what’s out of my reach and what’s known invigorates the work.
Tell me about your current project and why it’s important to you.
I’m working on two. One is a novel I’ve been writing for years. The other is a novel-in-stories called Ripple. The stories in Ripple span thirty years in the characters’ lives and it feels like I’ve been writing them just as long. Not really (though “Canicular Days” was one of the first I ever published.) Another story, “The Renewal of Foggia,” appears in the current issue of The Great Lakes Review. What I loved about writing this story was the challenge and tension of using a wisecracking voice to tell a story full of longing and sadness and power. It’s a story about pranks and jokes and fooling ourselves. It’s the kind of story I like to read, so I’m happy it’s found a home.
Do you think your city is a good place for women in art?
I can only speak peripherally about other art forms, but my city does have a thriving literary community, equally embracing and supportive and men and women. We have a reading series; a literary festival; independent bookstores and arts awards.
Are you tenacious in your work or life? How so?
Absolutely. I’m raising two daughters while working as a professor and writing novels. I am ferocious about my writing time – even if it’s four hours a week, as it has been – I’m there at the table getting the words down. I’m equally ferocious about my children and my time with them and the rhythm and regularity of that. I am slow and steady, a drop at a time, but writing happens and I do finish things.
Does feminism play a role in your work?
I had to think about this question. Themes don’t reveal themselves to me until I’m well into a project if not finished it. My second novel, Tell Everything, explores the treatment female predators receive in the media, in the courtroom and even in our private assessments of them. Consent, privacy, victimhood, truth-telling: these themes all come into play. In Tell Everything, as well as my stories, my characters have varying levels of awareness of how being female affects their choices and lots in life. Throughout my work is an abiding sense of the integrity and necessity of having a voice and using it.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Do whatever you have to do to make it work for you. There is no one path to making art. Make the time and the space in your life then make the art. There is no secret beyond that. And the more you do it, the longer you do it for, the better, the deeper, the more connected the work will get. And if sometimes you don’t do it, that’s okay, too. The return will be sweeter for the absence.
Sally Cooper is a bold, powerful writer who lays bare the human heart. The author of acclaimed novels Love Object and Tell Everything, Sally Cooper has published short stories in several magazines such as Grain, Event and Great Lakes Review. A long-time professor at Humber College, Sally Cooper happily devotes her time to writing and raising her two children.
Les Femmes Folles is a completely volunteer run organization founded in 2011 with the mission to support and promote women in all forms, styles and levels of art with the online journal, anthologies, books, exhibitions and events; originally inspired by artist Wanda Ewing and her curated exhibit by the name Les Femmes Folles (Wild Women). LFF was created and is curated by Sally Deskins. LFF Books is a micro-feminist press that publishes 1-2 books per year by the creators of Les Femmes Folles including Intimates & Fools (Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2014). Other titles include Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2011, 2012 and 2013, available on blurb.com, including art, poetry and interview excerpts from women artists. A portion of the proceeds from LFF books and products benefit the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Wanda Ewing Scholarship Fund.