For Broken Pencil’s new Fiction Editor, good writing requires lots of living:
living on the margins, living despite everything, living with curiosity, and, don’t forget, living for yourself.
Big news! Broken Pencil is delighted to announce a new addition to our team, our new Fiction Editor, Victoria Hetherington. Hetherington joined our team as an Associate Fiction Editor last year, and began as the new Fiction Editor in September. Of course, that does mean we have had to bid a grateful goodbye to previous Fiction Editor Sofia Mostaghimi, who leaves the role after three years to focus on writing her next novel (we can’t wait!). All things must change, and we’re confident that Hetherington will step up to the challenges ahead. She recently spoke to us about her novel Mooncalves, the state of fiction in Canada, and her big plans for BP.
How do you see the Canadian fiction landscape today? Where are we going?
I recently sold a book with a midsize Canadian press, and I am so impressed by how diverse the team is and how committed they are to that diversity. It’s way overdue. I feel like there’s finally this movement towards highlighting Indigenous voices, LGBTQ+ voices, people who tell stories about disability and sex work, and other marginalized communities. I want to take part in bringing quality stories like these into the forefront.
The higher you go in publishing, the more adverse they are to taking risks. That’s bullshit, and the only way to combat that is by providing meaningful platforms for people as best we can. It’s another reason why I’m excited to be involved at the editorial level of Broken Pencil.
What are your plans for the fiction section? What can readers expect?
Having been involved with Broken Pencil on and off for about a decade, I have a really strong sense of what feels, to quote Hal, Broken Pencil-y. I also want to push some boundaries and get some fresh voices in there, and I think that we’re in a place where we can offer a publication opportunity for brand new voices.
What do you think draws people to Broken Pencil?
Back when it was founded in 1995, it was very subversive. Those values and convictions carry on today. It’s been so cool to read unfettered, independent voices and to promote zine culture. Mainstream publishing is so prohibitive and favours a certain kind of old guard. But DIY represents a space for queer and diverse voices. Zine culture is still so important as an alternative.
The characters in Mooncalves are messy, sometimes unlikeable — why?
I saw it as a dark work stained with the dark time during which I wrote it. We produce from within ourselves, we don’t produce from anywhere else. At the time, I was really influenced by authors like Ottessa Moshfegh who wrote Eileen. I was interested in women authors who were writing women characters who were gross, weird, complicated, and unsavoury. Kind of like womanchildren, the way that it was so compelling for audiences to see manchildren goof off on TV for decades. So I thought, why not do that with Erica?
How did you inhabit the dark and intense world you were building as you were writing?
I would start the day off and read because if you’re not reading, you’re not really writing. You can always tell when an author hasn’t read very much.
There’s a bunch of nonfiction books about cults that I was really drawn to. I would start my day by diving into these horrifying books. Paradoxically, I had a real separation between the horrible stuff that I was writing and the person that my family and friends knew, “I was pretty bubbly and whatever and yaya! My mindset was bifurcated from my day-to-day life, which is a blessing.”
Any tips for aspiring writers submitting to fiction sections?
Pick something short and punchy that starts late, ends early. Give us a story that tells something really honest, something that matters to you, that you really feel. We can tell if you’re bored. We’ll be bored. Finally, it’s important to figure out what it is that you have to say early on. That requires a lot of living. You can be a competent writer, but if you don’t have anything interesting to say, then you’re just going to be writing about a writer sitting at a typewriter who has nothing to say.
Victoria Hetherington’s writing has appeared in The Puritan, This Recording, Hazlitt, and Taddle Creek. Her debut novel, Mooncalves (Now or Never Publishing), was nominated for the 2020 Amazon Canada First Novel Awards. Find out more at vhetherington.com