By Colleen Penton
For this project, I had the chance to interview Breanna Massey, who is a writer living in Calgary while working on various writing projects. She is a graduate of Mount Royal University with a degree in English and was part of an interesting program during her studies in which she lived in a seniors residence for 15 months while teaching literature classes to the seniors there. She currently writes poetry and is completing a novel for middle school-aged children, while also hoping to finish her thesis for her masters soon. Here is part of our conversation below:
C: How did you get into writing? What made you decide to pursue a degree in writing?
B: I have had a love of reading for my whole life and read voraciously before ever considering writing. My degree is in English Lit and I did not initially intend on going as deeply into writing as I did. I went into the degree with teaching in mind and found that the writing classes were becoming the highlight of my degree. I started writing stories probably around the 8th grade and have gotten significantly more invested in writing in the last three years of my degree in terms of both poetry and fiction.
C: What has been the most challenging experience in your writing career so far?
B: I think the biggest challenge thus far has been carving out time for writing in my life. The reality for a lot of artists is that we still need a livable income and need to work day jobs in order to support ourselves. At any given time in the last couple of years, I have been working at 2-3 jobs in order to support myself while going to school and writing. Because of this, finding the time to write has been a significant barrier to creating/editing work.
In terms of a most difficult project, I worked on the first number of chapters in a project for my university thesis. In terms of emotional labour and research, I found that that project was significantly more difficult than a project with a lighter tone or for a less academic audience.
C: When researching, I discovered that you were part of a program in university that involved a residency in a home for older adults. How has that program shaped you as a writer?
B: That program was really great in terms of the experience it afforded me. In one aspect, the level of emotional learning that I got over the 15 months was something that I don’t think I would have been able to otherwise achieve. Spending quality time and conversing with the residents encouraged a lot of discussion/contemplation that I think has been reflected in some of my more recent writing. It was also great in terms of returning to the basics. I taught some literature classes to the residents while I was there, and it was a really neat experience in terms of both returning to the basics of understanding and analyzing story as well as looking at various works of literature through the lens of a different age.
Breanna brings a different perspective to her writing because she spent so much time as a student working in a more emotionally vulnerable situation that most do during their studies. Working with the residents she did gives her an edge to her work that you won’t find elsewhere. Reading her short poetry was enjoyable for me because you feel very connected to the writer because she has this ability to form a connection through her work, which will bring readers back for more.