Carol Parchewsky—a “Book Engineer”
by Shu Yu
I had the pleasure of interviewing Carol Parchewsky, a Canadian writer who has also received her Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan, and postgraduate certificates in Professional Management, e-learning, and creative writing at the University of Calgary. She currently focuses on adult and children’s fiction, non-fiction, poetry, the middle-grade novel, and picture books. The reason why I was interested in Carol is that, in my mind, there is a difference between being an engineer and a writer, due to professional education and linguistic background. For engineers, they use so much technical vocabulary, and they typically do research about numbers, statistics, or big machines; however, writers need to have a careful and focused consciousness, and the language they use tends to be less formal, especially when writing for children. Therefore, I was curious about how she made the tremendous change from an engineer to a writer. Since I considered that Carol is very busy as the vice president of the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, I summarized three questions that I was most curious about.
I heard that you have received the Bachelor of Science, Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan, so why did you finally decide to write books, since there are numerous differences between a writer and an engineer? What inspired you to be a writer?
In the email reply, she stated: “Stories are part of our lives regardless of profession. I have always created stories, fiction, and non-fiction.” She can create many different kinds of books which involve various fields, based on her knowledge: “The knowledge of science and mechanical engineering brings a different perspective to story ideas.” From Carol’s description in the email, I also know that her experiences in engineering are related to planning and problem-solving, which must be handled very carefully: “Problem prevention supported the outlining and plot development of my middle-grade novel.” She uses her professional knowledge in order to create her novels which I find impressive. In addition, she enjoys writing fiction for both adults and children; the first novel she wrote was a trilogy.
When you are not very famous—when you start a new thing, like writing a novel, what do you do to get over that period of time? Are there times you feel low and depressed?
“Starting something new is really challenging,” she said, “becoming involved in the writing community, and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, has been important to my development as a writer and navigating the steps to publication.” Carol has her own thoughts on writing, which developed as she realized her dream, step by step. From her Twitter account, she is always posting information about the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, as well as other positive things like programs that promote reading for adults and children. “Building a support network of creative people is helpful to understand the steps involved and to manage the feelings that occur in the process.”
I know that you have written a lot of books, like picture books, adult fiction, non-fiction, etc. Which book do you think has a character that is very close to you? Or which character(s) are most similar to you? Does that character (or characters) contain some special meaning for you in your life, or a kind of the expectation of your future life?
Carol replies: “I’ve had fun developing the characters in my stories. I am not sure which character would be close to me. They are all different from me with different experiences.” Besides, Carol thinks the fun part of writing is exploring situations and characters and seeing what transpires. Sometimes it goes as planned, and other times it is completely unexpected. It is true that a writers’ mind always changes, and inspiration comes from everywhere; therefore, the personality of each character will be completely different.
One thing Carol said during this interview really spoke to me: “Stories are part of our lives regardless of the profession.” Her words overshadow my thoughts. No matter what professional field you work, which country you come from, or which language you speak, anyone could write a story. Sometimes the story will be more interesting because it comes from a different country with a different culture, just like how Carol’s engineering background gives her different ideas than others. Hopefully, Carol will one day write a book that describes her own life experiences, full of all these little details so that more and more people will know her story and be inspired. One day she will be a professional “Book Engineer.”