A Cup of Coffee with Emma Williamson

Written by Emma Williamson and Rebecca Rijsdijk

I’m a poet and fiction writer (she/her) living in Toronto, Canada, with my husband and son. Through my work I strive to encourage readers to reflect, feel, and recognize our shared humanity and capacity for redemption and evolution.

What are you currently reading?

Too many books (I have a problem!). Right now, I’m reading a lot of fiction in particular. On my nightstand: The Beguiling by ZsuZsi Gartner, Greenwood by Michael Christie, Daddy by Emma Cline, the fall 2020 issue of The Paris Review, and Such Small Hands by Andres Barba (translated by Lisa Dillman).

What are you working on next/what was your last project?

I recently finished my first book of poetry, which I am thrilled to know will be published by Sunday Mornings at the River in 2021! I’m in the process of revising my first novel (a work of psychological noir about a reclusive horror novelist), and I’m also working on a number of short stories. Finally, together with a journalist friend of mine, I’m editing and contributing to a feminist anthology of essays about women’s personal experiences with perinatal and
post-partum mental health issues.

What are some common themes you see in your own work?

Identity, authenticity, how we give away our power to others. The search for self, the darkness hiding in daily life, the little power struggles in relationships. Our shadow selves and our ability to evolve past our limitations. Obsession and being blinded by emotions. The struggle to trust intuition, the stories that we tell ourselves.

How do you beat writer's block?

I give myself permission to write poorly. I didn’t make that sentence up – I forget where I read it and I wish I could credit the person who came up with it. But that’s the single most powerful thing we can do to get started and break past that fear and panic.

Do you feel that sharing your poetry is a vulnerable process?

Absolutely. Once you put your words out there, they don’t belong to you any more – people interpret pieces so differently, sometimes reading into my work in a way that I never intended. Even if a poem isn’t completely personal, people think it is – and that always leads to interesting, and sometimes unsettling, feedback. I’ve had to convince some of my loved ones that my work truly isn’t about them!

Do family and "real life" friends read your work?

Yes! And it’s terrifying - way scarier than when my virtual friends and followers read it. I think it’s because people in my “real life” know me to be a certain way, or at least have pre-conceived ideas about whom they think I am. And then reading my work gives them a deeper, perhaps surprising insight into what I really think or feel. That can be jarring for both of us!

What is your writing process like?

I sit at my desk nearly every single day and I work. If I put the work in, the inspiration comes. My commitment to writing every day truly brings results. I try to stay organized and plan loosely, but I give myself room for creative impulse as well. There’s a lot of course correction, a lot of going over and over something until it works, a lot of letting go of what I thought the outcome would be and accepting what is. Ultimately, I get to a point where a piece is finished, and I send it off into the universe and try to forget about it.

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