Evelyn Lau is the Vancouver author of twelve books, including seven volumes of poetry. Her first book, Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, published when she was 18, was a Canadian bestseller and made into a CBC movie starring Sandra Oh.
Evelyn’s short stories, essays and novella have been translated into a dozen languages. Her poetry has received the Milton Acorn Award, the Pat Lowther Award, a National Magazine Award and nominations for the BC Book Prize and the Governor-General’s Award. From 2011-2014, Evelyn served as Vancouver’s Poet Laureate; she has also served as writer-in-residence at UBC, Kwantlen and Vancouver Community College, as well as Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Calgary. Evelyn’s most recent collection is Tumour (Oolichan, 2016).
INTERVIEW WITH EVELYN LAU
Q: You have a storied career as a writer and poet, with many publications to your name. How do you keep your writing and poetry new and fresh, and how challenging is this process?
A: One of the delights of a long career is seeing how your work changes over time, how you find yourself exploring themes and styles you never thought would be part of your repertoire. The true challenge lies in balancing writing, work and other responsibilities, which is the challenge most writers face—making space to immerse yourself in thinking and writing, when everything conspires against that.
Q: When considering the fact that your career spans decades, does your perception of your earlier work change with time? Does today’s current social and cultural climate, especially within CanLit and the #MeToo movement, force you to reconsider the work that you have previously produced?
A: Early work is often embarrassing to writers, even though it can display a raw energy that isn’t found in later work. There’s an intensity, an unguarded honesty and a desire to push boundaries in a young writer’s work that has a different kind of appeal than the polished, considered output of a middle-aged writer. I tend to stay away from discussions around the current social/cultural climate, since frankly much of it is maddening to me and not something I’m interested in exploring creatively. I think you have to write what feels necessary and urgent to you, and it’s sheer luck whether the current climate supports it or not.
Q: Of all your published works, which one is your favorite?
A: I think many writers will say that their most recent book is their favourite. You always hope that you are writing at the peak of your powers. Having said that, the only one of my twelve books that seems to have connected with readers in a lasting way is my first, Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, which was published when I was a teenager! Sigh . . .