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Ivan Coyote: ‘This is our time’ Add to ...

Ivan Coyote’s books include Gender Failure (with Rae Spoon), One in Every Crowd (a collection of stories for LGBT youth) and the novel Bow Grip, winner of the 2007 ReLit Award. Coyote, who lives in Vancouver, recently released Tomboy Survival Guide, a memoir told in stories. The book, published by Arsenal Pulp Press, was just long-listed for British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

Why did you write your new book?

It has been six years since I have released a solo book of all-new material, since Missed Her in 2010. Since Missed Her, I have released an anthology that I co-edited and contributed to, Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, and then One In Every Crowd, a young-adult collection that was mostly stories collected from six of my previous collections of short stories, with only a few new pieces in it, and then in 2014, I co-authored Gender Failure with Rae Spoon. It felt like time. Time for something that was all mine, and in the form of the writer that I have become these last few years.

Whose sentences are your favourite, and why?

My grandmother Florence’s lines are the ones I love delivering the most, and the ones I loved writing the most, too. Maybe because it’s non-fiction and she passed away in 2009, maybe writing her is a way of conjuring her up. I know it sure does this when I read those stories out loud to people.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Writer, songwriter and hobo Utah Phillips told me once while we were waiting together outside of the accounting tent at Vancouver Folk Music Festival to see the late, great Frances Wasserlein about getting paid, that if I wanted to be an artist, to “never own anything you have to paint, or feed.” He was both wrong and right, I’d say, but it’s not bad advice. My gran used to say. “Don’t stand in front of the river,” by which she meant to be smart and pick your battles wisely, and stay out of the battles that will only wash you downstream. My other grandmother says not to “scrimp on what goes between you and the concrete,” by which she means your tires, your bed and your boots or shoes. That to me is sound advice. My cousin told me all luggage should have wheels. I live by this now. My dad says righty tight lefty loose, and my mom says never put your eggs in the little eggcups in the door of the fridge, that they don’t stay as cold there, because of opening and closing the fridge door. Dolly Parton says, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

Which historical period do you wish you had lived through, and why?

I am extremely grateful to be living exactly in the here and now. As a trans person, this is our time. I’m living in exactly the time I was meant to be living. I wouldn’t change that, even to see Janis Joplin sing live.

What’s your favourite word to use in a sentence, and why?

Frankly. Because it cracks me up. Every. Single. Time.

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