He Doesn't Know Anything, with Michael Blouin



Who knows? One day, your writing might end up on the moon. 

In fact, some authors are having their work sent up soon, including Michael Blouin, our guest for this week’s podcast episode!

You may be wondering, “Gee, Michael, why is your writing being sent to the moon?” 

While Michael himself might say “I don’t know” fairly often, the answer is clear from his long publishing journey: persistence. 

It can be difficult to maintain our writing when we feel discouraged, but Michael reminds us that sticking to our writing and writing what we want, even if it isn’t commercial, can let us live the writing lives we dream of. 

Listen to this week's podcast episode to learn: 

  • Why you shouldn’t give up on being published
  • The unexpected perks of having an agent
  • The value of collaboration with other artists
  • How Michael’s work ends up in space and why that matters 

We hope that you’ll grant us your attention for the entirety of today’s episode!

Here’s a sneak peek… 

[04:09] And working takes various forms as writers know. Sometimes it's actually writing things down on paper or using the keyboard, and sometimes it's staring blankly at the wall.

[10:38] And then it just—you could hear crickets for a year, and another year, and another year.

[12:20] When you do that, you recognize right away the envelopes that are acceptances or rejections – you know, they're not like any other envelopes because you mailed them yourself.  

[18:11] It's not some kind of golden key to publishing. However, that being said, it's a tremendous help. 

[26:46] I'll see people who are—you can tell in the work that they're holding something back.

[30:21] When I watch videos of actors describing their process, I do a lot of that. It sounds exactly the same to me as when I create a character. 

 [36:10] I always advise those people to not be intimidated by the process, either by what you're doing, and thinking about that competition… 

Links in this Episode:

Michael Blouin’s website

Westwood Creative Artists

CBC article re: books in space


The Resilient Writers Radio Show: He Doesn't Know Anything, Interview with Michael Blouin -- Full Episode Transcript


Intro:  Well, hey there, writer. Welcome to the Resilient Writers Radio Show. I'm your host, Rhonda Douglas, and this is the podcast for writers who want to create and sustain a writing life they love. Because—let's face it—the writing life has its ups and downs, and we wanna not just write, but also to be able to enjoy the process so that we'll spend more time with our butt-in-chair getting those words on the page. This podcast is for writers who love books, and everything that goes into the making of them. For writers who wanna learn and grow in their craft, and improve their writing skills. Writers who want to finish their books, and get them out into the world so their ideal readers can enjoy them, writers who wanna spend more time in that flow state, writers who want to connect with other writers to celebrate and be in community in this crazy roller coaster ride we call “the writing life.” We are resilient writers. We're writing for the rest of our lives, and we're having a good time doing it. So welcome, writer, I'm so glad you're here. Let's jump right into today's show. 

Rhonda Douglas: Well, hey there. Welcome to today's Resilient Writers Radio Show. My guest today is Canadian author, Michael Blouin. Mike, welcome.

Michael Blouin: Thank you. So nice to be here.

Rhonda: I'm really excited to talk to Mike because we have known each other for a long time. We're not going to say how long, because we like to pretend that we're still really, really young, but it's been a while. Let me introduce Michael Blouin to you. So, if you don't know Michael, he is the author now of six books, much more in the way of work, but six books, and they are: I'm Not Going to Lie to You and Wore Down Trust, two books of poetry, a third book, poetry-prose—kinda straddling the line there—I Don't Know How to Behave. And then three novels, Chase and HavenChase and Haven is one of the best books ever that I have ever read, ever—Skin House, and I am Billy The Kid, also great books. He's the award-winning author, he won the ReLit Award in Canada in 2009 and 2020, been shortlisted for the Amazon First Book award, the CBC Literary Award—like just a big, long list of shortlisted, as well. And lives just outside of Ottawa. And he's also, I wanna say, a long-time former high school teacher. Gotta say that ‘cuz my dad was a high school teacher, and so I know the work involved in that. 

Michael Blouin: Out of 27 jobs, it's definitely the best job I've ever had.

Rhonda: Yeah. Very cool, very cool. So, how long's it been now since you've been, I'm gonna say retired, but actually writing full-time?

Michael Blouin: Writing full-time is five years and a bit, now.

Rhonda: Nice, nice. How's it feel?

Michael Blouin: It feels really good. You know, when I left teaching, Rhonda, I loved it so much, especially high school, that I was quite worried that I would miss it and that I would regret my decision. But I woke up the first morning and opened my eyes and smiled, and got to writing and haven't stopped since.

Rhonda: So what's your routine like now, as someone who has, in theory—it never works out in practice—but in theory you have the whole day to write <laugh>.

Michael Blouin: Right, <laugh> right. Yeah, time contracts and expands in interesting ways. So, my practice, previous to retirement, was to come home after what was sometimes, ‘cuz I ran a drama department and we had productions going and it would sometimes be a 12, 14 hour day, and then I would come home and write at night, which means I'd see my wife every second Tuesday. I guess the routine now is that I get up around 5:30, 6 o'clock in the morning, because that's when my dog gets up, and she will not be denied, and then I work out for a couple of hours. I go through my ritual of hand-grinding coffee beans and making my coffee. And I'm usually at the desk by eight o'clock. And working, you know, takes various forms as writers know. Sometimes it's actually writing things down on paper or using the keyboard, and sometimes it's staring blankly at the wall. Sometimes it's listening to music, sometimes it's reading, but I'll spend the morning writing. That's my general routine, aside from the almost 24 hours a day that I'm writing in one way or another.

Rhonda: In your head.

Michael Blouin: In my head, in my dreams, on my walks, putting… I've got over 3000 notes on my iPhone. So yeah, yeah, it's fairly constant.

Rhonda: Yeah. And in the background here, for listeners, I can see—I'm gonna count one, two, I see three guitars, and I know there's some paintings on the wall. I know you paint as well. What role does the music and the painting play, in terms of the relationship to the writing?

Michael Blouin: I used to say that I never write without music playing. And that used to be the case, but it's only sometimes the case now. So for every project that I have, and I have three or four on the go now, I'll have a separate Spotify playlist that I use for those. But more often than not, I'm listening to white noise when I actually compose.

Rhonda: Okay.

Michael Blouin: And the painting is really completely divorced from writing. It's something that I fool myself into thinking, or I treat myself into thinking, that when I sit down to write, I'm trying to write the best thing that's ever been written in the history of the world. I'm not, of course, but that's my objective. And when I sit down to paint, I'm just painting, ‘cuz I'm not a painter, and it doesn't matter. You know, I feel when I'm writing, it matters to me intensely. And painting just doesn't, it's just a release for the mind.

Rhonda: And that doesn't get in the way for you, Mike, like this desire to write the best thing that has ever been written in the entire history of the world? That doesn't like, freak you out and make you wanna run from the page? Because it does me, I have to talk myself down from that.

Michael Blouin: No, I'm probably most at home in the world when I'm on the page, or I should maybe say, Rhonda, out of the world. I'm completely absorbed. And I teach writing in various forms, and I always try to convince people that there's no such thing as writer's block, that there's just times when you should be actually making the pen move across the page, or the fingers across the keyboard, and there's times when you shouldn't be doing that. Doesn't necessarily mean you're not writing when you're not doing that. It's all process, to me. But when I'm actually engaged with the page, I'm in a completely different realm and feel very at home. So it's not… That urge to do something tremendous is not conscious, I guess, while I'm doing it, because nothing is conscious while I'm doing it.

Rhonda: And you enjoy the process of writing, I'm hearing. Like— 

Michael Blouin: Very, very much. 

Rhonda: It's the thing you enjoy. Hm, okay.

Michael Blouin: Yep. It's not something—I've never had to make myself write.

Rhonda: Can you take us back to when you first started writing? Like, when did you first think, “oh, I think I'm a writer, I'm gonna give this a go.”

Michael Blouin: Well, it was 1921 <laugh> and I was just a young man. I guess the first… Actually, I remember the first novel that I quote-unquote “wrote”. I was 11 years old, and I had been watching, I think it was a Carrie Grant movie, on an old black and white tv, and something about the storyline in the movie, or the way that it opened, made me think, “well, I could write something like that. I could write a book and it would be easy.” And about three quarters of a page in I realized it wasn't quite as easy as I thought. And then I guess the next thing I wrote was probably a short story in high school that I actually finished that time. And I thought, “hey, that seems pretty good.”

And my teacher, who I much admired, actually thought it was pretty good, too. So that was very encouraging. And then I went to film school, because I had this idea that I wanted to make movies. And I realized during the process of actually making movies in film school and then going to work in the industry for a while, that I didn't wanna make movies as much as I wanted to tell stories. And that writing on the page was a—I'm not gonna say easier. Less involved. You didn't need 200 people on staff. You didn't need what now is like 150 million dollars, or you didn't need lights or sound equipment. You just needed the idea. And so I guess those are the three things that got me going.

Rhonda: And when you were writing—when you were younger—you were also working full-time, I'm assuming, for a long time? 

Michael Blouin: Yes. When I say that I've had 27 jobs… I think it's up to 28 or 29 now, so, yeah. Always working full-time.

Rhonda: And how did you end up writing in and around that? So your first book, I'm Not Going to Lie to You, when did that come out?

Michael Blouin: That would've been 2007.

Rhonda: 2007.

Michael Blouin: So I have always been writing, but that doesn't mean I've always been publishing. I spent so long not getting published that I—

Rhonda: And why was that? Were you trying to get published, or?

Michael Blouin: Oh, yes, yes. I was sending out to magazines all the time. Short stories and poetry, and mostly short stories.

Rhonda: And you just kept getting rejected?

Michael Blouin: Yeah, yeah.

Rhonda: Wow. For how many years? How many years were you getting—sending—

Michael Blouin: 20, 20? Well, it's 25 years from starting to send things out to, to a book. 25 years.

Rhonda: Wow. Mike, how did you keep going, when you just kept getting rejections and…

Michael Blouin: Well, I almost didn't. So, many, many years of sending, and I did have two stories published very early on. When I first started sending things out, very quickly, I had two stories published in very good magazines, and I thought, “well, this is gonna be easy. This is great. I was right. I'm gonna be a writer. Here we go, strap your seatbelts on.” And then it just—you could hear crickets for a year, and another year, and another year. And then, you know, my submissions kind of tapered off. I wasn't sending out as much because I was getting all of this rejection, but I was still convinced that I was going to be a writer. And now I'm into my early forties. So we're talking 20 years, 20-plus years. And there was a day when I was living outside of Ottawa, rurally, and I thought, “well, I'll go into the city and I'll get the latest edition of “writers”... What was it called? It was that big book that listed all of the places. 

Rhonda: Oh, marketplace. Writer’s Marketplace

Michael Blouin: Yeah. And this is pre-internet. So I drove into Ottawa to buy that. And, and I get it and I'm leafing through it, and then I get back in the car, and I'm driving back to my house, and it's there on the car seat beside me. And once in a while, I glance over at it, and I just start thinking, “you know what, maybe it's time to pack this in. You know, I've got a young family, I'm teaching, I've got a new house in the country that I'm restoring, and I've been doing this for more than two decades, and it's really not going where I thought it would go. And you know what? Maybe I can get my money back on this book, but I'm just not gonna bother anymore.” And when I got back to the little town that we were living in, the post office was in the convenience store at the corner, and I went down there and I opened up the little mailbox to get my mail. And I pulled out an envelope, and this is back in the days when we used to submit things by mail.

Rhonda: Oh, yeah.

Michael Blouin: And when you do that, you recognize right away, the envelopes that are acceptances or rejections, you know, they're not like any other envelopes because you mailed them yourself. It was stuff with your stamp on it. So you recognized when something was coming back. And I thought, “oh, here's another one.” And it was from Desk Camp Magazine, which is no longer running, but at the time, it was the place. Like, that was the objective for me.

Rhonda: You want it in there.

Michael Blouin: Yep. And I opened it up, and I could tell right away, just by looking at the letter, that it was an acceptance. And it was the acceptance of seven poems, which was unheard of, and they were gonna publish them all in one issue. And so that was… I guess if you talk about breaks, that was my break. It was certainly the break in the sense that, “oh, yeah, I think I'll change my mind about not doing this anymore. Maybe I'll do this.”

Rhonda: Oh, the timing.

Michael Blouin: That led to meeting people in Toronto, and that led to the first poetry book and, you know, eventually everything else, an agent and…

Rhonda: Right, right. 

Michael Blouin: All that stuff.

Rhonda: So good. I'm so glad that happened. So, I wanted to ask you about working in multiple genres. So you've mentioned short story, you've mentioned poetry. Obviously you're a novelist. Are you always working on projects in different genres and moving between them? Or do you, like, devote yourself to one and finish that and get it out? And what's going on for you in your mental space, and in your process, as you move from one to the other?

Michael Blouin: I don't really write short stories anymore. Not from any lack of interest in doing so, but I'm just really, really busy with novels. And I guess that process for me is, I'm always working on two to three to sometimes four projects at a time. And I find I have to do that just to, like, as you said, in that relatively short amount of time that I've been publishing books, it's a book every couple of years, if not more often. And I've got one book that I'm writing now, another that's contracted and—sorry, two more that are contracted—and two that are in the process. I have to write that much to keep up, is what I'm trying to say. And so, I don't have time to do things that aren't novels, except for poetry, which I'll do sporadically now, when an idea hits me that I know is not part of one of the novels. And I'm really lucky in that I do have all of these poems that I've been writing, since 2007, that haven't had a book to go into. And Anvil has just contracted to do a book of all of that poetry that we have formed into—it's not quite a novel, but it tells a story, it's a narrative using all of that poetry with new poetry as well, to tie it all together.

Rhonda: Mm-hmm.

Michael Blouin: So at least all of those things that I've been distracting myself from the novels with, has a home. Which is really, really nice.

Rhonda: Yeah. That's great. 

Michael Blouin: I mean, currently it's like a 300 page poetry manuscript, so I'm sure there's gonna be some editing involved.

Rhonda: Whoa, whoa. Yeah, probably, probably. And I wanted to ask you about collaboration. So you have, I wanna say, made a practice of collaborating with other writers, other artists. Can you talk a little bit about that? I'm thinking specifically of Wore Down Trust, but you know, just in general, and why you like to collaborate, and what you feel your own work has gained from that?

Michael Blouin: Well, writing is a very, or can be a very, isolating process. You're pretty much alone with your characters or, you know, whatever it is that you're composing, you're alone with that a lot of the time. And I find it very freeing to involve other people in that process. I find it's good for my process, and I just find it's a little less isolating. And then, obviously you're gonna be inspired if you're working with somebody that you admire. So I've worked with various people, with Jillian Say, with Bill Bissett… And also, I should mention, to me, the editing process is always a collaboration. 

Rhonda: Mm-hmm, very true.

Michael Blouin: And so you spend all this time shut away with this project that you love. And then some people, well, I know some people are kind of hesitant to hand that over to someone else, but I always think that's one of the most exciting, interesting aspects of the whole process, is that you take this creation that you're so attached to, and you see it through somebody else's eyes. And I'm not really talking about copy editing, I'm talking about substantive editing, where someone that you trust—my agent, Hilary McMahon, is also very, very well versed and excellent at this, is seeing your work through somebody else's eyes and having that new perspective, and then collaborating with them on fine tuning it and making it, hopefully, the best that it can be.

Rhonda: How did you end up with Hilary? How did you get your agent? That's always a thing that writers wanna know, right? How did you get your agent, Mike?

Michael Blouin: Yeah, exactly. And they asked that as if—God bless them, and I would've asked the same thing—as if that somehow is—that's the key to the door.

Rhonda: That's the magic pill right there. 

Michael Blouin: Yeah. And it's not. People have to know that your agent can be just as easily rejected as you can be. It's not some kind of golden key to publishing. However, that being said, it's a tremendous help. I find it's a tremendous help just in the simplest of aspects, of not having to do all of that work, of submitting a novel.

Rhonda: All on your own.

Michael Blouin: If younger writers are thinking of the process of submitting poetry or submitting a short story, submitting a novel is substantially more, there's more involved in it. And so if you're doing multiple, it's a lot of work. So to have somebody just kind of magically take that off your plate frees you up to do more writing, and that's a tremendous advantage. But you were asking how that came to be, and I get asked that question by a lot of younger writers. And I always have to kind of search my memory to think of how it did happen. And I think after Chase and Haven, my first published novel did so well, there was a lot more interest than there had been previous to that. But if I remember correctly, it was still a cold submission of the manuscript for my second novel, which has never been published. Actually, sorry, that would be my fourth novel, because there were two unpublished novels before Chase and Haven—I think—

Rhonda: Before Chase and Haven

Michael Blouin: I think that's important to mention too, is that, you know, I do see a lot of young people getting success with what seems to be the first thing that they've written in book-length form. And that's terrific. And that has always happened, but it certainly didn't happen for me. And I don't think it's the norm. I think usually there are a couple of novels before one hits. So, after Chase and Haven was quite successful, I cold-submitted the manuscript for what I thought was going to be my second novel, and it was read by Chris Casuccio at Westwood. And he was not an agent at the time, he was a reader at that time. He's an agent now. And he suggested it to Hilary, who's the executive Vice President of Westwood. If people are not familiar with Westwood, it's a big agency. And so I was very excited that he suggested, and I thought, “well, you know, she might not like it,” but she did. And so that's how I got an agent, even though we didn't go ahead with that particular novel.

Rhonda: So, tell me that story. What happened to that book? Like, did they try to go out with it and it didn't sell, or?

Michael Blouin: No, no. I hate to say that I'm not going to be able to remember that, but I don't think I'm going be able to remember. Maybe—

Rhonda: You’ve blocked it out, the trauma, the trauma.

Michael Blouin: I do remember going down to Toronto to go out with Chris and Hilary to a fancy restaurant, and signing a contract, I remember that part. And I remember that that signing was on the basis of the success of Chase and Haven, not on the basis of the new manuscript. And, you know, I mean, we're recording a podcast, so I can't sit here and, and wrack my brain trying to remember what happened to that manuscript. But it's not sitting in a drawer anywhere because two years ago, our house burned down. So, it's well and truly gone. And that's not a bad thing, <laugh> I think, in retrospect.

Rhonda: Okay. Wow. That's, wow. Okay. And then you wrote Skin House?

Michael Blouin: No, no, it would've been the “behave” one. 

Rhonda: I Don't Know How to Behave?

Michael Blouin: I Don't Know How to Behave—no, Wore Down Trust would've been next.

Rhonda: Wore Down Trust, okay.

Michael Blouin: Which is not something that my agent would've represented because it's poetry. But yes. So, Skin House was the next published novel, I think.

Rhonda: Right. And did they ever turn around to you, Mike, and say, “hey, what are you doing? Come on now. Stop. Give us something we can sell.” No? they never pressured you? 

Michael Blouin: No, no. They're absolutely wonderful in that way. And I often joke that “yeah, I'm doing this now,” which must drive my agent nuts, you know, because it's completely unmarketable, or it's completely uncommercial or it's completely experimental. But to her credit, she has never actually told me that it drives her nuts. <Laugh>

Rhonda: <Laugh> Right.

Michael Blouin: So I'm very appreciative of that fact. But I am working. I thought Skin House would be commercial. There were varying opinions about that, at the time, and it turned out that it was, and it turned out that it won the ReLit for the second time for me, and that it's going to the moon with NASA, and it's done very well, and… <laugh> But I guess what I'm trying to say by that, is I have no idea what's going to be commercial or what's going to hit. And I don't think, really, that very many people do.

Rhonda: I guess if you're not writing a genre, if you're writing literary work. 

Michael Blouin: Yeah, exactly. Yes, fair point.

Rhonda: And so what's your response to that? You just write the thing you wanna write and the market will do what the market's gonna do?

Michael Blouin: You can't worry about that. I just write what I write. I write what comes out, and there it is. And I always say that, after the barcode goes on, the rest is always up to other people. And you can't do anything about that, you know. You can work your social media, and do all of that kind of thing as much as you want. And I do, because it's expected and because, I mean, why wouldn't you? It's there to use as a tool, whether you think it's effective or not, I dunno. But you don't really have any control once the book is in the store or on the internet or barcoded. So I just do what I do. I'm working on a novel right now that's almost 300 pages. And I think it's really commercial, I think it's very viable, commercially. But I also know that I don't know. And I'm working on other things, one that just got a sizable grant, that I hope somebody's gonna publish, but it's completely experimental, I've not quite seen anything quite like it. And, you know, so I don't know. I just dunno. There's the quote of the show, “Mike Blouin says: he doesn't know.” 

Rhonda: “He doesn't know” <laugh>. 

Michael: Write that down. 

Rhonda: He Doesn't Know: On Writing with Mike Blouin. That's the title we're going with, Mike. I'm just letting you know. So, I did wanna ask you about promotion, and you know, I'm gonna use the term self-promotion, right? Because it's the thing we have to do. We have to get into it. And you and I are both white, so it comes with a certain ease of being in the world, doesn't it, right? Like, what that privilege is, is knowing we don't have to fight as hard. Capital P. But you don't seem to shy away from self-promotion. And I really love that, because, as you say, it is expected. So to shy away from it is, you know, to your detriment as a writer. But a lot of writers think, “god, I could just never. Like, I could never reach out to somebody and say, ‘hey you know, can I be on your podcast?’ Or I could never like, make a trailer of my book and get it up on social media. I could never.” And part of what they mean is, “oh, I gotta figure out the tech.” But the other part of what they mean is, “what if people think I'm self-promoting?” How do you deal with that in your head? Or does that even occur to you? And what's your philosophy on promotion and how you feel about it? Because you're good at it.

Michael Blouin: It occurs to me—thank you—it occurs to me that people will think that because they do think that, and they do say that.

Rhonda: They say that. People say that to you? <laugh> I love people. <laugh>

Michael Blouin: People say all kinds of things to me, especially in direct messaging where it can't be seen on the internet. Yeah. And that's, you know, that's part of, you know, I'd say, I'm gonna use the phrase “public figure,” but I think there are probably only two writers in Canada that are actual public figures. But by that I mean someone who puts themself out in public, or are seen in that way. I mean, as soon as you're in that realm, you've gotta be able to shut some things off and ignore them. But I actually wrote this down this morning, and I was going to bring it up in terms of writing process and in terms of, you know, how to actually write. But it applies equally, I think, to how to self-promote.

And that's just, you know, put yourself out there. And what I was originally was intending to do with that, was to point out that when you are writing—I see a lot of writing from young writers in various formats, whether I'm adjudicating for the council or teaching or people just send me stuff. I'll see people who are—you can tell in the work that they're holding something back. And to me, every writer's different, I guess, but to me, if you're going to do this, if you're gonna engage in the written word to express emotion, to try to delve into what it is that makes us human and what it is to be in relationship with other humans on the planet, if you're gonna do that, then just do it fully. To me, people sometimes run into the mistake of, “okay, I'm gonna try skydiving, so I'm gonna go, and get in the plane, I'm gonna put the parachute on. I'm only gonna jump three feet though, then I'm gonna get back in the plane.” You know, if you're gonna skydive, you gotta commit. And that's what writing is to me. 

Rhonda: Is that about being vulnerable? Like just turning it all out.

Michael Blouin: Or to not care about the fact that you're being vulnerable. Like just open it up, and let the faucet go, and put it on the page no matter what the cost, and don't think about it. Don't second guess yourself. So I guess in a way that applies somewhat to self-promotion, is that if you believe in this project, if you spent years creating this object that's gonna go out in the world, that you want people to see, because if no one engages with it, from my point of view, there was no point in you doing it in the first place. I know some people write and it's for themselves, and that's a completely different thing than publishing books. If you're publishing books, if nobody, if nobody reads it, then there really wasn't any point in doing it.

Rhonda: What's been most effective for you when you're doing your promotion, do you think? What's sort of something that you think, “yeah, I gotta do this all the time ‘cuz it really makes a difference”?

Michael Blouin: Back to the Mike Blouin quote, “I don't know,” <laugh> I gotta get a t-shirt that has that on it.

Rhonda: “I have no idea.”  But what, I see—go ahead.

Michael Blouin: I throw things at walls, and it's very hard to tell what has an effect. I know I've got readers, I know I've got lots of readers that I don't know who they are. So something's working, but it's very hard to judge what, so I just kind of do everything that comes along, everything that I can think of. And you mentioned trailers. I really enjoy doing that.

Rhonda: Yeah, you do those. So that's your film background, there. That's something you already knew how to do, and you're applying it.

Michael Blouin: I didn't know how to do it the way that these kids do it nowadays, Rhonda <laugh>. Because we used to work with film and actually cut it and splice it and glue, you know, tape it together and do all that. But like, when I taught myself how to do it, because, well, again, why wouldn't you? 

Rhonda: Mm-hmm. Why wouldn't you? Yeah. Wow. Okay. One of the things—I think a real gift that you have, Mike, and I just wanna say this because it just makes reading your work such a joy, is you really inhabit a voice, right? And I've even seen you, when you’re online, you're like sharing fragments of work, and it's like, “who?” It's not Mike, it's the character. It's so firmly inhabited, that that must come from drama.

Michael Blouin: It does come from drama. Yeah, it does. Yeah. Yeah. It comes from film and it, I mean, we talked about me teaching high school, I was teaching drama. Writing and drama primarily, for the 10 years that I was at high school. 

Rhonda: Do you approach your writing as like, “let me find the character that I wanna inhabit,” and then inhabit them on the page, basically?

Michael Blouin: Yeah. When I watch videos of actors describing their processI do a lot of thatit sounds exactly the same to me as when I create a character. When I'm writing dialogue, which is one of my favorite things to write, I'm there in the scene. So if two, three people are sitting in a restaurant talking to each other, I'm sitting at that table, I'm anticipating what the other characters are going to say, and then I'll be that other character when somebody says something and I'll respond to it. So it's very much like working a scene in theater.

Rhonda: I love that, actually. I love that, as a theater kid in my teenage years. I think it hadn't occurred to me, to use similar tools and processes. I'm totally gonna try that now. Totally gonna try that. So, tell me about the moon landing. What the heck. I see this on your social media feed, and you know, you've gotten quite a bit of publicity about it. So, what is it and why does it matter to you?

Michael Blouin: Well, so briefly, what is it? It's Skin House going to the moon. Originally, I was leaving for Cape Canaveral today, because the initial launch was going to be next week. And I was gonna be talking to the CBC about it from Cape Canaveral next week, which is still something that I'm doing. But, there's been a delay in that launch and it's now scheduled for June or July. So I'll be doing the same thing then. So as to what it is, that's what it is. A copy of my book on microdisk, going to the moon, landing on the moon, and staying there forever with NASA. And then, my more recent book, I am Billy The Kid, is scheduled to launch with SpaceX next year, and go through the same process.

Rhonda: Once their things aren't blowing up.

Michael Blouin: Exactly. And well, that's the reason for the delay also with NASA, now. The reason it's not launching next week is that three weeks ago—so, the rocket that's actually taking my book, and my friend Carolyn R. Parsons’ books, and other books, it's not just mine, to the moon is in Cape Canaveral. And the lander that will land on the moon with the books in it is in Philadelphia. But the test rocket, which is the same as the rocket that's going to go, is in Houston. And I can't show you the picture, but I got the picture on my phone. It blew up. So that kind of puts things on a bit of a hold.

Rhonda: And was it your novel that resulted in it blowing up? No, you didn't take that personally?

Michael Blouin: It can't be my fault. Cause my novel was still—

Rhonda: Most explosive novel, was on that. It was so explosive, and the rocket just couldn't cope.

Michael Blouin: No, my novel was in Philadelphia, so we're clear <laugh>. Yeah. It was still in the lander.

Rhonda: So, but Mike, there's nobody on the moon.

Michael Blouin: No, not at the moment.

Rhonda: Why does it matter that the book is going to the moon?

Michael Blouin: But anybody that, you know, I mean, obviously there are plans to change that in the future. And then anybody that is there, using it ostensibly, I guess, one of the primary uses is going to be that it will be used as a base to get to Mars, with humans. So any of those humans with a library card, will be able to— <laugh>

Rhonda: A lunar library card. But the other, how do I get one of those? I finally got my British Library reading card. How do I get a lunar library card? 

Michael Blouin: I’ll hook you up.

Rhonda: All right. I don't know. I don't know if that's for me.

Michael Blouin: Well, the other aspect of that is perpetuity. It's the thought that, I'm fortunate enough to have been blessed with my first grandchild just a little while ago, and—

Rhonda: Oh, congrats. 

Michael Blouin: I often—thank you—I often think, you know, when he's 5 or 6 or 10, I'll be able to stand with him, look up at the moon and say, you know, “pop-pop’s book is right up there.”

Rhonda: Okay, I got chills. 

Michael Blouin: There you go. 

Rhonda: I get it. It landed for me right there. Yeah.

Michael Blouin: And, you know, as a writer, from a writing perspective, it's also that who knows what's gonna happen with this planet? But, my books are on another planet. They're out there somewhere.

Rhonda: And I mean, the publicity's been great. You can't knock the publicity. You know, take it and ride it as long as you can.

Michael Blouin: And I've also got to meet a lot of people and a lot of space nerds like myself. And just, you know, geek out together about space.

Rhonda: <Laugh> Fun. That's great. You have sat on a lot of arts juries, who award grants, you just mentioned receiving a grant. And that's always a joy, right? Like, just that, like free money to write, oh my lord, what a gift that is. But you've been on the juries that have made those decisions, and I have as well. So I thought, “let's talk about that, the process of being on”—you've been on juries for the book awards in Ottawa for the Canada Council for the Arts. Let's talk a little bit about what that's like for those who might be, you know, applying to grant juries and hoping to get a bite.

Michael Blouin: Well, let's start off by saying, for people who are, you know, starting the process of being a writer, writing—and again, this is what does Michael Blouin know? I know not almost nothing, but, so take it for what it's worth—but writing is competition. And, you know, it's best probably not to think about that while you're writing, but it's a plain fact that there's an enormous number of people who wanna publish books, gets get books published, and if you're talking about commercial trade publication, there's a very small number of people that are able to actually do that. So, by definition it's competition. And council grants are the same. There are hundreds of thousands of people applying for grants and, you know, a limited number of people get them. So, I always advise those people to not be intimidated by the process, either by what you're doing, and thinking about that competition, or the process of actually filling out all the forms and getting that done.

 Because I see a lot of people online, and I get a lot of messages from people who are intimidated by that. And you know, once you've done one application, it's very easy to do others because you know the process. So, I think that would be a primary piece of advice. For me personally, it's a tremendous privilege to be able to adjudicate, because you get to see work from all over the country, from all kinds of writers. And you really get a sense of what's going on, as a snapshot of what's currently taking place in the country in terms of producing literature. And I find that really, really, not just interesting, but invigorating.

Rhonda: I feel like what I learned most about being on a jury, for awards and grants, is how subjective it is. Like, get three different people, other than the people that are sitting at the table right now, and it's a completely different list that comes out the other side. Wouldn't you say that's true?

Michael Blouin: I find there's two parts of that. What you're saying is true, but then the other part of it is, that on any jury that I've been on, which is probably five or so now, there's always a very, very strong professional sense of consensus in the room. But I think you probably—I mean, I've never been in one of the other rooms, right? So, whether those people would come up with a different decision, it's entirely possible, I guess. And that's another thing that it's important to stress to people thinking about the process, or maybe being discouraged by the process is that, I mean, it would be nice to get that grant, but the fact that you didn't get that grant this time doesn't necessarily mean all that much about the work. To be honest, it could mean that your work is crap. It could mean that, because people do apply with crap, but it doesn't necessarily mean that it could mean that you have a wonderful project that people just didn't connect with at this time, in this place, with this, or—

Rhonda: They had five grants, they had five grants to give, and you were number six. You know, that happens too, right?

Michael Blouin: Or with Canada Council, you know, they gave—I can't remember the numbers—but they gave 63 grants and you were number 64 on the list. And two people in that room thought you should be on that list, and three people didn't. So you're not, you know, and maybe next time it'll be different.

Rhonda: Next time, exactly. So, final words, Mike, imagining that somewhere listening to this is someone who's in that space you were at, looking at that Writer's Marketplace and thinking, “hey, I've tried and it hasn't been working out, and I'm thinking I'm gonna give up.”

Michael Blouin: Yeah. Persistence is key. Don't give up. I think back to the first—I was very excited when I got my first writing quote-unquote “office”, the first space in my house that was devoted to writing. And it was the basement of 160-year-old house. Basement's not the right word, cellar, crawlspace, right next to the cistern that took all the water off the roof and stored it, with moss actually growing on the wall next to the desk. And things falling from the timber ceiling above me, you know, to what is now kind of a luxurious, spacious, nice office. Gone from nobody wanting to hear from me, even in an envelope, to people asking for stuff from me, asking me to do things, asking me to write things, or looking for another book.

 It can be a long process. And I said, I've seen lots of young people have success far more quickly. In some ways I worry for them, in that, because they're in their young twenties and having that level of success, there are concerns that go along with that. But tremendously, tremendously enthused, and excited for them as well. But, there are people like me who take a long time and it's a lot of head knocking against the door, and there's so much opportunity to let it slip away, and to not give your voice the voice it deserves. There's so many opportunities to just let that slide, because there can be so much rejection and frustration, but you can't. You can't do that. If you have something that you think is a unique voice and if you have something that you think you need to say, you best do it, and keep doing it.

Rhonda: You best do it. Well, good luck with everything. I'll be looking for that moon landing, and thanks for being here today, Mike.

Michael Blouin: Thanks very much, Rhonda. I enjoy the show and I've enjoyed being part of it.

Rhonda: Thanks.

Outro: Thanks so much for hanging out with me today and for listening all the way to the end. I hope you enjoyed today's episode of the Resilient Writers Radio Show. While you're here, I would really appreciate it if you'd consider leaving a rating and review of the show. You can do that in whatever app you're using to listen to the show right now, and it just takes a few minutes. Your ratings and reviews tell the podcast algorithm gods that “yes, this is a great show. Definitely recommend it to other writers.” And that will help us reach new listeners who might need a boost in their writing lives today as well. So please take a moment and leave a review. I'd really appreciate it, and I promise to read every single one. Thank you so much.


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