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A Q&A with alumna Rebecca Higgins, author of The Colours of Birds

When the best laid plans go awry, they sometimes do so with serendipitous results. Rebecca Higgins, a 2015 School for Writers graduate, knows this from experience. She began her story collection with a clear vision for the project, but it wasn’t until she moved beyond the scope of her original plan that her book really started to take shape. Read on to learn more about Rebecca’s journey from Humber student to published writer.

Tell us about your book. How did it come about?

My book is a collection of short stories called The Colours of Birds. It was published by Tightrope Books in the fall of 2018.

The characters in this book are doing their best to negotiate the world, often in weird, sometimes misguided ways. These stories are about friendship and loneliness and the awkward, fumbling ways we try to love each other. We lie and leave things out, so often torn between hiding ourselves and needing to be seen.

Originally, I had planned to fictionalize the lives of real artists throughout the collection. “The Colours of Birds,” inspired by Maud Lewis, was published by The Antigonish Review in 2008; “The White Stain,” about Lee Krasner, won second place in The Toronto Star Short Story contest in 2013. But after those two stories, I found there weren’t any more like them coming, and I realized a whole collection fictionalizing the lives of artists might not work for me and my stories. So instead I loosened my grip and decided to work with the story ideas that showed up instead of forcing them to fit my original plan, and this collection is the result.

How did you find the experience of working with your writing mentor? What insight into your writing did you gain through the mentorship process?

Working with my writing mentor was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. I’ve often struggled to know if and when my stories are finished, and my writing mentor helped me see where they needed more. For one story that wasn’t working, she encouraged me to revisit the character’s motivations, which helped me to better understand the character at last. I really appreciated how my mentor asked questions about the stories and characters in ways that encouraged me to find my own answers. It was so valuable and validating to have objective, attentive eyes on my work that didn’t belong to people who already knew me.

I’d been thinking about applying for the Humber program for years, and I actually entered the Star contest partly because first prize was tuition for the program. It takes me a long time to do things sometimes, but I’m so glad I finally did it. I’m not the most disciplined of writers, and it really helped me to have the ongoing support and motivation to continue with my project.

To learn more about Rebecca and her writing, follow her on Twitter @RebeccaEHiggins or visit her website: The Colours of Birds can be purchased here or from your favourite independent bookseller.

Rebecca Higgins headshot

Photo Credit: Hayley Andoff

The Colour of Birds Book Cover