This Side of West Interviews Eliza Robertson
This Side of West’s issue 20 Managing Editor, Rachel Lachmansingh, interviews UVic Writing grad and past TSOW editor, Eliza Robertson.
Rachel Lachmansingh: What have you been up to since graduating from UVic Writing?
Eliza Robertson: Lots of things! After UVic, I went on to the University of East Anglia for my MA and PhD. I published a story collection, a novel, and a children’s book. I also began studying astrology in a serious way. Since March 2021, I’ve been working as the Director of Content at CHANI app.
RL: Are you currently working on any writing projects?
ER: I’ve had much less time for writing since working full time, but I’m trying to fit it in where I can. I’m in the final-ish draft stages of a literary non-fiction book, which should be coming out in 2023 (fingers crossed—the pandemic has caused some delays.) I’m also working on a weird speculative fiction novel about—among other things—menstruation.
RL: I see that you’ve studied writing extensively at both UVic and the University of East Anglia and I’m curious how learning writing craft in an academic setting has affected your writing process?
ER: For the most part, writing school honed my craft. Specifically the writing program at UVic. I don’t think you need to learn writing in a university context, but it certainly helps you identify and expunge bad habits (ex. cliche, flaccid prose, purple prose, etc.) I’m sure I gained other bad habits, but I probably don’t have the best perspective on that. More than writing technique though, attending a program was what lent me “legitimacy” as a writer. Lots of people struggle to even call themselves that—a writer—which means they probably struggle to protect their writing time, or to consider their writing time work. Being in a shared community with other writers helped me take that identity—and the work—more seriously.
RL: Do you have any advice for students trying to get published in literary magazines?
ER: My number one advice is: read the magazines. Read in general—read all that you can—but if a writer can’t be bothered to read the journal, why should they bother to publish you? I find that the writing published in literary journals can be some of the most exploratory and interesting writing out there anyway. Often, the writer hasn’t yet been flattened by industry or marketing expectations.
RL: If you can recall, what was a highlight of working on This Side of West?
ER: While it’s always a slog to work your way through the slush pile as an editor, it’s also a strange privilege to read such a volume of stories from such a volume of writers and to step into all of those strange and different brains. Then to find a story that sparks something for you—it’s exciting. And to work with the writer to keep refining the story, if it needs—I found that process tremendously satisfying.