National Post (Latest Edition)

‘The audience will self-define and find their way’

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Derek Pinder asks What was the driving force that led you to write Birdie?

Tracey Lindberg replies I started it for different reasons than I finished it, Derek. At first, I thought I wrote it to heal myself. In the end, I wrote it for others to think about what health can look like/what selflove can feel like.

Claire McKinnon asks How long did this book take to write? Where did the idea come from for the book, was it truly your own experience or one of someone you know in your life?

Tracey Lindberg replies Thank you for this, Claire, it is high praise that you regard it as genuine enough to be a true experience. This book started as a short story 17 or so years ago. It really took form seven years ago and became the book it is in the edit. It is my experience, but it is also the experience of my aunties, my sisters, my mom and every other strong woman I have loved.

Sue Watson asks You use the tree Pimatise win as a powerful symbol in the book. Is there also more meaning to the work Birdie does as a baker, or is it just a skill taught to her by her mother?

Tracey Lindberg replies I think sister auntie cousin love, women love, and congress starts in many rooms — but for me, the kitchen represents building something from scratch, creative problem solving and generation­al teaching poured, mixed and stirred. There is no love like kitchen love: every sense is active. Bernice makes love and bakes love.

Ronitte Friedman asks The book feels like fiction that is so heavy with truth it never soars. How can this also be hopeful?

Tracey Lindberg replies My hope is that the book feels like truth. Someone’s truth. The truth is heavy, the truth is painful and the truth is that some people have no happy ending. Bernice does. Fred and Lola do. Valene has a chance for it. The Pimatise wine has a chance. That is pretty hopeful to me.

Dalya Hakimi asks Who is the audience for this book?

Tracey Lindberg replies Oh, this is interestin­g. I have always thought and have begun to say: “I wrote this for 12-year-olds who should never have to read it; it should be in libraries where vulnerable people can find it.” Now, as I tour around and talk to people, I have come to understand, the audience will self define and find their way. People who are vulnerable, people who are empowered, people who need to understand how to find their own particular beautiful — this is the audience for Birdie.

Robert DeLaet asks Was the character of Bernice inspired by anyone in particular?

Tracey Lindberg replies Part of me wishes I was as strong as Bernice. Part of me thinks she gives life to the life I led. Most of me, on my best days, thinks Bernice is parts of lots of women I love — she is the steel I hope my backbone possesses.

Don Kilpatrick asks Have you considered having one of the other characters in the story be the basis of a new novel, for example, a story about Maggie?

Tracey Lindberg replies Thank you, Don, for this. Maggie is central to the story and a very quiet part of each woman in the book. I was worried that people would not see/feel her strong presence in the book. My hope is to learn about her and write about her so we can understand that quiet piece, but also so we get to understand who she has been, what a full life looked like to her, and why she made the choices she did.

Andrea Louise Jowett asks Is there one person who helped you through a personal ordeal, and what act or advice that they provided was most important to you?

Tracey Lindberg replies Oh! Andrea Louise, this really made me stop and think. Thank you for this question. Sometimes, even bad advice can be of utmost importance to us. I was told one time that in order to grow and move out of pain, I should consider forgivenes­s. I consider myself a person who is more apt to move on than hold a grudge. However, this advice, given in the context of abuse/assault made me consider what is forgivable and what should be forgiven. It made me think about what health requires of us in terms of grace and kindness. Ultimately, the advice made me write this book — so I suppose that has been important. However, in real terms, I came to a peaceful place and understand­ing about fundamenta­lism, victimhood, strength and self-determinat­ion that allows me peace.

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