Leah Golob is a full-time reporter and freelance book critic. Her writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, The Georgia Straight, Vancouver Magazine, Vancouver Observer, and trade publications. She currently lives in Toronto and tweets @LeahGolob. Roomie Rose Morris spoke to her about the upcoming Canadian Gothic issue.
How long have you been with Room and what made you decide to join?
I've been with Room magazine for a little over two years now. I focused on Canadian women's writing in grad school, so Room's feminist mandate and focus was very appealing. I had also volunteered for my University's literary presses in both undergrad and my MA, and enjoyed the experience.
I had always assumed I'd end up in academia but felt I was better suited to journalism after I got my first taste of a newsroom. However, I still wished to remain part of critical conversations regarding contemporary writing, and was very captivated by the ways in which Room works to build a sense of literary community, both online and in the "real world." I also like working alongside promising writers, whether that's within the book reviews section [Leah is currently Room's book reviews editor] or for an issue such as Canadian Gothic.
What drew you to the Canadian Gothic as a theme?
Selfishly, I pitched the theme because I've always been a fan of gothic and horror genres, and have remained interested in the concept of "Canadian Gothic" ever since reading critical studies on the subject in grad school.
I also just saw the theme as an untapped opportunity. Canada definitely has its own distinct voice when it comes to the gothic genre, and that voice is distinguished even further based on region and culture. I'm very interested to discover how writers interpret the theme.
What do you look for in a submission?
For fiction and creative non-fiction, an excellent opening (or first page) is always key. As readers, we try to give each submission the respect and attention it deserves, but due to the sheer number of submissions we receive, it's vital to pull us into the story immediately. That being said, it's also disappointing when a great story fizzles at the end.
Other than that, I usually read without expectation, and look forward to being surprised. I don't have a definitive answer as to what makes something "Canadian Gothic," so I'm excited to see how writers interpret the theme.
I think it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that a good submission is always polished, and has seen at least a few rounds of revisions.
As an aside, I always enjoy reading essays that writers submit as CNF. For example, we recently published Kate Braid's “Saying Hello to Fear.” So please don't hesitate to send a personal essay for the Canadian Gothic theme.
The issue is going to feature Eden Robinson and Aislinn Hunter. Can you talk a little about what these authors mean to you and how they fit into the Canadian Gothic genre?
I'm excited that Aislinn Hunter will once again be contributing to Room (she was our poetry commission for issue 31.2 approximately eight years ago). This time around she'll be contributing a short story for the theme. If you're seeking some Canadian Gothic inspiration, her latest novel The World Before Us—while not set in Canada—does play with traditional gothic tropes and is narrated by a cluster of unnamed spirits.
And Taryn Hubbard will be speaking with Eden Robinson for our feature interview. Ever since I've started telling people that I'm working on a Canadian Gothic issue, I've been receiving recommendations to read Robinson's Monkey Beach (which I already have, and would also recommend). I think, for many, her first novel stands as an important work within the Canadian gothic, and I look forward to her thoughts on the genre.
This is your editorial debut for Room—have you faced many unexpected challenges in creating this issue so far?
I learned the ropes by "shadowing" a few issues and was the assistant editor for Trespass, issue 38.3. Canadian Gothic will be the first issue where I take the reins, however. In terms of challenges, it's really too soon to say as submissions just opened.
You mentioned a personal interest in CNF as a genre. Do you think there is a particular genre that the Canadian Gothic theme lends itself to in particular? I know I immediately think of the gothic in terms of prose as opposed to poetry.
With that comment, I was more so hoping to open the door for CNF submissions in case CNF writers felt hesitant submitting to a genre-based theme.
I really think the Canadian Gothic theme lends itself fairly equally to fiction, poetry, CNF and art. We're all familiar with classic gothic novels, so I can understand why people may immediately think of prose, but poetry also has its place. I'm thinking of examples from Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market to Margaret Atwood's The Journals of Susanna Moodie—both invoke the gothic in some form or another. Perhaps fiction is sometimes more preoccupied with genre than other forms of writing, which is why CNF or poetry may get overlooked.
Do you have a favourite issue of Room?
That's a tough question. Perhaps 36.3: Murder, Lust and Larceny (Room's crime issue). It's definitely the issue I've encouraged people to borrow the most.
What are your favourite things to read currently?
This year I really enjoyed reading Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk and Andre Alexis's Fifteen Dogs. Other all-time favourites include Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees, and pretty much anything by Ray Bradbury. [Read Leah's top Canadian Gothic books here]
And, of course, it's always very exciting to discover new writers—or new work by accomplished writers—within each issue of Room.
Top Photo by Samantha Hart