Canadian Karin Lowachee Named Shared Worlds’ Amazon.com Writer-in-Residence
Award-winning author Karin Lowachee will visit Shared Worlds 2012 from July 30 to August 4 as Amazon.com's writer-in-residence. She will conduct workshops, visit classes, give presentations on craft, and work individually with students. She will also give a public reading at the Hub City Bookshop on July 31, along with Shared Worlds guest writer Tobias Buckell and editor-in-residence Ann VanderMeer.
Lowachee’s books include Warchild, Burndive, Cagebird, and her latest, The Gaslight Dogs. Set in the Middle Light World, The Gaslight Dogs tells the story of Sjennonirk, an Aniw spirit walker, who is captured by a Ciracusan general and forced to teach the general's son, Captain Jarret Fawle, the way of the ankago. In The Gaslight Dogs cultures slam into each other and intertwine in insidiously discreet ways. Lowachee's novel pits urban and nomadic cultures against each other on both a grand scale and a fiercely intimate one.
Born in South America, raised in Canada, Lowachee writes visionary speculative fiction that tackles such topics as colonialism, war, and acts of individual human courage. She brings many years of diverse experience to Shared Worlds, both as a writer and as a teacher.
“I get a real kick out of seeing people, no matter their age, engage their creativity,” said Lowachee. “I’ve taught people of all ages in various aspects, and the older they get, the more they seem to feel badly about wanting to be creative and exploring that side of themselves. I would love for young people never to lose that desire and being at Shared Worlds is a great way to see that in action – this desire to play and use their imaginations.”
Whether working with older or younger writers, Lowachee approaches her job as a teacher and workshop leader with a refreshing candidness and openness.
“I take people and their work as they are, and try to be a facilitator to their own visions,” said Lowachee. “I’m not there to make them into my own image, but to hopefully offer them a wide array of the best tools so they can build their own projects to the best of their abilities. Learning the fundamentals is important, but so is breaking the ‘rules’ with knowledge. I encourage them not to be afraid to explore and ‘make mistakes,’ and to understand that their singular journey as a creative individual is theirs alone and should not be compared to others.”
Like many of the students who attend Shared Worlds, Lowachee was a “massive” reader when she was a teenager.
“I read everything,” said Lowachee. “I didn’t stick to just one genre and I still don’t. Reading is essential to writing. Any time that I slack on reading for pleasure, my writing suffers for it. There are things you learn and pick up in good fiction that help your writing in fundamental ways. It can’t be replaced by anything.”
Lowachee has been passionate about writing since she was four years old when she wrote and illustrated paragraphs-long stories just for the sheer pleasure of storytelling.
“I don’t know where this love [for writing] came from, but I’ve always had it,” said Lowachee. “I’d write without encouragement or assignment. When I wasn’t doing school work, I was writing stories and drawing characters. I needed nobody to tell me to do it and didn’t listen when I got older and people suggested I leave it behind.”
In the classroom and on the page, she has a talent for capturing the teenager’s point of view. Lowachee's first novel, Warchild, won the 2001 Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. With the next two novels, Cagebird and Burndrive, Lowachee created a mosaic inspired by her interest in the history of European colonization of the Americas and told through the eyes of "child soldiers."
"The thought that as a society we can be judged on how we treat our children — the most defenseless and dependent of all — became a focal point of my desire to tell these stories, in my way, through the lens of a fictional future society," says Lowachee. "I didn't want to tell the story of generals and presidents. I wanted the biased, broken, and determined voices of youth to be somehow captured in my books."
Just as her fiction strives for the unvarnished truth, the hallmarks of a Lowachee workshop and classes are honesty, mutual respect, and trust.
“There are a lot of creative people, writers in particular, who get nowhere because they give up,” said Lowachee. “I tell my students that oftentimes the only difference between those who are published and those who aren’t are the ones that publish don’t give up. Past a certain point, it’s not about skill. It’s persistence, preparation, and hitting the right editor at the right time (which is something you can’t control beyond trying to get your work in front of them.) You also have to ‘keep going’ in the pursuit of wanting to be a better writer.”
As a writer, Lowachee likes to “shake up” her own writing process on a regular basis, and she encourages others to do so as well.
“Every writer works differently and that’s the amazing part,” said Lowachee. “I feel that being creative and using your imagination is inherent in people and is one of the best gifts a parent can encourage in their child. Creativity can manifest in many different ways and the ability to encourage that in yourself will affect any endeavor you undertake in life. It’s about not restricting your thoughts and the pathways to solutions, and having the courage to follow through on ideas.”