In the Blog
Pearl Luke: The Voice Behind Madame Zee and Burning Ground
Every other Thursday I profile a new incredible woman, each from a different walk of life. Different professions, causes, backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, and anything/everything else!
So without further delay, let me introduce the wonderful Pearl Luke…
Pearl Luke is the author of two critically acclaimed novels: Madame Zee, which was a book club pick for Chatelaine, Flare, and CanadianLiving magazines and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, is a fictionalization of the life of the mistress of one of Canada’s cult leaders.
Burning Ground, which was a Globe and Mail notable book of the year, won the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel in the Canada/Caribbean region, and was short-listed for the Chapter/Robertson Davies Prize, the Georges Bugnet award, and the Canadian Booksellers’ Libris award, is the story of a bi-sexual woman and her unconventional love relationships.
Also a former writer-in-residence for the city of Taipei, Taiwan, Pearl currently writes and mentors writers online, privately from her website, www.be-a-better-writer.com. As this week’s Shameless Woman, she tells us why we shouldn’t be afraid to follow what excites us.
What drives you to do what you do?
Interest and a strong desire to help. Once my interest in something flags, I find it difficult to muster enough enthusiasm for the effort required. So I try to always do what most excites me. In addition to writing, I coach writers through my Novel Immersion Workshop, and that has been extremely rewarding. I use specific lessons in craft alongside literary analysis to illustrate technique, and the strategy works. Seeing someone suddenly grasp a concept and really make sense of it, so that it shows in her work, is always a thrill, and that keeps me interested. I’m also fascinated with social media and all the new opportunities for promotion that has opened to writers. Even with publishing layoffs and cutbacks, and industry uncertainty, I think there has never been a better time to be a writer. We have so many opportunities open to us now. We’re no longer limited by location but can literally reach the world, if we want to. I’m working on a nonfiction book for writers about using social media to create a strong writing platform, and I completely lose myself in the research, so my greatest disappointment is having to stop at the end of the day.
How does being a woman empower / challenge you?
I don’t have a lot of patience for dismissive or chauvinistic behaviour, but I learned long ago that I could quietly walk away, in the middle of an exchange if necessary, and that was empowering. I also like my imperfect, womanly body much more than I ever did when I was younger, and I find that satisfying. I have always found the female form, in all its many shapes, beautiful and sensual in so many ways, and it pleases me when I see that reflected in nature. I live in an area that has many arbutus trees, widely photographed in ways suggestively female, and I like that. I like rolling hills and sand dunes and curvaceous rock. This finds its way into my writing, and is a strength, I think. In my first novel, Burning Ground, I described the inside of a vagina, which is astoundingly beautiful. Anyone who doesn’t know that should go home tonight and do some research.
What advice would you give to young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Do what you love to do, and if your interests change, don’t be afraid to follow them. Don’t be a quitter. Give yourself time to get good at what you choose to do, but if it’s not what you thought it would be, move on. Life should be as pleasurable as possible and work for work’s sake is a deadening slog. As North Americans, we have almost unlimited opportunity to find our passions and enjoy them. It would be a pity to waste that.
What is one person, place, or thing every young woman should know about?
The inside of her vagina! Seriously, I spent so many years thinking my body did not measure up. I was too short, too fat, my face too round, my legs too heavy, and so what? Even now I wouldn’t mind having the high cheekbones and gorgeous doe eyes of a supermodel, but when is that going to happen? It’s like wanting to be taller. What a waste of time. I was fifty—a half century old—before this really hit home, that we get what we get. So make friends with your body and appreciate what you have.
What is the most important thing we can do in order to change the world?
We need to be as nonjudgmental as possible. Judgmental thoughts lead to deafness, cruelty and indifference. They stifle creativity and shut down possibility. An attitude of curiosity and openness stimulates the imagination. Kindness and acceptance take much more courage than self-righteousness, and they promote ideas and solutions.