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Stranger at the Door

Writers and the Act of Writing

Kristjana Gunnars

Paper 138 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-455-3

Release Date: December 2004

Online discount: 25%

$36.99  $27.74


eBook availability

At the beginning of a new writing project—whether it’s the first page of a new novel or a less ambitious project, writers often experience exhilaration, fear, or dread. For Kristjana Gunnars, the call of a new project is “like someone you don’t know knocking on your door—you either choose to let the person in or not. It’s both exciting and dangerous to start a new manuscript.” This book is an engagement with that “stranger” called writing.

Creative or imaginative writing is a complex process that involves more than intellect alone. Writers make use of everything: their sensibilities, history, culture, knowledge, experience, education, and even their biology. These essays seek out, and gather into a discussion, what writers have said about their own experiences in writing. Although the writers are from around the world and of very different backgrounds, the commonality of their remarks brings home the realization that writers everywhere are grappling with similar problems—with the seemingly simple problems of when, where, why, and what to write, but also larger questions such as the relationship between writer and society, or issues of privacy, appropriation, or homelessness. While none of these questions can be definitively answered, they can be fruitfully discussed.

Originating as questions posed in creative-writing seminars, these essays have grown into companion texts for both writers and readers who want to participate in a conversation about what writers do.

Kristjana Gunnars has received the George Bugnet Award for fiction; the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for poetry; and the McNally Robinson Award for fiction. She’s been nominated for the Books in Canada/Smith Books First Novel Award, and the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction. She has taught at the University of Alberta and Okanagan College.


“A pleasure to read....This book should be of interest to general readers and to students and scholars interested in literary theory. It is very beautifully, simply, accessibly written, and addresses many of the theoretical issues that have preoccupied Canadian writers over the past two decades....One of its strengths is its firm location in Canadian letters, but with a profoundly internationalist, particularly European, informing perspective....It also pioneers several new areas: [including] the link between spirituality and writing.”

— Di Brandt, award-winning poet and author of Now You Care

“One of the greatest strengths of the book: Gunnars is a meticulous reader as well as writer as she explores the act of writing through a range of voices. She engages these voices in converstaion and she makes the links and conections as she forges a writing community that spans the globe....Interestingly, rather than making...links to her own oeuvre explicit, she allows them to hover, like the ‘shadow text’ that she alludes to elsewhere in this provocative collection.”

— Joanne Saul, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2004

Stranger at the Door offers a diverse and exciting vantage on the elusive nature of writing.”

— Christopher Wiebe, VueWeekly

Stranger at the Door should be required reading for anyone interested in the act of writing, whether writer, teacher, critic or reader.”

— Robert Reid, The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo)

Stranger at the Door may be ... satisfying to readers looking for mini-lectures, studded with questions and references, on the theory of writing.”

— Candace Fertile, The Globe and Mail

“Full of riches...the essays are ‘really an outgrowth of conversations with students,’ and reading them, one feels part of that conversation and also part of a greater conversation with the writing community. These are generous essays....Her style is clear, direct, deeply intellectual and courageous....For established writers, aspiring writers and creative writing students, Stranger at the Door is a gift.”

— Shawna Lemay, The Edmonton Journal

“As a series of reflective observations on a variety of literatures, Stranger at the Door is rich, and the breadth of Gunnar’s reading is impressive....For an undergraduate reader, the reflections may raise new questions about writing and encourage critical thought. no mean achievement.”

— Norbert Schürer, World Literature Today

“After you read this book, after you sit through this celebration with Gunnars as your host, you will feel full of unexpected wisdom about both writing and life....You will revere language and image; you will have the humility to embrace doubt and unknowing and multi-faceted truth....You will be haunted by words and harried by boundaries.”

— J.M. Bridgeman, Prairie Fire Magazine