“Awards are very much a crapshoot,” Joan Barfoot, award-winning Canadian novelist told me. “Everyone knows that.”Barfoot will be reading from her latest book Critical Injuries, at Brock University’s Harpweaver Reading Series this Thursday, Oct. 8. She received the Books in Canada First Novel Award for her book Abra in 1978, the Marian Engle Award for a Canadian woman writer in mid-career and her novel Dancing in the Dark became a critically-acclaimed film starring Bjork, which won a number of awards at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals.
Barfoot feels awards are important in a “cosmic sense,” but said an award for best book doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best book. Barfoot has been a juror on many panels deciding which book should win various awards. “It’s kind of luck of the draw,” she says, because there are a lot of high quality books out there.
On her web site, Barfoot has links to many reviews written on her books. When asked if reviews were important to her, she said they can be, but it depends.
“Obviously, I love a good review,” she admitted, but at the same time she doesn’t mind a “bad” review so long as it’s smart. “I’ve also gotten good reviews that are pretty dim-witted.”
Barfoot feels that the real importance of a review is in the marketplace. “People are more apt to buy a book if it has received good reviews,” she observes. “Negative reviews can put a dent in sales as well as my income.”
Barfoot spent many years as a journalist, writing books on the side, until about six years ago. “I wanted to write full time,” she said. “It was too hard to do two careers at a time.”
Barfoot also wanted to get away from the world of journalism, because she felt it was becoming too centered on ownership and all about profit. “To hell with it,” she decided. “It was a superb career for learning about the world and human beings though.”
Barfoot felt her news career fed her with a lot of information, which has helped her in her novel writing. When doing research for books, Barfoot said she only does what she feels is necessary. “I don’t feel I have to [research extensively],” she claims. “I’ve picked up a lot of information through the years and just work with it”
Barfoot says a lot of her books focus on how people change their lives. “Your life can change in a second,” she said, and she makes reference to the recent World Trade Centre disaster, citing it as a “stunning example.”
“Things can happen in your life, but they aren’t always all bad,” she says. “You can gain from these experiences, but you have to work hard.”
Barfoot does not aim to send out any lessons or messages in her writing. She feels people can take whatever they want from her books.
“I’m not a teacher,” she said. “I’m not a guru wise person. I’m a smart person, wrestling toward wisdom.”
Joan Barfoot will be doing a reading of her novel Critical Injuries this Thursday at Pond Inlet, at 7:30 PM.