Angela Mombourquette is an author, journalist, journalism instructor, and former CBC producer. Her articles and columns have appeared in publications including The Chronicle Herald, Atlantic Books Today, The Walrus, and UC Observer, and her first book, 25 Years of 22 Minutes: An Unauthorized Oral History of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, was published by Nimbus in 2017. In the following post, she talks about how she got her start as a writer, her current writing projects, where she likes to write, and more.
How long have you been writing? What drew you to writing in general, and non-fiction in particular?
I’ve been working as a writer since 2007. Before then, I worked in television, doing many different jobs; my last job at CBC was as a producer on the long-running youth consumer show Street Cents.
What drew me to writing, and particularly to non-fiction writing, was that I had something to say—something I felt was important and that I thought other people could benefit from hearing.
I actually got my first paid writing gig when I responded to a call for submissions I had seen in a WFNS newsletter. A journal called the Nova Scotia Policy Review (it later became Coastlands) was seeking submissions from people who were personally impacted by Nova Scotia government policies. At that time, my family was struggling to get appropriate long-term care for my mother, and I wrote about our challenges.
In addition to being an author and journalist, you also teach part-time in the King’s Faculty of Journalism. Do you see any connections between your work as a writer and your work teaching writing?
I think of journalism as a little like welding: you can’t do it well until you learn how to use the tools, and the only way you can learn to use the tools is by doing the work. Also, to carry the welding analogy even farther, once you’ve mastered the tools, you can apply your artistic skill to make the work sing.
So, I see a connection in the sense that the best resource for teaching writing is someone who is actually working as a writer. My colleagues at King’s are all working journalists, and I think students appreciate and benefit from our real-world experience.
What do you love about living in Nova Scotia?
I like the pace of life here. I love that you can drive to the beach in half an hour. And I love morning walks with my dog at Point Pleasant Park.
What’s the biggest misconception about being a writer?
I think the idea of working as a writer is romanticised sometimes; I’ve never really bought into the soft-focus image of the dreamy writer’s life. For me, it’s about working hard and being disciplined. But in your slippers.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read. Write. Think critically. And don’t work for free.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Food—and cooking shows. Preparing a meal is a great de-stresser for me, and I get pretty jazzed every time a new season of Top Chef starts.
Do you remember the first time you were paid for your writing? What was it like?
I mentioned the first article I got paid for in Question 1—and I remember distinctly thinking, “Wait—if you do this well, people will pay you for it?”
Shortly after that first piece was published, The Chronicle Herald put out a call for columnists for its new (at that time) community newspapers. I thought—“What the heck—I’m a published writer now, plus I’m way opinionated.” I got the gig on the basis of that first piece and a couple of sample columns I wrote for the application. That weekly column lasted for about five years.
Where do you like to write? Do you have a dedicated writing space, or do you prefer to move around?
I’m not one of those folks who works best in a crowded coffee shop. I need quiet, and I need to be able to focus. I have a dedicated office in the home I share with my wonderful partner, Wendy, our kitty, Piper, and our Goldendoodle, Lily (who has her own Instagram page: @obeautifuldog). Having the pets around is a good reminder to get up from my desk every once in a while.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m brushing up on my Chicago Manual of Style because I have an exciting new gig coming up: I’ve been hired as the new non-fiction editor at Nimbus Publishing. I’ll be working there part-time until the end of this year, then full-time beginning in January, 2019.