Writing from the inside out – Ann Ireland and The Blue Guitar

zeeBigBang spoke with award-winning author, Ann Ireland, about her craft and her new novel, The Blue Guitar, published by Dundurn Press.


She is not a typical author. Each of her first three novels hit a home-run with audiences and literary critics. zeeBigBang wanted to find out what makes Ireland’s novels stand in a league of their own with each one having won or been nominated for important national awards.The Blue Guitar is certain to achieve the same acclaim.

Ireland’s books focus on the lives and inner workings of artists, something she knows a lot about.  Her mother was a classical singer; her father a painter; her husband a painter and she is an author. The setting for The Blue Guitar is an international classical guitar competition in Montreal. Ann took classical guitar lessons when writing the novel. She attended recitals, audited master classes, spoke with the musicians and judges. She watched classical guitar competitions which could change a musician’s life in an instant. Ireland describes these recitals as “similar to becoming an Olympic champion, being 150% focused and everything depending on the one performance.”


Photo: Gabrielle de Montmollin

She describes writing as “a solitary, lonely existence with little happening for years.” She acknowledges that, “Rejection is common.”  She offers this advice to writers to overcome rejection: “Allow yourself to feel bad but do not allow it to affect you. Allow 10 minutes, or an hour, or a day, of feeling bad and then remember to celebrate the positive along the way, such as finishing a draft.”

She believes there is more than one recipe for writing a novel. “There are many ways to enter a novel –   enter a character, shake up creativity, think about your personal voice.”

Her novels testify of her hard work, discipline and mastery of writing and storytelling. Her first novel, A Certain Mr. Takahashi, published in 1986, was the winner of the $50,000 Seal-Bantam First Novel Award. That novel was made into the movie called “The Pianist.”


In 2002 her book, Exile, was published and was nominated for many awards including the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction. Between books she contributes to anthologies, writes essays and other forms of creative non-fiction, such as profiles of visual artists.


Always hard at work writing, she encourages aspiring writers to do the same and “concentrate on the writing and being someone who has done the hard work rather than someone who has published.” Ireland advises writers to get inside the story and write from the inside out. “If you are writing about a trip then go inside one fragment of the trip and expand on it. Learn how to live in the world by seeing and creating a story; framing your vision helps you become different in the world.”

Writing Workshops @ The Chang School

Ireland coordinates the Writing Workshops Department at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University in Toronto and teaches on-line creative writing courses.  She teaches her students about creativity and the differences between producing good writing in the work place and good writing that is creative.

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