Get to know Sarah Henstra

What’s next on your reading list?
I’m waiting for a friend to finish Pond, by Claire Louise Bennett, so I can read it next.

What do you struggle most with as a writer?
I struggle with writing every step of the way. There’s an enormous amount of internal resistance to overcome every time I sit down to work. But I feel really good when I finally get some words down on the page.

What do you have the most fun with as a writer?
I love the power of a good sentence. When I find a fresh way of describing a scene or expressing a feeling, I feel like a wizard casting spells.

Do you write with music in the background, or in silence?
For many years, I had a playlist of 25 or 30 songs I’d listen to on Shuffle while I wrote. But since I got rid of my smartphone, I’ve started using earplugs, instead, when I’m writing in a noisy place.

Does anyone keep you company while you write?
I have a number of writing buddies who regularly meet me in cafes around Toronto to work together. It makes writing less solitary and lonely.

Do you believe in writer’s block? What do you do if you get stuck?
Hmm, this is a tough one. I was quite stuck this year between January and March, and I just kept showing up to the page and trying even though it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. I’m a little scared of the term “writer’s block,” so I avoided describing the frustration and inertia that way. I kept trying new writing strategies—writing at a different time of day, reading different books for inspiration, printing out my work in progress and revising it longhand—and eventually, I did find traction and momentum in the project again.

What sparked the idea for We Contain Multitudes?
I wanted to write an epistolary love story, in which the romance is sparked through an exchange of letters and in which the entire narrative is limited to that form. Writing the book was like an extended dare to myself, to see if I could pull it off, in terms of the form and the voices of these two teenaged characters.

Sarah Henstra is the author of We Contain Multitudes, and will be appearing at Festival Sunday on Sunday September 8, 2019.