This month’s pick is Little Fish by Casey Plett – since its publication in Spring 2018, it has gone on to win the Amazon First Novel Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and has been nominated for the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award and the Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Writers.
Casey Plett is the author of the novel Little Fish (Arsenal Pulp Press) and the short story collection A Safe Girl to Love (Topside Press), and co-editor of the anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers (Topside Press). She wrote a column on transitioning for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and her essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Maclean’s, The Walrus, Plenitude, the Winnipeg Free Press, and other publications.
WOTS: Casey, welcome back to the WOTS Blog! Little Fish, as per the blurbs, is a book filled with love (of all stripes), darkness, hope, loneliness, loss, and collective heroism. Do you have a favourite “take” on the book? Who got close to your own feelings about the novel?
Casey Plett: Honestly, it’s a big host of people on Goodreads and Twitter, many (though not all) trans readers, who seemed to connect most with the mental frenzy that produced Little Fish. A bunch of people seemed to get that the book was about calmness, about solace, about acceptance. Wendy decides that changing big things in her life won’t make her any less unhappy – and while that may or may not be true, and it may or may not be a self-fulfilling prophecy, it does undeniably bring her a level of peace. Beyond social media, I loved Evelyn DeShane’s review of it in Plenitude that really delved into how time works in the story. I also was deeply gratified by Jonathan Valelly’s review in Quill & Quire – he also mentions I might be reticent to refer to the group as honouring a collective heroism, and he’s right, I am! Haha. Everything else in his review lines up powerfully with what I hoped for the book though. And I still think about his observation that there is “a stern, loving power cradling Wendy.”
WOTS: In an interview with Room Magazine you summed up the book in one word – “Peace.” Can you expand on that?
CP: Peace, yes. Similar to Wendy’s grandfather, who used religion and introversion to deal with his own situation, neither Wendy nor her grandfather may be dealing with their lives in the way 2019 liberal society considers healthy. And for both people, there may have been better options. But the paths they chose brought them closer to quieting the noise. It’s very implicit in the text, but I think this is the lesson Wendy takes away from her trip to see Anna.
WOTS: Did you write about Winnipeg from Windsor? What helped to evoke the imagery of the urban prairie while in Ontario?
CP: I wrote the first third, I’d say, while I was still in Winnipeg. Most of the rest I wrote in Toronto, actually, when I lived there 2015-2016. When I moved to Windsor I was just finishing up the first draft. I dunno really what to say except that the landscape of Winnipeg will probably forever be in me.
WOTS: Since being released to the world, Little Fish has been scooping up acclaim with both hands – can you let us in on your reaction to this reception to your first novel-length publication?
CP: The story in Little Fish represents some of the most personally true and difficult things I’ve ever wanted to say. I still don’t have words. Honestly, it’s too much for one woman, my brain can barely process the gifts I’ve been given. The reaction to Little Fish has changed my life—spiritually and financially, ha! And all I can say is I’m going to try so hard to continue.
WOTS: With a collection of short stories, a variety of articles, and a novel under your belt, do you have a favourite format to write?
CP: I love long short stories and short personal essays! They’ll both always probably feel like my bread and butter to work with.
WOTS: What do you have on the go now? Can you let us in on any of your current projects?
CP: I’m trying to work on a screenplay, go figure. I slowly have a collection of short fiction that I think may come together? And a couple seeds of novels.
WOTS: Thanks for spending some time with us on the Blog, Casey! We can’t wait to read (and watch!?) what you bestow on us next, and are so excited to cheer you on.