When Madeline Nixon graduated from UTM’s Professional Writing and English programs this past June, she expected to be a working writer in due time. It wasn’t until the launch of her self-published book, Feathers, that she welcomed in prospects that shattered her writer’s block down the middle.

Feathers, as Nixon describes it, is a “collection of short stories” about her “life and experiences with paranormal things,” even mentioning a séance that occurs in one chapter of her book.

When I sit down with Nixon at her home in Oakville, she’s holding her foster-sibling on her lap. When we talk about Feathers, she reveals that she originally wanted to write about the foster children her family sponsors from time to time.  

“I was going to have a bunch of different chapters about each child that we’ve fostered. I was going to have five of them, but when I was writing it, one of the last ones hadn’t been settled yet, so I didn’t know how to finish it. I didn’t want to leave it open, and it presented too many challenges […] and then I started making a list of all my ghostly encounters. I came up with twenty-seven and narrowed it down to twenty-two!”

When she reveals other struggles that she encountered in the process, she cites something interesting: the actual writing of the book. She said sitting down to write was surprisingly the biggest challenge she was forced to face. “I feel like a lot of authors say this—writing is just challenging. I procrastinated so much. I started in August and I did not write all of September, and then in October I knew I had to finish it by January.”

Although sticking with her craft was an obstacle, Nixon relays that the PWC program’s Making a Book course, where she masterfully created Feathers, posed its own hardships along the way. Using Adobe InDesign, she found the software “daunting” as she began to understand its ways. She says that it was “very challenging to master at first,” and that “it’s a steep learning curve—you sit in front of the computer and you’re like, what is this?”

She describes the course itself as “heavy” and that one must self-prepare in anticipation for its load. When we discuss the mixed feelings that students have over the program’s courses, Nixon credits the program with teaching her how to write “professionally as opposed to creatively.”

Nixon hints that if students are leaning towards writing creatively, that it’s a huge boost for the university for introducing the new creative writing program. She said she “loved” the PWC program, but wished she could have taken classes in creative writing and laments at its absence during her undergraduate career.

Since she used the program to self-publish Feathers, Nixon had much marketing to do on her part of the deal. In October, she launched a book signing at the local Indigo in Oakville and said that while she got to “talk to a lot of people,” she’s excited to find a larger store to maximize her moment next time.

“People from high school who I kind of knew, but that I wasn’t great friends with came and that felt pretty special. I also got to see a lot of my old teachers from Loyola, who I invited, and they were all really impressed! One of them is in charge of the book club at the school and was like ‘you should come talk to them!’ I still haven’t done it but I appreciate the offer and interest.”

However, Nixon’s biggest fan revealed herself behind the cash at a grocery store, the same day she was buying food for the book launch she threw at home. When the cashier inquired about all the items she was buying, Nixon detailed the excitement that would be surrounding her book that weekend.

“She was like, ‘I have a bunch of ghost stories too! What’s your name? I’m going to write it down and buy your book!’”

When I ask her if that ever became a reality, she replies “Well, you can see the sales on Amazon and someone did buy it the next day, so unless someone else decided to buy it, then I don’t know. But I wanted to believe it was her.” 

After her huge moment, however, Nixon is ready to conquer projects that will surpass what she has already managed to create: “I am actually working—but not on my own project—with a publisher in Oakville on a series of books about space. We’re just putting them all together and editing. I do have my own little side project and its going to be fiction this time but with still a little paranormal element in it. Scary stuff is the good stuff!”

Madeline Nixon’s short story collection Feathers is available on Amazon.ca

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