We had the good fortune of connecting with Tara Gilboy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tara, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
The most important decision I ever made for my writing career was when I decided to go to graduate school and complete a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of British Columbia, though probably not for the reasons most people would assume. Attending graduate school is a huge investment of time and money, and though in some fields, it comes with the expectation of a higher income after graduation, unfortunately that is not the case when you’re studying creative writing. The theory behind an MFA is that hopefully it will make you a better writer, and it gives you the graduate degree you need to teach at the college level. It did both of those things for me, but more importantly, when I attended graduate school it was the first time I ever felt like I truly belonged anywhere. I had always been the kid who was happier reading than playing with friends, and even as an adult, I carried a book everywhere and often felt like the oddball in social groups. At UBC, it was such a wonderful surprise to find that tons of people existed who were just like me — we could get lost reading and talking about characters and storytelling for hours. I made some of my dearest friends there, and I still workshop weekly with a group of writers I met in the program. We’ve all gone on to publish books, and it has been so fun cheering each other on and supporting one another throughout the process. I truly believe that every novel is a collaborative effort: the author writes alone, of course, but I couldn’t do it without my critique partners who read and give feedback along the way. Going to graduate school also taught me to have confidence in myself and to see projects through to the end — it demystified the writing process for me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to think of myself as a success because I only got to where I am today by failing. A LOT. I tell my writing students that I don’t believe in talent: I think we often point to writers that we see as “talented,” but instead this “talent” is actually the result of writing a lot and reading a lot. One of my writing professors gave me some advice that I never forgot. She said: “I’ve seen a lot of talented writers come through this program, and it wasn’t the ones with the most talent who made it. It was the ones who were the most persistent and who revised the most.” I took this to heart. I don’t have any control over whether my books are published, and once they are published, I don’t have any control over whether people like them or if the sales are good. All I have control over is how hard I work. The one thing that’s kept me coming back to writing after failing time and again is how much I love it. Once, at a low moment, I asked myself: if I knew that none of my work would ever be published, would I continue writing? The answer was an emphatic ‘yes.’ I’ve been writing stories since I was seven or eight years old, and I can’t imagine living without writing being a part of my life. The key is finding the joy in writing that I had as a kid scribbling stories in my notebook. Another professor of mine called writing “the greatest love of her life,” and I think this is true for me as well. No matter what is going on in my life, I always have the writing (and reading!) to return to. It’s been my touchstone.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I teach a class for SDCCD’s College of Continuing Education called “Rediscovering San Diego,” and so I am always on the lookout for interesting places to visit! I would definitely bring my friends to La Jolla Cove to walk along the beach and see the sea lions, Cabrillo National Park to tidepool and visit the lighthouse, a harbor cruise on the water, the museums at Balboa Park, fish tacos at Mitch’s Seafood in Point Loma, a ghost tour in Old Town, and finally an improv show at National Comedy Theater (they are the best!). Some off-the-beaten-path places that are also truly amazing are the Antique Gas and Steam Museum in Vista and the Camel Dairy in Ramona.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe so much to the members of my writing group, the RCC (short for the Raspberry Cordial Collective, named for a scene from Anne of Green Gables): Kate Lum, Michelle Barker, Patti Edgar, and Tanya Bellehumeur-Allat. They inspire me every day and make me a better writer!