Say hello to one of Toronto’s very own emerging writers-to-watch, Sofia Mostaghimi. Her work has appeared in The Unpublished City Anthology (curated by Dionne Brand), THIS Magazine and Joyland Magazine, just to name a few. And, she’s also appeared at IFOA and Word on the Street. If you’re already swooning, you’re in good company!
Read on to get an interior peek into her writing life including her writing routine, her fondest memory with books, the most difficult thing about being a writer and a weekend trek (with a playlist to boot).
I always start my morning with…
Tea. Or coffee. And I make that choice based on how fluttery my heart is feeling and on how fast my thoughts are (or aren’t) racing the moment I wake up. If I get the tea or coffee thing wrong, that can make the difference between a good and a bad day. Lately, I’ve also been having a small piece of dark chocolate in the mornings, and I’m really into this; one, because it tastes good, and two, because I like it as an idea – I can sort of picture my great-grandkid telling their friends, “my great-grandmother ate a piece of dark chocolate first thing in the morning every day of her life and she lived to be a hundred years old,” or something like that…
What does a typical day look like?
5:30-5:45 AM – Stumble out of bed, drink tea or coffee and eat small piece of dark chocolate, begin writing.
6:00-7:00 AM – Writing is going amazingly well, wow, and the sun is rising, the sky is Instagram-worthy pink, what a beautiful day it’s going to be.
7:30 AM – Wow, writing went so well. Time to start getting ready for work. I shut my laptop feeling proud, excited.
8:20 AM – Get to work, get my teacher hat on.
3:20 PM – Take teacher hat off, feeling happy about this morning’s writing sesh.
4:00 PM – Get to the gym, go for a great run to great upbeat music.
5:30 PM – Get home, prepare dinner, eat, hang out with boyfriend.
7:00 PM – Go back to this morning’s writing, wow, it’s still as good as I remember. I write some more.
8:00 PM – I start winding down for the day… watch an hour of TV then read a good book in bed… fall asleep feeling happy, warm, and fuzzy.
7:30 AM – I snoozed my 5:30 AM alarm up until this point, boyfriend not happy, me neither.
8:20 AM – Get to work, get my teacher hat on.
3:20 PM – Teacher hat fell off somewhere between third and fourth period, feeling tired, frustrated and haven’t written yet today.
4:00 PM – Get to the gym, my run is excruciatingly boring, everyone around me is incredibly sweaty and annoying, must leave early…
5:00 PM – Energy levels low. To make dinner or to write???
Rest of the evening – wistfully wish I were writing without actually moving off the couch. Also, I caved and bought a poutine at A&W, have been watching Jane the Virgin reruns for three hours and playing Trivia 360 on my phone… to salvage the day, I may decide to read before bed. I’ll try again tomorrow…
When do you try to write?
Usually, I write in the mornings. I like the mornings. Especially in the city, because otherwise, the city is so loud. It’s sort of the opposite in the country, where it’s the birds that are the loudest at dawn. So I like to write in the mornings when it’s still dark outside, and no one but me and the groggy raccoons seems to be awake. I’m a lot nicer to myself in the mornings, too. I’m less critical of my work so it’s easier to be brave and to take pleasure in writing without worrying about how it might be read. But that being said, I think some stories are meant to be worked on when you’re tired from the day, and it’s dark outside, and for no particular reason, you’re feeling a bit nostalgic or lonely, and it’s channeling that energy that you need to complete the thing. So then when that’s the case, I’ll work at night, with frequent pauses and maybe a cup of coffee followed by a glass of red wine.
I like to write at my desk, in my study, which is upstairs off our bedroom. I like it there for the simple reason that it’s my room which means it’s mine to shut the door to or to open as I please. I also sometimes like to write downstairs, at the kitchen table. Like my study, the kitchen is a bright, open space, so in the mornings, it fills with natural light. I love that.
What made you decide writing is important to you/it’s the path you want to take?
Oh, God. Well, for a long time I didn’t think I was good enough to be a writer then somewhere along the way I sort of stopped caring. I love writing. I love words. I love playing with words. I find it hard to say what I mean, but natural to write it. I like the musicality of language, the textures they make up in our mouths. Take the word cake, for example. I fucking love that word, the porous little burst it makes, how it sounds out loud. And I like that we can use words – their meanings, textures, and sounds – to tell stories, and that those stories can make people feel things.
What is your favourite thing to do that isn’t writing?
Slow weekend mornings reading and eating breakfast in our east-facing kitchen, good conversation and glasses of wine with family and friends, taking long walks, reading, going for runs while listening to loud pop music, or at night, going dancing in small, dark places that play Riri and Drake, sleeping…
What do you think is the hardest thing about being a writer?
In her novel The Door, Magda Szabó writes that, “creativity requires a state of grace,” and that to find success in writing, one must have “stimulus and composure, inner peace and a kind of bitter-sweet excitement.” I think that’s the hardest part about being a writer. It’s trying to live in that state of grace all of the time. It isn’t possible.
Tell us something that people would be surprised to learn about you.
If you lend me a book, I probably won’t read it.
What is your earliest fond memory of a book or writing?
Heading to the public library in Brampton, Ontario with my mom, my little sister, and a blue, plastic milk crate. We’d get to the library, which had a huge (huge to me, at least) section of kids books and my mom would let us roam the stacks freely. The rule was that we could check out as many books as would fit into the milk crate. My little sister and I would spend a couple of hours there sifting through books, deciding. Then we’d pack back into the car. My mom would warn me, “Sofia, don’t read in the car. You know it’ll make you sick.” I never listened. I’d read the whole way, or for as long as I could until I’d start to feel sick. By the time we got home, I had a headache and a bellyache. I’d have to lie on the couch next to the milk crate filled with books, totally unable to read any of them with no one to blame but myself.
Take us on a weekend trek!
I’m a serious homebody. I get anxiety going into new restaurants, new venues, new parks, and I rarely eat out, except for the rare fast food craving or birthday celebration. I do love taking long walks, though. In the suburbs, where I grew up, every house looks the same, and long walks are dizzyingly boring. Not in Toronto. Every house is unique. So if I were to take you on a weekend trek in my city, we’d probably just roam the small, residential streets between Bathurst and Dufferin. On Markham St., there’s this hauntingly pale blue-brick-and-lilac Victorian mansion that I plan on putting into a story one day. Near College St, north of Bloor, you can also spot some really weird and elaborate shrine-like decorations outside of people’s homes. There’s one house that’s got doll heads and dinosaur figurines hanging from a DIY arch like something out of a surrealist movie. In Toronto, people also like to leave the things that they don’t want or need any more outside, on their front lawns, sometimes accompanied with signs that read, “free.” I’ve got a friend who’s furnished half of her apartment from roaming Toronto streets and picking up discarded items. After our little walk, we’d probably end up at a bookstore (duh). Probably BMV at Bloor & Bathurst, where you can get the most bang for your buck.
Now give us a playlist for your lovely self and day!
Sofia Mostaghimi is a fiction writer and teacher of Iranian and Québécois descent. She is also Fiction Editor at Broken Pencil Magazine. Her stories have appeared in The Unpublished City Anthology, THIS Magazine, The Hart House Review, and Joyland Magazine, among other publications and anthologies. She is currently working on completing her first novel.