Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Interviews, Recommendations, and More

The Chat with Casey Plett

In 2021, Casey Plett’s superb short story collection, A Dream of a Woman (Arsenal Pulp Press) was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. This week, Casey joins us on The Chat to talk about the book.

Casey Plett photo credit Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

Of the collection, the Globe and Mail says, “Plett has a characteristic style that manages to merge tenderness with Prairie toughness—a style on display in these stories of trans women seeking something—groundedness, maybe, but that dreamlike quality of desire, too.” 

Casey Plett is the author of A Dream of a Woman, Little Fish, A Safe Girl to Love, and the co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender Writers. She has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the Winnipeg Free Press, and other publications. A winner of the Amazon First Novel Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award, her work has also been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. She splits her time between New York City and Windsor, Ontario.



Trevor Corkum: The stories in the collection span a wide geographic range—Portland, New York, Winnipeg, Windsor, southern Manitoba. Can you share a bit about how geography and movement has influenced your creative practice?

Casey Plett: I’ve lived in all those places, and I’m interested in portraying the experience of what it’s bodily, physically like to live in and move around those places. However, I really don’t want to ... try to trip over myself trying to sound local, either. I’m interested in trying to keep my ear on how people who live in a place talk to each other.

TC: At the heart of each of the stories are such tender, brilliantly complex relationships—with friends, ex-lovers, family, co-workers. I love the familiarity, solidarity, humour and trust you so richly depict—such as the lifelong, evolving relationship between Hazel and Christopher in the opening story. Were any of the relationships more challenging than others to bring to life?

CP: Gemma and Ava. They were the hardest.

TC: As with your gorgeous debut novel Little Fish, in these stories you describe the complex realities of a diverse group of transgender women. Did you have any particular audience in mind when you wrote these pieces?

CP: I’m kind of exhausted with talking about audience, honestly. I think if you’re worried about certain topics, vocabulary, troubles, etc. scanning or not to a reader—it’s immensely possible to write on a dual-track, so people who get the reference are enriched by the content, and people who don’t get it can keep up. The example I often use is that any Mennonite from Southern Manitoba will inevitably see a few extra levels deeper into Miriam Toews novels ... but anybody can enjoy them. I feel the same way about my fiction, and the overlapping worlds that tend to show up in it.

TC: The stories sometimes explore spirituality and religion, in particular the Mennonite church. For example, Gemma’s Mennonite background is a key part of her story in “Enough Trouble.” Can you talk more about the importance of spirituality to you personally, as a writer?

CP: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” —Matthew 6:1

TC: Finally, last fall saw A Dream of a Woman longlisted for the 2021 Giller Prize, and just recently you’ve been named to the 2022 Giller Prize jury. What does this kind of recognition mean for you at this point in your career?

CP: It means a lot! It also means money for the judging work and money from book sales figures. I love getting paid.


Excerpt from “Rose City, City of Roses”

Sunday, May 17, 2020


It’s Nicole. I dreamed about you last night. What happened in the dream, I don’t remember. There was you, a pool table, a sea of empty two-litre soda bottles, and a framed portrait of an old hookup of mine, a sweet guy with a scratchy beard and a diaper fetish who I wish I’d treated better. It was one of those random dreams that felt sensible and relaxing. And in it, you were alive as ever.

So when I woke up, and remembered you were gone, I felt real despair. I stayed in bed for some time. It’s only been two months since you died, Sue, yet I hadn’t thought about you for a few days there, until last night, when you were in my dream.

You died young, of a disease you had fought for a long time, in a moment when the world was falling apart around you. And the people who loved you, disparate and far-flung as they are, could not gather. I have my own superstitions about how this affects people who are gone, and I hope for your sake I’m wrong about them.
I suppose I hope you’re laughing at me right now, thinking this makes any kind of difference.

I’m aware you know about grief and loss, that you learned this long ago, in middle school, when your boyfriend died in the towers. (Not that we ever talked about it ... Lloyd told me.) Sometimes I think it’s one of the cruellest things, when someone grieving is surrounded only by those who didn’t know the person who’s gone.

Without anchors, grief dissolves in the brain like salt in water, invisible and unremovable, silent and interwoven. Example: I have a photo of you on my wall. It’s clearly from high school. You’re laughing in a crowded kitchen, but the house doesn’t look familiar. Lloyd is the only other identifiable person in the picture, and he’s looking at whoever you’re looking at, but that’s all the clues. There’s no one in my life right now who could help make this picture make sense, or who would bond with me over its guesswork. Regardless, anyone from those days would agree: this picture of you is perfect. Your laugh that was joy-filled and pissy and blade-sharp, unmimickable by anyone. I can imagine showing this picture now to the guys from back then, and to all of them, the sound of your laugh would be crystalline. But if I said any of this to a stranger, to even the kindest, most interested stranger, there’s nothing I could truly get across. It would fall apart as I was speaking, in the way of memories after dreams.

I’m still in Canada. In a small city right across the border from Detroit. I forget if I was here last time we talked, but I’ve been here a few years. It’s all right. It’s the Rust Belt, but it’s also easy to exist; that’s the shortest way I can explain this town. I work for a publishing company in the artsy district. I sold my car and got a nice apartment that’s quiet and safe. I like to bus to work in the mornings, and then walk home in the evenings. Evenings, for me, have always been harder than mornings. In normal times, that’s not so bad—I’m an adult with a good job; I have the resources to pursue the quotidian ways one makes an evening easier in the twenty-first century. I do like my evening walks. The riverfront is nice and the Detroit skyline is beautiful. Sometimes I stop in at Villains for a drink on the way. I feel whatever about drinking, but I like bars. I like to sit and read and nurse one  and linger.

That’s not happening right now with pandemic life, obviously. Right now, everything is so dark I can barely talk about it. If the future holds anything normal, I could see myself becoming a good-natured old hag with a permanent seat at the bar who no one ever sees tipsy. I like the karaoke at Villains on Sundays, too. And, I swear, that place is the only joint in this town that doesn’t always have on just sports.

Excerpted with permission from the book A Dream of a Woman by Casey Plett, published by Arsenal Pulp Press, 2021.

Comments here

comments powered by Disqus

More from the Blog