Andrea Warner: Buffy Sainte-Marie Biography

(This is second of #LitFest2019 interviews with writers attending the Galiano Literary Festival February 22-24 on Galiano Island. Tickets are on sale now (250) 539-3340 or leetrentadue@gmail.com.)

“Andrea Warner is, in my opinion, one of the best music journalists in Canada.” — Elaine Lui

Andrea Warner is the author of Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography  (Greystone, 2018) and We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music (Eternal Cavalier Press, 2015). Andrea is an associate producer at CBC Music and co-hosts the weekly podcast, Pop This!.

Andrea Warner was born and raised in East Vancouver, a settler on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Her pronouns are she/her/hers.

She spent childhood Sundays in her father’s secondhand shop and weeknights penning soapy teen novels by the light of streetlamps when she should have been sleeping. Today, she is a writer, critic, broadcaster, and podcaster focusing on music, arts, pop culture, and feminism.

Her radio work includes a weekly music column on CBC’s Radio One’s On the Coast and she’s also part of CBC Radio’s Day 6 music panel. She serves on the jury for the Polaris Music Prize and freelances as a theatre critic for the Georgia Straight. Her writing has appeared in Pitchfork, Bitch, Exclaim!, the Literary Review of Canada, and the Globe and Mail among others.

Some of her previous work lives include three years as the horoscopes columnist for Soap Opera Weekly, a year doing quality control for chat lines, teaching journalism and writing to youth who were victims and/or perpetrators of violence, call centre management, and a year as the music editor of an alternative weekly. Pop culture, art, and feminism make her happy.

We’re excited to welcome Andrea to the 10th annual Galiano Island Literary Festival.

We recently had a chance to catchup with Andrea and ask her some questions about the writer’s life and her personal journey.

KK – Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

AW – Not a normal nine-to-five, usually, with some eye focused on retirement because honestly, I will never stop writing. But even if a writer is working a “normal” nine-to-five, chances are they’re writing in the early hours or the wee hours, snatching time where they can in order to get the words onto the page.

I make my living from writing, but I’m a journalist and a critic, and the two books that I’ve written have been crafted in and around my part-time job at CBC Music and all my freelancing.

I hustle a lot, and am constantly working, and sometimes I get very last-minute assignments, so I have to cancel on people. And other times, a book will take up the bulk of my energy and focus, and I’ll have to sacrifice making money and spending time with family and friends in order to work on a book.

I don’t love the precarity of freelancing and books, but I prefer it to a full time job. There’s a certain delusional freedom I feel in the life I’ve cultivated so far.   

KK – What were you like at school?

AW – The most common threads between elementary school and high school (for some reason this question really anchors me in that time rather than post-secondary) was that I was super into reading (Sweet Valley High, Babysitters Club, AND Leonard Cohen and Alice Munro and Maya Angelou), writing, my friends, music and was vehemently outraged by what I perceived as injustice.

My first major memory of this was in grade seven, and the school principal and I really did not get along. After I was elected president of student council, I’m pretty sure she disbanded our student government. She also canceled “graduation” for grade sevens, including our big dance.

She did not give any satisfactory reasons for this and we were so mad. It was very Footloose, but at least that guy honestly thought he had a good reason.

With a group of parents and some other students, we raised money and rented the gym at the community centre across the field from the school, and we did it in the afternoon so that all of the grade sevens would just leave school at lunch and skip together in protest, and go have our own dance. It was the best. My outfit from that dance? Not so much. I’m so happy that fat people of all ages have better clothing options in 2019. 

AW – Does writing energize or exhaust you?

KK – Both. I can write for hours and hours, and honestly forget basic body functions and at the end of the day, I’m a little squirrely. Some days it’s been more emotionally exhausting subject matter. Some days I feel really charged, like an electric current is buzzing through me from the creative adrenaline. Both have their value. 

KK – What are common traps for aspiring writers?

AW – Trying to please other people. Comparing oneself to others. Thinking it has to be competition rather than building community. “Networking” rather than building community. Thinking it’s an even playing field. Refusing to acknowledge privilege. Two spaces after a period. 

KK – Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

AW – Death to big egos in CanLit. Here’s to humility, hard work, consent, and pride in our own writing and the ways in which we amplify the voices of marginalized and aspiring writers — without any predatory motivations. 


Galiano Literary 2019 is February 22-24. Buy your tickets today by contacting (250) 539-3340 or leetrentadue@gmail.com

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