Creative Conversations: Nora Young
Interview and illustration by Cassie McDaniel
Ahead of this Friday’s lecture, we caught up with Nora Young to see what she might bring to us this upcoming dark November morning. And we’ll tell you what – after further insight into her creative process, we are more excited than ever to present this whip-smart, down-to-earth force for creativity and storytelling in Toronto. See for yourself!
The Virtual Self is your first book. How did that process go? Was it really difficult to finish or did it flow pretty naturally from content you’d developed over the years at CBC? What are your next steps?
I really enjoyed being able to dig deeper into a topic than you can on a weekly radio show/podcast. I loved being able to chew over ideas, and see how the form and the argument emerged. It was really difficult to spend that much time alone, though. One of the great things about making Spark is that it’s highly collaborative, and I really missed that collaboration working on The Virtual Self. Because of that isolation, I initially thought this would be my only book, but I’m now starting to think about other opportunities. One thing I’ve been mulling over is whether I - or Spark - might edit a series of short ebooks on topics
about technology and culture.
Where do you go in the city – or out of the city – to recharge and feel inspired?
I do find that if I don’t get out in nature, I start to get a bit squirrelly. I often ride my bike through the Don Valley system; that always makes me feel recharged. When I’m trying to come up with ideas for a new project, I just walk and walk downtown and try to leave my 'antennae' up for creative inspiration.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career so far? Your greatest accomplishment?
Leaving DNTO and becoming self-employed was my greatest challenge, and in some ways my greatest accomplishment too. I had to go through a lot of personal and professional growth to be confident - I think anyone who is self-employed knows how much of succeeding in that realm is a mind game. Beyond that, Spark is where my heart is, and I consider Spark my greatest accomplishment (though obviously, not mine alone).
I’m going to borrow a page from The Great Discontent and ask: Are you satisfied creatively?
Sometimes I am; Spark does give us latitude to play creatively in how we produce stories. I have to say, though, that I get bored easily and am always looking for new challenges. Change really fuels my creative impulse.
Besides Spark and The Sniffer of course, what are some of your favourite podcast or radio series everyone should know about?
Like many public media fans, I love Radio Lab; they have such a sonically rich, creative, and relentlessly entertaining way of producing science stories. I love Philosophy Bites, which is short interviews with leading contemporary philosophers about topics in ethics and philosophy. As the name implies, it’s bite-sized, so perfect for a short commute. At
CBC, I really enjoy the consistently fascinating IDEAS.