Share this post!

Last Modified: February 16, 2024
Illustration of a crow sitting on a book, with the following text to the left, "Crow Reads Podcast"
Crow Reads: Astrid Blodgett

In this episode of Crow Reads, Rayanne speaks to author Astrid Blodgett about her 2023 short story collection, This is How we Disappear (University of Alberta Press). The stories explore the consequences of grief and denial and single moments that change perceptions, lives, and attachments forever. They speak about what makes a short story compelling, and about storytelling techniques, including ambiguity and expectation; the impact of setting and place; and consciously focus on creating relatable characters without deliberately considering empathy vs. sympathy. The two discuss writing retreats and their impact on creativity.

For Astrid Blodgett, describing a story essentially kills it. She is a writer for whom discovery is an integral part of the writing process. During her research around the history of short stories, she came across an article titled A Short History of the Short Story by William Boyd (2006) in which he says, “The true fully functioning short story should achieve a totality of effects that makes it almost impossible to encapsulate or summarize.” Short stories should “possess a quality of mystery, and beguiling resonance about them, a complexity of afterthought that cannot be pinned down or casually analyzed.” And this beguiling complexity is something she shares with masterful skill.

Her writing style involves manoeuvring readers through ambiguity, leaving them to make their own conclusions. For Astrid the story is not only what you add but when you add it. She compares her writing style to tipping a wick in hot wax, finding the balance between giving enough information without oversharing. For Astrid the gift of a short story is the ending; one that offers that same balance without tipping over. She says, “One of my mentors once said, an ending is both expected and a surprise. So, it has to fit. But I think it has to jar just a little bit too.” One thing she is not ambiguous about is place and setting. When asked about her choice to place the stories in this collection within Alberta, she discusses the work of the writer in truth telling. “The thing is that the setting is just a stage for the story. It is not the story. However, I love Alberta, and . . . during the restrictions in 2021 . . . I remember getting ready to go out for my usual walk in Mill Creek Ravine. I felt this incredible pull, and when I was outside on the trail, I felt like I was absorbed by the land and it was a very sensual feeling, almost like lovemaking. Not the way we make love to a human, but to the land. It was very powerful, but I don’t know how to write about this. So, I write about my characters, hiking and canoeing and whatever else they’re doing outside, living, and dying outside.”

For Astrid, retreats quickly became an integral part of her writing experience; an experience that places no barrier between the imagination and the page. There’s a reason creative retreats are mostly attended by women; they remove the obstacle of women’s physical and emotional labour. Hedgebrook, a retreat space on Whidbey Island dedicated to women and women identifying writers, receives thousands of applicants each year. As noted on their website, transgender activist and author, Janet Mock arrived at Hedgebrook exhausted and doubtful that she had any more stories to tell. The retreat, she says, offered her “a room of my own at a time when I needed to hear myself again.” The burden of carrying around other people’s emotions carries a high price and, more often than not, it is a form of work expected of women in all spaces of society, whether private or public. For Astrid Blodgett, retreats offer time and space we can’t always find at home, “When you have a job, or a partner, or children, or all three, your time is limited. So, I noticed when I was very young, that it was mostly women who went to retreats. For me, a retreat meant almost two days in one. It was a huge amount of time to write, and to think about writing.”

You can hear more of the conversation between Rayanne and Astrid at:



Headshot: Astrid Blodgett

Astrid Blodgett is the author of the short story collections This Is How You Start to Disappear and You Haven’t Changed a Bit. Her stories have appeared in many Canadian literary magazines, and in translation in Inostrannaya Literatura, a Russian journal that publishes foreign writers. One of her stories is part of the Danish Royal Ministry of Education’s English exams and now the educational textbook Connect (in the chapter on “Puzzle Plots”!). Her work has been short- or long-listed for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Story, a ReLit Award, the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and the High Plains Book Award for Short Stories. She is also a co-author of Recipes for Roaming: Adventure Food for the Canadian Rockies. For many years she co-hosted a literary salon in her home. Astrid also loves multi-day river trips and very long walks.

This Is How You Start to Disappear

Astrid Blodgett (CA)

Published: Aug 11, 2023 by University of Alberta Press
ISBN: 9781772127133

Rayanne Haines (she/her) is a pushcart nominated author, educator, and cultural producer. She was the 2022 Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries and is the author of three poetry collections. She is an Assistant Professor at MacEwan University and the President of the League of Canadian Poets. Her collection, Tell the Birds Your Body Is Not a Gun won the 2022 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry and was shortlisted for the ReLit Award and the Robert Kroetsch Poetry Award. A new hybrid collection is forthcoming in fall 2024.

Tell the Birds Your Body is Not a Gun

Rayanne Haines (CA)

Published: Apr 15, 2021 by Frontenac House Ltd.
ISBN: 9781989466216