Canadian Writers in Person: Casey Plett reflects on peace, calmness

young woman reads a book

On Feb. 14, author Casey Plett was the featured guest during a Canadian Writers in Person event at York via zoom to talk about her characters’ pursuit of calmness and peace in the collection of short stories Dream of a Woman.

Her stories are about transgender characters trying to figure out how to live fulfilled lives as adults and what a happy life might look like for them.

Some of the collection was written during the COVID-19 lockdowns – a strange experience, Plett says. “I didn’t want to write literally about the pandemic, but I did want to write about isolation and loneliness and the impossibility of futures,” she explains. “Enough Trouble,” a story written entirely during the lockdowns, is about a trans woman returning to a small town in Manitoba and trying to ca a future for herself in a place that is both familiar and strange to her.

While Plett’s first book, A Safe Girl to Love, is about people in their 20s who have just come out and are very concerned with the immediate present; in Dream of a Woman the characters are far more concerned with the future – the distant future specifically, the writer says. “This idea of happiness that’s sold to us through self-help books is not always productive,” Plett says.

Plett believes that looking inwards instead prompts more honest realizations about those things that are pursued in the name of happiness, and how many people must chase goals that aren’t necessarily conducive to a socially acceptable vision of a happy life. Those things that make each person happy “are individual, and they get to be private, and they get to be secret.”

Instead of a conventional happiness, Plett shows her characters pursuing calmness and peace – terms she used to talk about her novel Little Fish, too. Every character in Dream of a Woman is “a little further into figuring out what calmness and peace looks like for them within each story. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in a great place, but they figured some things out. I think each character has figured something out about how to live a calmer and more peaceful life by the end.”

The stories in Dream of a Woman take readers on various journeys with transwomen trying to figure out their lives after transitioning. The book encourages its audience to reflect on what brings each person calm and peace.

For more on the Canadian Writers in Person series, and to see a list of upcoming events, visit the website.