Meet Mirjana Villeneuve
Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Mirjana (pronounced Meer-YAWN-a). When I’m not writing you can find me trying to keep up with teacher’s college and a part time job (I’m a librarian!) or having Catholic Conversations in Public Places™. I’m an INFJ and enneagram 2w3 for those who like that kind of thing, and I really love coffee shops, morning, and witty banter.
Tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now? How does it influence your writing?
I grew up in an Ottawa suburb with my four little siblings and have been living in Kingston as a student for the past four years. I actually live in the same building as a chapel, which is amazing. I pass the tabernacle whenever I enter or exit my house - what a blessing! My writing has been influenced in a large way by my family and the stories of saints and biblical women that I heard growing up and still hear now. I find it really interesting how these stories can shift as we get older and are able to see them through new perspectives. And of course, a lot of my writing references a certain season or the weather, since I grew up way up here in Canada.
How did you get started writing?
Writing, for me, started as making up stories while playing with my little sister, and grew from there. At six years old I remember writing little poems on the inside cover of birthday cards for my family, and making picture books bound with staples and construction paper. I’ve never not been writing, in one form or another.
What does your writing routine look like?
I wish I had more of a routine… sometimes it feels like I walk around gathering inspiration and mulling it over, and then I have the sudden inconsolable urge to get it down on paper. I can’t think of anything else until I do that. I’m trying to write everyday like the creative writing professor here tells me to, but it’s tricky when my free time is spread so thin. Still! No excuses! I write in the notes of my phone, the back of my hand, and my current project is always in the back of my mind. When I do actually sit down purposefully to write, though, I need to be completely alone and I love listening to St. Hildegard Von Bingen’s visions and chants to set the mood. You can listen to it here.
What are some things you do to get yourself in creative thinking mode?
Read! And talking to other people! But seriously, reading. I used to be afraid that I would end up copying the style of the current book I was reading, but it doesn’t really happen like that. Sometimes a certain way another author or poet says something ignites something in you and it’s okay to use that as inspiration and go off that. Just think of T.S. Eliot. Some of his poems are basically just a collage of words from all the people he’s read and found inspiring. Although I don’t go to that extent (I’m no T.S. Eliot so I could never pull it off), hearing how other people have worded things or how they look at things can be a great jumping-off point. As for talking to other people, when I’m in the editing stage I send my work to the people who I know will be a bit ruthless, but also push my work to be the best version of itself possible. It really helps.
Which authors inspire you and your writing? What about them particularly moves you?
Okay, look. I have always loved Sylvia Plath, and it’s taken me a while to realize that this doesn’t have to be viewed as a “guilty pleasure.” Currently, though, I am loving Mary Oliver, Mallory Tater (a Canadian poet), and Donna Tartt. All of these authors and poets are quite different actually, but I love their voices. For example, when I read Mary Oliver I feel like I’m having tea with my grandmother. And when I read Donna Tartt I feel like I’m reading a painting. I admire them and spend the whole time thinking, “Wow, I wish I could do that.” Praise God for talented writers who leave us in awe.
What was the inspiration for the piece included in our issue?
The inspiration for “The Mysteries of Light” in the Fall 2019 issue came while I was praying the Luminous Mysteries in the aforementioned chapel. I had out one of those Pray the Rosary Daily leaflets because I can never remember the Luminous Mysteries, and at the top of that section it says in small print “The mysteries of light.” Immediately, my mind started playing with this concept. While I was praying, I tried to imagine what each scene would look like. And when I was done I ran upstairs and wrote all of it down. It’s been through revisions since then, but that is where it started!