Welcome Lounges AMA AMA with Andrew Unger

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    • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
      Moderator
      Post count: 12

      Ask Me Anything

      with Andrew Unger

      thin air winnipeg international writers festival international ecrivains logo

      Andrew Unger is best known as the author and founder of the satire website The Daily Bonnet. Since starting The Daily Bonnet in 2016, he has written more than 1800 satirical news articles, one a day for more than four years, and has been cited in the Canadian House of Commons as evidence of “Mennonite humour.” His new novel Once Removed explores the conflict between progress and preservation in a small Manitoba town and is set for release by Turnstone Press in September 2020. A writer, public speaker, and educator from southern Manitoba, his work has also appeared in Geez, Rhubarb, Ballast, CBC.ca, the Winnipeg Free Press, and many others. If you go back far enough, he’s probably related to you. 

    • Joy RenwickJoy Renwick
      Participant
      Post count: 16

      Hi Andrew. I have enjoyed The Daily Bonnet for a couple of years now. How has writing those short (very funny) columns prepared you for writing a novel?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi, Joy. I actually completed an early draft of the novel before I even started the Daily Bonnet. But the completed version is very different than that earlier manuscript. I think writing the Daily Bonnet has prepared me for writing a novel in a few ways. For one thing, it reaffirmed my love of writing … and of making people laugh. And on occasion I’ve read to an audience, so it’s interesting to see when people laugh. Sometimes that’s unexpected. And satire (the best satire anyway) is about ideas, not just laughter. So my novel shares that with the (better) articles on the website.

    • J.R. LéveilléJ.R. Léveillé
      Moderator
      Post count: 10

      Hey Andrew,
      J.R. Léveillé, here, just wondering how this distanced Festival is working for you?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi J.R.
        My book was just released a couple weeks ago, just before the festival started, so when I was writing it, I envisioned in-person events, signings, etc. There are also two book launch scenes in Once Removed … but they’re nothing like the reality. So this new reality of virtual festivals and virtual events has been fun … though not what I imagined. Still, it’s been good to connect with people who might not otherwise have been able to attend a live book event.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      Hi Andrew, Can you tell me a little about your journey to publishing your first novel?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi Gaylene,
        I actually self-published a novel years ago, but this is the first time I’ve published with a publisher (Turnstone Press). As I’ve already mentioned, I had a finished manuscript even before I started the Daily Bonnet, though I definitely think that the success and popularity of the website helped in terms of attracting a publisher. The process with Turnstone has been great. I had nothing but positive interactions with my editor and I think the book is much better for her contribution. I’m really happy with the end result.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Bernice FraserBernice Fraser
      Participant
      Post count: 21

      Hi Andrew, thanks for being here! I haven’t read your book but I’m looking forward to picking it up from the description of “conflict between progress and preservation” which from going up in a small community myself this really rang true to me. Were you ever nervous about writing about this subject? Both sides of “progress and preservation” are so passionate and I was wondering if it was difficult to reconcile them.

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi, Bernice.

        Thanks for the question. I don’t think I was too nervous about tackling this topic, though, yes, it’s true, both sides have very conflicting and passionate views on the topic. I think there’s room for nuance on the topic and I think, if you look closely, the book contains that. I also think humour makes things easier to swallow. Though, certainly, I don’t expect everyone to agree with the central message of the book. But I’m kind of used to that already from writing The Daily Bonnet. You kind of have to have a thick skin when you write a satire website. 🙂

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Marie T.Marie T.
      Participant
      Post count: 17

      Hey Andrew, thanks for being here! 🙂 I was curious about how you first got into satire writing, and what advice you might have for someone wanting to learn? It’s one of my favorite style’s of writing, but I find it tricky to write in that tone!

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi Marie,

        You know I think I had a bit of a facetious and dry sense of humour from a young age. When I was 12 years old I used to write Brian Mulroney political cartoons, so I guess I’ve always been a bit of a satirist. It isn’t an easy thing to master, because you don’t want to come across too angry. Try a few different forms. For example, try writing satirical news articles or a satirical editorial (like Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal). I also have a section on my website (andrewunger.com) that has info on teaching/writing satire that you might find helpful. I think it just comes with practice. But I do think that using a news article format means you don’t have to worry about the structure (it’s already there for you) and can just try to get the dialogue and tone right. Also: watch old Billy Wilder movies!

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Colin UngerColin Unger
      Participant
      Post count: 1

      Are any of the characters in your new book inspired by your brother?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi Colin,

        I’ll stay on the safe side and say “no.” Ha ha. Honestly, though, none of the characters are based on people I know. Of course, as a writer you observe and you notice details and you use them, but there’s no one-to-one parallels. You have nothing to worry about. 🙂

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Faith BuchananFaith Buchanan
      Participant
      Post count: 11

      Hi Andrew, thanks for being here! I was curious how the Mennonite community views your satirical writing and the Daily Bonnet? Has there been any backlash?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi Faith,

        The vast majority of the Daily Bonnet readers are of Mennonite background themselves and many seem to like it. I see the website as a celebration of Mennonite things, though, of course, there’s criticism, too. So, I don’t think I can generalize about the Mennonite community as a whole. Some like it (I’ve even been asked to speak in churches on a number of occasions), and some, I assume, don’t. But most of the negative feedback came at the beginning when people didn’t “get” satire, didn’t understand the point, or thought it must be an outsider who doesn’t like Mennonites, rather than an insider who is Mennonite himself. I still get some negative reactions on occasion, but mostly they’re from people who’re new to the website, who don’t understand satire, or who’ve only read the headline and not the whole article. Those reactions are pretty rare these days. I’ve even heard from quite a few people who didn’t like it/get it at first and now are “converts” so to speak.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Joy RenwickJoy Renwick
      Participant
      Post count: 16

      … I want to hear your answer to Colin… 😉

    • Joy RenwickJoy Renwick
      Participant
      Post count: 16

      I grew up in a small town, & have experienced the progress/preservation duality first hand. Do you think both these forces actually need to be present in a healthy community?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi Joy,

        Wow, yeah, in a sense I think they probably do need to be there. Both of them. I think most often, in a growing or economically prosperous community, the “progress” side is usually dominant. Money talks, right? But I think my book also explores differing view of progress. In some ways the most aggressively “progressive” people can be actually regressive. Is it progress to tear down all the small shops on Main Street to wind up with a big box store? Is that progress? Depends on the point of view I guess.
        But I do think that too much in either direction is problematic.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Gaylene DutchyshenGaylene Dutchyshen
      Moderator
      Post count: 20

      What time of day do you write? What inspires you?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Hi Gaylene,

        I’m a bit of a night owl I guess. I write during the evenings. I think I need all the experiences of the day to get my creativity flowing. I do find that writing the Daily Bonnet, which I do regularly, versus writing the novel Once Removed were a bit different in terms of my mindset. I concentrated much more intensely when writing the novel, such that I couldn’t even tolerate any music playing the background.
        As for what inspires me. Well, a lot of things. Because I come from a satire background, I would say almost anything inspires me. Little things. Ice cream pails. Honda Civics on Main Street. Little quirks of human behaviour. It doesn’t take much to spark an idea. I think my novel is full of little details like this, too.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Marie T.Marie T.
      Participant
      Post count: 17

      Thank you for the tips, that’s great advice I’m definitely going to check out your website! Who are your other favorite comedians or writers, or what work influences your writing?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        Yeah, you know in some ways I think my sense of humour is unconventional. But I guess other people share it. But, in general, there are a lot of very popular Hollywood comedy films that I don’t really find all that funny. Cringe comedy, etc. is not really my thing. But witty clever comedies – that I really like. I mentioned Billy Wilder earlier. Love his comedies. The 1980s British sitcom Blackadder is great. Oscar Wilde, Armin Wiebe, Miriam Toews, Jonathan Swift. The Little Prince!! Oh, and Anthony Bourdain – he was not really a comedian, but I found his observations about food and the world to often be simultaneously clever and insightful.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
    • Bernice FraserBernice Fraser
      Participant
      Post count: 21

      Thanks for your thoughtful response! While I head to the bookstore to pick up your book, do you have a suggestion of anything else I should pick up? Have you been loving any books in particular lately?

      • Andrew UngerAndrew Unger
        Moderator
        Post count: 12

        I definitely think you should read Sarah Ens’s first volume of poetry “The World is Mostly Sky.” She was my editor on Once Removed. I love how she draws on childhood memory to inspire her poetry and I also love her use of detail, which is something I strive for in my writing as well.
        I also love “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi – perhaps the best graphic novel I’ve ever read. And check out Nikolai Gogol’s Deal Souls if you want to read a classic.

        • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Andrew UngerAndrew Unger.
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