I would like to believe I am classy. That’s precisely what I told myself as I tried to tame a stubborn yet delicious ear of corn during lunch break at school. But fate had other plans to test my resolve — I had a group of young women come up to me to practice their interview skills (things they make us do at school, sigh!)
The group was from Publishing, the course I had done last year when I first moved to Canada. What they were doing this particular afternoon was networking — the world’s most awkward yet necessary practice. Brianna Benton was one from the group. A publishing student, cat lover, and fellow caffeine addict, Brianna is currently formatting The Complete Poems of John Glassco.
Q1. Your two cats VS your boyfriend (haha). Who’s the coolest?
I feel like this is a trick question. I feel like if I say my cats are cooler than my boyfriend then he’ll be offended, especially since he bought me a bicolor for my twenty-first birthday. We named the little black and white tuxedo kitten Slim Shady because we’re both Eminem fans. We call him Slim or Slimmy for short. Since my boyfriend is the reason I have the second cat, I honestly can’t really give you a definite answer.
My cats, especially my two-year-old orange tabby named Shane, help me get through a lot of tough times. When I’m drained from a long day or in a depressive or anxious state, my cats are there to snuggle with me. But my boyfriend also makes me feel these things. Although he can’t purr — and yes, he has tried — he does other things for me when I’m feeling down. He will watch anything I want to if it will make me feel even the slightest bit better. He’ll make me food and even let me eat it in bed (I’m not supposed to but my bed is my comfort zone so I like to eat my snacks in there).
If I did have to choose, I think my cats would win the cool contest. It’s not because my boyfriend is not cool, but I have to appreciate the fact that my cats can climb anything that they put their minds to. I have seen Shane climb onto my boyfriend’s fabric-lined wardrobe, or get onto one of the many shelves. I’ve seen them scale the cathouse and trees outdoors. They’re phenomenal creatures and I think if they had a climbing contest with my boyfriend then they would definitely win. And I think that’s pretty cool.
Q2. If you could change the ending of any book, which one would it be and why?
I don’t think that I would change an ending to a book, even if I wanted to. I find that it isn’t the reader’s job to make decisions about what the characters do. I feel this way because, to some authors, the characters are real. There are some books, though, that I would want to keep writing. Sometimes the ending doesn’t feel quite like the end.
Q3. A little-known fact about you?
I struggle with a caffeine addiction. Most people will satisfy their addiction with coffee, which I do sometimes, but I prefer pop; ideally Pepsi but I will settle for anything. It probably doesn’t help that when I worked at McDonald’s and Subway, we had unlimited pop on our shift so I would maintain my energy on long shifts by taking advantage of the unlimited soft drinks. You can usually find me in the cafeteria at school buying a cola. In my house, you can probably find a stash of 750ml Pepsi bottles that my boyfriend buys for me when it’s on sale.
Q4. What has been the biggest takeaway from your job at The Rusty Toque and Canadian Poetry Press?
The biggest takeaway from my positions at The Rusty Toque and The Canadian Poetry Press (CPP) is that it doesn’t take a lot of people to do extraordinary things. Both of these are small Canadian publications that don’t have a lot of stuff on them. The best example for this is from my position as an Editorial Assistant at CPP.
CPP is a small press, mostly focusing on archival work rather than new publications. Most of the employees are Editorial Assistants who are Western University students in the work-study program. The primary task is to transcribe poetry books that are in the public domain so that they can be uploaded to the CPP website.
In October 2016 I was asked to assist an editor from McGill in formatting a poetry anthology. This is the project that made me realize that you don’t need a lot of people to achieve extraordinary things. The entirety of the work was done by two people. I was in charge of all of the formatting tasks and he was in charge of editing the text and ensuring that my formatting followed a book that he previously published. It was a lot of work but the outcome of the final product is something I cannot describe. It looks completely different from the manuscript I was sent and it was really rewarding work. I think the phrase “small but mighty” comes into play here.
Q5. Publishing and why?
It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do. In high school, I thought I wanted to be a photographer or a chef. But I decided I didn’t want to make a career out of it. On a whim, I decided to go to school for English and Creative Writing. I had always loved those two subjects at school and ones that I did well in. I applied to three universities: Western, Brock, and Waterloo. I got accepted into all three of the programs and decided to attend Western because I felt most at home during the campus tour.
When I started at university, I was disappointed in what I was learning and how it was being taught. The amount and types of courses that I was required to take over the next few years weren’t anything I was passionate about. I wanted to drop out. But I’m also stubborn and didn’t want to waste two years of schooling.
So I did research into alternate routes that didn’t involve dropping out. During this time, I found Centennial College’s publishing course. I immediately fell in love with the idea of going to college for what I wanted to do. But this program required a Bachelor’s degree. So I decided to switch to a three-year program. I doubled minored in General English and Creative Writing.
In my creative writing classes, I realized that the thing I enjoyed most was honing other students’ writing. As much I enjoyed the writing aspect, I always enjoyed helping other students improve their work more. This was true in writing as well as graphic design. Helping people improve their craft energized me.
It’s hard for me to narrow down the best moments so far because there have been a few. The first one, and one of the most important ones is I’ve found a group of people who share a similar interest in me. I’ve found a place where I belong and it’s with a bunch of fellow publishing nerds. Another amazing moment was when I was nominated and voted to be the class representative for my section. I appreciate the fact that Jamie noticed my drive for leadership and being involved in the Facebook group and the WhatsApp group. I’ve struggled with people in the past that didn’t appreciate this part of my personality. So it was really special for me to receive that kind of validation from my peers that it’s okay to be like this and that there are people around me that appreciate the things that I do.
Lastly, being selected to be the Creative Director for the summer issue of On the Danforth. Graphic design has been something I have been passionate about learning and mentoring people in since I was in tenth grade.
Born and raised in India, Anisha Dhiman moved to Toronto to study Publishing and then Lifestyle Media at Centennial College. Writer, social media strategist and content creator, Anisha is the founder of Five Question Series, where she profiles people… you guessed it, by asking five questions. In her free time, she enjoys reading and trolling people with puppy GIFs and memes. Her only phobia? Losing her sight, but staring at the screen all day long doesn’t help much.