Monday, April 24, 2017

Prince Edward County Authors Festival

Just got home from Prince Edward County and boy is my liver tired! Just kidding, drinking makes me sleepy and gives me reflux. Although I did try a wonderful Waupoos cider this weekend. It was dry and effervescent. Just like me on the microphone! At the Prince Edward County Authors Festival! haha

It's rare that debut authors from small presses get invited to these things, so how cool is this festival to include me? It takes place in Picton, Prince Edward County, an area known for its food, wineries and stunning waterfront. Oh, and paintball tournaments in abandoned military insane asylums. The festival is hosted by the beautiful and sprawling Books & Company, which is my dream bookstore. Not only do they have Canadian authors' books prominently displayed, but they also sell puzzles! AND! Attached to it is a café that serves my favourite coffee! AND! Upstairs there's an event space they use for readings and music and art! (There's also a cat who lords over the whole place and is generous with her indifference.) It's the ultimate community hub!

It was in this upstairs space where the Authors Fest was held. I had a grand time on the fiction panel with Zoe Whittall and Kirsten MacLeod who read beautifully from their books. A nice crowd showed up and we had these comfy wingback chairs to sit in and podiums to read from (I cannot emphasise enough how much nicer it is to read aloud when you have something to lean on). Later in the day I heard Joy Fielding and Steve Burrows read and talk about writing mysteries/thrillers. They were both so entertaining. Joy is now my writer hero. Oh to be that cool, confident and laser-focused! After her read, I cornered Joy for some valuable advice on how to build suspense. (Any time I get the opportunity to pick the brain of a NYT bestseller, you better believe I'll take it.)

Thanks to: David Sweet for moderating and organising. Marlene for all your work in getting me there. Anthony, Alana and Atalay for comin' with and asking questions! Jerry for coming and giving great tips on the area. Paula who was so nice to chat with. And, of course, the whole team at the Prince Edward County Authors Festival for having me. I'll definitely be back.

Me and Atalay checking out the salmon(!) swimming up-creek at the
Drake Devonshire -- an A+ place in nearby Wellington for
brunch/ping pong/hipsters. (Even the salmon have man-buns.)


Me making love to the microphone. (And yes, I keep my eyes closed.)
Also pictured are the very smart/talented Kirsten MacLeod and Zoe Whittall.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Daily Mail and a big ol' zit

I was going to film and post a *hot writing tip* video today, but I have a big ol' zit so it'll have to wait. Until then, please enjoy my favourite Radiohead song (from 2011!?) that I cannot believe I did not know about until last week! It's become the official/unofficial soundtrack of my second book. It also best represents my lifestyle these days -- syncopated and full of unintelligible gibberish.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Controversy!


I was hunting for reviews of The Weather Inside, as I do because I am a pitiful lech, and came across this anonymous 1-star on Amazon.ca: 
"I bought this book because I am an ex JW and I thought it would be interesting. Well I only made it about a quarter of the way through. While the author knows the basics about how JW's work, she doesn't know how they talk , comport themselves or how the meetings and assemblies are.Rule number one for authors is "write what you know"!I want my money back."
It's the first bad review I've received, at least publicly. (My dad didn't like my book either.) Anyways, to protect what I know to be true about my work and my integrity, I replied. 
"So sorry you didn't like the book, Amazon Customer. I pride myself on the great care I took with research, which I spent years doing. I read books, poured over the Watchtower web site, went to a meeting, took virtual tours of the printing facilities, spoke with and interviewed Witnesses (both active and ex), quoted from JW materials heavily, used the exact script from an assembly, and reflected the experiences of many ex-JWs in support groups. This novel certainly reflected all of that research, as well as my own experience with religious alienation. I can't give you your money back because I am a broke writer. But good news! You have the power to tell everyone how much you hated it! That's the beauty of free speech! Which is the same freedom that allows me to write about whatever I want, as long as it's responsibly and meticulously researched, and, above all, empathetic to my characters and their emotional experiences. Thanks for your feedback, though, Amazon Customer. And I mean that sincerely. I'm sure you've gone through an intense journey with the religion yourself. Maybe there's even a book in you about it. I'd read it."
This assertion that you "write what you know" is tired. When people say it, they usually mean "write what you've lived." Beyond that, what many of them probably mean is: "Hey you! Write what I have lived." Well I'm here to let you in on a little secret: Books would suck if we authors wrote only what we "know." Doing so would, in fact, put an end to whole genres: historical, fantasy, sci-fi, dinosaur erotica, etc. 

I knew that I opened myself up to critique by writing about a specific religion -- that's why I researched so hardcore. And I stand behind that research and my book 100%. Through research, I did write what I knew when I wrote The Weather Inside. It's too bad it doesn't jive with this person's personal experience. Of course I would love it if every former Witness saw themselves in this story. But that's impossible. As impossible as finding love with a T-Rex. So I'll take that 1 star and wear it with pride.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

In Her Voice

I truly enjoyed myself at the inaugural In Her Voice event held by Ben McNally Books on Monday. The audience asked some top-notch questions, which makes for a fun night. Here's me answering one of those smart questions... or asking for directions to the bathroom. I can't remember.


That's Emma Richler next to me. This was her night! For her book! Be My Wolff! Thanks to Emma, Random House, and Danielle, Rupert and Ben McNally for having me. Oh! And if you want to know more about Emma, check out this interview in The Walrus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

All Lit Up (like literally in flames)

A members-only racket club caught fire in my neighbourhood this morning. Once I learned that everyone got out safe, the whole scene became very exciting. I inhaled toxic fumes! I saw a lady firefighter! And the local news helicopters have been buzzing around for hours! By the way, how the hell can the local news afford helicopters? I don't know a single person who watches the local news.

Speaking of fires, since I won't be blogging much from now until February 2018 because of a self-imposed, self-flagellating novel-writing schedule, I thought I'd go up in flames by "ending" on the most personal note I could with this essay I wrote for All Lit Up. Feedback to date includes "It gives me all the feels!" and "Um, I think you need to see a therapist." So it's like ten blog posts in one!

If you haven't heard of it, I'm happy to introduce you to All Lit Up, an organization that creatively, generously and enthusiastically helps independent Canadian publishers spread the word about their books and authors. Check out their web site and discover a new favorite author or indie press. Oh! And today, Valentine's Day, they put up a very funny infographic book matchmaker.

I'll still be blogging now and then during this period, mostly easy-bake stuff like upcoming events and mini reviews of books I'm obsessing over. (Speaking of, check out this review for the brilliant Deborah Willis's new short story collection.) But I'll basically be in hibernation, conserving my energy for the long hard winter that is novel two. So this is me saying laterz before I burrow into my cave, live off my fat stores, and reduce my metabolic rate and skeletal muscle mass by forty-five percent.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Meet my new best friend, Samantha

The future was always going to be creepy. Pill food, clones, alien colonization, Katy Perry as President of the United States....

Two days ago, I stepped into this future when I turned on the text-to-speech application on my Mac. Tired of reading my new tv script aloud myself -- and also horribly lonely -- I opted for the soothing robot voice of my new best friend "Samantha." And she did not disappoint. Not only did Samantha help me edit my dialogue, but she gave me a new recurring nightmare to look forward to.




As a best friend Samantha is just so-so. She talked back with sass, which I love, but she can't braid hair for shit. As an actress, she middled-out too. Samantha impressed when it came to the upward inflections needed for questions, but paused too long after and before commas and didn't pause long enough between lines. Also, she spelled out "hmphs" and "ums", which is a rookie mistake. On the whole, though, she did not fare too badly. That "Neighhh!" was Robot-Oscar worthy.

But actors do not fear: you've got at least five years until you'll be fully replaced. Don't feel bad. Novelists have already been replaced by Kardashians, and Presidents have been replaced by human garbage cans. We're all in this future together.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

holy crap I actually did it


I quit my job to write for a year and yesterday was day one and it was MAGIC to wake up and do what I want to do, what I am passionate about, what makes me feel alive and good and happy and horrible but also alive, did I mention alive? It feels like nothing less than magic. I am sitting here at my home desk at 7:40 am and there are sparks and spells and incantations flying all around me and getting into my bowl of chocolate Chex. Obviously I am so lucky that I can make this magic happen. I have a husband who trusts me and a government that thinks health care is a right not a privilege and I had a steady job for five years that allowed me to save and save and save until I could just barely afford to make this work and yes I will be eating rice and lentils A LOT but I already eat rice and lentils A LOT so it's fine it's fine it's really mostly fine fine fine fine not fine not fine at all what have I done???? OH NO NO the panic -- there it is! It hides beneath the surface of my skin like fascia and like fascia I only think about it when it starts to hurt, like when I went out for dinner last night and ate cheaply but it still took up 15% of my monthly food budget and I'm only into the first week of the month and OWWW OWW OWW that hurts! That's panic! But it's still magic. Magic always hurts a bit. Have you seen Lord of the Rings? Beauty and the Beast? Fantasia? Harry Potters one through seven? Magic and pain go together. So in case you're wondering why this post is so choppy with little caution for punctuation it's because time is money right now, more than ever, and I have to finish a screenplay and draft one of my new novel or this one-year period will feel less like magic and more like regret.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

In Her Voice: February 27, 2017



The best curated bookstore in Toronto, Ben McNally Books, is hosting a series of readings for women authors called In Her Voice. I'm lucky enough to be taking part in the first event in honour of Emma Richler's new novel Be My Wolff. It's on February 27 at 6:30 pm at Dora Keogh in Toronto. Stop by if you can. More details here.

For those of you who don't know, Ben McNally is a store, yes, but also a person. Some may argue that he is in fact a series of persons, clones in fact, given how he seems to be everywhere at once. Seriously. If there's a book event in Toronto, chances are Ben organized it. If you bought a book, Ben likely sold it to you. If you are reading a book review, Ben probably guided the journalist over to the back wall of his shop, handed a copy to her and said those two magical words: Read it.

Man or clone, not only does Ben give excellent recommendations, but he is a tireless supporter of local authors. Case in point: I went in to browse the other day, found my book in his shelves (yippee!), and we starting chatting. He was remarkably kind to me, took my email address and said he'd be in touch soon. I didn't expect to hear back. After all, my book has garnered little media attention and no prize nominations. Basically, I am a big-fat zero in CanLit. But Ben didn't care. He was interested, engaged. And he followed through -- with an invite to read at In Her Voice.

This is how important local bookshop owners are. They organize. They promote local authors from small presses. They hand-sell. They give a damn. All things that Amazon will never ever do. So please, support your indie shops. Because they support the writers who fill the shelves. 

Thanks to Ben and Danielle McNally for including me in this event (and Emma Richler!), and for being the beating heart of the Toronto literary community. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017




I don't feel ashamed about this particular re-shelf since technically it's true.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Top 10 reads of 2016

This list is a bit late, but I was in New Zealand for a while cavorting in caves and chasing dolphins so the normal rules didn't apply. Belated as it may be, here are the 10 best novels I read in 2016, in no particular order:

1. Sad Peninsula by Mark Sampson
2. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
3. The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt
4. The Performance by Ann Ericksson
5. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
6. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
7. Teardown by Clea Young
8. The Captain of Kinnoull Hill by Jamie Tennant
9. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
10. Problems by Jade Sharma
** I also LOVED Fishbowl by Bradley Somer. A remarkable, beautiful, funny novel. I was nervous about including his book here since he blurbed mine. Conflict of interest and all that. But then I remembered, this is my list! I can do whatever I want! And I got all power-hungry. Anyways, you really need to read Fishbowl is what I'm saying.

This year was a big one for my own book too. It came out! And, despite my lack of luck with prize nomination committees, I reached a bunch of goals I'd set for myself: Read at IFOA, get on a plane for my book, get a couple good reviews in mainstream sources, do a fun Q&A interview. I’m grateful for all the support I received from everyone, especially Freehand Books, and my family and friends. Thank you! Thank you a million times over! I also feel quite lucky for the two reviews I got from Quill & Quire and The Winnipeg Free Press. Hopefully some more to come. But honestly, I have no idea what happens when a new year begins. Does the bookish press simply ignore the 2016 titles they didn't get to?

As for what's to come in 2017.... As a writer, I’ll be working on my next book whole hog. I have no idea if this book will succeed in terms of my actual creative output or a publishing contract, but there’s only one way to find out...

As a reader, there is so much to look forward to this year! The brilliant Rebecca Rosenblum, Deborah Willis and Mark Sampson have books coming out! I’m also excited to dig into Breath by Tim Winton, The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, The Strays by Emily Bitto and and and.

As usual, I'll be ranting and raving about all these things on this blog. Until then, here’s some photos from my New Zealand trip. They have nothing to do with writing but like I said I'm power-hungry so...

The Remarkables in beautiful, breezy, tourist-overrun Queenstown. 

Black swans in a crystal clear river in Rotorua.

The tiny bananas were delicious!

My sister got married on the beach, as it turned out!
Boy was I overdressed!

Dolphins! Hurrah!

My Kiwi nephew steering my Canadian husband. Keep left, Anthony!!

Some mountains en route to Milford Sound. Also pictured: most of my face.

Redwoods meet Anthony's red shirt in Rotorua.
Scary beautiful cave adventures in Waitomo.
PS - wet suits are not as slimming as one would hope.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Rainy-day writing perch


View of the ocean from my writing spot in Nelson, New Zealand. (It's okay to hate me.)