Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


How to make a book soundtrack

I’ve always thought that if I ever make a movie, choosing the soundtrack would be one of the things I would be most excited to do.

So I figured why not do the same for a book?

Even though I’m not big on listening to music while I write (I tend to get too focused on the lyrics, and I don’t feel I need any other background noise besides the sounds that are already around me), I do think that creating a book soundtrack can add an additional element to a book.

When you give readers something to listen to along with your book – and this can work with fiction, poetry, or non-fiction – it can tell them something more about the story. It can create different moods and give them a whole other dimension to your work.

An etiquette expert weighs in on how to handle the most awkward questions authors get

“So is being a writer what you really want to do some day?”

This is a question that someone asked me when they found out I had just had a book published.

“Well, I’m doing it now, actually,” I said.

“Oh. Yeah. I guess you are.”

As awkward and potentially inappropriate as it was, I could see where this was coming from. My first book had been out for a few months and I was working a day job. If I hadn’t had the job, the question probably wouldn’t have come up. A different scenario might have been assumed instead.

I was also once asked, “So how much do you make per book? Because my friend is a writer and he says he only gets about ten cents for every book he sells.”

Why you need a creative manifesto (and how to write your own)

I wrote my first creative manifesto in 2011, inspired by author and blogger Justine Musk’s own efforts to do the same after she wrote about the competition for a writer’s attention these days.

It isn’t enough to just write. Many of us also end up being our own agents, managers, publicists, and marketing departments. Our attention is spread between social media and websites and readings and of course the everyday joys and responsibilities of life: work and families and friends and everything in between.

This is where the manifesto comes in handy. Because there are so many things that can pull us from our path, or at least distract us long enough to forget to keep putting one foot in front of the other. But as Musk so eloquently reminds us, “When we commit to the path, we win.”

Self-promotion doesn’t have to suck: A crash course in online marketing

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is, as a writer, you live in a time when easy, free marketing opportunities are available en masse these days.

The bad news is that regardless of the number of options you have to promote yourself, none of them are magic bullet to critical acclaim, fame, or sales.

BUT…that doesn’t mean that marketing shouldn’t be a priority for you.

I know there are lot of writers out there who just want to write. And I hear you: self-promotion can feel weird, and I understand hesitating to put any extra time into anything other than your writing itself.

Writing Through Life Change

I used to think that writing was an all-alone endeavor: I thought that all you need is a laptop and some time. I don’t know why I thought that. It’s not true, it turns out. I’ve had help. This help has been life-changing.

I should explain the context of this post first: in the past few weeks, my son has more than doubled his tooth count, gone through some sort of cognitive leap that’s making him loathe to leave his socks, and our building owners have noisily gutted the apartments next door. I feel like my brain has been torn into sections. So I’m going to write my signoff post in fragments, and hope that readers can follow. I apologize for being weird, but I’m having trouble stringing ideas together.

The musicality of language – an interview with David Arcus

We learn so much from each other, particularly from other artists.

This month, I’ve been thinking a lot about rhythm, and what rhythm does to story. It’s so important, and it’s not a static thing either: it changes as the tension increases, as different people talk, as moods shift and as people change. It’s so hard to nail because it’s such a shifting target. It’s also so apparent when it’s used well. I thought that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me was a stunning example of the ebb and flow of rhythm. As I was reading it, I kept thinking that I want to be able to do this, this thing that he’s doing that I can’t even properly explain. So I went looking for help.

"You shall go through it all."

I wish that I could say that I’ve spent the month reading and re-reading Virginia Woolf novels, but I haven’t. It’s been a month to make you reel, and I’ve been reeling through it, through work, construction next door, apartment evacuations, teething, so much teething. Instead of reading Virginia Woolf, I’ve been re-reading my favourite kids’ books to get ready for the next stage of bedtime stories with my son. It’s been really nice, really nostalgic, but also kind of sad. These books have been bringing back so many memories. Childhood can be rough at times, and my little guy is still so new - he’ll have to go through it all. I wish I could prepare him. I wish I could prepare myself for watching it all happen to him.

I started by reading The Witches by Roald Dahl.

Welcome to the Non-Literal World

Recently, when I was in the park with my son, he found me a stone (as he often does). He presented it to me. We’re in the finding and naming stuff stage, so I told him, “stone.” He said, “No. Star.” I teared up and blamed allergies (as I often do). His favourite book is How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. We read it easily twenty times a day. He knew that what he’d found was a stone because we often find and name stones, but he was pretending to be the Boy Who Loved Stars.

I got my M.D. on an internet forum

I have a certain amount of scientific literacy, and I like to puzzle things out; I’m not afraid of new notation or difficult terms. In other words, I’ll wade right into the technical stuff. Usually, this is a good character trait, but it can quickly get out of hand. When I have free access to WebMD and parenting forums and a crying baby in my arms, for example, it can be a distinct problem. The best traits can be ugly. Some of the people on the forums know how to zero in on my insecurities too. Other people can make our best selves ugly. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Emotions are rough. For a set of things so common and inescapable, they’re hard to think about.


A love letter to the TPL and to YA fiction – and an interview with Cameron Ray

If you've been reading along, you'll know I’ve been really interested in literature’s ability to help people to change, and the literature that I always felt changed me most was what I read when I was young. I remember so often putting down a book and thinking that I’d just been changed forever. I love YA lit. I fell in love with it again last winter.

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