Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


Eighty feet without a net - Conversations with John Irving

About a year ago I got an email that I had to read about twelve times over before it really settled in. That email was from Janet Turnbull Irving, the wife and agent of one of the most famous literary fiction writers in the world, John Irving. At the suggestion of Nick Mount (fiction editor at The Walrus, University of Toronto English Lit professor, and general champion) they asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing for a position as Irving’s assistant. Long story short, that assistantship ended up going to a far better person for the job, but I got along well with John and Janet, and talked a long while with them about a range of things from writing to wrestling to mixed martial arts to Georgian Bay.

On "Fiction" - Writing from real life

Over the past while I’ve noticed a number of situations where an author is asked about the autobiographical or non-fiction elements in their books. It has always been something that people are interested in, and that interviewers or reviewers tend to gravitate toward, but recently it seems I’ve had to consider this very closely during a project, or have had to think on it more and more while engaging with writers and readers. In writing a profile of John Irving for the National Post (and interviewing for a job with the man last year), I saw an almost obsessive amount of material on how much of his writing comes from real life.

On Writing Violence - An Addendum

I’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedback and some questions about one of my first posts for Open Book, “On Writing Violence.” One reader, Susan, asked me in the comments about how this all might apply to a third person perspective, instead of the first person scene in The Sun Also Rises. I originally posted a reply in the comments section, but it was quite lengthy, and I figured I’d put it all up here as a short post and sort of addendum to the original piece.

Taking Your Medicine in the Editing Room

In previous posts I’ve talked about the hard road to getting a book published, and even a bit about the effort that goes into just getting those first few stories done. I’ve talked about submitting writing and dealing with rejection, so I thought I’d take some time to discuss another real important thing to get used to, as you ready work for publication.

On Navigating the Literary Landscape - Part 2

Hey. Thanks for coming back for Part 2 of this discussion about various aspects of navigating our literary scene. Good to see you again...

Engaging with the literary community – Social media

On Navigating the Literary Landscape - Part 1

Over the past few years, in order to buy peanut butter and bread and pay rent, I’ve taken on a number of manuscript assessments for various readers. I was first put on to them by my friend Michelle MacAleese (a next-level freelance editor and consultant), and have done them as part as the recently closed Humber School of Writers Agency (now offered through Humber Publishing Services), and, mostly, as individual projects for the prospective author. Some of these authors are professionals in another arts field, trying their hand at a novel or collection of stories, and some of them are fledgling authors who are bravely trying to break into this business of writing and publishing a book.

At the end of the "DEBRIS" tour - Notes on my first rodeo

It has been a few days since my last WIR post, but I promise that this is not because I was just playing video games and drinking beer in my Annex hobbit hole. In fact, I’ve been away at the Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo, a literary weekend organized by the folks at The New Quarterly (one of Canada’s best journals). It was the last event of the fall season for me, on the heels of my debut story collection, Debris (Biblioasis), and I thought it’d make some sense to post about my experiences so far, especially with regards to all of the work that goes in to promoting a first book.


If you can hang in there, a bit of patience can pay off...

On Writing Violence

Like all writers, I’m often asked what my writing is about. Especially with regards to my recently published collection of stories, Debris, and the novel that I am revising for publication next year (both with Biblioasis). I’ve always had a hard time trying to answer that question. Probably because there are all kinds of layers in any good writing and I spend a lot more time on the work and planning the work than I do talking about it. Over the last few years though, I’ve found myself talking about these things more and more.

Hello, Open Book readers. I'm happy to be here...

Hello readers. As you might have gathered, I am the incoming Writer-in-Residence for Open Book Toronto, and will be with you through the entire month of November. I’m happy to be here for the month, and I’ve got some things planned that I hope will be of interest to a good many of you.

The thing that terrifies me the most about writing

It came out of me the in a journal entry the other day, a fear I know has been swimming around inside for years now, but one that I never fully articulated, or maybe even fully acknowledged, until it was right in front of my face:

I don’t know if I want to write forever if it always feels like such an unsustainable way of living.

There seems to be a common thread among writers as I’ve so often heard people say that they write because they have to. Because it fills a need that they have, or brings them enjoyment.

And I think this is something that anyone who starts to pursue professional writing starts to figure out pretty quickly if they haven’t already. Because the money doesn’t show up for a lot of writers, so that can’t be the motivation. Neither can fame.

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