To Descant, With Gratitude

Tonight Descant Magazine - after 45 years of publishing - is celebrating its last-ever issue with a goodbye party at The Revival.

Many things have been said about Descant's demise by writers and literary folks whose resumes are a whole lot more impressive than mine. Still, I owe Descant quite a lot, and it'd be pretty crass of me not to say thank you.

Descant - specifically their Ghosts and the Uncanny-themed issue, published a few years ago - was my first paid publication credit.

Which, if you've ever been a newbie writer dreaming of validation, you know is a big moment.

Being published in Descant allowed me to apply for the Toronto Arts Council's granting program, which in turn gave me the confidence to revise and submit my first novel, When We Were Good, for publication.

Writers' Groups I Have Known: Part I, The WiER-ering

Everything I know about editing, I learned from writers’ groups.

Well, okay, maybe not quite. I took a great copy-editing course at Ryerson a few years ago with an amazing instructor - part of their publishing certificate program - and have learned a tonne working as an editorial assistant at Groundwood Books from our senior editorial team since I started almost three years ago. But come on, it sounded pretty good, didn’t it?

Everything I know about self-editing, I learned from writers’ groups.


My first writers’ group, or at least the closest proximity I had to one as a kid, was the Writers In Electronic Residence (WiER) program that my middle school participated in when I was in grade seven.

The Year of Magical Plagiarism (or, I Was a Sixth Grade Cheater)

A sketchy boy I had a crush on for three days at camp once told me, breathily, that once you were a cheater you were always a cheater.

It was after lights-out, around a campfire that marked our clothes for days, and, at the time, it felt extra-strength profound. Like most camp revelations do.

And while it was true for him - he confessed that he'd cheated on every girlfriend he'd ever had, and cheated on another one later that summer - I'm reasonably proud of the fact that cheating (along with crushing on sketchy boys) is something that I've grown out of.

And yes, of course I understand that adherence or non-adherence to monogamy is vastly different from the act of plagiarism, but come on, it was a cute introduction, wasn't it?


Word Count Ain't Nothing But a Number

Full disclosure that I am writing this piece for 100% selfish reasons.

So that when I am frantically looking up word counts and page counts for books I admire in a bid to compare my own work alongside them, I may stop for a second and go, "Oh, right. The book will be as long as it needs to be."

Full disclosure no. 2 is that I am - due to some excessive bad luck this week - writing this entry on my phone, whose screen is cracked to the degree that it pretty closely resembles the album art of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures.


There are good books that are very, very short.

There are good books that are very, very long.

There are good books that are exactly right in the middle.

And there are books with the absolute ideal word count that are no good at all.

Praising Impatience

On Tuesday I posted an interview with the lovely Vikki VanSickle about writing while working in publishing (WWWIP, for short). The quote from her that stuck out the most for me was this:

"Learn to get comfortable with patience, the most elusive of virtues. Anything that's worth having is worth waiting for."

Yes, I thought to myself, absolutely. Patience is the key.

But, see, the thing is - I am maybe the least patient person you've ever met.

It was a punchline at parties when I was little. Relatives who came bearing gifts of clothing at Christmas or on my birthday would be treated to an instant fashion show as I raced to my room to try on my new duds and then wore them for the rest of the night.

Both Sides, Now: An Interview with Vikki VanSickle

Vikki VanSickle and I have a few things in common; from our alliterative names and a love of all things kidlit, to the fact that, in addition to writing books, we also work in publishing. It's not always an easy balance, but Vikki handles it with style and grace. And it's shaping up to be a particularly big year for her; her fourth novel, Summer Days, Starry Nights, is a finalist for the Ontario Library Association's Red Maple Award, and she has both a digital non-fiction short and a picture book on the horizon. We chatted a bit about what it's like working on both sides of the desk.


Which came first, your first publishing credit or your first publishing job?

Sorry, Not Sorry

When people asked me if my first novel — called When We Were Good, a coming-of-age story set in Toronto about going to all-ages shows and grieving the loss of a grandparent— was based on my life, I told them that it was not.

It’s a question that people love to ask, or don’t even bother to, with the assumption being that any story of adolescence written by someone under the age of 30 is a defacto memoir disguised as fiction. So I swore up and down: no, no, no, no, no — this story, these characters, were not me.

And it was true. Almost.

Talking with the amazing Jess Taylor

I don't remember exactly when I met Jess Taylor, but I do remember when it suddenly seemed like she was everywhere all at once. Every reading, every literary party and event - she was there, supporting writers and connecting people. I was - and am! - totally amazed by her ability to champion local writers, promote young talent, and generally kick ass and take names.

Speaker's Book Award and Young Author Award Ceremony Recap

The Speaker's Book Award and Young Author Award were presented last night by the Honourable Dave Levac at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. And because I wrote a young-adult novel in 2013 about Toronto at the turn of the millennium, I had an excuse to wear a pretty dress.

I was honored that When We Were Good was selected as a finalist for the inaugural Young Author Award along with Rêver au réel by Daniel Groleau Landry and Ceremonies for the Dead by Giles Benaway. Giles Benaway took home the award for his collection of poetry, which I'm really looking forward to reading. We had a great time chatting before the awards; a driven and talented writer, he's definitely someone to look out for.

The Speaker's Book Award and Young Author Award

Monday, March 9th marks the third annual Speaker's Book Award as well as the inaugural Young Authors Award, two prizes that will be given by Ontario Speaker Dave Levac at a ceremony at the Ontario Legislative Building.

Launched by Speaker Levac in 2012, the Speaker’s Book Award aims to bring awareness to books written by Ontarians covering historical, regional, cultural, or parliamentary aspects of the province.

And, new this year, the Young Authors Award for writers aged 18 to 30 will bring attention to a young Ontario author whose early work has had an impact on the province’s writing scene.

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