Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


why i am in love with margaret atwood

I wanted to do something different, so midway through last term, I wrote a proposal for Mutants and Monsters, a new science fiction course.

Since I teach biochemistry for a living and have been reading science fiction voraciously since I was six, it seemed only natural to splice the two subjects together, like genes.

The course, I imagined, would be offered to non-science majors and designated as “breadth." Students who take it would not only learn about real life science but also read bioscience-inspired literary works.

I incubated this idea for a long time, considering which texts to put on the syllabus.

Canadians in The New Yorker

If you missed the piece in the National Post last Saturday by Nadine Fladd on how Canadians changed The New Yorker, you should check it out.

Coinciding with release of The New Yorker’s celebrated summer fiction issue, the article chronicles how Morley Callaghan, Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, Rivka Galchen (who won the 2014 Danuta Gleed Literary Award announced last week), David Bezmosgis, and Sheila Heti have expanded the magazine’s boundaries over the past 90 years.

on the benefits of not writing (surfing)

It isn’t (usually) wise to blame other people for things that happen to you, but I blame Dr. Kary Banks Mullis for everything.

Dr. Mullis is a Novel Prize-winning biochemist who devised paradigm-shifting improvements to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), for which he shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Canadian Dr. Michael Smith.


Last summer, I made chilled noodle soup.

Why? I was writing a short story that took place in North Korea, and I was stuck. The plot, for some reason, had twisted into a Gordian knot (if you know what I’m talking about, than you know how Alexander the Great dealt with it).

It was clear to me that in order to become unstuck I would have to take decisive action. I would have to either: 1) completely restructure my story or 2) give my characters something to eat.

The Sisyphean task of of restructuring something I’d been writing for almost two years petrified me. I was, therefore, left with food.

on making sausages

June is the month of graduation. On campus, SFU students seem happier, despite impending midterms. Relatives in high heels are carrying peonies. All parking lots are full.

As I pass by the Convocation Mall this morning, the weeping of bagpipes is suddenly cut off. The crowd hushes. Someone is going to make a speech.

And maybe because I’ve been reading Harry Potter to my daughter (we’re on book 5), I start thinking about the commencement speech J.K. Rowling gave at Harvard on June 5, 2008.

A terrific speech. J.K. Rowling knows how to make a rhetorical impact, and she does it right from the start.

and then they were upon her...

If you’ve never heard of Shirley Jackson or read her sensational short story "The Lottery," you should stop doing whatever you’re doing and read it at once.


Last Saturday, on a beautiful, cloudy morning in Vancouver, I went for a run on the Seawall. It was no ordinary run, mind you, but day 20 of my 16-week marathon-training schedule. I was to run 14 miles: the longest distance I’ve run in my life.

What possessed me to train for a marathon? Who can tell? But perhaps the fact that my debut collection of short stories (Specimen) will be released on June 6 had something to do with it.


Writers on TV survey: Spencer Gordon

Dear reader, this is my last post as writer-in-residence. It’s been a slice, and I’m sorry it’s over. I leave the last word to the funny and talented author and co-founder of one of my favourite literary magazines, The Puritan, Spencer Gordon.

Name: Spencer Gordon

Recent work: Cosmo (Coach House Books, 2012)

How much time do you spend watching TV in a week?
Hmm. Probably 10 hours?

Writers on TV survey: David Seymour

In this installment of our Writers on TV survey, David Seymour elaborates on watching TV after working in TV all day every day.

Name: David Seymour

Recent publication: For Display Purposes Only, Coach House Books, 2013

Favourite TV show: Anything created/written/directed by Susan Wainwright / Hockey Night in Canada

Agents on TV: Sam Hiyate

Sam Hiyate is president of The Rights Factory, a boutique literary agency in Toronto. In his 24-year publishing career, he has worked at literary magazines, small presses and with New York Times bestselling authors, editing, publishing and representing everything from debut fiction, memoir and narrative non-fiction to graphic novels. He has taught writing and publishing for 15 years privately and also at various universities.

I talked with Sam about TV adaptations and the stories he'd like to see on the small screen.

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