Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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.

Literary readings: Do you have to do them?

Picking up from where I left off about book launches, today I’m talking about whether writers really need to read from their work to promote it.

Books are sometimes (often?) tricky things to sell. There is major competition out there and figuring out how to stand out, how to get someone to walk into a bookstore and say, “I want to buy THAT author’s book” is a big question.

Doing readings is a big part of book promotion and a lot of publishers ask their writers to make appearances at literary nights and, if you’re lucky, festivals and other events.

How to start an author blog

A lot’s been made about “author platforms” over the past few years. Marketers love jargon and “platform” is just another word for presence.

“The line between writer and creative entrepreneur is thinning all the time. Soon it might just disappear,” writes novelist and blogger Justine Musk, who has long been encouraging writers to start blogging well before they are even published.

The problem with working for free

When I first started writing, I took any opportunities I could.

First, I interned at a magazine for a high co-op program. Later, I wrote CD reviews for free, got a few poems published in some zines, and started to figure out how to become a freelance writer (and eventually get paid for it).

It made sense at the time because I was trying to build up my portfolio with the hopes of one day going to journalism school. I had a goal attached to it all and I saw it as a short-term solution.

How spending time with your influences helps overcome creative blocks

It happens to everyone: Everything is humming along nicely with a project and then, bam! You have no idea where to go next. The words aren’t coming anymore, the ideas have stalled, and your confidence is shaken.

This is where it can help to step back and revisit your influences.

Is there a specific project or person who inspired what you’re currently working on? Re-read some of their work. Go to a museum to look at their art.

Or just go to a museum and look at anyone’s art for afternoon.

Reconnecting with your sources of inspiration can help you reconnect with yourself. Sometimes it just helps to get away from our same-old desks and same-old chairs and get a different perspective for a while. Writing is a marathon and sometimes you want to get off the course for a while.

Why I don’t want you to buy my book (from me)

“I want to buy your book, but I want to do in a way where you’ll get the most money. Should I buy it from you?”

I love this question. It’s one of I’ve had several times over the years from well-meaning friends and acquaintances.

I love it because it shows that people actually want to see others succeed and do well and be rewarded for their work. And it shows that people care about where their money and the impact that it has.

So of course, they’re usually surprised when I tell them I would prefer that they buy it from a store or online instead of from me.

Why your book doesn't really need a launch party

A couple of years ago, I finally admitted something to myself:

I hate organizing launch parties.

Like, completely just no.

I love coming up with ideas for them. I love talking about them. I love making posters or flyers for them. I love figuring out what will happen at them.

But I have the pressure that goes along with getting people to come out.

Maybe that’s the price of living in a big city. Sure, we have so much freedom when it comes to running with our ideas and making things happen. But we’re also competing with every other event that’s happening every single night.

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