May 31, 2013

Bone & Bread is a Cityline Book Club pick!

I was really thrilled to find out that Bone & Bread is the latest Cityline Book Club pick! It's a six-week online book club, which is a relatively new feature on the show's website.  The first book they picked was Will Ferguson's Giller-winner 419, and it seemed to generate lots of interesting discussion.  You can win a copy of Bone & Bread by commenting here with your last great read.  

Speaking of book clubs, I'm Skyping in to my first book club on Sunday night and I'm nervous but excited. I really hope it turns out to be light and fun and interesting rather than awkward and intrusive.  I've never succesfully managed to be a member of a book club myself (as soon as I "have" to read something, I suddenly don't want to), but I can imagine that having the person who wrote the book turn up in one's midst could prove to be though you suddenly have to ask an insightful question, or pretend you actually liked it when you didn't, or say, actually read it all the way to the end instead of blowing it off to see the latest Star Trek movie (which, incidentally, was pretty enjoyable).  

But I think it will be fun.

The unpacking, cleaning, and other wrangling of our possessions continues, albeit it at a slower pace that I would prefer.  There's just so muchAnd even if they are things we decide to get rid of, we (I?) still feel the need to clean them first.

The de-smokified books still smell a little bit smoky, a bit musty, with a sweeter overlay of some sort of cleaning product (or ozone? does that smell?).  Basically, they smell a lot like library books now, which I think is okay.  I like the smell of library books. 

  Some unpacked but totally disorganized books.

Looking at that wall of books makes me feel like we've made a lot of progress until I turn around and see all the packed boxes of books that are still remaining:

 Boxes of books

In other news, my choir is doing a benefit concert for Head and Hands on June 9th, so there are a ton of upcoming rehearsals, which is wonderful except for all the unpacking it means I won't be doing.  

And in just a couple of weeks, I am heading to Winnipeg for an event at McNally Robinson with the lovely Charlene Diehl!  Winnipeg, can we hang out?? 

May 26, 2013

Soon, very soon

Soon, very soon, we'll be getting our books back from the post-disaster cleaners.  There hasn't been much time for reading or writing, though there have been a few newer reviews of Bone & Bread I'd like to share once I'm thinking about anything besides furniture placement and the best way to get smoke smells out of leather.  (A, I don't think I can risk this technique for all my shoes.)

We've been spending some time at the new apartment, trying to clean up the sawdust and preparing to move in.  My husband put up some temporary shelves in between some existing built-ins, so that when the cleaned books arrive we'll be able to get some boxes emptied right away.  

New bookshelves (with books that didn't go through the fire).

We also picked out a few things at IKEA and started putting them together before the rest of our things arrive.  


I'm looking forward to things being a little less eventful at home soon.  I'm trying to gear up to make a big push with unpacking and cleaning as soon as our stuff arrives, though... I'm a little too familiar with how boxes can just start to seem like they belong in a particular corner of a room. 

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend, and making the most of the perfect-for-writing rainy weather. 

May 18, 2013

CBC Books' Summer Reading List for 2013

It's true that I'm sharing this list because Bone & Bread is on it (hurrah!), but I really do think it is a wonderful bunch of books that won't steer you wrong:  

       CBC Books' Summer Reading List for 2013

They call Bone and Bread a "dazzling debut" (!!!).

In terms of the rest of the list, I read Where'd You Go, Bernadette? in a couple of days last week and really loved it.  It's hilarious and memorable and unique. Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman is also funny and brilliant and big-hearted.  

I already have had Life After Life and The Hungry Ghosts and Caught in my to-read pile...though these are now all waiting to get de-smokified (along with at least two dozen other books I am anxious to read).   I'm also really looking forward to fellow Anansi-writer Iain Reid's The Truth About Luck, and earlier this week I had to talk myself down at the bookstore from buying The Interestings in hardcover, even though I'm dying to read it, especially after reading Kerry's review of it on Pickle Me This


The days are passing in a blur of laundry and lightning-fast research and decisions about our new place... looking around for furniture and (maybe this is just me...?) wondering why everything is ugly and overpriced.  (Or why everything I like somehow turns out to be $7,000?!) Even IKEA is looking expensive after all the costs associated with the fire and the renovations.  Now we're trying to decide what can wait and what needs to be right now.  Beds are a must, but tables and chairs can wait...?  Couches?  Patio furniture seems like a luxury that should go to the bottom of the list, but given the time of year, we'd also like to get it right away.  I'd love to take my time and find the perfect things for our new home, but I know that when it comes down to it, it might be nice to have somewhere to sit, eat, sleep. 

May 15, 2013

Behind the Book... and behind in everything else

I'm feeling behind in everything, and all I want to do is sit around and read and write.  And rewatch episodes of Arrested Development.  Maybe it's a side effect the allergy medication, but I seem to have less of an ability to stare at a computer screen without getting a headache after I get home from work.  As a result, I haven't sent any emails in at least a week, which is kind of a disaster.  Maybe it is some belated fire/moving/general stress exhaustion, but it is harder than usual to get motivated.

I think I neglected to post this, coming as it did right after the fire, but writer Chad Pelley of Salty Ink (one of my favourite sites!) also did a Behind the Book with me on Bone & Bread that you can read here.  I really liked his questions! 

Salty Ink is also one of a few must-read sites celebrating short story monthSteven W. Beattie of That Shakespearean Rag is taking it to the next level with daily nuanced short-story reviews. And Steph at Bella's Bookshelves has started something called #shortstoriesforbreakfast, which is a great bite-sized teaser for things to readShort stories and breakfast are the perfect pairing!

I'm sure these aren't the only sites doing special features for short stories this month, but they're the ones on my daily rotations.  Let me know of any others you come across.


At my workplace, we have to use up our remaining vacation allotment for the year before the end of May, so Tuesday morning I stayed home from work and tried to write. And I did. (Hurray!)  Though I did something I really shouldn't do and started writing something new, in a style and genre I don't really work in and which I probably won't be able to sustain.  It was fun and satisfying, though.  I really want to decide what to focus on this summer among all my different projects and make a big push forward in something because I think the summer is when I do my best work (or, at least, my most work).

May 9, 2013

A rave review and lessons to relearn

This glowing Toronto Star review of Bone & Bread came out the same day as my Montreal book launch, so I never ended up posting it, but it is really, really lovely.  Some of the nice things Jennifer Hunter says about the novel:

“an emotionally complex, riveting story”

“a poignant read…it captivates because it brims with humanity”

I’m just slightly too bashful to repost the last line of the review here (well...for now!), but suffice it to say it is the kind of quote you could live on for a lifetime.  I keep waiting for it to become a catch-phrase around the house, but I guess I would probably have to be the one to get that started.

* * *

Lessons I keep needing to relearn:

  • Veggie paté will always go bad in the fridge before I finish eating it.
  • Muffins are just cake in another shape. 
  • 24-hour allergy pills are a lie.
 * * *

A note on "Yux."  Several people have hazarded guesses about who it might be and I feel like it is worth saying that it is someone in Toronto, not Montreal. 

May 7, 2013


I wrote this post a month ago, but I decided to wait to post it to see if just writing it would be enough for venting purposes.  And it was...I'm not upset anymore...but I decided to share it today because I think it says something about perceptions about male and female writers, or maybe just something about men and women and the crap women are still forced to deal with.  (Or maybe it doesn't say anything about any of that at all...maybe it's just a reminder that some people are not very nice.) 
So last weekend I posted the Quill & Quire photo on Facebook, and lots of kind friends and acquaintances liked and commented on it. I was really happy that so many people shared my excitement because, let’s face it, if you’re a writer, being on the cover of a magazine is pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime event. Then, a day or two after I posted it, a prominent Canadian novelist I’m not acquainted with sent me a request to tag the photo of my face “Yux.” 


I know, I know --- cruel, misspelled comments are practically what the internet was built on, but I didn’t expect it to be coming from someone with whom I have 30+ friends in common, who was perfectly willing to attach his name. (Interestingly, this is also someone who is was Facebook friends with my husband…who apparently doesn’t know him in real life either.) I can (can I??) understand a completely random dislike accruing for somebody you don’t know, based on what you know about their work or their public image (I would be very surprised if this person knew anything about my work, but then again, all of this is surprising to me). But I really can’t understand taking that action on that dislike and doing something hurtful enough to ensure that that person knows that you hate them..?! Apart from the sheer meanness involved in such an action, it just seems….imprudent. Why make enemies when you don’t have to? The literary world in Canada is pretty small, after all. 

And what if I had approved it and it went out into everybody’s news feed? Was he counting on it just being an instance of private taunting? It feels like a completely unprovoked schoolyard bully attack, and I’m surprised to find it coming from a writer who is so well-established, with multiple books and a regular teaching gig. I know that writers aren’t always model human beings, but most writers I’ve met are pretty empathetic people. And even if he has somehow has read and disliked something by me, telling me he finds my face unattractive is kind of beside the point. But I guess he’s the kind of guy who thinks women should always be judged by their looks?

May 6, 2013

Things that happened this weekend

Things that happened this weekend:

* On Thursday, the professional restoration people came to take our books and a few other sundries away for cleaning.  I don’t want to tell you how many boxes it took to cart away all our books, but between the books and just a few pieces of furniture, it filled a whole medium-sized moving truck.

* On Friday, my husband shifted the rubble in the kitchen in order to gain access to the cabinets, rescuing what could be saved.  Most of the dishes in the tipped-over dishwasher weren’t even smashed (miracle)!  But the soot in the kitchen was particularly bad…even through the cabinet doors, everything has been covered with a thick and sticky layer of soot that has turned everything a brownish-grey.  This is perhaps most alarming when it comes to my yellow KitchenAid mixer and Le Creuset cookware.  I suspect “Inferno Grey” would not be a popular choice in their rainbow of colour options.  I’m really hoping the soot will shift without major repeated interventions on my part. 

A sooty cupboard, half-emptied. (The platter on
the bottom used to be a light turquoise, like the 
circle in the middle of it where another bowl was resting.)

A lifted-up coaster leaves a white pattern in the
living room soot (somewhat less severe).

* On Friday night, we went to the Sens-Habs playoff game.  And we (Montreal) won!  But it was a real treat for me to see my hometown Ottawa Sens play, too, and it was a very welcome respite from our dirty, stressful week.  (Of last night's game, let us say nothing.)

Youppi was hanging out right 
next to us for a while. 

* On Saturday, we moved out all the stuff we are hoping to clean ourselves (i.e. all of the clothes and most of the kitchen stuff)…which filled up a whole uHaul van and then some.  Ugh.

No less than three sets of firefighters dropped by on Saturday to do walk-throughs as we were packing and moving.  I suppose they take every opportunity they have to see the remnants of a real fire.  I felt pretty pleased with myself for asking the first group of about seven guys if they wanted to help, and on their way out, they each helped --- as per my rapid opportunistic instructions: “This!” “And This!” “And This!” --- to carry all the heaviest items down the fire escape for us. 

Over the course of Saturday night and all day Sunday, I also did about eight loads of our smoky laundry, including a few sinkfuls of handwashing, which has made less of a dent than one would hope in our total combined wardrobes.  But we’re getting there. 

Sadly, reading and writing has fallen so far by the wayside amidst all this upheaval that I am almost despairing of ever picking them back up – except one of the few things I have managed to gain over the years is the ability to (at least temporarily!) stave off this kind of despair.  I have too many things I’m excited about not to start writing again soon, but now is not the time to feel bad about it.  (Right?)

Bone and Bread on The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers!

I'm really thrilled to say that Bone & Bread is going to be featured on The Next Chapter!

This interview was one of the first publicity things I did for the novel (two months ago now), and I was so, so nervous.  There's something about a radio interview done remotely (I was in the studio in Montreal, and Shelagh was in B.C., I think) that puts me out of my comfort zone.  It's like talking on the phone...and I am not a phone person.  But Shelagh is truly lovely, as is everyone I encountered who works for the show, and I have no doubt they have managed to make me sound less nervously incoherent than I sometimes felt.

I've been told the segment will be on the episode that airs Monday, May 6 (today!) between 1 and 2 p.m. and then again Saturday, May 10 between 4 and 5 p.m.  I'll also post an online link once it becomes available.  (That's how I'll be listening, so that I can stop it if I start cringing!) 

A few weeks after that taping, I was invited to be on Sonali Karnick's great CBC show All in a Weekend, and though I felt a little stressed about getting down to the studio for 7:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I felt totally comfortable and at ease and had so much fun.  It's amazing what a few weeks of practice will do, not to mention talking to somebody face to face.  (Or maybe I was just too sleepy to be able to get really nervous..?)

This is a photo Sonali snapped on her phone before the taping:

7:45 on a Sunday: no coffee, no makeup

You can read a summary or listen to it here on the CBC Books page. 

May 2, 2013

Bone and Bread is a Chatelaine pick!

Even though I've been mostly M.I.A. on the internet over the past few days, it was so nice (!) to see Bone & Bread listed as one of their best new releases to read in May:

I also noticed it at Chapters on this table of suggested books for Mother's Day...

Livres pour toutes les mamans!  

Salty Ink is also running a Big Bloomin' Spring Book Giveaway, where you can win Bone & Bread along eight other fresh CanLit books!   

In non-book news, I've been working non-stop over the past three days, sorting through the rubble at the apartment and getting what's left ready to be moved.  I'm bone tired.  Worse, birch pollen is in the air.  You know your allergies are bad when you feel marginally better inside a charred-out building full of ash than you do walking around outside.  

Hmmm.  Instead of writing about how tired I am, I should just go to bed...