Friday, October 30, 2009

Pause For Breath: The Montreal Launch

We'll be heading down to Montreal for three events, including the above at the Word bookstore on Wednesday evening. If any Thirsty readers happen to be in Montreal please stop by for what promises to be a wonderful launch for a wonderful collection.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What Boys Like: Launch Tomorrow Night

What Boys Like arrived in the driveway at 9:05 this morn, 34 hours before we launch it in Toronto at the Gladstone Hotel tomorrow night. It's the tightest we've ever been to a launch date. The cool thing about it will be that Amy hasn't yet seen her book, so she'll be getting a first look at it the same as everyone else: when she walks through the doors of the Gladstone at 7 pm. For those of you who can make it tomorrow eve, please, please come on down. It's not every day a talented young writer launches her first book, and she deserves a good crowd. For those jaded readers of this blog with four or five books under your belt, remember what it was like that first time, and get over your cynicism and come on down to celebrate. For all of those who are still struggling to put together their first, well ... you know what she's been through.

Amy will be quite busy in the coming weeks, so I thought I'd list her upcoming events here. Should there be any readers in Ottawa, Kitchener, Montreal, Halifax or the surrounding environs, you'll soon be able to catch Amy there as well.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009: BOOK LAUNCH, TINARS, Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, 7 pm

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009: with Rebecca Rosenblum & Carrie Snyder, Art Bar, 101 Queen St. North, Kitchener, Ontario, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, 7 pm - 10:00 pm.

Sunday, October 25th, 2009: Ottawa International Writers Festival, 8:30 PM, Saint Brigid's Centre

monday, November 2nd, 2009: w/ Rebecca Rosenblum & Kathleen Winter, Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore, Montreal.

Thursday, November 5th, 2009: w/ Zach Wells & Wayne Clifford: Company House, Halifax, 6-8 pm

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009: Pivot Reading Series, Toronto

More events, including stops in London, Windsor, Vancouver and elsewhere, almost certainly to follow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

12 or 20 Questions: Amy Jones

Over at rob mclennan's blog, he's posted an interview with Amy Jones, whose What Boys Like launches next Tuesday, October 20th, at the Gladstone Hotel as part of TINARS.

1 - How did your first book change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?

I don’t know yet! I’m hoping astronomically! My first book is very brand new, so brand new, in fact, that I have yet to actually see it. I guess completing it and having it accepted for publication changed my life in that I started to think of myself as “a writer” as opposed to “a student” or “an unemployed hobo,” although I still can’t actually bring myself to say “I’m a writer” when people ask me what I do.

The stuff I’m writing now is different only because I’ve moved on to different obsessions. When I first started writing, I was obsessed with language; I wrote sentences because I liked the way they sounded. Lately I’m more obsessed with story – I really want stuff to happen. And my newer stuff is better, I think. I guess I still think of myself as a student in that way... I like to think I’m not even close to being as good as I could be.

2 - How did you come to fiction first, as opposed to, say, poetry or non-fiction?

I actually came to poetry first, if I’m going to be honest about it, but my poems really sucked, in that sixteen year old self-indulgent kind of way (even long after I was ever sixteen). I needed more room, so I started writing fiction. Non-fiction was never really appealing to me; the main reason I write is to entertain myself, and reality is almost never as entertaining as what’s going on in my imagination... or at least, I can’t write it to be as entertaining. I sometimes tell people that I like writing fiction because I feel like fiction can sometimes be more truthful because it’s not stuck in fact, but in really I just like to make stuff up.

3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?

When I first started writing, everyone told me the best thing to do was to just write and write, even if it was crap, and then re-write it later, and for years I really tried hard to do that. But eventually I realized that method just frustrated me. For me, writing like making pastry or dough or something, cause I have to mix things together carefully, and if I handle it too much it just ends up ruining it. So I won’t sit down to write something until I have it completely worked out in my head. And I don’t take notes! If it doesn’t stick in my head, if it doesn’t burrow itself into my brain until I’m going so crazy that I have to write it down, then it won’t work for me. The story doesn’t always end up where I thought it would go, because my characters tend to sometimes have a mind of their own, but I have to know the voice inside and out before I can start putting it on paper. And when I start, it just comes tumbling out.

For the remaining 17 questions, please go here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


A post-it note poem from Mike Barnes's blog, Graphomaniac.


God-wire arcs
In the brain.
Smother the sparks?
Fan into flame?
Or rejig the load
- up to what code?

Kerry Clare on Cynthia Flood

Over at her blog Pickle Me This, Kerry Clare has a rave review of Cynthia Flood's The English Stories. This was a title I really thought might have had some shot at a Giller longlist, at the very least, especially when one considered the makeup of the jury. The good news is that word of mouth is doing very well for this collection, and we're working our way through the last boxes of the initial print run: perhaps a reprint will be necessary. This is as it should be, as this is one of a handful of the best books we've published here at Biblioasis, which I for one think is saying quite a lot.

More good news: according to Kerry, all of the copies of The English Stories in the Toronto Public Library are currently out. So if you live in the GTA and hope to read it soon, might be best to head on down to Ben McNally or Nicholas Hoare or Type Books or your favourite neighbourhood bookseller (even these guys seem to be keeping it in stock, at least for now) and pick yourself up a copy.

From the review:

This was an England not long out of war, in the throes of an age of austerity, coming to terms (or not yet) with fundamental changes in values and beliefs, and grappling with centuries of a empirical past that was quickly becoming irrelevant. And though Flood's protagonist is young, her stories' themes are not, which becomes the point-- Amanda struggling with the gap between the world as it is and her limited understanding. Understanding which is little achieved here, for Amanda is only eleven after all, and then just twelve, and thirteen. Far too young yet for "coming of age" and Flood doesn't do such neat resolutions anyway.

What she does do is a marvelous sentence: "At lunch on the rainy February day the King died, the sweet was custard and stewed damsons" opens "Early in the Morning", or "The Spring term in which Kay died and Constance disappeared from St. Mildred's, and I broke my glasses featured a school wide obsession with mealtime talk of sex" begins "Magnificat". These sentences both convey the way in Flood encapsulates the world wide and near, the great and small, inside her literary universe.

Read the rest here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

More on Moya and Snakes

There have been a few hits on the Moya/Snakes front this past week, including a good plug on the influential Shelf Awareness, and this review over at GoodReports. We've also seen a posting of an interview over at Bookslut between Translation Series Editor Stephen Henighan and Moya. Here's a bit of what Moya has to say about the origins of Dance With Snakes:

Dance with Snakes, the novel that Biblioasis is publishing this fall, first appeared in El Salvador in 1996. What was the context -- literary and/or historical -- of the composition of this novel?

I wrote that novel during the months of September and October 1995, in Mexico City. I had just come back from El Salvador, where a very ambitious journalistic project, the weekly newspaper Primera Plana, of which I was editor-in-chief, had failed. We went broke in July of that year. My mood was dark and defeated. Writing Dance with Snakes was cathartic, liberating. A couple of months later I wrote El asco (“Revulsion”).

As you’ve mentioned, journalists appear in your novels on various occasions. In Dance with Snakes, the journalist is a young woman. Was this a way of trying to dismantle some of the literary stereotypes associated with the figure of the journalist?

That novel was written in a very compulsive way, as if the story had already been saved on a hard disk in my head. The truth is that I didn’t set out to dismantle any stereotypes with the character of Rita Mena, but rather that she was the right person to continue the plot development. I constructed a cocktail of a character on the basis of two women reporters and a female designer who had worked with me on the newspaper, and I rushed ahead.

For the full interview please go here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cynthia Flood: The Rabble Interview

I haven't been doing my usual check-in on writer's websites these past few months, and so missed this link on Cynthia's to this summer's interview with Vancouver Co-op Radio. To listen, please go here.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Advance Review of Track & Trace

from Quill & Quire:

Born on Prince Edward Island, currently based in Halifax, frequent Q&Q contributor Zachariah Wells is a Maritime poet of direct speech and muscular lexicon, both of which can be counted among the legacies of fellow Maritimer Alden Nowlan. However, Wells boasts more cosmopolitan affiliations than Nowlan did: he takes his book's epigraph from Ivan Klima, and recasts poems by Rilke and the baroque sonneteer Jean-Baptiste Chassignet.

Since Wells works for Via Rail, one might supppose that the track in his title alludes to the transcontinental routes he travels. But this is no railroader's verse: he is interested in the tracks we follow and the traces we leave. Such abstract concerns are conveyed with admirable, if sometimes too effortful, exactness. In "Slugs," the titular creatures are "creeping beads / of cool snot"; in "Briar Patch," ploughing a cane thicket, the poet's father "John-Deered the patch." Sometimes he leans a little too heavily on line breaks, creating a stuttering effect, as in "The Pond," in which a creek is "percolating into a reek- / rich bog." On rare occasions, he succumbs to jarring metaphors, as in "Fool's Errand," in which a valley in a snowstorm is a "bowl of stirred-up curdled milk."

Yet, taken overall, such poems are among the most powerful in the collection, to which may be added the impressive "Dream Vision of the Flood," in which the poet, a Noah retreating to a hilltop, dreams of his island home becoming "redrawn / by water." Since PEI in winter is more or less an iceberg floating in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it's not surprising that snow figures in many poems. Then, too, snow relates to his theme, given its ability to erase both tracks and traces.

Unashamed of end-rhymes or reworking the sonnet form, Wells also varies his work with incantation-like poems, in which line openings reiterate words or phrases like "Roads...," "Out with the...," and "It was a winter of..." Such litany-like exercises in parallelism are less successful than the poems in which variations on a theme are smoothly melded.

Even in Vancouver, Wells finds traces of his island home. Indeed, his most resonant poems reach back to the cormorants, red earth, and mussel mud of the province nicknamed "the million-acre farm."--Fraser Sutherland, whose next poetry collection, The Philosophy of As If (Bookland Press), is forthcoming in 2010.