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February 1, 2021

Virtual Author Talk

Last week I had the pleasure of two library events, and the live Toronto Library one was such a success, with so many of my favourite internet people tuning in. The next day we recorded my author visit to the Cobourg Public Library and it was also great, because not only was interviewer Ashley so fantastic, but she’d attended the TPL event the night before and was able to steer this one in a very different and fascinating direction. I had a lot of fun, there is so much energy and some real insight in the conversation, and I am delighted to be able to share it with you. Worth checking out, for sure.

January 25, 2021

Two Events This Week

This Wednesday! Register for my event at the Toronto Public Library!

Join my virtual visit to Cobourg Public Library on Friday evening on Facebook.

October 28, 2020

True Covid Confessions: I don’t miss literary events. All I ever wanted to do was stay home and READ.

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As a literary enthusiast, a reader and a writer, it feels like blasphemy to declare it, but I don’t miss literary events. Not a bit.

I don’t miss yelling over the roar of a crowd to make awkward small talk, sitting through readings that last far too long, listening to that one guy whose outsized ego means he clearly holds his co-panelists in contempt, or being introduced to a writer for at least the third time (we even shared a panel once) who still claims not to know me.

I don’t miss paying way too much money for a drink I don’t really feel like drinking, or half as much (which is still a lot) for a glass of tepid orange juice.

And the audience Q&As. I don’t miss them at all. The woman who actually has a comment instead of a question, and the other one who wants advice on how to get published, and I’m still traumatized by the event back in 2006 when a man got up to ask Zadie Smith if she supposed she would have had as much success had she not been so physically attractive.

Or even worse, the events that only a handful of people have bothered to show up to, so that I am mortified on behalf of the author, the establishment, and humanity in general, and then I somehow feel contractually obliged to become that woman yammering on in the Q&A, since the alternative is crickets.

And while I do appreciate the opportunity to buy books at literary events, particularly when it enables me to support one of my favourite local independent booksellers, it is often the case that I have purchased the book on sale already, having pre-ordered it or ventured out to buy it on the publication day. So that I’m buying a copy of a book I own already, which is hardly a tragedy (I love deciding on the perfect reader to pass my spare copy on to) but it’s not exactly economically sensible.

I miss the cheese though—such irresistible cubes. The pieces I cut at home never achieve the same symmetry. And I miss seeing friends, and celebrating writers I love. I’m still buzzing from a 2018 conversation with Esi Edugyan and Meg Wolitzer at the Toronto Festival of Authors, scrawling Wolitzer’s brilliant words in my notebook: “The world will whittle your daughter down, but a mother never should, and my mother never did, and that is feminism in action.” I miss the inspiration of watching panels as fabulously curated as those at an event like The Festival of Literary Diversity, which is where I became acquainted with amazing writers like Cherie Dimaline, Carrianne Leung, and Amber Dawn for the very first time.

As a writer, I have gained a particular understanding of just why literary events matter so much, and I’ve been grateful to them creating opportunities for me to connect with readers and to enact the privilege of being an author in public—basically what dreams are made of.

But even my most hotly anticipated literary events, those opportunities to share a room with authors whose books and ideas are integral to my very being—these, I have secretly resented for the way they keep me from my number one pursuit, which is reading. If it was socially acceptable for me to hide in the corner with your novel at your book launch, I would do it, but the lighting never suffices, and enough people think I’m kind of rude already.

I have secretly resented them for the way they keep me from my number one pursuit, which is reading.

And so for me, there has been something of a relief in the cessation of the literary social calendar. Skipping the Zoom launches, and curling up with a book instead, and I’ve been doing so much reading. I’ve been doing my part by buying books too, and then some. The most joyful moments during the dark days of these pandemic times has been finding deliveries on my porch from local bookshops, who’ve worked so hard to keep their businesses going and keep us all in books while in lockdown.

Books and the reading proving to be the most delightful diversion and escape as well, the opposite of twitter doom scrolling. I’ve enjoyed finding online community too in a network of readers, which is rich and rewarding, even if lacking in cheese.


My new novel Waiting for a Star to Fall is out this week and you don’t even have to leave the house to celebrate!


In 2010, I wrote this somewhat related piece, “Enough shameful author appearances for one lifetime”

September 28, 2020

The Book Auction to Support Prisoners

The excellent Thea Lim has organized the Book Auction to Support Prisoners (in support of Book Clubs for Inmates, the COVID-19 Prisoner Emergency Support Fund & the Jail Hotline) which kicks off today. There’s an amazing list of signed books and other special offers up for grabs, including my novel Mitzi Bytes. Good books for a great cause!

Visit the website and start bidding!

October 31, 2019

How to Organize a Literary Event in 48 Hours

More than a month ago, I emailed my friend Nathalie and asked her if she’d attend the Toronto Public Library event with Christy Ann Conlin, Megan Gail Coles and Elisabeth de Mariaffi, and she replied with an enthusiastic YES, as you would, with a lineup like that. But then the event was cancelled after the Toronto Library was called on to cancel its provision of space to a speaker whose hate-speech about trans people is just one of the many awful things about her, and they refused. And so many authors and artists have cancelled their Toronto Library event in solidarity with the trans community, which is important and the right thing to do—but it also means that Christy Ann Conlin was coming to Toronto all the way from Nova Scotia for her very first reading in the city, and she had no event booked. So what to do?

I hadn’t properly understood the situation until Monday, or else I would have stepped up sooner, but once I’d figured it out, it wasn’t long before I had my inspiration. Right in the middle of dinner, in fact. “What would you think” I asked my husband, “about us having twenty people over for a literary event in our living room?” And my husband was so excited about me having a wild inspiration for which he would not be obligated to build a website that he agreed without hesitation. And so I sent an email to Christy Ann in Nova Scotia, and once she said she was in, there was just one more email to set the wheels in motion.

I had to email Nathalie and ask if she would be up for some custom mixology—and she agreed. Thank heavens, because everybody knows you can’t have a party without an official cocktail… (Nathalie invented three different cocktails, all with Nova Scotia spirits: “Minas Basin,” “It All Went Pear-Shaped,” and “Juniper and Apple Shrub.”)

And next, we needed people to fill my living room in 48 hours notice, but they came, a wonderful collection of generous, book loving people who were happy to welcome Christy Ann to Toronto. They filled my home with the most wonderful bookish spirit (and all got to take home custom Watermark soap from Hen of the Woods—what a treat!).

It was wonderful! Friends and neighbours came, a literary community of amazing readers and writers, including Christy Ann fans who I got to meet for the first time, plus a very exciting guest—Amy Spurway, of Crow fame, who was in town for the author’s festival. We ate food, sipped delicious drinks, made great conversation, listened to Christy Ann read from Watermark, and I got to ask her questions about her career and her book, and she was just so kind, and gracious and terrific. Throughly entertaining and delightful, and we were all so lucky to be part of it together, but me most of all, because I got to experience it without leaving the house.

October 29, 2018

More Fun Things

Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of returning to the Stratford Writers Festival, where I moderated a panel about women’s experiences with Sarah Selecky, Andrea Bain, and Emily Anglin, and it was wonderful. I still remember the first time I was asked to moderate anything, years ago, and how I accepted the job because I thought it was the kind of thing I’d really like to do, although I wasn’t sure I’d be very good at it—and I wasn’t. But over the years, I’ve become comfortable with public speaking and confident about my own skills as a reader, to the point where I’m a kickass moderator and I know it, and I love it. It was a real pleasure to be part of this event.

That same weekend, I had the joyful experience of my review of Iona Whishaw’s A Sorrowful Sanctuary appearing in The Toronto Star’s venerable books section. So nice too that Whishaw’s all too timely historical novel gave me an excuse to be calling our shady nationalist politicians and Nazis in the media. ‘“I suppose I’m simply naïve,” [Lane] explains. “I want all my Nazis parceled up and put on the shelf of history after all our hard work in the war. I didn’t expect to find them here.”’

And this weekend, I’m off to Sudbury for the Wordstock Sudbury Festival. On Saturday morning, I’ll be appearing on a book industry panel with Hazel Millar and Holly Kent, and later that afternoon representing Mitzi Bytes with Margaret Christakos and Diane Schoemperlen, and I’m really looking forward to it.

October 2, 2018

Staying Home to Read

I read fifteen books last month, and some of them were really long, and so many of them were really good, and I’m pleased with this progress and with how much better I feel about the world knowing that these books are in it. Books that have reminded me: I really, really love reading, which is pretty much the root of everything I get up to these days. There is even time enough for it…which is always the thing I say around this time of year before I take on twenty stupid or less-stupid commitments that render such a statement untrue. But there is only time enough because I stayed home every night. Dear Writers: I am desperately sorry I wasn’t able to attend your literary gathering, but instead I was at home reading your book.

With just a couple of exceptions, of course. Last Saturday we had the pleasure of a weekend getaway to Huntsville, where I took part in the Huntsville Public Library’s Books and Brunch event with Hannah Mary McKinnon and K.A. Tucker. McKinnon’s most recent book is The Neighbours, which is the novel that kicked off my holiday reading in July, a twisty domestic drama that hinges on the premise of a woman’s ex-boyfriend moving in with his family to the house next door. Let me tell you how the situation turns out: NOT SO GREAT, ACTUALLY. And I read Tucker’s novel (her sixteenth, I think?), The Simple Wild, and I LOVED IT. It was funny, gripping and swoon-worthingly romantic in the way all my favourite 1990s’ films were. Together, the three of us had a fun and engaging conversation about writing, books, and publishing, and it was absolutely fabulous to be in such excellent company.

And then this weekend I found myself at another wonderful event, this time with members of my coven (because doesn’t every witch need a coven, and how fortunate I am that this one adopted me) celebrating Jennifer Robson’s forthcoming novel, The Gown. It was an afternoon tea, which is always up my street, and the food was divine, the bookish conversation delightful as we listened to Jen and Kate Quinn, and the table conversation was even better, as it always is when we get together. Definitely worth leaving the house for—which is not a phase I throw around lightly.

July 31, 2018

The Journey to the Journey Prize

I’m so pleased to share the news that I’m a juror for the The Journey Prize this year, along with Sharon Bala and Zoey Leigh Peterson. And I’m pleased not just because it’s such an honour to be part of this project, a prize that has played a part in the careers of so many superstar Canadian writers. A prize that I always had secret dreams of being a finalist for—the closest I ever came was having a story of mine nominated way back when, and even that was something I was a little bit proud of. I’ve written before about how exciting it was to buy a copy of the anthology in 2008 when my friend Rebecca Rosenblum was a finalist—my friend was in an actual book! And so to be a juror—what a huge and incredible thing. But the honour is just the beginning—I want also write about how it’s been an absolute delight and that I’ve learned so much from the experience as a reader. It’s been so interesting.

This opportunity arrived in my inbox early this year, and I did not hesitate to say yes, because if there is any evidence that I’ve succeeded in making a name for myself as a reader, this would be it. It felt great to be in the esteemed company of Sharon and Zoey as well—I’d just read Sharon’s novel, The Boat People, and loved it, and I’d been hearing people raving about Zoey’s Next Year, For Sure since it was published. And then it would not be long before a giant envelope was delivered to my house, and I began the process of reading 100 short stories that had been published in journals and magazines across the country, which meant there was so much goodness, and it would be my job to help figure out the best of the best. I began a big knitting project as I started reading the stack, and I knit as I began reading, and also lugged the stack of stories over to the pool and read it on the bleachers while my children did their swimming lessons. When I think of that stack of stories, I think of sunny Sundays with pages spread out on  my bed and also chlorine.

And then I sent in my shortlist of 15 or so stories, and I thought that it was pretty cut and dried. Several stories it seemed obvious to me were excellent, and others were pretty easy to reject, because some things are simple, right? And then I received our collective longlist, which was 30-some stories, and some of the picks were baffling—really? Maybe this was going to be harder than I thought…but I started reading again, and something amazing happened. Reading these stories in a new context was so illuminating, and understanding that my colleagues supported some of these stories made me read them differently. I also reread some of my own favourites, and wondered if my enthusiasms had perhaps been ill-placed. A few stories continued to stick out as extraordinary, and the rest of them were the same stories they’d always been, but my mind had changed. What a thing! To adjust and correct as a reader, to learn from my colleagues, to benefit from their broadening of my perspective.

And this only kept happening as we got to know each other through conference calls, as we debated and enthused, asked questions and posed answers. There was such generosity in the spirit of the work we were doing, a willingness to listen to each other and learn. I’d previously had an experience on a jury with someone who simply dug in his heels and refused to listen to anyone, and he’d ruined the entire experience for me—and I’m still so angry that we let him get his way, but in the end I just wanted to get home for lunch. With Zoey and Sharon though, every bit of our conversation was about listening and building, and at those moments when one of us dug in our heels, it was absolutely the right thing to do.

The list we settled on could not have been more perfect, and all of us were so satisfied with it, and excited as we took on the task of arranging story order and writing our introduction. That giant stack of stories had been whittled down to something that was an actual book, rich with cohesion and connections, both obvious ones and others that were surprising. And I’m so excited now, for the shortlist to be revealed on August 7, for the book to find its way into readers’ hands, for these stories to be read—I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so personally connected to a book I didn’t write. But I can tell you with assuredness that it’s such a good book, and I’m excited for the next stage of its journey into the world.

Update: In all my rhapsodizing for my co-jurors, I forgot to give credit to McClelland & Stewart and the incredible Anita Chong, who is the whole reason this experience has been such a pleasure. Anita is so incredibly good at what she does, and I’ve been so grateful to get to know her and work with her on this book.

May 8, 2018

#FOLD2018

The first Festival of Literary Diversity in 2016 was the most interesting, inspiring and potentially transformative literary event I have ever attended—and I would have been back last year but I was out of town. So this year I did not miss a beat purchasing a pass for the Saturday events (and let me tell you, making the choice between Saturday and Sunday was really difficult—there were excellent things going on all weekend long). And once again, it was the very best day. I got the bus at 8:50 and was dropped off in front of Brampton City Hall just forty minutes later. There was even tea and scones for sale, so I was all set for the first event, which was writer Kai Cheng Thom discussing the important of setting with SK Ali (Saints and Misfits which I loved), Catherine Hernandez (Scarborough), Fartumo Kuso (Tale of a Boon’s Wife), and Joshua Whitehead (Johnny Appleseed)Whitehead talked about how huge The Break was in inspiring him how Winnipeg could be used as a setting in his novel, and how he wanted to use his setting as a “place of refuge” for queer Indigenous youth. Ali spoke about writing in the shadows of dominant narratives about Muslims and how she wasn’t trying to subvert that, exactly, because it would simply be falling into the same agenda. Instead, “I was just trying to write the Muslims I didn’t see in books.” She also spoke about how she had to get lessons from fantasy writers on world-building because there were elements of her story that would seem foreign to some readers, although these elements are parts of our communities. Hernandez talked about writing Scarborough, and “wanting to imagine beautiful possibilities for these places.” Kusow spoke of the balance between resisting mainstream images of Africa (Somalia) in her novel, but also she wanted to be honest. (PS I remember the panel in 2016 at which Kusow asked a question about how she, as a Muslim-Canadian immigrant, could find a place for herself in Canadian literature. Which made it particularly exciting to ask her to sign her novel for me this year…)

Next up was The Edge of Suspense, with Amber Dawn (Sodom Road Exit), David A. Robertson (Strangers), Michelle Wan (Death in Dordogne Mystery Series), moderated by the incredible Cherie Dimaline. They all talked about where their stories came from—Dawn sets her story in her hometown of Crystal Beach, ON, the year after the town’s iconic amusement park shuts down. She spoke about coming into her own as a writer as the Pickton trial was going on, and all the questions it evoked, which she uses her work to try to answer, this time in a novel. “I love for my art to have a house,” she said, discussing the novel as a container for the ghost story. Robertson’s YA novel was born of his interest in writing an origin story for a superhero, but he also wanted to have a dialogue in his work about mental health. He also wanted to give Indigenous youth a character in which they could see themselves reflected. And Michelle Wan told us about her own experience that had inspired her botanical mystery series, piecing a story together via flowers and their habitats. She talked about the constraints of literary narratives, and how these really can be artful, but also about her experience writing literary fiction, and how freeing it felt to “step off the path.” And then all three authors had a fantastic conversation about genre, and writers being bold in the forms of literature they’re choosing to tackle. But Dawn notes that Creative Writing Programs still have far to travel in encouraging this boldness in their students.

And then I had a long lunch, plenty of good conversations, met amazing literary people IN REAL LIFE, and tried and failed to exercise restraint while perusing the book sale table (“Don’t you already have books at home?” Anjula from Another Story Books asked me, but I pretended I hadn’t heard a thing). We also got ice cream. And then I took my seat for the Extraordinary Voices panel with Carrianne Leung moderating a discussion with Kim Thuy (Vi), Lee Maracle (My Conversations With Canadians), and Rabindranath Maharaj (Adjacentland). Leung began with a statement Cherie Dimaline made at The FOLD in 2016 about how story is magic. (And I remember this quote! I wrote the whole thing down: “Writing,” says Dimaline, “is the last true magic. Imagine being able to create something out of nothing, and that something is what literature is. It takes faith to create it, and also to receive it.”) Although Maracle suggested the inverse of Dimaline’s point, that story goes around looking for the writers. Maharaj talked about growing up in an oral culture, how everything was exaggerated, and storytelling becomes second-nature. Thuy mentioned that novel has been declared dead over and over ahead, but yet stories (and novels!) persist. Maracle talked about the importance of loving characters in order for the them to become multi-dimensional. And about writing for an audience: “But the initial story is coming to you—Own it.” Thuy talked about how different the discussions about her books are the various countries in which they’re published, which shifts the idea of writing for an audience—because how can you ever know? Maracle shared advice for young writers: “So dance and fall into your own story and don’t climb out until the door closes on you.” Maharaj explains that being a writer is having a particular way of looking at the world, of paying attention and noticing things. And finally Thuy on not fighting a story, on moving with it instead of against it: “And I just say YES.”

October 4, 2017

Books on the Radio!

Finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Awards were announced this morning, and the shortlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize came out earlier this week, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction prize list came out last week. Interestingly, none of the books that I’ve loved best this year are turning up on the prize lists—possibly my affection is a curse?—but I’ve been paying attention to this kind of thing long enough to know this is not something worth being bothered about. Nothing bugs me more than news stories after prize announcements highlighting what big names have been “overlooked,” or trying to be strategic about what books are nominated. Basically, it’s all very subjective, and I’m just happy that all the big Canadian prizes highlight such a wide selection of books this year. There are many titles on these lists I haven’t read yet, and I kind of love that—the possibility that they may indeed end up among the books I’ve loved best after all. Which certainly include the five titles I talked about on CBC Ontario Morning today. You can listen again on the podcast—I come on at 25 minutes.

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Book Cover WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL

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