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Pickle Me This

September 11, 2017

Happy Half-Birthday, Mitzi Bytes!

It’s Mitzi Bytes’ half-birthday! This week marks six months since Mitzi was launched and hit the Independent Bestseller list, reaching #2 for Trade Paperback Fiction and #6 Overall. It’s been an excellent run, and we’ve celebrated by finally making use of our custom cookie cutters from our friends at Jammy Dodger, The Bakery. I am grateful to everybody who has supported this book, booksellers, festivals, friends and readers. You’ve made this all such a pleasure.

And speaking of pleasures, have never known one quite like the Dunedin Literary Festival. It was the most beautiful, fall colours just beginning to give us glimpses, and the sun was shining and the sky was blue. I appeared on a panel with my friend, Kate Hilton, moderated by Tish Cohen, whose Town House I read and loved ten years ago. We had such a good time, and afterwards I hung out with my husband and children and we soaked up all the goodness of a day out in nature—there were activities for kids, a playground and swing, delicious local fare for lunch (empanadas to die for), and I got to see the panel later that day with Alison Pick, Cecily Ross, and Claire Cameron. It was a wonderful day, and I’m really looking forward to returning in 2018.

There are more good things coming up this week! I’m doing a talk on the (long and winding) road from blog to book at the Brockton Writers this Wednesday at the Glad Day Bookshop. And Word on the Street is next week, Sunday September 24. In conjunction with WOTS, I got to do a fun questionnaire with She Does the City answering questions about my writing life and readerly fixations. You can read it here.

July 11, 2017

Mitzi Bytes in the World—and in the Sun

“You’ve got to have a long view,” is a thing I told a writer last year who was troubled that her book had not been the explosive sensation she’d been hoping it would be. From a reader’s perspective, this seems obvious—there is no such thing as a book best-by date and the number of times it’s taken me ages to finally pick up a book I’d fall in love with is kind of preposterous. But for a writer, there is pressure, for a book to be a hit the moment it’s out of the gate, and while it’s true that there is a limited window in terms of media coverage and award eligibility and things like that, these aren’t actually the literary connections that matter. And now I keep having to deliver my own advice to myself, to remember that the life of a book is long, serendipitous, sometimes subtle, and always surprising. And while my book is now old news as new releases go (literally, so last-season), it’s continuing to have adventures out in the world and I find this so delightful.

And first, if you’re looking to come along on a Mitzi Bytes adventure, tickets are still available for my event at the Lakefield Literary Festival this weekend with Zoe Whittall and Marni Jackson. (I am also teaching a blogging workshop on Saturday morning.) Having loved both Marni and Zoe’s books last summer, it’s especially exciting to be appearing with them on Friday—for it’s a long way from the screened-in porch where I devoured Zoe’s book to a seat alongside her on the festival stage. (!!)

Last Friday, I had the good fortune of reading from Mitzi Bytes at Lexicon Books in Lunenburg, NS, which is one of the best bookstores I’ve ever been to (and we both know that I do get around). It was a terrific night with a packed house, and the good company of the brilliant Rebecca Silver Slayter and Johanna Skibsrud, who were kind enough to include me in their event. I’m so grateful to store owners Alice, Jo and Anne-Marie for having me—and to Jo in particular who was actually reading my book as I came into the store, which is a highlight of my life.

Elsewhere, Mitzi Bytes is featured in the August issue of Canadian Living, as “a compelling look into the personal consequences of the digital age.” One of my favourite readers and writers (and my friend!) Sarah wrote beautifully about the novel on her blog, Edge of Evening (and apparently I stole her life—more about that later…). Katy MacKinnon writes a great piece on the book at The Winnipeg Review, and they declare it a “fun” novel about the capacity of women to be more than just one thing—exactly! And long-time blogger Danielle Donders writes a fantastic review of the book here, which thrills me to no end because long-time bloggers “get” this book in just the way I want them too—as a celebration of the history and evolution of women in blogging, the communities and connections blogs created, and how these blogs have helped so many of us define our sense of self.

She writes, “…a book with a blogger as the protagonist released in 2017? How delightfully anachronistic. And yet, the story feels surprisingly current and relevant today.”

And just a reminder that the #MitziIntheSun giveaway runs until July 31. There’s still time for you to share your sunny Mitzi pic for a chance to win an excellent summer reads gift pack (which I will make sure to get to the winner before summer is gone…).

May 9, 2017

One more time…

Tomorrow is not the very end. Over the next few months, Mitzi Bytes and I will be on tour in Lunenberg, NS, Lakefield, ON, and festivals in Dunedin and Stratford come the fall. But tomorrow does mark the end to a veritable parade of events since the book launched two months ago, and I hope we’ll be going out in style. No doubt, really, because it’s going out with friends. Tomorrow night I’ll be part of the IFOA weekly series with my dear friend and book buddy Rebecca Rosenblum, in conversation with the excellent Amy Jones. Info and tickets are here, and I’d love to see you there.

April 30, 2017

A Remarkable Week for Mitzi and Me

As excellent weeks in the life of Mitzi Bytes go, I don’t know if any other will top this one. On Monday, I had the great pleasure of listening to my interview with Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter. On Tuesday, in preparation for the 1000 Islands Writers Festival (next weekend!!), I published a post on Mitzi Bytes and ambivalence on the festival blog. On Wednesday, I drove to Waterloo to partake in the Appetite for Reading Book Club event, which was so much fun, totally delicious, and dear friends were there, part of a room packed with avid readers—you can see some of their smiling faces above.

Thursday evening was the thoroughly bonkers and wholly enjoyable Toronto Library Bibliobash, which took place at the Toronto Reference Library, which is one of my favourite places on earth. It was hilarious fun and also a privilege to be able to support the library in such a wonderful way. It was very exciting to see Mitzi Bytes in such a setting…

And the next day I would discover it somewhere just as lovely—in Shawna Lemay’s beautiful response to the book at her blog, Transactions With Beauty.

Saturday was the third Authors for Indies day and I had the pleasure of a road trip with CanLit superstars Kate Hilton, Jennifer Robson, and Karma Brown, who were so much fun and (unsurprisingly) delightfully bookish. We went to Curiosity House Books in Creemore and Forsters Book Garden in Bolton, which was so wonderful because there is nothing I ever love more than a destination bookshop. It was terrific to meet the booksellers and the readers…and of course I bought a few books on my own. There was much raucousness and the snacks were great…

…and I arrived back home in time to listen to the rebroadcast of The Next Chapter with my family! (Happy to see Mitzi Bytes included on “15 books you heard about on CBC Radio this week”!).

One more thing—the new issue of The Hamilton Review of Books is up and it’s really great. And it also includes my review of Marianne Apostolides’ memoir, Deep Salt Water, which was such a joy to puzzle out and write about. I’m very pleased to be included in this issue. And I’m closing out here with a photo of Marissa Stapley and I from my Toronto Library Eh List Event on April 13. Marissa was wonderful and it was such a good night—one of many I’ve been experiencing lately.

April 26, 2017

Authors for Indies!

Saturday is the third annual Authors of Indies Day, and I’m doing something a little bit different this year, namely hitting the road for a little bookshop discovery. Alongside bookish dynamos Kate Hilton, Karma Brown and Jennifer Robson, we’ll be driving out of town and landing as follows:

Hope to see you there. And if you won’t be there, check out the other Authors for Indies events going on in your neighbourhood.

December 5, 2016

The Toronto Review of Books’ Seasonal Affective Party!

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I’m looking forward to reading as part of the Toronto Review of Books’ Seasonal Affective Party on Tuesday December 6, 7pm at Poetry Jazz Cafe in Kensington Market. I’ll reading alongside Andrew Pyper, Trevor Corkum, and Catherine Graham. TRB Managing Editor and novelist Damian Tarnopolsky will be reading too, along with TRB Senior Editor and writer Kelli Deeth.

The Facebook event is here! See you there?

I’ll be reading the infamous pork shoulder scene from Mitzi Bytes, and it’s going to be great.

November 18, 2016

Missing Nimama

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Congratulations to Melanie Florence and Francois Thisdale, whose hauntingly beautiful picture book, Missing Nimama, about a murdered Indigenous woman won the TD Children’s Book Prize last night at The Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards. This book is an extraordinary demonstration of what the picture book can be and do; you can read my review here. I’m also thrilled for Danielle Daniel who won the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Prize for Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox, another book we’re big fans of at our house.

A complete list of winners is here. It was a terrific night.

May 31, 2016

Books on Ontario Morning

cbc_radio_logoTomorrow morning I’ll be talking about books on CBC Ontario Morning at 8:20. I am ridiculously happy about the stack of books I’m recommending, because the easiest thing in the world to do is convey enthusiasm for things you’re actually enthusiastic about.

Hope you’ll listen in.

May 29, 2016

Alone in Montreal

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I’m not alone very often, and when I am, I am never lost or aimless. I say this not smugly, but as a mild lamentation. I don’t know that I’d like being alone, lost and aimless to be a pastime, but sometimes such things can lead a person places. This is what I teach in my blogging course, that a blogger needs space to roam, room to wander. And on Friday, I had some of that for myself, as I flew to Montreal to talk about blogging with the Association of English Language Publishers of Quebec. If you know me, you know I rarely leave my couch, so this was a pretty novel opportunity. I flew out from the Island Airport on Friday morning, the whole experience infused with goodness from the get-go—tea, ample leg-room and a good book. A whole hour and a bit in which to read.

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I had a few hours to kill before my event, so I made a plan to explore the Mile End neighbourhood and then make my way through the city to Westmount, where the AELAQ event was being held. My taxi from the airport dropped me off at Librairie Drawn and Quarterly, which immediately landed a space on my Best Bookshops I Have Ever Been To list. A world-famous publisher of amazing graphic novels and comics, they sell their own books, as well as other such books from other publishers, and then kids books, poetry, fiction, cookbooks etc etc making them a perfect general-interest/speciality hybrid. I walked in there and contemplated never leaving.

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I ended up choosing Rivka Galchen’s Little Labors, which is SO GOOD and I read yesterday. I thought maybe I was through with moms making sense of the new baby books, but no. Looking forward to writing about this one more this week. I also got Photobooth: A Biography, by Meags Fitzgerald, and it’s brilliant. The rest of the books were for my family, and I think I chose very well.

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So of course this meant I had a pile of books now to add to all the stuff I had to carry, and although I have never, ever complained about carrying books (the most pleasurable burden I’ve ever had the privilege to experience), my load in general was kind of heavy. It was also 38 degrees outside (no lie: factoring humidity), but no matter, I was on my way. I felt more like Mary Tyler Moore than I usually feel ever, if she’d been making it after all in French Canada whilst carrying a stack of books. I hit up a boulangerie, and got a croissant, and then followed it up with an ice cream cone at Kem CoBa, double scoop because you only live once. And it was so hot that my ice cream was melting faster than I could eat it, and I do appreciate that Montreal was so kind to me in spite of the melted diary stains all over my bag. After that, I added a dozen bagels from Fairmount Bagel to my load, and then set off down Rue Saint-Urban toward my final destination.

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It seemed ridiculously hot, though I think the heat (and the books. and the bagels) were the problem, plus I had to wear a giant shirt because I continue to be allergic to the SUN. I walked through Jewish neighbourhoods, a Portuguese neighbourhood, skirted the park and the mountain, and then arrived downtown where I turned and walked along Rue Sherbrooke, though the McGill Campus and past museums and galleries and there was so much to see..and I was so very hot and did not seem to be arriving at my hotel ever. So I had to stop and steal wi-fi from the Ritz Carlton (whose signal is very strong, stretches all the way across the street) to figure out where I was going. Luckily the right way. I got there eventually, to my hotel with enough time to cool down and change my clothes and iron my dress and be ready for my presentation, which was not far away at the Atwater Library.

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As would be apt for a presentation about how blogging in 2016 is small and focussed, the group that arrived for my presentation was much the same—and they were WONDERFUL. I had such a wonderful time giving my talk, and the group was so receptive, and I was pleased to meet some people again, meet others for the first time, and in particular people whom I’d grown to like already in engaging with them online. It was a terrific experience, and such a privilege to be there. And I was so appreciative to everybody for making me feel so welcome. (And for coming, even though it was by then the middle of a rainstorm and thunder was rumbling outside).

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Afterwards, a few of us piled into a taxi and headed back up to Drawn and Quarterly for the Biblioasis launch of books by Alice Petersen and Catherine Laroux. It was a pleasure to be back there and also to have it all set up for an event, and to meet other local writers and readers and get a feel for the Montreal English literary scene. I was so happy to hang out with Saleema Nawaz, who contributed to The M Word and who i’ve long admired, but had really only met fleetingly, and also Elise Moser (who has a new nonfiction children’s title coming out in the fall about “the pioneer of plastics recycling”) and Alice Zorn (whose latest novel, Five Roses, I am so excited to have ahead of me). The readings were great, and then afterwards, we went out for dinner and drank bourbon lemonade and ate fried chicken and nothing annoying or not wonderful had happened to me all day (nearly collapsing from heat stroke notwithstanding). It was nice to be alone in Montreal, particularly in those moments when I actually wasn’t.

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Spending the night in a hotel room BY MYSELF (without even sand in the bed. I like holidays, but the bane of my existence is sand in the bed, but there were none in this one) was a ridiculous indulgence, so surrounded was I by good pillows, clean sheets, a comfortable mattress, and many many books. Once I stopped reading I slept soundly, and then spent the morning enjoying a few good hours of quiet and aloneness before it was time to fly back home again.

May 22, 2016

Montreal!

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I’ll be in Montreal on Friday talking about literary blogs in 2016 (“now that the bubble has burst…”) with the Association of English-language Publishers of Quebec. I would love to see you there! 

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