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April 26, 2016

Authors for Indies on Saturday

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Come and let me sell you all the books. I’ll be at Book City Danforth, and it’s going to be terrific. If you’re not in the neighbourhood, check out the Authors for Indies site to find out what’s going on near you.

April 12, 2016

April 30: Authors for Indies

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I still remember what it felt like to take for granted the bookstore that was located within a five minute walk from my house. To have it suddenly occur to me mid-morning that I was yearning for a copy of, say, The Mystery of the Shopping Cart, by Anita Lahey, and then to just venture out and get it. To ask the clerk at the counter if they had a copy—because it’s a collection of essays, poetry, and criticism, and I couldn’t imagine where such a book could be found in the shop, and because it’s a small press title, the slim kind that can get lost easily amongst bigger books—to be told that they had two. And then there it was: the book I wanted in my hands. Could there be a more efficient system?

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The lovely people of Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge.

I was spoiled. I was. Because even now, two years after Book City closed their Annex location and left Bloor Street bookless, I am feeling the loss, even with the excellent bookstores still in our midst: I frequent Bakka Phoenix Books and Parentbooks on Harbord Street, and Little Island Comics on Bathurst is a kidlit oasis, and while I am so glad that these speciality stores have found their niche and continue to survive, I miss the generalness of Book City.

booksaremybagI miss a bookstore that specialized in everything: new releases, award-winners, mid-list titles, thrillers, memoirs, CanLit, non-fiction, and small press gems. I miss the discovering of walking around Book City’s shelves and tables: I still remember the excitement of discovering a new Margaret Drabble release I hadn’t heard of; and I remember going in to pick up Zadie Smith’s NW on its release date in 2012; or the day I bought The Goldfinch. I remember years ago when I didn’t have money to buy books as prolifically as I now do, and what it meant to hold these books, to want them and wait for them. I remember when my husband was unemployed and I didn’t buy new books for ages, and then he got a new job, and Book City purchases were the first ones I made and it felt so good—so you see, I wasn’t always taking it for granted. I always knew how lucky I was. Maybe what I mean by taking it for granted instead is that it was just so imaginable that it could possibly end.

A bookshop on a boat—why not?

A bookshop on a boat—why not?

If there is a bright side to the closure of my local, however, it’s that it’s inspired me to take up Bookshops as destination travel. With a store like Book City no longer at arm’s reach, it’s up to me to seek them out, and so we do: a trip to the East or West end now inevitably brings a stop at the Book City locations in those areas; we make day trips to places like Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge (which was definitely worth the journey, and we’re going to do it again this summer); and a year ago we spent two weeks in England visiting one amazing bookshop after another. Because there is no better way to travel.

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Last year at Authors for Indies

And now I’m exciting to be making another bookshop my destination, although I’m not the only one. On April 30, I’ll be taking part in the second annual Authors for Indies Day and pushing titles at Book City on the Danforth (348 Danforth Avenue) between 4 and 5pm. I did this last year and it was ridiculous fun, to meet other readers and connect them with books they’re totally going to love, and just to be in a bookshop (which really is my natural environment). So I hope you’ll come and browse with me, and we can talk books, and love books, and buy them too, supporting these shops that mean so much to our communities and without whom our streetscapes would be so much bleaker.

See you there?

And find out what Authors for Indies events are happening in your neighbourhood. 

November 16, 2015

Me and Mitzi Bytes at Draft 11.1

IMG_20151010_114345I’m very excited to let you know that I’m taking part in the 10th Anniversary Celebrations of the Draft Reading Series next Sunday, November 22 from 4pm-8pm at the Paintbox Bistro. The theme of the event is Process Product and Power: This is Not ‘So You Think You Can Write’. I’ll be reading from my draft (fittingly) of my forthcoming novel, Mitzi Bytes, my very first time airing her laundry in public, and also taking part in a panel discussion on mistakes, which, as a noted imperfectionist, I know quite a bit about. I’ll also be bringing copies of The M Word to sell. Other guests for the event include  Karleen Pendleton Jiménez, Fides Krucker, Ron Edding, Bryan Ibeas, Mary Newberry, and Ewan Whyte. Hope to see you there!

October 17, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lillian H. Smith, and The Story Project

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IMG_20151017_160615Today was the Lillian H. Smith Library’s 20th birthday party, and we rushed down to College Street after Iris’s nap to catch the end of it. The library has been a special part of our family for the last five years—I wrote about it first in 2011 as part of my “Wild Libraries I Have Known” series, and it also came up in my post about Joan Bodger and Mad Men. It’s truly an extraordinary place—we were there for the Crayon Creators event just a few weeks ago, and last summer completely by mistake we stumbled upon an amazing African drumming workshop because that’s the kind of thing that just happens at the Lillian H. Smith Library.

So we wanted to share in the celebration, and yes, we were told there would be cake. And there was! Plus spring rolls and cups of tea (ala Alice!—“Illustrating Alice” is the exhibit currently on at the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books). We were glad to see our beloved Joanne, children’s librarian extraordinaire. There were crafts and face-painting. And the gorgeous bookish birthday table…

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Even better? Today was also the launch of the Lillian H. Smith Library Story Project, imagined and brought to reality by the amazing Christina Wong, a library page. Over the summer she collected stories from people with connections to the library, and put them all together on the site. I was happy to share stories about how the library has been so important to my experiences as a mother and our family life in the city: you can listen to it here. (Interestingly, it’s the first time that listening to my voice has not made me want to die… I’m really pleased with how our interview turned out.)

So far I’ve also listened to Andrew Larsen on the role the library has played in his development as a children’s author, and Ken Setterington on the story of Joan Bodger and her husband’s ashes. Looking forward to listening to the rest.

And I’m so happy to have been a part of this project, which celebrates one of my favourite places in the world.

September 22, 2015

The Day the Crayons Came Home

The Day the Crayons Came Home

True confession: I don’t love The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywelt and Oliver Jeffers, quite as much as I loved its predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit. The premise is the same but it’s just not as fresh. However my children are quite nuts for the book, and during the first few days after we bought it, Harriet insisted on taking it to bed every night. So when I heard about Small Print TO’s Crayon Creator’s Club event this weekend, I knew we had to be there.

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And so on Saturday morning, we headed down to The Lillian Smith Library (which is the most special twenty-year-old building in the universe) and my children posed with the enormous crayons adorning the entrance. We were able to buy a copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon (can you believe we didn’t have it yet) and listened to the story, before the children were let loose to do some purple crayon-ing of their own. (We also learned that Harold actually grew up to be a graffiti artist, ala Bansky.)

After that, we reassembled for The Day the Crayons Came Home, which is about Duncan’s crayons that have been lost, abandoned or broken over the years—left behind on holidays, stuck between couch cushions, puked up by the dog. In the end [SPOILER ALERT] Duncan welcomes his colouring implements home by building them a crayon fort that meets all their special needs now that they’re in altered states. And then each of the children got to work constructing a crayon fort of her or his own.

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Next up: the door prize. Guess who was quite thrilled to win a crayon that is taller than she is? (And she doesn’t mind in the slightest that it doesn’t actually colour. If it were made of wax, it would have been even to carry home than it already was.)

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All in all, it was a most rewarding morning at one of our favourite places. We posed out by one of the gryphons for posterity.

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And speaking of Lillian H. Smith and crayons, I’m quite excited about the All the Libraries colouring book by Daniel Rotsztain, coming next month from Dundurn Press, featuring drawings of every single Toronto Public Library Branch for your colouring pleasure. You can learn more about the project and see some drawings here.

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May 21, 2015

You can win a copy of Mad Miss Mimic!

mad-miss-mimicOn Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending the launch for Sarah Henstra’s novel, Mad Miss Mimic. It was even more fantastic than the book, if you can believe it, with strings and strings of bunting. teacups, tiered plates with squares and sandwiches, fancy hats, and an entire choir performing. You can check out a couple of photos here, one with me beaming. It was that kind of night.

And naturally, I bought the book. But I already had a copy, which means there is one going spare now, and I’m going to give it away to someone signed up for the Pickle Me This Digest, as determined for a random draw. Sign up by June 15 for a chance to win. And those of you already on the list are automatically entered in the draw.

May 3, 2015

My bookselling dreams come true

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Book City, Behind the Scenes

Was Authors for Indies Day just an elaborate ruse to make all my dreams come true? Because if it was, it worked. After a very fun morning of Jane’s Walking through our neighbourhood, I took to the subway over the East Side to Book City on the Danforth. I met up with friendly authors including Alissa York and Jessica Westhead, and we took to selling books. My best pitch was for Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which I’d read gleefully, staying up all night the night after Iris was born. I’d read it again recently, I’d assured customers, and still loved it just as much, so it wasn’t simply the effect of drugs. It turns out I have a talent for enthusing about books in public though—I sold copies of Ellen in PiecesOn Immunity and The Bookshop Book (though all I had to do was show them the pictures…). And I also sold Jessica Westhead’s And Also Sharks, Arguments With the Lake by Tanis Rideout, Mating for Life by Marisa Stapley, and Fauna by Alissa York. Plus, Everywhere Babies and Swimming. Swimming, for the picture book crowd. It was ridiculously fun and there was baked goods.

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And then my family arrived, and my shift was up. And naturally I had to buy books of my own, and then we went out for Greek Food, and then gelato, and I really don’t know how you can’t say that Authors for Indies wasn’t the success to end all successes.

So many thanks to everyone who came and went shopping!

May 1, 2015

Authors for Indies: Tomorrow!

See you tomorrow at Book City on the Danforth between 2-4. I will be pushing these fine books, which will make many readers very happy.

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April 25, 2015

One Week Until Authors for Indies Day!

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We’ve just spent two weeks in England, mostly eating cake and touring indie bookshops, with more than a few of our stops inspired by Jen Campbell’s The Bookshop BookOur trip was splendid and a brilliant demonstration that great bookshops are remarkable destinations, magical spaces, possibly the spirit of any place. One of my favourite moments was when I was standing outside The Book Barge clutching an armful of books (because I like to hold them—a bag may be handy, but it’s just not the same) and a woman came up to me. “Sorry to be cheeky,” she said, “but is there a place to buy books around here?” I did my best to gesture, even with my burden. “Only an entire boat,” I said, and then she skipped away to her husband with glee—she’d found her destination and she hadn’t even been looking for it. It’s the very best kind of encounter. Independent bookshops are the rooms that make the world worth living in. They also have the best selection, shelves better curated than any chain bookshop, hands down.

201139-book-city-danforthAnd I am happy that even though we’re home again, I can continue to fly the indie bookshop banner with Authors for Indies Day on May 2. It’s a day I was always going to be a part of—do I ever need an excuse to visit a bookshop? But I am thrilled and honoured that Book City on the Danforth has asked me to be one of their visiting authors. I will be there from 2-4 ready to convince patrons to buy some of my favourite, can’t miss books—I’ve selected Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Ellen in Pieces, On Immunity, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, and My Real Children. Perhaps I could even sell you a copy of The Bookshop Book?

the-bookshop-bookOther authors at Book City Danforth for Authors of Indies include Guy Gavriel Kay, Jessica Westhead, Elyse Friedman, Sarah Sheard, Tanis Rideout, Kate Hilton, Lilly Barnes, Ronna Bloom, Gail Benick, Alissa York, Michael Januska, Dave Bidini, Jill Jorgenson, and Evan Munday. And if the time and place don’t work for you, do check out the huge list of other stores (and authors!) participating across the country. There is sure to be something in your neighbourhood!

But I do hope to see you at Book City on the Danforth. Authors for Indies Day will be a great opportunity to celebrate your neighbourhood indie bookstore, to possibly rediscover what makes these spaces so special, to let your child (if you have one) wander around delighting in bookish wonders, and to do some delighting yourself. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

*A previous version of this post noted two weeks until Authors for Indies Day. This is because it was written by a blogger with jet lag. May 2 is, in fact, coming up quick!

November 18, 2014

We meet Jon Klassen

B2wmq9ACcAASpfL.jpg-largeTonight we got to go see Newbery Winner/our hero Jon Klassen at Little Island Comics. He’s on tour promoting his new book with Mac Barnett, Sam and Dave Dig a HoleHe read us I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, plus my beloved Extra Yarn (and he pointed out that Little Louie was intended to be a baby. Also that Mr. Crabtree was originally naked and hanging out outside the liquor store). He drew a turtle and gave the drawing to Harriet. Then was kind enough to sign our big huge stack of all his books, drawing a picture inside every one, so if we thought these books were priceless before…

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