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Pickle Me This

May 22, 2018

Mitzi Bytes and Margaret Drabble

This essay is exceedingly whiny, but makes a point worth underlining, which is “The book industry is partly kept afloat by a shadow economy in which the main currency is bullshit.” It’s true. For example, I could tell you how my Mother’s Day present was a road trip to Furby House Books in Port Hope (which is such a wonderful place!) and how I arrived to find Mitzi Bytes on their Staff Picks shelf like that was ain’t no thang. But it was a thang. Plus, and most importantly, they knew I was coming, which was undoubtedly how a book that’s three seasons old ended up there. Also it is a very good book, and I’ve been grateful for Furby House’s support of it since its released, but still. A shot of my book on the staff picks shelf (now autographed—there’s even a sticker!) does not count as full disclosure. There’s always more of the story to tell, and even the best bits are difficult to appreciate when and if they finally happen. It’s like that line from a Bob Dylan song, “What looks large from a distance close up ain’t never that big.”

Not everything needs to be big though in order to be appreciated. I think the key to keeping going in a creative career, in any career, is to pay attention to the small things, to mark your milestones, to not write off any of the tiny miracles it would be so simple just to take for granted. Like the photo above, a photo of Mitzi Bytes on the shelf at Furby House Books. In such excellent company—what a thing to share shelf space with the likes of these books. What spectacular company, basically everything I ever wanted and everything that I never quite dared to believe could come true. But there is one title in particular that stands out here, the reason I took this photo in the first place. That yellow book on the lower shelf, far right: Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises (which I loved, remember?). Margaret Drabble who made me want to write novels like no one else ever has—the first book of hers I read was The Radiant Way, which I discovered when I was still young enough to be impressionable but old enough to get it. (Rohan Maitzen just wrote a great post on the book, although she did not love it as I do.) I remember reading her books for the first time like I was discovering the world—but I was also discussing the limits of my talents and abilities and the hugeness of ambition at the very same time. It was a lot to comprehend. And so to see my book alongside hers years later is almost too incredible to be properly understood. It sounds overstated, but it isn’t. If someone had told me years ago that this photo was a thing that could possibly happen, even with the main currency of the book industry being bullshit, I would have considered this success beyond my wildest dreams.

My point being that sometimes it’s possible to arrive; it’s just the trick of remembering to notice once you get there.

March 14, 2018

Happy Birthday, Mitzi Bytes!

On the occasion of Mitzi Bytes‘ first birthday, and it being Pi Day (which is A VERY IMPORTANT HOLIDAY) I did the only possible thing and baked a chocolate cream pie whose recipe comes from literary comic icon Nora Ephron. The pie was delicious, and there’s even leftovers in the fridge, which is a fantastic way to be. We didn’t light any candles, but it’s still been a very good way to make a special occasion, a year since this novel came into the world. I’m so grateful for all the places it has taken me to, all the conversations its led me to have, and for all the readers who really engaged with the novel and its questions, and who saw the humour too. It’s all been a dream come true.

February 6, 2018

Neat Things: A Round-Up

Hands down, the best thing to happen to me last week was my conversation with writers Elizabeth Renzetti and Nicole Blades, and broadcaster Michael Enright, on CBC’s The Sunday Edition. Apart from the excitement of actually being on a show I listen to every week, the conversation itself was such a pleasure to take part in, so much fun and really interesting. You can listen again to it here.

Another wonderful thing is Anne Logan’s kind and generous review of Mitzi Bytes—that the book continues to resonate with readers thrills me to no end. She calls it a thought-provoking novel that goes beyond the limits of Mommy-Lit, and declares it one of the best books she’s read in awhile.

And finally, I loved my friend Suzanne Alyssa Andrew’s piece on owning her power and pulling a winning story from a magazine whose editor she didn’t want to be associated with in light of a sexual misconduct scandal and rabid douchebaggery. When I got to the part in which she quoted me, my head exploded—it means so much to me to know the things I write can empower and inspire others. In fact, I find it empowering and inspiring, even…

January 16, 2018

New Mitzi Bytes things…

Photo Credit: Julie at Try Small Things

I was delighted a few weeks back to discover that Mitzi Bytes was the January pick for the Sweet Reads Box, which is a very cool curated subscription box that includes one book and assortment of other fun things associated with the book’s story and theme. And as the boxes have been delivered this week, I’ve enjoyed (along with their recipients!) discovering what items are accompanying the book, especially because they’re so thoughtful and perfect and include my very favourite flavour of tea (which is my character’s favourite flavour of tea too, a detail I’d forgotten). To see what I’m talking about, head over to Try Small Things to see the Mitzi box unpacked, and to enter for a chance to win the January box for yourself. I’ve read the book already, in fact I wrote it, but I’m still a little disappointed that I didn’t order one before they sold out. The giveaway is featured in a few other places too if you search with the #SweetReadsBox hashtag on Instagram. I’m so thrilled to see my book finding readers in such a delightful way!

I’m also very happy to read such a smart and insightful take on Mitzi Bytes by Donna Bailey Nurse, a reader and writer I really admire, and who was kind enough to talk to me about my writing and life in an excellent conversation a little while back—you can read her article here. I’m always appreciative of readers who are able to discern that Mitzi Bytes’ lightness is deceptive and there’s a lot more going on under the surface.

And finally, I am happy to be featured on BoldFace, the blog at Editors Toronto, where I talk about the work I do, my discomfort with identifying as an editor, and also get to give props to the editors I’ve been so fortunate to work with so far in my career. You can read it here.

December 8, 2017

#2017BestNine

My Instagram #2017BestNine is pretty Mitzi Bytes-centric. I am grateful to everyone who helped make the experience of publishing the book a pleasure. Grateful too that my adorable children in their Jane Goodall/Woman Woman Halloween costumes snuck in there as well. Rad Women all around.

November 23, 2017

Mitzi Bytes in the World—and under the Christmas Tree

For a person whose book came out a whole season ago, I had a pretty busy fall doing bookish things, and I realized I’d forgotten a few of these here. The first was my event at Word on the Street in September, which was a day so overwhelmed with exciting things that I kind of lost my mind, but still. I did a fantastic event on literary outcasts with Jonny Sun and Shawn Hitchens, and our tent was packed and I had the very best time.

And in October, we had the most glorious weekend away in Stratford, taking in the goodness of that wonderful town and a showing of Treasure Island—but the whole reason we were there at all was for the Stratford Writers’ Festival. I arrive on Saturday morning and did my blogging workshop for a fantastic group of people at the library.

And then later that day I got to be on a panel on feminism with Scaachi Koul, which was hilarious and invigorating, and she was lovely and exactly as smart and biting as she in her book. It was a great conversation, and it was very cool to see Mitzi Bytes discussed in the context of Koul’s work and her book, and how both books informed each other. It was such an honour and a pleasure to take part in this event.

And I finally, I really think that Mitzi Bytes would make an amazing holiday gift for all your loved ones. (Of course I do!) If you’re going to be giving Mitzi Bytes for Christmas, drop me an email at kerryclare AT gmail DOT com and I will mail you Mitzi Bytes bookplates personally autographed to your gift’s recipient. Because books always make the best gifts and they don’t even require batteries.

October 19, 2017

Mitzi Bytes on the Road

Mitzi Bytes and I hit the road (or at least, we took the train) yesterday to visit with a great group of women in Oshawa, a few of whom had been at the Lakefield Literary Festival this summer, and who had to choose Mitzi Bytes for their book club. I had a really nice time, and not just because it was the best meal I’ve had in ages (with wine to boot), but because the women kept bringing their conversation around to ideas from the book that I find so interesting to think about.

And this weekend, we’re on the road again for the Stratford Writers Festival, where I’m part of the most terrific line-up. I’m giving my blogging workshop on Saturday from 11-12:30, and then at 4:30 I’m on a panel with Scaachi Koul where we’ll be talking about humour and the female experience. I am looking forward to it a lot. And go here for my Q&A with the Stratford folks in which I finally give the goods on just how autobiographical is my novel exactly—a warning, it concerns fire.

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.

August 30, 2017

Mitzi Bytes: Coming Up

I am looking forward to a busy fall with Mitzi Bytes things, with two events in Toronto (including Word on the Street!) and trips to Dunedin and Stratford. At Brockton Writers on September 13, I’ll be giving a short talk about my experience of how I got from blog to book. And I’ve got book club visits scheduled too—very excited about these. Do let me know if you’d like me to visit your book club—email me at kerryclare AT gmail DOT com.

In other Mitzi Bytes news, my interview with Shelagh Rogers was rebroadcast last week (during the eclipse, even!) and that was fun. I was super happy that my #MitziInTheSun summer prize pack found an excellent home. Thanks to everybody who participated. And I’m grateful for this wonderful review by Heidi Darroch; one paragraph begins, “Like Maria Semple or Meg Wolitzer…” so I pretty much have everything I ever wanted.

July 21, 2017

Mitzi Bytes in the World

A thing I never had sufficient appreciation for before I became an author is the the work of literary festival volunteers. I’ve attended festivals as a reader, and always had the general impression that these were the kind of events that just kind of happened. But this spring I’ve learned that they only happen because a lot of people work really tirelessly to make it so, and this was definitely the case at the Lakefield Literary Festival last weekend, which was such a pleasure and an honour to be a part of. Having grown up down the highway from Lakefield, the festival has always been on my radar, and then to be invited for an event with Zoe Whittall and Marni Jackson, whose books I enjoyed so much last summer, was utterly fantastic.

Our event was such a pleasure, and I think it wasn’t just me who enjoyed it—you can read about it here. On Saturday morning I taught a session of my blogging workshop, which was made so excellent for me by the engaged and interesting people who’d signed up to be part of it. And while that was happening, my husband and children were enjoying the children’s events. Later that day we’d all head back to the festival for the reception, with delicious food and a perfect ambiance. There were other great events going on all weekend, and we enjoyed our time at the festival so much.

In other news, the Mitzi Bytes e-book (at Kobo or Kindle) is on sale right now for 4.99 as part of Savvy Reader’s 50 Book Pledge Deal. The lovely Theresa Kishkan wrote about how Virginia Woolf haunts its pages in a gorgeous post about summer reading. And I was so happy to see the book reviewed in the Tri-City News as part of a round-up of summer reads, along with a spread of other books that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in this past while. Librarian Kathy Johnson writes, “This is a dishy and modern Harriet the Spy for an adult audience.”

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