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Pickle Me This

March 22, 2021

Something Amazing Happened to Me

I am always interested in what people are reading, not so subtly peering over the shoulders of strangers on benches, which meant that it was inevitable that sooner or later I would come across somebody reading a book by me.

AND TODAY WAS THE DAY!

There it was, my name at the top of the page of a book being read by a woman on College Street, and I definitely would not be playing it cool.

“Um, excuse me, do you like that book?” I asked her, imagining that if she said no, I could then get on my way (and jump into the path of an oncoming streetcar). She said she did. I said, “Because I wrote it,” and explained that by reading that book on that bench at that moment, she’d just made a lifelong dream of mine come true.

Well, then she informed me that we actually know each other, and it’s true, it was @lighttan, and we follow each other on Instagram, so maybe all this was a LITTLE LESS miraculous, but I am still pretty excited, because she’s not related to me or contractually obliged to be reading my book, and I don’t even think my husband arranged her to be sitting there in order to boost my self-esteem (I wouldn’t put it past him) and because I got to meet @lighttan IRL, which would have been nice even if she weren’t reading my novel.

Books are magic, and reading books is magic, and writing books that people read is an incredible bananas thing that I will never get my head around.

March 4, 2021

More Cool Book Things



And watch my interview with crystal fletcher on her booktube channel, ALL ABOUT BOOKS!

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.

January 4, 2021

Trying to Catch a Star?

Coming up:

November 23, 2020

More Stars!

November 18, 2020

I’ve Had the Time of My Life

Brooke had never seen an abortion in a movie before, and it was surprising, because Dirty Dancing was over thirty years old. So it should have been a throwback, but it was something very new: the character who wants an abortion. There is no other alternative, it doesn’t even make her sad, and she doesn’t change her mind at the last minute, or have a miscarriage as a convenient trick to avoid being an agent in her own destiny. She isn’t even sorry… [And] it seemed symbolic that no one had to live in shame. You could be a fallen woman, and then get up on a stage and dance. This was a huge revelation for Brooke, who had never even considered the possibility, the number of ways a script could go.” —Waiting for a Star to Fall

I introduced my children to Dirty Dancing this summer, and decided that maybe modern parents overthink things too much.

There had been a brief period after the movie’s 1987 release when I’d been forbidden to see Dirty Dancing, though this was mostly a theoretical forbidding since we didn’t have VCR to watch it on. But in the next couple of years, I somehow managed to see it anyway, most likely at a sleepover. I don’t remember my impression of the movie at all, except that the title itself was pretty suggestive, which is why the movie had been judged as unsuitable for my audience, I supposed. And really, it was the soundtrack that loomed largest in my life, my first introduction to the Ronettes, You Don’t Own Me, and Eric Carmen, plus Patrick Swayze actually singing. (Is there anything that man couldn’t do? I am on the record as declaring his autobiography as excellent.) There was also a second soundtrack to Dirty Dancing, with the “Do You Love Me ?” and the Kellerman’s Anthem, but I never had that one.

And now: the million dollar question. How old were you when you realized that Penny was having an abortion? What Billy was talking about regarding the guy with a rusty knife and folding table? What it meant that Penny was knocked up by Robbie the Creep?

The other million dollar question: Why were all the parents totally okay with their nine year old daughters watching this movie over and over again? And could they have known what a gift this movie was to those girls, once we’d worked out the puzzle of what all these different pieces were about—or were they just too busy sitting around worrying about Michael Dukakis and the end of the Cold War?

A movie where a girl has sex and doesn’t die. Where another girl has an abortion and doesn’t die, and is even going to go on to have children if she wants to. Where the woman who has an abortion is treated by a medical authority with kindness and care. Where a girl who has been bonking Patrick Swayze and everybody knows it has absolutely no compunction about dancing with him at the end of her holiday to a mega-smash hit by Jennifer Warnes and some guy who used to be in the Righteous Brothers?

(Later on, the Righteous Brothers would be a big deal when Patrick Swayze was in Ghost, and it makes me wonder if Swayze ever felt he was haunted by the Righteous Brothers?)

Dirty Dancing is on my mind right now because Clementine Ford celebrated the movie in one of her Instagram Deep Dives this weekend (SO GOOD!) and THAT sent to me to the Dirty Dancing episode of the podcast Why Are Dads?, by Sarah Marshall (who’s also co-host of You’re Wrong About, a podcast that isn’t about Dirty Dancing, but lately has had some TOP NOTCH Princess Diana content…)

And because the movie features prominently in my new novel, Waiting for a Star to Fall, and is a point upon which the entire plot turns. If Brooke hadn’t watched Dirty Dancing that afternoon with her roommate Lauren, her life (and the ending of the book) would have gone in a wholly different direction.

Which is why I showed it to my kids in July. Deciding not to think too much about whether or not it was “appropriate.” They’re seven and eleven and talk about abortion around the dinner table more often than other kids their age, because I’m their mother, so I knew the Penny story-line wouldn’t come out of left-field. We’d rented a cottage for a week with nobody else around and only a DVD player for diversions, so I blew the dust off my Dirty Dancing DVD and packed it along with Mary Poppins and The Incredibles.

I wanted them to see it. This iconic summer film, uncanny scenes about a family of four stuck in a cabin while it rains (“Remind me not to get married at Niagara Falls.” “So, you’re go to Acapulco. It will be fine.”) The Schumachers (Sidney and Sylvia?), and the stolen wallets, and the soundtrack, of course, and the romance, and the class dynamics, and the dancing, and the log, and the lake, and lifts. The lifts!

And yes, to know the murderous legacy of illegal abortion, and one of the many ways that abortion becomes part of a person’s life, and how it doesn’t always have to be the point on which the entire plot turns—except that if not for the abortion, Baby wouldn’t have had to dance with Johnny at the Sheldrake, so yes, it’s irrevocably woven into the script, but it’s not everything, is what I mean. A piece of a larger narrative, always.

I want these to be the things my daughters take for granted, just like I did.

November 13, 2020

More Stars…

October 30, 2020

Cheers

Thank you for a wonderful launch week!

October 28, 2020

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

Business photo created by master1305 – www.freepik.com

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”

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Pre-Order my New Novel: Out October 27

Book Cover WAITING FOR A STAR TO FALL

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