Monthly Archives: June 2014

We are not alone with our late-night musings | Review of “On Nights Like This” by Marianne Bluger (1984) Brick Books

My search into the works of Marianne Bluger led me to a small volume published back in the 1980s. While On Nights Like This may only be 39 pages long, the words are descriptive and thought-provoking.

On Nights Like This – page 11

 

The world glides off

an avenue of trees

receding as I pass.

It may converge behind

at some infinite dot;

it may not

 

Without the cheat of photos

I wouldn’t recall

even the children as infants,

their lotus lips, their hair

making little down skull-caps

 

And yesterday as I made jam

the house filled with the smell

of sweet, hot fruit-

but today there were only

sealed jars and tension in my head

with rain coming in on the wind.

 

I can’t remember your face.

 

Yet tonight you abide in a rising,

summer storm and my heart

knows her own.  She gets through

on just longing for you.

 

Bluger had a descriptive style that was able to explain what many of us feel but are unable to express.

At the Station – Page 21

What am I to do with this broken-

handled suitcase of love

but stagger around with it clutched

in my arms while friends say, ‘When

are you taking that trip?’ and strangers,

‘Where are you from?’

I’ve crammed in everything I ever made.

It’s yours;

just read the ticket on the side.

And should one day the jumbled contents spill

among the feet and tile-work and palms

what if you like some lesser saint

appear ascending on the moving stair

and offer (god forbid)

to haul my tangled misery to the curb?

 

The words are simple yet carefully placed. These are phrases that are well-crafted.

At the Fair – Page 33

The girls had just climbed

into the chocolate saddle

on the ice-cream carousel;

 

the boy was content

to accompany the windy calliope

on his little-tin cornet,

 

so I laid myself down in the grass

by the lemonade booth to wait –

 

The white clouds pranced over

 

pulling an exultation

thirty years old!

While it may be a slim volume, On Nights Like This by Marianne Bluger is a book filled with rich and descriptive phrases covering emotions that need to be explored.  A great read.

 

Link to Brick Books page for On Nights Like This by Marianne Bluger

 

 

 

The Words of Margaret Avison | Review of “The Essential Margaret Avison” selected by Robyn Sarah (2010) The Porcupine’s Quill

I always believed that the human condition needed to be better examined but it wasn’t until recently that I discover how well a medium poetry is for doing just that. I have started reading older published works of poetry and feeling overwhelmed by the process. There is a lot that is being recommended for me to read. However one book has brought older works recently to my attention and that is The Essential Margaret Avison .

The World Still Needs (Excerpt) page 9

Frivolity is out of season.

Yet, in this poetry, let it be admitted

The world still needs piano-turners

And has fewer, and more of these

Grey fellows prone to liquor

On an unlikely Tuesday, gritty with wind,

When somewhere, behind windows,

A housewife stays for him until

Hour of the uneasy bridge-club cocktails

And the office rush at the groceteria

And the vesper-bell and the lit-up buses passing

And the supper trays along the hospital from

corridor,

Suffering from

Sore throat and dusty curtains

Avison’s words here have a clear a descriptive quality. They are easy to understand and the imagery becomes apparent to the mind’s eye while reading.

Hid Life (Page 39)

Red apples hang frozen

in  a stick-dry, snow dusty

network of branches,

against lamb’s wool and pastelblue of sky,

a crooked woodenness, a wizening red.

 

Are these iron stems? or is

this tree in a lee out of the

clattering winds?

 

Heavily in my heart

the frost-bruised fruit, the sombre tree,

this unvisted room off winter’s endless corridors

weigh down

 

But

even this fruit’s flesh

will sodden down at last.

 

Botanist, does the seed

so long up held

still somehow inform

petal and apple-spring-perfume

for sure, from so far?

 

Is the weight only

a waiting?

Robyn Sarah has provided a interesting introduction to the life and work of Avison at the beginning of the book.

Forward – Page 8

Avison’s poems exhibit a range of forms and styles, yet in every mode a voice comes through that is uniquely recognizable as hers – a response to the world that seamlessly blends the cerebral, the sensory, and the emotive. She broaches the metaphysical, the social and the human, delineating these with almost hallucinatory attention to detail. A wide-ranging allusiveness reflects eclectic reading, but equal attention is given to the unmediated ‘real world’ (primarily an urban world, rendered with haunting vividness through changes of season and times of day). The simplest poems about weather today, or the view out the window, easily yield a metaphoric reading, yet can also satisfy as poems about the weather or the view out the window.

 

It was a pleasure to read Avison’s work here. No doubt I will be exploring more of her work in the future.

Power (page 45)

Master of his first tricycle,

pedalling furiously towards the singing

lethal traffic

he – double elation – meets

his father fresh afoot from that main thoroughfare –

to circle and

come too? No – a palaver

in reasonable terms he mutinously

waits out, stubbed between land and father’s foot,

all dammed-up and high voltage

with all ear for where he’ll go

only.

At last dad hoists him, waist under one arm

trike dangled from the other hand

and heads home

 

DON’T PICK ME UP! the scarlet

struggling sobbing adventurer

wails (after the fact).

 

One is so powerful.

One is so small.

 

How can power know

not to make helplessness

what is decisive?

 

The Essential Margaret Avison was an enlightening introduction into the works of a brilliant poet. A must read for any poetry fan.

Link to The Porcupine’s Quill page for The Essential Margaret Avison

 

Is what we perceive what we really see? | Review of “The Irrationalist” by Suzanne Buffam (2010) House of Anansi

Is what we perceive what we really see? When we look at something do we really and truly understand it? Or are we misjudging and dismissing items that are really important. These are the types of questions that come up when one reads Suzanne Buffam excellent collection of poetry called The Irrationalist.

Ruined Interior (Excerpt) Page 3

In the beginning was the world

Then the new world.

Then the new world order

Which resembles the old one,

Doesn’t it? Its crumbling

Aqueducts. It trinkets and shingles.

Its pathways lacquered in fog.

If all we’ve done is blink a bit

And touch things,

Notice how dust describes

A tin can by not falling

Where it sits, or how a red sleeve

Glimpsed through curtains

Mimics the tip of a flickering

Wing, was the whole day a waste

Or can worth be conferred

on a less than epic urge? Bow-wow

Says the doggie on page two.

Buffam has a frank style here but still at times can be mind-blowing with a turn of a phrase. Each and every line can make a reader pause and think.

On Necessity (Page 29)

As a young man Galileo

Understood very well

The workings of the pendulum

But not until he was an old man

Approaching

The hour

Of his death

Did he devise

The pendulum clock

 

On First Lines (Page 34)

The first line should pry up

A little corner of the soul

As the first ray of daylight

Pries open the sleeper’s lids.

 

The mind’s eye is certainly opened a few times by these poems. The words need to be read and re-read to completely gain the meanings but the thoughts are profound.

The Wise Man (Page 61)

I am not a wise man. This makes my life difficult in certain ways. But in other ways it simplifies things. I find it hard to sit still very long before I get up and wander the halls in my hat for example. On the other hand I stay warm and keep moving. Could these ways be the same way? A wise man could tell you. A wise an would look out his window and see not a row of low clouds rolling east like a trainload of coal through a crossroads, but a lit glimpse of the infinite, the wise man’s only home. A wise man might think of his childhood and smile. Often in a quandary I ask myself what would a wise man do? A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees, said a wise man, and when I look out at the spruce I wonder what a wise man sees. A wise man might laugh at such questions. As for me I laugh often, but I don’t get the joke.

 

The Irrationalist by Suzanne Buffam is a frank and eye-opening read. It questions in many cases what we perceive and makes one think. Definitely a great piece of literature.

 

Link to House of Anansi’s  page for The Irrationalist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoying The Summer Reading from a Magazine | Review of the July/August Edition of The Walrus Magazine

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As the summer days become long and warm, the human spirit becomes lethargic yet the mind still wants to be enlighten in a small way. The Walrus Magazine has been for years publishing a great summer edition filled with fiction and this year’s edition is a great one again.  This year’s theme is  “fresh takes on old crimes.”

*****

Ultrasound by Stephen Marche (page 64)

I also met Catherine Anne Doran during the period of the rapes. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “of no importance to me” and 10 being “of maximum importance to me,” I would rate my time with Catherine Anne Doran a 9.3. To put that number in context, I would rate the death of my mother an 8.8. I would rate losing my virginity an 8.7. Despite this high level of personal significance, the measurable changes our relationship produced were negligible. The numbers were the same, but everything changed. This is what I fail to understand.

The Walrus has a great reputation of generally looking human condition and they live up to that reputation by running the fiction of Stephen Marche. Ultrasound goes into the mind of a serious and analytical person during a time of mass crisis. The story is frank and bold and daring. I will be certainly looking forward to Marche’s next book in January.

*****

Part of the Main by Mark Callanan (Excerpt)

You might say that a clod washed away

diminishes the whole, the contours

of the land effaced by saintly

patience of the tide, which knows

that in  time its tiny contributions

add up to subtract from the shore,

but this has all been said before,

and better, long ago. Carping on

about it like the bloody-minded sea

that drags its weight back and forth

across the beach stones – madwoman

at a washboard trying to scrub

away the stain of what she’s done –

won’t change the fact that it’s easier

to turn your back on everyone.

A very descriptive piece from the co-editor of The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Poetry. I will be looking at more of his work.

*****

Care and Feeding of the Amish by Kathryn Kuitenbrouswer(Page 71)

The poor weather did not abate and the power did not return, so they packed everything into the van. The question of what to do with the Amish was circumvented when Myra reminded the class that her mother was a social welfare lawyer, and would surely know how to go about adoption or fostering and generally managing the situation. Myra used the term “due processes,” which impressed all of them. She smiled at the Amish and told him not to worry, then herded him up into the back of the twelve-seater van. They had eaten muffins for breakfast – William’s nana had made them – and though the boy had taken just one small test bite, he had still managed to smear chocolate along his chin.

The ride was raucous, with the boys teaching the Amish how to curl his tongue in several different ways, how to pop his cheek, how to make wet fart sounds with the snap of his armpit over his cupped palm. They taught him the word “shit” and how to muffle it with a cough. The Amish pulled the skin under his eyes down with the first two fingers of one hand and shoved his nose up with the index of the other, and the children laughed.

Kuitenbrouwer is a regular contributor to The Walrus. This story is a great look at differences between cultures and the sometimes wickedly wonderful viewpoint of children.

*****

Brute by Jessica Grant (page 75)

What I want to know, though, is this: Who is better. The dog who is able to hold a fat child’s arm between his teeth without depressing them, or the dog who every morning wrestles with grandmotherly impulses on his father’s side. Who is better. The one who is naturally good, or the one who struggles to be good.

Grant’s story goes inside the mind of some sort of being, but what exactly we don’t know until the end. This being is divided into a passive and a aggressive side and Grant brilliantly gives each side equal time to show it’s thought patterns.

*****

Watching the Cop Show in Bed (excerpt) by Alexandra Oliver (Page 77)

 

Too late indeed. I used to feel wiser,

more in charge, a little more creative.

Now, like the rest, I watch the door and wait.

An interesting and descriptive little poem. No doubt I will not be the only person looking into more of the work of this writer.

*****

The Walrus Magazine does a great job in enlightening any reader’s mind during the year but this year’s Summer Reading Issue does a great job. A rare plus in the periodical industry.

Link to The Walrus’s website

 

 

 

 

 

Considering Nature and the Seasons | Review of “Summer Grass” by Marianne Bluger (1992) Brick Books

It is sometimes too easy to forget the natural world around us. We rush around in our modern lives, day in and day out, and forget that there is a world out there. But certain combinations of word can awaken us from our selfish state. And Marianne Bluger’s collection of poetry called Summer Grass contains such a combination of words.

The Ancestors (Page 11)

Late summer now

afternoon

and rolling clouds

are moving in

mounting fast

massing

in towering cumulus

looming

dark

presences

they build in silence

such a solid thing

as would be thunder

if the dead could speak

Bluger’s words here are strong and forceful, as if to remind us that our lives are surrounded by the natural world as well. As much as we are absorbed by life, the state of the world affects us too.

The Gorge (Page 40-41)

Some axis tipped

the bedrock shifted

a rift

split the mud track between us

and I couldn’t get back

 

now we’re lost in time

that swampy stuff I’d never seen

 

and distancing

into prehistory

the future appears

already to have happened

like light arriving

from a star long dead

 

neither decently buried by glaciers

nor bedded in silt of the ages

unupholstered a dinosaur

wired I must stand

naked

stiff

and alone

 

until I find you again

beside some cliff the quake heaved up

cropping swaying crowns of green

 

you must stave off extinctiction

and somewhere

be

 

you must wait

with your beautiful neck

my mate

my mate

for me

Elements of these words are very matter of fact. The imagery sticks in the reader’s mind long past the words may be forgotten.

Terminus I (Page 44)

As your plane climbed away

I watched from the ground

 

watched it rise in combustion roar

watched it soar in steep ascent

 

and was swept where I stood

by a gust from the past

 

I remembered the past

our troubled past

and this

 

how a rounding curve in the Gatineau once

we saw a hawk lift off over spruce

its talons hooked

on a drooping rabbit’s nape

The words in Marianne Bluger’s Summer Grass are strong and forceful. And the imagery they create is not easily forgotten. This is a memorable read.

Link to Brick Books webpage for Summer Grass

Culture-shocking our own Reality | Review of “Between” by Angie Abdou (2014) Arsenal Pulp Press

Thank you to Arsenal Pulp Press for sending me an advance copy of this book.

The ability of a writer to craft a  story showing the ills of a society around themselves is a fantastic gift to have. Angie Abdou is one such writer. She has crafted many a good book illuminating many feelings, issues and concerns in our society, using a great combination of serious prose and humour. Many of her fans have been patiently waiting for her novel Between for some time now and they will not be disappointed.

The novel deals with Vero (short for Veronique). She and her husband Shane are having a hard time being stuck in suburbia with all the trapping that come with it – kids, jobs, cars, etc. After some soul searching, they both decide to bring in a woman from the Philippines as a nanny.  Ligaya has her own back story. She had left her family back home and had been in a miserable situation in Hong Kong before coming to Canada. Vero tries hard to makes “Lili ” comfortable in the situation in Canada but things continue to fall apart for her.

Abdou has been working on this novel for many years now and her hard work has paid off. Between should be one of the must reads  of the Fall 2014 season. Abdou has successfully reflected society here and she should be proud of her work.

Between will be released in September 2014

******

Link to Angie Abdou’s website

Link to Arsenal Pulp Press’ page for Between

Seeing the Light in a New way | Review of “Light” by Souvankham Thammavongsa (2013) Pedlar Press

There are many things in our lives that we take for granted. But reading and understanding literature allows us to get a better grasp of things by allowing us to see the perspective of the world through somebody else’s eyes. Souvankham Thammavongsa has given her interpretation of the world in her collection of poetry called Light and it’s simple words allows for an interesting revaluation of one’s perspectives.

FIE (Page 13-14)

This is how you say fire in Lao

Anything that has light mush acknowledge that first fire

Fie mie is fire when it’s burning something down

A house burns down, a forest, a city

Fie sang is flashlight

A man-made object, a thing you take out into that not-knowing

Fie fa is thunder

That scrawl of light in the shape broken things first take

Fie mot is what happens when you’re not expecting it

A power outage, a burnt bulb

Mot fie is when you do something to light

It’s a far reach, set above you, a calling out of place

It’s a turn, a switch in the wall you go to find

Fie mot

Mot fie

 

There is something akin to an awaking that reading these poems gives the reader. They are enlightening and keenly observant. And a refreshing read.

 

Perfect (excerpt – page 20)

When I am fourteen, my father will quit

his job and sell our home. He will use the money

to start a sign-making business. He will start

by buying computers and big heavy equipment

and we will spend nights sleeping in the van.

In the mornings, I’ll brush my teeth at school

and comb my hair so I’ll look like nothing is wrong

with me. I’ll wander the empty dark halls

before the students fill them, and sometimes

I’ll sing and dance like a star in a Broadway play.

When I see a teacher, I’ll sit quietly outside

a classroom door with a heavy book in my hand.

Moby-Dick. The teacher only to ask

is Ms. Irons. I will tell her that I’m just

so excited for school and I’m so happy to be here.

It’s nota lie. I’m happy that for the whole

of a day, I’ll be warm and I can be with my friends.

I don’t tell her all the other stuff. That this will be

the year my parents’ marriage will begin to fall apart.

While the words may appear to be simple, there are strong impressions on the human condition in this book. The phrases raises brilliant question in the reader’s mind about what is important in the world.

The Box A Light Bulb Comes In  (Page 29)

It says this light bulb will last one year

Its light output is 830 lumens, its life is 1,500 hours, it uses 60 watts

A Buddhist Temple is called a wat

It never gets replaced and one is never built to look just like the other

Every candle inside is a lit prayer and glows at the centre ever more bright

Its light output in lumens and its life hours haven’t been marked down

Too keep it going, someone somewhere is keeping a count, preparing a return

Light by Souvankham Thammavongsa is an eye-opening and refreshing read. It opens the mind’s eye to new ideas and thoughts.

 

******

Link to Souvankham Thammavongsa ‘s website

Link to Pedlar Press website

” The reaction has been very, very favourable with many reviews remarking on the character of Egg, her resilience and her vulnerability” | Q&A with author Tamai Kobayashi

Tamai Kobayashi has brought a new voice to her coming-of-age novel Prairie Ostrich. (Link to my review) and is no doubt going to be one of the best novels released in 2014. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
*****
 
 
 
 
1) How has the reaction been to Prairie Ostrich so far?  Has there been any particular memorable feedback to the novel so far?
 
 
 
 
A: The reaction has been very, very favourable with many reviews remarking on the character of Egg, her resilience and her vulnerability.  The ostriches have been a hit, with discussions of the role of birds in the book.  Readers have pointed out the “fresh take” that Prairie Ostrich gives to the coming of age novel.
 
 
 
 
2) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
 
 
 
 
A: I love reading Anne Carson, her poetry and her essays.  Have just finished Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.  Donna Tartt’s Secret History is waiting for me on the shelf.  I am a fan of Junot Diaz and Haruki Murakami.  I loved Hiromi Goto’s Darkest Light – a YA title.
 
 
 
 
 
3) When you write do you get inspiration from your own life or from the lives of others for your stories?
 
 
 
 
A: Any inspiration from my life or from the lives of others, from films and novels – all this gets twisted in the maw of narrative.  Transformed in the guts of writing.
 
 
 
 
4) Have you done any public readings of “Prairie Ostrich” If yes, how was that experience for you?
 
 
 
 
A: I have done several readings, in Toronto, in Waterloo, in Hamilton.  Each reading was different.  But it is still difficult, to find that perfect read, that pace.
 
 
 
 
5) Has Prairie Ostrich been read by any book clubs as of yet? If yes, did you participate in the discussions at all?
 
 
 
 
A: I believe it is being read in Edmonton, or will be read soon.  I haven’t received any feedback yet.
 
 
 
 
6) You seem to have a presence on Facebook? Does being on FB help you with your writing at all?
 
 
 
 
A: It is more a connective line to other writers, to events and readings.  Some go to meetup/writeups but I don’t think that is my kettle of fish.  Interesting, though.
 
 
 
 
 
7) Are working on any new writing right now? If yes, are there details you can share with you fans?
 
 
 
I am trying to write 1) a speculative fiction dystopian novel 2) a collection of children’s short stories.  Trying.
 
*****

“The best response to the novel was from someone who direct messaged me on Facebook. She had been wavering back and forth as to whether or not to quit the job she hated and go to nursing school.”

Liam Card has given the world a character it can really relate to in his novel Exit Papers From Paradise. Isaac Sullivan is a brilliant medical mind but is trapped in the body of a plumber in small-town Paradise, Michigan.  (Link to my review) Now many people are eagerly waiting for Card’s next work. Card was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
*****
1) How was Exit Papers from Paradise received by readers? Were there any memorable responses (either positive or negative) from anybody?
A: For the most part, Exit Papers has been received well by readers. I feel that the best gauge for that is to go on Goodreads.com and to take in the reviews written by those who have read the novel. By that metric, the response has been great. People seem to like the character of Isaac Sullivan. They get him. They know what it feels like to be frustrated with regard to one’s path in life, because many of the readers share the same frustrations, or have experienced those frustrations. The best response to the novel was from someone who direct messaged me on Facebook. She had been wavering back and forth as to whether or not to quit the job she hated and go to nursing school. In any case, she read the novel, connected with it, and it inspired her to take the steps toward living out her dream of being a nurse. She messaged to thank me. I loved that. How could I not love that? As far as negative responses go, people who disliked the novel seemed to also dislike the ending a great deal. The ending was meant to be polarizing, and it certainly lived up to my expectations in that regard. It was fascinating, to be honest. People either loved the book and loved the ending, loved the book and hated the ending, or hated the book and hated the ending. A great example of the second category of reader is the review I got from NOW Magazine: Local scribe Liam Card wrecks a decent read by making the wrong choice in Exit Papers From Paradise, a novel that’s crept into the top 19 on Kobo under Psychological.” All in all, I’m very pleased with the reception of the novel. The reviews I received from authors whom I admire a great deal (Steven Galloway, Maureen Medved) were incredible. It was a thrill to know that they were writing about me. About the book I wrote. Robet McGill emailed me after he read the novel and thought that Isaac Sullivan was this generations Walter Mitty. I thought that was pretty neat. 
2) Most of your bios. have you listed as being a screenwriter. Is there a big difference between screenwriting and writing fiction? If yes, is there one form you prefer to write?
A: I find writing for the screen to be very challenging. Likely for the same reason that people who love screenwriting hate writing novels. Storytelling on screen is a very tried and true formulaic animal. Certain events have to happen at certain times; whether governed by actual page number or by percentage of the entire script. Main characters should be introduced within the first ten pages. The inciting incident should present itself 10-20% of the way through. By the end of act 1, a new situation presents itself and the protagonist must accept this new situation and vow to solve the problem that he or she is being faced with. By 50%, complications and higher stakes. By 75%, the protagonist must suffer a major setback. All must seem lost. Then, the final push by the protagonist from 75%-100%. Screenwriters love it because there is such a sense of structure to the storytelling. However, I find it very claustrophobic. In a novel you have to following the principles of good storytelling, but you have such freedom in comparison to a script. For example, in Exit Papers, Goth Princess doesn’t even appear until half way through the novel. She’s a main character. She’s the love interest of Isaac. Not a single reader or critic made mention of it, but in a film, any story editor would tell you that was unacceptable. They are two very different platforms to tell a story. I love movies. I’m just not as comfortable writing them. Having said all of that, Exit Papers is in development to be a feature film, and I am writing the screenplay. Most days I think it’s going well. Then there are the other days.
3) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
A: Vonnegut is God as far as I’m concerned. Which is funny, because Vonnegut is a staunch atheist. He does dark comedy better than anyone to ever play the game. I read his books and shake my head at how unfairly talented he was. If I could have a beer with five people who are dead or alive, Vonnegut would be one of them. I love Palahniuk. I love Irvine Welsh. I’m currently reading Irvine Welsh’s FILTH right now. Funny, I was on a panel of authors with him at the (International Festival of Authors) in Toronto two years ago and he was telling me about FILTH. I stood there, arms crossed, in awe at how insanely (and darkly) creative the concept was. I recall drinking a lot that evening. Open bar, and they had a collection of stellar single malts.
4) Have you participate in any public readings for Exit Papers? Are you aware of any book clubs that read and discussed the book? If yes, what was that experience like for you?
Exit Papers was selected for the (International Festival of Authors) , so I did a reading there. I’ve done a few readings for local author events along the way, and at my own book launch (of course). It’s a great experience, as far as life experience go … I just find it nerve-wracking. I’m terrified to bobble words and have someone in the audience think “… this writer can’t even read.” And then that fear spins and spins and becomes a thing. I’ve done several book clubs. They are terrific. Though, they are less about the book and more about the food and wine … which I am absolutely fine with. I’ve even done a book club over Skype, which was a blast. They basically dialed me up and huddled around a Macbook Pro with their glasses of wine and beer, and asked questions for an hour straight. That has to be one of my best memories surrounding the entire experience.
5) There are a number of people who follow my blog who are ‘trying their hand’ at writing. Do you have any advice for them if they are uncertain of what they are doing?
A: If you are trying to write a novel, my best advice is to write something your best friend would love. I think people try to write something that will be loved by all, and that is such a paralyzing undertaking. How could anyone start to write something with the pressure that it has to be a best-seller or something that has to be widely critically acclaimed and award winning. Forget all of that. Forget it. Write something that your group of closest friends would love to read. People say,”write what you know.” I think that has less to do with life experiences and more to do with audience. Write for the people you know. That’s my best advice.
6) Are you working on anything new right now? If yes, are there details you are allowed to share with your fans?
A: I am working on something, yes. (As per above) If anything, I know my friends will like it. Very different from Exit Papers but still darkly comedic in places. My agent and I are going back and forth trying to get the first act straightened out. First acts are tough. Properly setting up the story is always the hardest part. Trimming all of the first act fat that is cumbersome or irrelevant. It really piles up into a stink heap, and quickly. I really can’t say too much more about the novel, but it centers around how terrible we are to one another on this beautiful planet.
7) You seem to be active on Twitter but you have let your Facebook account go dormant. Does being on social-media platforms help or hinder your writing and/or your work?
A: I like Twitter. It seems simple compared to Facebook. I didn’t like myself on Facebook. If I wasn’t wracking my brain in an attempt to come up with something clever to post that would garner “likes,” then I was pouring over everyone else’s self promotion and personal PR campaigns. One day it seemed crystal clear to me how everyone was using Facebook to push an image of themselves to others. You know? Like this: Friends and acquaintances, this is how I want you to think my life goes. This is how great I want you to think it is. Personal PR campaigns, with a peppering of pictures of feet and food. I’d been a part of it, yes. I just didn’t want to be anymore.
8) How do you like living in Toronto? Does it cultural scene provide you inspiration for your writing?
A: Toronto is a fantastic city when it is not all under construction (as it is right now). I love living here. You feel in the thick of the hustle. Everyone around you is trying to make it in something, and that is the fuel to keep driving forward. Motivation and inspiration can be caught like the common cold in Toronto.
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Tamai Kobayashi has brought a new voice to her coming-of-age novel Prairie Ostrich. (Link to my review) and is no doubt going to be one of the best novels released in 2014. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
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1) How has the reaction been to Prairie Ostrich so far?  Has there been any particular memorable feedback to the novel so far?
A: The reaction has been very, very favourable with many reviews remarking on the character of Egg, her resilience and her vulnerability.  The ostriches have been a hit, with discussions of the role of birds in the book.  Readers have pointed out the “fresh take” that Prairie Ostrich gives to the coming of age novel.
2) Who are your favourite writers? What are you reading right now?
A: I love reading Anne Carson, her poetry and her essays.  Have just finished Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.  Donna Tartt’s Secret History is waiting for me on the shelf.  I am a fan of Junot Diaz and Haruki Murakami.  I loved Hiromi Goto’s Darkest Light – a YA title.
3) When you write do you get inspiration from your own life or from the lives of others for your stories?
A: Any inspiration from my life or from the lives of others, from films and novels – all this gets twisted in the maw of narrative.  Transformed in the guts of writing.
4) Have you done any public readings of “Prairie Ostrich” If yes, how was that experience for you?
A: I have done several readings, in Toronto, in Waterloo, in Hamilton.  Each reading was different.  But it is still difficult, to find that perfect read, that pace.
5) Has Prairie Ostrich been read by any book clubs as of yet? If yes, did you participate in the discussions at all?
A: I believe it is being read in Edmonton, or will be read soon.  I haven’t received any feedback yet.
6) You seem to have a presence on Facebook? Does being on FB help you with your writing at all?
A: It is more a connective line to other writers, to events and readings.  Some go to meetup/writeups but I don’t think that is my kettle of fish.  Interesting, though.
7) Are working on any new writing right now? If yes, are there details you can share with you fans?
I am trying to write 1) a speculative fiction dystopian novel 2) a collection of children’s short stories.  Trying.
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