A wonderful evening with Margaret Atwood

June 15th, 2016

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I’m a little tardy recording this memorable event, but better late than never. Back in May, Margaret Atwood invited me to be the speaker at an annual fundraiser in Windsor in support of the Pelee Island Bird Observatory, an organization to which Margaret and her husband, Graeme Gibson, are deeply committed. I was honoured to be there. Margaret introduced me, which was a surreal experience. I imagine it would be similar to a rookie singer-songwriter being introduced by Paul McCartney, only more so.

I managed to get through my talk and it all seemed to go well. I noted that two very big highlights of my writing life had been when Margaret had tweeted favourably about my first novel, The Best Laid Plans, and then again about my current novel, Poles Apart. It was not just extraordinarily gratifying when she did this, but it gave me a big sales kick as she currently has over 1.2 million followers.

Margaret Atwood tweet re TBLP

Atwood Tweet re Poles Apart

I sat with Margaret for dinner and then again after the event for a signing. An experience I’ll not soon forget.

Susan Juby wins 2016 Leacock Medal

June 13th, 2016

Susan Juby Leacock winner

What a weekend we just had in Orillia. For the first time in the 69 year history of the Leacock Medal, the winner was not announced until the night of the annual Leacock Gala this past Saturday. The three finalists, Susan Juby, Sarah Mian, and I, were stressing out the entire evening as the crowd leisurely enjoyed their dinner. Then after about 34 speeches (I’m kidding… well, a bit, anyway) Leacock Associates President, Nathan Taylor, announced the winner, Susan Juby. I regained normal respiration and heart rate a short time later and rose to join in the standing ovation for Susan’s victory.

Susan is a great and worthy winner. It was her third time shortlisted. Her book, Republic of Dirt is hilarious and poignant. I’m just thrilled for her. We all hung out after the big event and helped Susan come to terms with her newfound and well-earned status as a Leacock Medalist. I congratulate Sarah Mian on her brilliant first novel, When the Saints. It is so assured and so funny, too. We’ll be hearing more from both of these writers in the years ahead. I suspect it will not be the last time either of them will be attending a Leacock Medal announcement. I was honoured to be in their company.

Congratulations Susan and hope to see more of you on the circuit. Sarah, I’ll see you in Cape Breton in the fall.

Poles Apart is a Finalist for the 2016 Leacock Medal

May 6th, 2016

2016 Leacock shortlist

I’m having trouble breathing right now. I just discovered that Poles Apart is one of three finalists for the 2016 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. I can hardly believe it. I was thrilled to be on the long list unveiled last week, but had convinced myself that I would not be among the finalists this year. (I think it’s a natural self-defence mechanism that just kicks in.)

The Leacock Medal changed my life as a writer back in 2008, so this means a great deal to me. My pal from out west, Susan Juby, is also a finalist for her hysterical novel, Republic of Dirt. She’s on a roll having just won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. I’ve read Susan’s novel and loved it. In fact, when I finished it, I remember visualizing Susan accepting the Leacock Medal. And Sarah Mian is the other finalist for her debut novel, When the Saints. I haven’t read it yet but it sure made a splash when it hit bookstores last year. I’ll be reading Sarah’s novel next. I look forward to seeing, and laughing with, both Susan and Sarah in June. Wonderful, wonderful…

2016 Leacock Long List includes Poles Apart

April 26th, 2016

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I was thrilled to learn yesterday that Poles Apart has been long listed for the 2016 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. I’m in great company this year with Patrick DeWitt, Charlie Demers, Stuart McLean, and Susan Juby all in the running, along with some other fine writers. The short list of three will be unveiled on Friday, May 6th, with the winner to be announced at the annual Leacock gala in June. With all these other wonderful writers in the play, I’m truly grateful to have made the long list.

As for what may lie ahead, I’m studiously not thinking about it. What will be, will be…

Writing Update

April 18th, 2016

It’s been many weeks since my last post where I revealed that I’d started writing the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. I figured I owed you an update. As of today, I’m more than 30,000 words into the new novel and all seems to be going according to plan. Finding the time to stay on schedule is the challenge. I’ve been trying to complete one 5,000-6,000 word chapter each week, and for the most part, I’m on track. At any rate, I’ll have the manuscript finished sometime in the summer.

I’m currently writing Chapter 6. When it’s finished later this week, I may send the first six chapters to Doug Gibson, my principal editor at McClelland & Stewart for his initial take on the story. We’ve learned from the last two novels that comments he might have are much easier to accommodate at this early stage, rather than waiting until I’ve finished the entire manuscript.

So there you have it. It’s about one third written. So far, so good (I think!).

 

I’ve started writing the manuscript for novel #6

March 5th, 2016

Starting blocks

Yes, it’s time to dust off my traditional starting blocks metaphor, that I think I’ve used for nearly all of my novels. How very creative of me. It may be tired and shopworn, but it feels like the perfect analogy for my writing process. Olympic sprinters train for a very long time just so they can then run the big race. In the same way, other than the Olympic part, I spend many months creating, shaping, and mapping out a new story in anticipation of the chance to write it. Only when the very detailed outline is finished (for this novel, it took a year and is 79 pages), can I slip into the starting blocks and begin to write the manuscript itself. Well the gun just sounded and I’m out of the blocks.

I’ve now finished the first of 17 chapters of the manuscript for my sixth novel, One Brother Shy. While I love the story-mapping and outlining phase, it always feels good to start writing the real sentences of the manuscript. In this new novel, as is my custom, I’m writing about something I know a thing or two about. It’s the story of a pair of identical twins. You may or may not know that I am an identical twin. One Brother Shy is not in any way autobiographical, but I can certainly write about the experience of being a twin with some authority and authenticity (at least, that’s the plan).

In One Brother Shy, a loved one dies, secrets are revealed, mysteries are solved, oceans and continents are crossed, the lost are found, closure is gained, and someone is nearly made whole again. Oh yeah, and it’s funny, too (at least I hope it’s funny).

We’re in discussions with Penguin Random House/McClelland & Stewart right now about timing and hope to have something to report on that front shortly. In the meantime, it’s back to the manuscript…

A new edition of No Relation

January 12th, 2016

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I just received a few copies of the new edition of No Relation. It’s due to hit bookstores in the next couple of weeks. I’ll miss the bears on the front cover of the original edition, but it seems the folks at McClelland & Stewart are trying to create a common look for my novels as this cover matches in general format of the cover of Poles Apart. Looks good to me!

Nine years later…

January 1st, 2016

2015

Yes, you’re right, it’s time to cast my mind back over the last year for the annual counting of my writerly blessings. I started this yearly tradition back in late December 2007, one year after I started this blog. And every year since, I’ve reminded myself, and anyone who happens upon this humble blog, that, nine years later, I have been very fortunate in my life as a writer. 2015 was no exception:

  • I slowed down a bit on the book talk circuit but still managed to put in well over 100 appearances in support of No Relation and then, later in the year, Poles Apart. I spoke at book clubs, literary festivals, writers conferences, libraries, community organizations,  schools, and many other venues. I’m convinced my book sales are heavily influenced by how many talks I give. And we all know how important book sales are to a writer’s ability to land publishing deals for future books. So I’ll be on the road again in 2016. Happily, I enjoy this part of the writer’s life.
  • The Best Laid Plans TV series won two Canadian Screen Awards. My wife and I were at the ceremony when Jonas Chernick won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. Peter Moss also won for Best Director.
  • Last spring, I again taught the Humour Writing course at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. (Incidentally, I’m due to start teaching the eight-week course again later in January.)
  • In July, I was one of the writers aboard the Ocean Endeavour for the twelve-day Adventure Canada  cruise up the coast of Labrador all the way north to Ungava Bay. It was an extraordinary experience, not just geographically with ice bergs and polar bears, but the people, staff and passengers, were amazing. I’ll never forget the experience.
  • In September, I had the surreal experience of boarding a flight in Toronto bound for Vancouver, reading a few chapters of my first novel, The Best Laid Plans in the early part of the flight, then watching an episode of the CBC-TV series The Best Laid Plans on the Air Canada entertainment system, and finishing off the day by watching the debut performance of The Best Laid Plans – A Musical, at the York Theatre in Vancouver. I loved the musical produced by Touchstone Theatre and Patrick Street Productions. Efforts are underway to have the show tour. I’ll keep you posted.
  • I signed an option agreement with PDM Entertainment, the same production company that produced The Best Laid Plans TV series for CBC, for the film rights to No Relation, my fourth novel. The wonderful actor/writer, Jonas Chernick (Daniel Addison in the TBLP TV series), is writing the screenplay. There’s a long way to go yet, but the first steps have been taken.
  • While at the annual Writers’ Trust Gala, I was introduced to one of my literary heroes, John Irving. I managed to construct several complete sentences in a row while my heart pounded beneath my tux.

This is not an exhaustive review of 2015, just some of the highlights for me. Looking ahead, 2016 is shaping up to be another busy year. In the next two months I have about a dozen speaking gigs scheduled, including trips to Whitehorse in a few weeks, and Galiano Island off the west coast in February.

I’m also working away on my sixth novel, tentatively entitled, One Brother Shy. I hope to finish the outline in the coming weeks so I can start writing the manuscript before the month is out.

Happy New Year!

Globe and Mail reviews Poles Apart

December 19th, 2015

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When the Globe and Mail review of your novel is longer than expected, it’s even harder to read the entire piece while holding your breath. I was very happy after I exhaled.

To save you from squinting to read the review in the image above, here’s what went down in the paper:

Check your privilege

A freelance writer becomes a feminist icon in Terry Fallis’s new novel

Terry Fallis writes just about the tidiest romantic comedic novels you can find on Earth, let alone in Canada. His latest, Poles Apart, revolves around a youngish feminist who is also a straight white man, which is no easy task.

Everett Kane’s life is suddenly weighed down by familial responsibility when his father suffers a stroke. At the request of his business-mogul mother, Everett, a freelance writer in his late 30s, is sent to stay with his dad in Orlando to oversee his convalescence. He is delighted to discover Beverley Tanner, one of his feminist heroes, is a patient at the same facility as his father. Inspired by this to rediscover his undergraduate zeal for the equality of the sexes, abetted by the good fortune of free time as his father recovers, Everett launches an anonymous blog that goes viral overnight.

At the same time, construction of a new nightclub is under way just below Everett’s new apartment. In a typical Fallis comedic set-up, the nightclub just so happens to be an exclusive gentleman’s club called XY. Not only that, but the club’s Lothario owner, Mason Bennington, is the subject of the very blog post that launches Everett into the blogosphere’s regency.

(Everett’s blogging talent is linked to the placement of his feet over the bolt of a certain pole that happens to have its upper-most end in the floor of his apartment; Everett never quite links the power of the strip-pole to his ability to generate blog posts, but we are left to conclude that somehow the physical connection to the dancers below ties him more closely to his subject matter.)

A couple of contradictory elements are teased into the plot clearly enough to keep leisurely readers engaged early on. Everett’s father, Billy Kane, a lowbrow man’s man of an era that predates Don Draper, is grappling with his post-stroke recovery alongside a fictional co-founder of Ms. magazine, lobbing knuckle-dragger come-ons and receiving witty barbs in return. Everett befriends a dancer employed at the downstairs club, and his second-wave notions about female empowerment are overturned in a hurry. And, when Everett meets the counsel charged with Mason Bennington’s case, his interest is piqued and a love story begins to blossom.

Fallis excels at making his readers love his characters, even those with truly unlovable traits. Much as in No Relation, an unlikely group of characters is brought together by happenstance featuring an everyman protagonist, ready and eager to write but somehow blocked at the beginning of the book. The reading here is easy, and all of the good-guy characters have depth, but, at the same time, they are given enough space and plenty of foils for their traits, be they virtue or flaw. Men writing on feminism, let alone a man writing about a man writing about feminism, could be very loaded territory, and Fallis goes so far as to create fictional feminist canon texts from which his hero draws inspiration. However, the hero transparently has blind spots, and remains astute and imperfect. Interestingly, Everett’s political hero Beverley Tanner is famed for her memoir The Funny One: Reflections of a Feminist with a Sense of Humour; having this text as the basis for a protagonist to draw from in a humorous novel is not so much a trope as a possible detail of a past that very well could have been.

In a novel that takes a lighthearted knock at the foibles of the earnest, most privileged class, one conceit smacks a bit odd: Fallis points out race when it isn’t white, signalling that white is the default audience, the assumed character base. While the book does a sound job showing how the most sincere, educated male feminist can still have blind spots, there may still be another blind spot in the text itself.

A beautiful function of fiction is to not just show the world as it is, which this book does indeed – all references to contemporary media are spot-on, and characters engage with the world in a very natural way – but how it can be. Everett’s transition from troubled sideline feminist to an active, productive voice in the conversation shows an evolution that is entirely within the realm of the possible. He remains humble, maintains his sense of humour and gets over himself in an entirely useful way. Everett and his father, Billy, heal together, and the reading stays sharp and light enough while giving the real issues fair play.

Imagine a crew of unassuming readers with invisible sexist tropes lodged somewhere within the recesses of their minds, chuckling along and finding themselves somehow subtly transformed while consuming this pleasurable novel – that scenario would be a literary conclusion to outlive the book itself.

Lauren Bride is a Toronto writer.

With a slightly different headline, you can click here to read the review online.

Poles Apart Bestsellers List Roundup

November 11th, 2015

In the first few weeks of its life, it’s been very gratifying to see Poles Apart grace a number of bestsellers lists in various positions. I just wanted to note them here for posterity’s sake, as this blog is a kind of digital scrapbook of my writing life. Here’s hoping Poles Apart hangs on for a few more weeks before it inevitably slips off these ever-changing bestsellers lists. I’m grateful to the many readers who have bought the book and helped propel it into these rankings.

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MyStore Bestsellers list 151031

Globe bestsellers 151031

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