Archive for May, 2009

McNally Robinson reading set for June 24th

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

If you live in western Canada, you need no introduction to McNally Robinson. MR is the leading chain of independent bookstores west of Ontario.  They are wonderful large stores with knowledgable staff, an amazing selection of books, and an unrivalled commitment to in-store author events.  Well, last month, McNally Robinson opened their first Ontario store here in Toronto.  I’ve been to the new store twice now and am very impressed.

I’ll be doing a reading and signing at MR on June 24th.  If you’re in the neighbourhood, consider this your formal invitation to come to the event.


TBLP in Cambridge Library book club program

Sunday, May 24th, 2009


This is a very interesting initiative offered by the Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge Ontario, about an hour west of Toronto.  They’ve created a Book Club in a Bag program as a support to local book clubs.  Included in the kit are eight copies of the book, a discussion guide, and a discussion leader’s tracking sheet, all in a Cambridge Library tote bag.

TBLP is one of the books offered through this innovative program.  They feature the original iUniverse edition of the novel which suggests that this library was a very early supporter.  Kudos to the staff for this interesting idea that I hope takes off.


Writers I revere: Paul Quarrington

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009


I first read King Leary, Paul Quarrington‘s 1987 Leacock winning novel, shortly after it was published, and then proceeded to read everything else Quarrington has written before and since.  I loved King Leary.  Its mix of humour and pathos is masterful.  And, it’s about hockey!  Sports figures in a number of Quarrington’s earlier works that I also thoroughly enjoyed including Logan in Overtime and perhaps my favourite of his books, Home Game.  In fact, I recommended Home Game during my recent  interview with Hannah Sung of the CBC Book Club.  But Quarrington is no one-trick pony. His fiction ranges from sports, to the early days of the movie business in Civilization, to life in a small town in The Life of Hope, to the story of a drugged out and freaked out rock icon in Whale Music (1989 Governor General’s Award), to the world of Las Vegas magicians in The Spirit Cabinet, to storm chasers in Gavelston.  His latest book is The Ravine and is his most autobiographical novel.

Quarrington’s uncanny ability to make you laugh one moment and then break your heart in the next, is a gift that has always kept me turning the pages.  His humour is never gratuitous but is fully embodied in the story he’s telling. He creates characters that, while larger than life and sometimes even picaresque,  are fully realized and ready to step off the page.  There’s a John Irvingesque feel to his writing yet Quarrington is never derivative.  He’s an original. I confess that while I have loved all of his novels, I think I enjoyed his earlier offerings most of all.

I have collected first editions of his novels, including his very first, The Service, published by Coach House Press in 1978.  A high point of the last year for me, was driving to Grimsby with Paul, having dinner with him, and then sharing the stage with him as we both read from our novels at the wonderful Grimsby Author Series.  What a thrill.  As I wrote in an earlier blog post, Paul dutifully inscribed my first editions of his novel that I lugged in a backpack.  Nice.

Paul also writes nonfiction, screenplays, and music.  A man of many talents.  If you haven’t yet read a Quarrington novel, do yourself a favour and pick one up.  Then get ready to read the others…

Here we are signing at the Grimsby Author Series. This photo accompanied an article in Niagara This Week.


The eh List Author Series on May 27th

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

I’m thrilled to be appearing as part of the very Canadian eh List Author Series at the North York Central Library next week on Wednesday, June 27th.  It’s wonderful and a little intimidating to be included in a literary series that features such great Canadian writers as Miriam Toews, Nino Ricci, Austin Clarke, Andrew Davidson, and Donna Morrisey.  I’m looking forward to it but hope I can persuade my butterflies to fly in formation.


Bracebridge event coming up

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009


I have a talk/reading/signing coming up in beautiful Bracebridge, Ontario in a couple of weeks.  I always enjoy these events  although I’m still not used to seeing my face on a poster.  And really, what’s not to like?  It’s always extraordinarily gratifying to meet fellow book lovers who have read and enjoyed TBLP.  It will be somewhat familiar turf for me as my godmother lives in Bracebridge where we have an annual family golf tournament.  It’s a wonderful town and I’m really looking forward to the event.  If any of you happen to be in or near Bracebridge on June 5th, I’d love to see you there.

Off the grid for a few days…

Monday, May 11th, 2009


I’ll be in Virginia for a few days for our annual golf pilgrimage.  Each year in mid-May, my twin brother Tim and my brother-in-law Tony head south to play an insane amount of golf in a very short period of time.  We come back much more exhausted than when we left.  But we have a blast playing that much golf.  I’ll be back sometime on Monday, May 18th.

In the meantime, here’s a very nice review of TBLP that I just stumbled across.

My first writers’ workshop

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

I’ve never been to a writers’ workshop, so it goes without saying that I’ve certainly never led a writers’ workshop.  This past weekend, I did both, with the indulgence and patience of four very friendly, patient, and avid writers.  My friend, Peggy Lampotang, a talented artist, photographer and writer, organized this writers’ retreat with her friend Judy at the beautiful Lakeview Inn on Lake Moira, about two hours northeast of Toronto.

I made it clear at the outset that I felt ill-qualified to “teach” so I would simply be recounting my own experiences with TBLP and how I went about developing, outlining, writing, and promoting my novel.  They seemed happy with this approach and we all had a great time.  I truly believe that there is not a single “right way” to write a novel.  Every writer is different.  I learned a great deal listening to interviews and podcasts with experienced writers, but I still ended up cutting my own slightly different path.  All writers do.

Against a pastoral and picturesque backdrop of rolling farmland and forest, with Lake Moira shimmering in the distance, we talked about writing, did some writing exercises, and read to one another.  Each writer was different but each had engaging and interesting stories to tell, and they all wrote well.  In the evening, we played guitar and sang together and there was some dancing going on as well (not on my part I hasten to add – I know my many failings and dancing is one of them).

As well, I edited and polished Chapter 4 of The High Road (the working title for TBLP’s sequel) and wrote nearly half of Chapter 5.  The setting, food, company and conversation were terrific.  Thanks to Peggy, Judy, Suzanne, Julia and Diane for making me feel so welcome and for sharing your writing.

Here I am avoiding the dancing by playing the house guitar in a photo Peggy took…


TBLP back on the iTunes charts

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009


Who’d have thunk it!  Nearly two years after the final episode of The Best Laid Plans podcast was posted, it’s reappeared on the iTunes Arts and Literature charts at #17.  I figure my GlobeBooks essay and the CBC Book Club’s Top 10 Books to Make You Laugh list last week have had a hand in pointing new listeners to the podcast, and that’s wonderful news.  I still believe strongly that the podcast is a great driver of awareness and ultimately book sales.  So it’s a thrill to see it back up in the top 25.  Happy listening…

2009 Leacock Award Announced

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009


I travelled to Orillia this past Thursday to complete my year as the 2008 Leacock Medal winner in the very same room where it all started twelve months ago.  It was wonderful to be back in Swanmore Hall for the Leacock Luncheon.  I helped out during the presentations to the finalists and got caught up with the many friends I’ve made in the Leacock Association over the past year.  My congratulations to all of the short-listed authors and in particular to Mark Leiren-Young, the 2009 Leacock Award winner for his funny memoir of his early years as a reporter in the B.C. interior. Mark couldn’t attend the luncheon but he sent a brilliant surrogate in the form of former Leacock medalist, Ian Ferguson.  Ian was hilarious in accepting the award on Mark’s behalf and reminded us all that winning the Leacock is a life-changing event for any writer.  (Not that I needed any reminding of that.  It’s been on my mind daily for the last year.)  So, I’ve officially surrendered my sash as a Leacock Winner and pass it along to Mark Leiren-Young.  May he wear it well.

Here I am congratulating Jack MacLeod, author of  the short-listed novel, Uproar.