Archive for October, 2010

I’m speechless – TBLP made CBC’s Top 40 List

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Wow. The Best Laid Plans has been voted onto the CBC Canada Reads Top 40 Essential Novels of the Decade list. I’m blown away and very grateful for all the support. I didn’t dare dream of making the cut. But now, the slate is wiped clean again, and the voting begins anew as the Top 40 list is winnowed down to the Top 10, from which the celebrity panel will select the five Canada Reads books. Then of course they duke it out on the radio, leaving one book standing, the Canada Reads 2011 selection.

So, once more to the barricades!

So at the risk of wearing out my already overtaxed goodwill with you all, you can now vote to put The Best Laid Plans into the Top 10 here. You can only vote once, but there’s no time like the present.

In the graphic below, you can see the cover of TBLP in the bottom row. It’s nice that my friend Cathy Marie Buchanan‘s great debut novel, The Day the Falls Stood Still also made the list.

Thanks again for all the support. I am truly grateful.

The Edmonton Journal reviews The High Road

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Just when I thought we’d finished with the reviews, the Edmonton Journal pops with a nice take on The High Road. While the headline looks like the Ottawa Citizen review, the actual article itself is completely different.

Back from a great couple of days in Vancouver

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I arrived on Vancouver’s funky and artsy Granville Island on Thursday afternoon for the 23rd Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival. The fun for me actually started in Toronto’s Peason airport. I was grabbing a bite to eat before my four and a half hour foodless flight when I struck up a conversation with a lovely woman from Edmonton sitting next to me at the bar. I was checking the festival schedule on my iPad when she asked if I were a writer. I replied in the affirmative (still thrilled to be thought of as a “writer”). She asked what I had written and I mentioned my two novels. Well the guy sitting next to her looked over and said “You wrote The Best Laid Plans? I loved that book!” He lives in the Kitchener Waterloo region and he and his wife had both read the novel for One Book, One Community (for me, the program that keeps on giving!). What a small world. It was quite surreal. He even took a photo with his cellphone to prove to his wife that we’d actually met. I have yet to stumble upon a subway rider reading one of my novels, but this little encounter came close. After some more lively conversationwith my two new friends, I had to dash to catch my flight.

The Westjet crew are always a little more laid back than on Air Canada. My favourite line from the flight attendant leading us throught he pre-flight emergency procedures was “If you would give us your undivided attention for the following safety demonstration… we’d be shocked.” Nice one. The flight was uneventful and we landed on time in Vancouver. I was met at the airport by Andrew, a friendly festival volunteer, and we jumped in his car for the drive to Granville Island. They really treat you royally at VIWF. I checked into the beautiful Granville Island Hotel, the headquarters for the festival, signed in at the authors’ registration table, picked up my author’s kit, and set out in search of food. I was starving after the long flight. I grabbed a bite at a local restaurant and mapped out my thoughts for my two panels the next day. Despite the time change, I decided to go to one of the evening sessions. Authors can attend any session for free, space permitting. So I sat in on a session called “Old Friends” with msytery/thriller writers Linwood Barclay, Gail Bowen, and scotsman Quintin Jardine. It was all about the challenges and glories of writing recurring characters, book after book. Hence “Old Friends.” I thoroughly enjoyed the session. Listening to Quintin Jardine’s thick Scottish brogue made me realize what a terrible, pseudo-Scottish accent I give to Angus when I’m recording the podcast or doing a reading. Oh well. I’ll keep working on it. Still on Toronto time, I was exhausted by the end of it and even skipped the authors’ hospitality suite in the hotel to head directy to bed.

Thursday morning, after breakfast, I attended a session called “Raw Material” with four very well known writers: Jack Hodgins a brilliant Canadian novelist I’ve enjoyed for years; Charlotte Gray, the award-winning non-fiction writer who penned Reluctant Genius, the wonderful bio of Alexander Graham Bell; Terence Young, a very talented short story writer; and Don McKay, a celebrated Newfoundland poet. I was already familiar with Hodgins and Gray, but I was really happy to be introduced to views and works of Terence Young and Don McKay. They discussed how they found and used the “raw material” that they eventually shaped into their award-winning works. It was very interesting.

Then it was time for the first of my two panels/readings: “Day Job.”

The point of the session was to explore how our day jobs influenced our writing, for better or worse. A good crowd showed up and the moderator, Ian Weir, author of the great novel, Daniel O’Thunder, did an admirable job drawing us out and keeping the discussion lively. We all read a selection from our novels before Ian led us into conversation and then opened the floor for questions.

Later on in the evening, it was time for my second appearance for a session called “Funny Guys.”

Ken Finkelman was supposed to join us but in the end was unable to make it out to Vancouver. It was nice to renew contact with Drew Hayden Taylor, with whom I’ve read on several occasions in the past couple of years. I blurbed his novel, Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, which was just shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. A very funny guy, Charlie Demers, a local stand up comic and author, hosted and moderated the discussion. He did a wonderful job and had clearly done his homework by reading all of our books. Anosh Irani was concerned beforehand that his novel isn’t really that funny, and was never intended to be. But in fact, both he and his novel were hilarious. As usual, we all read first before diving into a discussion about humour writing. Afterwards, we answered audience questions, signed books, and generally chatted up the crowd.

Later on that night, I attended the musical tribute to Paul Quarrington featuring his band, Porkbelly Futures, and Dave Bidini. The music was fantastic, but it was also sad without Paul there to enjoy it too.

I had such an amazing time at the festival. There’s something about being immersed in the world of writers and readers that made the few days I was there, memorable and fun. I also got to meet and speak with a number of big name writers including Steven Galloway, Camilla Gibbb, Kathleen Winter, Dave Bidini, and Charles Foran. For the most part, I remained calm when meeting these literary superstars. I even got to have lunch with the 2009 Leacock Medal winner, my friend Mark Lerien-Young and his other half, Rayne.

While it’s nice to be back home, it sure was great participating in the Vancouver International Writers Festival.

Nice article from a popular news site in BC

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

On the eve of my departure for the Vancouver International Writers Festival, a popular news site in BC, The Tyee, has run quite an long article on my humble writing odyssey. You can read the piece on The Tyee website here without taxing your eyesight, or by clicking on the article below.

Still spots open in my U of T evening course…

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

There remain a few spots open in the evening course I’m teaching at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. As you can see from the description above, the course is all about using social media and other techniques to  build an audience for your writing, whether you’re published or not. The course is only four Wednesday night sessions and starts on November 10th. You can register online here.

National Post Q&A re upcoming VIWF

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I’ll be leaving for Vancouver on Thursday for the Vancouver International Writers Festival. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll be doing two readings and speaking on two panels on Friday, October 22nd. The first panel is on Friday afternoon and is called Day Job. It will revolve around that familiar challenge of fitting writing into your daily life while juggling a family and a full-time job. The second session is in the evening and is called Funny Guys. The focus, as you  might expect, will be humour in writing.

In anticipation of the Vancouver festival, the National Post is running a series of Q&A style interviews with various writers attending VIWF. Mine ran today

Fond reflections on One Book, One Community

Monday, October 18th, 2010

About a month has passed since my whirlwind week in the Waterloo Region for the One Book, One Community celebrations, and it’s high time I wrote about it. It was such a thrill to have had The Best Laid Plans selected for OBOC this year, particularly in view of the amazing authors who preceded me, including Alistair MacLeod, Joseph Boyden, Lawrence Hill, Jane Urquhart, Nino Ricci, and Robert Sawyer. I almost felt like I was trespassing in such literary company. In addition to the launch news conference back in April, and the wonderful June Saturday bus tour organized by The New Quarterly, my time in the region in late September was, quite simply, amazing.

It began on a Monday evening at my good friend and staunch supporter Peter Nosalik’s beautiful home for a great gathering of book clubs from the Waterloo Region, along with our Toronto book club. Over 100 book clubbers enjoyed a perfect evening. I met so many wonderful people, read an excerpt from the novel, signed books until my pen ran dry, and ate till I could eat no more. Peter was an extraordinary host and I couldn’t be more grateful for all his efforts to make it a memorable way to kick off the OBOC week.

The next day was chock full of events including a talk at The Waterloo Record (big OBOC supporters!), a few media interviews, and the evening reading in the Rotunda of Kitchener City Hall. There was a large crowd and my talk and reading seemed to go well. I then signed books and fell into bed at the wonderful Walper Terrace Hotel, where they actually gave me a corner suite. Day two was just as packed and started with a TV interview. Then it was off to Elmira for a talk and reading at the local high school where Malcolm Gladwell is among the illustrious alumni. Then we drove to Waterloo for the evening reading attended by some 350 people, at First United Church. I was interviewed on stage by the Arts Editor of the Waterloo Record, Robert Reid, who posed excellent questions that were undoubtedly more thoughtful than the answers that followed. Then I read an excerpt or two, and the floor was opened for questions. The highlight of the night was when an older woman in the front row asked if I were writing a third novel. I replied that I was in fact working on a third, but that it was not a follow-on to The Best Laid Plans and The High Road. I then noted my intention to return to Angus and Daniel in the future, observing that they weren’t quite done with me yet. In a booming voice, the older woman shouted “Well don’t wait too long, I haven’t many years left!” I, and most of the audience, collapsed in laughter. It was a priceless moment. I signed books afterwards and chatted with everyone. A terrific night.

Like the first two days, Day three dawned with ideal weather. First, we visited Sir John A. Macdonald High School where I addressed a group of about 150 students. They asked great questions and made we feel very welcome. I was given a school scarf that I’ll wear with pride when the snow flies. That night, I spoke and read in Cambridge at the University of Waterloo ‘s School of Architecture. Again, a large, warm and welcoming crowd turned up with excellent questions. Lots of books were signed, and l spoke to many in the audience. A great night.

I would be remiss were I not to comment on the utterly amazing meals I enjoyed during OBOC. If we weren’t driving to a media interview, reading, or high school event, we were almost certainly sitting in a great restaurant. I was treated royally and enjoyed outstanding meals throughout the week. I likely gained ten pounds! The food was only surpassed by the company.

My sincere thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make OBOC happen. I am so grateful. The list is long, and I know I’ll forget someone (my apologies!), but my thanks go to Katherine, Sharron, Sheila, Peter, Rebecca, Liana, Christine, Bronwyn, Bruce, Betty Anne, Angela, and many others who made OBOC such a memorable week for me. And of course the booksellers and sponsors are so important to making it all happen. So my thanks to the Waterloo Region Record, the Canada Council for the Arts, the bookstores in the region, and all of the public libraries that worked so hard. It was truly an honour to be part of a program that fosters a love of the written word. It is a noble and important cause and I was just thrilled to be involved.  You all made me really feel like I an honourary citizen of the Waterloo Region. Thank you all so much.

The Hill Times runs a Q&A with yours truly…

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

The Hill Times is a weekly paper in Ottawa that focuses on politics. It’s read religiously by the political power brokers on Parliament Hill. I did a Q&A style interview with Kate Malloy while I was in Ottawa a few weeks ago promoting The High Road. This past week, the interview ran in the latest issue of The Hill Times. Because it’s only available online by subscription, I don’t feel I can actually reprint the article so that it’s readable, but at least you can see it here…

THR seems to be popular at Indigo

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

My wife, Nancy, and I were out running errands this morning when my twin brother, Tim, emailed me a couple of photos he’d just snapped, with his funky iPhone 4, at a nearby big box Indigo book store. Needless to say, it made my day. Here are the photos he sent me. If you look closely, you’ll see what I was so chuffed…

Warning: Shameless Canada Reads plug ahead

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I’m usually a bit uneasy about online campaigns, particularly if it means asking friends, family, acquaintances, and  people I don’t even know to step up and help me promote my humble novels… (can you feel the “but” coming? Well here it is…), BUT, the benefits to any writer of breaking through on Canada Reads has rudely shoved my piddling discomfort aside. Making it to the five-book short list for Canada Reads, let alone being named the chosen book, can change a writer’s life. Book sales go through the roof, new printings are always required, and all manner of wonderful literary good fortune comes your way. (At least, that’s what’s happened to previous winners.)

Canada Reads is set up a bit differently this year as they celebrate their tenth anniversary. To begin with, the readers of Canada (that’s you!) have a chance to nominate their favourite novels. According to the numbers of nominations for each book, a Top 40 essential Canadian novels list will emerge. What a thrill it would be to make this list. Then a Top 10 will be chosen from the Top 40 by the celebrity panel (yet to be named). Then the final five books will be announced, chosen from among the Top 10. Finally, the panelists will duke it out on the air and pick a winner. Got it?

So with all of this in mind, I just thought I’d, with humility and modesty, gently nudge you towards the Canada Reads Reader Recommendation site where you can, in mere seconds, nominate a favourite novel or novels (and I have a couple of suggestions right off the top of my head in case you’re at a loss for novels to recommend…). It seems that numbers count, so don’t feel you have to limit yourself to submitting only once!

It seems both of my novels have already been recommended, which is truly wonderful, but clearly being recommended only once certainly won’t put The Best Laid Plans or The High Road anywhere near the coveted Top 40. So I’d certainly be grateful if you would consider  recommending early and recommending often!

My sincere thanks to those who have already recommended TBLP and/or THR for this honour. I really do appreciate it.