October 16th, 2017

An exciting weekend ahead

I had a month off between exciting book-related travels, and I thought I was going to use that time in part to write exciting non-book-related blog posts, but instead I recovered from the previously mentioned sinus infection, re-started trying to write a new book and slept…a lot. Sleep is really great, I recommend it. And now, here we are again, with me about to get back on the road with #somuchlove2017 No complaints here, but it does seem like a bit of a whirlwind! Anyway, here’s what’s coming up!

Saturday October 21, 4-5 pm, I’ll be on the So Much Forward panel at Bookfest Windsor with Eva Crocker and Heidi Jacobs

Sunday October 22, 2-3 pm, I’ll be on the Writing with Emotion panel at Stratford Writers Festival with Jennifer Robson and Deborah Cooke, moderated by Mark Medley. Here’s a short interview I did with the Stratford Fest folks.

Both festivals sound amazing, with tonnes of great readings, panels and other events–my only sadness is that with the two events being back to back, I can’t attend everything at both fests! On the other hand, I will have lots of train time for reading all the books I acquire, so that is a definite upside! Anyway, hope to see an friends in the area at these lovely festivals–can’t wait!

October 2nd, 2017

How to fly with a sinus infection without your face exploding

**Warning: this entire post is about my health—whiny, dull, and, in places, disgusting.**

I wrote last week about my glorious adventure in New Brunswick, but I wanted to keep the medical aspects of the trip for a separate post, lest they take over. For in truth, I was rather sick for the events I described. Not as sick as I have been this summer–for truly, this was the summer of illness for me. I started feeling vaguely unwell at the end of July, andwas truly ill for the second half of August and most of September. Starting late last week, I’ve been basically fine for the first time in several months, but not counting any damn chickens.

So in the second week of September, I had a sinus infection plus assorted other things, and was freaking out because I didn’t seem to be getting better past enough to fly in ten days. In case you don’t know, if you fly when your sinuses are too congested you run the risk of the pressure not adjusting properly in your ears (the “pop”) and if it gets too intense and you don’t/can’t take appropriate measures, the eardrum can rupture, which is not the worst thing that can happen to a person but causes you to bleed from your ear and possibly lose your hearing and is pretty bad. The reasons babies cry so hysterically on planes (well, one reason) is that they don’t know how to swallow to adjust the pressure in their ears and they are feeling it really strongly–unadjusted pressure hurts a lot, even if you are well and uncongested. So you can imagine (or I can) what a rupturing might feel like.

I was very worried about this. Not so much the pain, and the possibility of permanent hearing loss, though I was afraid of those things very much, but: here I am getting this amazing professional opportunity and I might have to walk off the plane and introduce myself to Ian LeTourneau, who has been very kind to me via email but whom I’ve never met, and say I have ruptured my eardrum, please take me to the hospital.

So, five days before my flight, a Sunday of course, I panicked and spent two hours in a walkin clinic to get antibiotics. I had tried to get an appointment with my own doctor the previous week, but she was too busy. All my other sinus infections have gone away on my own, but this one didn’t seem to be, and I didn’t have time to see how it panned out. So I start taking the antibiotics, in concert with decongestants, a steroidal nasal spray, a neti pot, and a nasal mister and lo and behold: the day before the flight, the mucus had gone from yellow to clear (yuck!) signalling that the antibiotics had worked but here’s the thing–other than the colour, nothing had really changed. I still *felt* like I had a sinus infection, even if I was no longer technically infected. And there was still plenty of fluid in the exact wrong spot–inside my face, where it could burst out an eardrum at an inopportune moment–even if it was the right colour.

So I read everything the internet said about whether my eardrum was going to burst, which was surprisingly inconclusive. Basically they said, don’t fly if you can avoid it, which was unhelpful–who flies for no reason? The tickets you can change cost twice as much!! But they didn’t say what is the difference between the people who have a sinus infection and fly and go deaf in one ear, and the people who have a sinus infection and fly and are fine. I got the feeling that maybe some people are just more organized and prepared, and also perhaps luckier?? Anyway, in an attempt to put myself in the lucky category, here’s what I did:

1) Keep on the decongestants all day and all night before the flight, and take the max dose half an hour before the flight. I thought these pills just made me feel better superficially by numbing the pain but apparently they actually shrink swollen tissue, making it easier for horrible fluids to escape from the appropriate holes and not have to create new ones.
2) Spend the previous day in a room with a humidifier, plus regular use of nasal mister. This is to thin said horrible fluids, also in aid of their easy and painless escape from my face.
3) Stay super-hydrated before the flight, again with a fluid-thinning agenda. There are also actual mucus-thinning drugs, but I was scared to put yet another unfamiliar chemical into my body right before the flight.
4) Nasal irrigation–only at home and in the hotel of course, because that’s a big project and there are limits to what even I will do in an airport bathroom. This is to evacuate horrible fluids before they attempt to escape on their own.
5) A shot of Dristan right before the flight. The doctor told me I might need to take this *after* the flight, if my ears were plugged but not exploded, but an American website told me to take a different nose-drug before the flight, and that drug doesn’t seem to exist in Canada, so I just took the Dristan. I also forget what this is for. I think it’s another tissue-shrinker.
6) Chew gum on the plane for takeoff and landing but also have two bottles of water, one for each, because gum cannot generate enough spit for all the swallows all the time. Swallow constantly. It feels odd (and probably looks odd) but does help.
7) Earplanes are a pressure-regulating earplug and I half-wonder if I could have just used these and not gotten up to all the other shenanigans above. You put them on while still at normal pressure (on the ground, ideally before the plane door has shut) and you can take them out when you are at full altitude and put them back for descent, or if you are paranoid like me leave them in for the whole flight, taking them out again, after the doors have opened. They worked really well for me, adjusting pressure more slowly and gently than it would have otherwise, though it still hurt.

So basically I had a mildly painful and highly anxious flight to Fredericton, but emerged from the plane feeling like I had WON THE LOTTERY. The great thing about assuming the worst is that everything else feels like the best! The fact that no eardrums burst and I could resume normal functioning as soon as I hit the ground, and go do all the nice things I had planned around the festival was solid gold. I hope these tips might help other people have as glorious an experience of non-eardrum-bursting as I did!

September 29th, 2017

WordFeast Fredericton

Today is PechaKucha Night at Markham Village Library so I’m already on to other things, but I want to flash back to the glorious 3 days I spent in New Brunswick last weekend for WordFeast Fredericton.

It was so great! I had never been a headliner before, so it was a bit terrifying to have three events scheduled in two days, but it was also amazing and exciting to be meeting readers in such a range of ways–a lecture on unlikeable characters Friday night, a workshop on characters and dialogue on Saturday afternoon, and a reading from So Much Love on Saturday night.

There’s a nice account of the Friday night lecture in The Aquinian, which is the student newspaper at St. Thomas University in Fredericton–there were a few other nice articles but unfortunately most of the newspapers in New Brunswick are behind a paywall so I can’t share them. There’s a great photo of me and Riel Nason enjoying a Q&A with Colleen Kitts-Goguen, and another of festival organizer and Fredericton Cultural Laureate and general mastermind Ian LeTourneau.

Everyone I encountered at the fest–reader, volunteer, director, organizer, writer, or just enjoyer of things literary–was so terribly kind and friendly. And Fredericton itself is the sweetest, prettiest little city–and I had the best weather for wandering around trying to get my bearings, going to the farmer’s market, walking on the walking bridge, being toured around by my cousins-in-law, and just generally enjoying every minute.

Sunday night I took the bus down to Moncton to spend the day with my dear friend Art (he is actually one of my husband’s oldest friends, and officiated at our wedding–Art is one of the bonuses I picked up in the marriage!) and his high-school scholars. In Art’s unique classroom, teenagers are meeting their considerable life challenges with literary theory and granola bars, and it was a truly edifying day for me–and hopefully for them. I did my best to make the world of writing and stories and publishing sound possible and interesting to their ears, and sometimes I think I succeeded. Certainly everyone made me feel welcomed and heard, and I tried to return the favour. It was an amazing experience.

And then a very tired me flew home! I’ve talked with other lit folks about what it takes to feel like a “real writer” and it’s different things on different days for different people, but having others take an interest in my work, getting to talk about it and explore it with other engaged readers, is a huge one for me, and this weekend was a great gift.

September 12th, 2017

So Much Love on the road this fall

I’ve been remiss getting my full fall tour dates up, and I still suspect I’ll add or change one or two of these…but here’s the basics. I would really love to see some friends at these events, or some friends of friends if you happen to know people in these cities. I haven’t been doing many readings this summer so I’m feeling a bit nervous since it all starts soon and intensely…I have a book-club dinner next week, which is exciting but nerve-wracking too, and then onward to…

September 22-24: Word Feast Fredericton I’ll be doing a lecture on one my favourite topics, unlikeable characters in Canadian literature and why we sort of like them (official title: Sorry Not Sorry) on the Friday evening, followed by a workshop on character and dialogue on the Saturday afternoon and a reading on the Saturday evenings. Whoo. Then I have Sunday off to frolic with my cousins-in-law who live in Fredericton and head down to Moncton to do some classroom visits on Monday… An intense but hopefully amazing weekend…

September 29: Pecha Kucha Night at the Markham Village Library will find me and my husband, the lovely and talented Mark Sampson presenting on life and love with another writer. There will be a number of other interesting presentations that evening, plus snacks and a bar! I hear tickets are going fast…

October 21: I’ll be presenting/reading at Bookfest Windsor! They don’t have my event on the website yet, but I’m thrilled to be headed back to Windsor, a bookish and surprisingly beautiful city.

October 22: I’m excited to be on a panel at the Stratford Writers Festival at 2pm with Jennifer Robson and Deborah Cooke, moderated by Mark Medley, entitled “Writing with Emotion.” I think I know something about that…I think…

November 4: I’ve been to the Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo, put on by my beloved New Quarterly a number of times as reader, but this will be my first time on stage. I’ll be on the fiction panel with Alicia Elliott, Trevor Corkum, and Lori McNulty. Yay!

November 23: I’ll be back in Markham for a solo reading at the Markham Village Library

And that’s fall…hope to see you out there!

August 30th, 2017

Social Media Policy

Someone asked me recently about how I deal with social media as a writer, which is an interesting question because I mainly just really enjoy social media as a person. The professional perks, while they exist, are mainly sidelines–very small sidelines. Writers who feel pressed to have a presence on all channels are probably being oversold on what the benefits to that might be, but at the same time, it is good to give readers some way (just one way is fine!) of finding you online and offer at least a little bit of interaction and interesting things to say, should anyone care. And of course, you have to share your readings, books for sale, etc. with the world somehow–social media is a good way to get the word out, but you need to be careful to avoid pushy self-promotion.

What is the right balance? Who knows. But because I like to share random things about myself on the internet, and hence am an enjoyer and moderately heavy user of social media, here is how I choose to use it, in the past and up until now, along with a few caveat emptor recommendations about what might or might not work for others…

Blogs and websites: I started a private blog under a nickname in 2001 as a way of staying in touch with university friends. Back then, many of them had blogs too and we were a happy little network of oversharers. Many enthusiasms waned over time but mine never did, and in 2007 it seemed relevant to start blogging publicly under my own name, since I was publishing stories and thought I might have a book on the horizon. I wanted people to be able to find me easily if they googled and find salient information (like what I had published and where they might find it) when they did. So I made the new, blogger blog, more organized and slightly less inane. Despite the rest of this long list, this is probably what I would recommend folks do if they dislike the internet but feel they have to be on it for professional reasons. Put together a simple, free site with a list of your upcoming appearances, links to publications and press, links toonline stores for your products if any, and a contact form so people can get in touch. That’s really all you need–if you set it up as a static site you don’t even need regular posts, though I still really like blogging. I moved to a personal domain and a professionally designed site by CreateMeThis in 2011, but that was really for my own pleasure, because I enjoy the site. I don’t promote the posts in any way very often, not even on other social media (though I’m going to try to get better at that), and it’s still mainly my old uni friends who read, but the site is here for anyone who wants it and every few months, I do hear from someone who googled their way here. There are no privacy settings on this website, and it would be weird if there were. Websites are for everyone.

Facebook: I joined Facebook early, in 2006, because I was back in school and could, because my friends pressured me into it, and because I had a job that left me with large swaths of free time on a computer and was bored. I remained bored on FB, mainly talking to people I talked to all the time anyway, and building out a far more detailed profile than later adopters bothered with. Now, after more than a decade, I love FB the most of all social media, largely for personal reasons. I mainly interact with friends there, but that includes friends who live far away, friends who are very busy, friends who are really more like acquaintances and who wouldn’t be up for having dinner with me but like to chat. It’s surprisingly pleasurable to still be able to ask people I knew in high school or met at a party four years ago about their kids and hobbies [caveat emptor: many people would not like this. know thyself]. It’s like living in a tiny village forever–but only in small doses. I don’t deliberately network on FB, but in truth most of the parties and events I attend are inhabited by writers and publishing people, so a lot of them end up in my feed. I won’t friend a total stranger, because I do post personal-ish stuff (photos of nieces, silly dialogues with husband, other family stuff) but my definition of a non-total stranger is pretty lax. There’s lots of writers I respect in my feed, and I do post professional accomplishments and queries there, so we talk about that stuff. But we also talk about food and cats a lot! The other writerly thing FB is good for is invitations, giving and receiving. Nothing else is as good for aggregating events from all inviters, and making sure they get to a wide swath of invitees. If I’m having a slow week (pretty rare, but) I’ll check my FB calendar to see what I might attend. And I send all my readings and launch invites out through the platform, because it ensures a large number of people see it and receive reminders. Very helpful. My FB privacy settings are pretty high, but not the highest–you can find me if you want me.

Twitter: I seem to have joined Twitter in 2009, but the memory is hazy. I mainly wanted access to one particular app, and you needed an account, so I created one. Now I have over 1000 followers, but I’m not sure why. Mainly they are literary folks, some friends but many strangers. I share writing news there, and some stuff about food and cats, as usual, but less, because the pithiness of Twitter doesn’t work for my long-winded self. Also, there’s a real community on Twitter that I have never really succeeded in getting enmeshed with, despite my many followers. I think I don’t interact with or comment on other posts enough, and I certainly don’t debate/bicker/joke around the way Twitter stars are famous for. I find it an awkwardly exposed site, because it’s very easy to for a tweet to a friend to be seen–and attacked, or mocked–by a stranger, and that keeps me rather anodyne on there. It’s too bad, because there really is a lot of great discussion going on via Tweet, but it’s just not the medium for me. I do get a lot of my news there–or rather, I find out something is news there, then google it and get longer-form pieces, because that’s just how I am. I have no privacy settings on my Twitter, because it’s pretty all or nothing with that site.

Goodreads: Goodreads turned up later than the above but I don’t actually know when or why I joined. I know most writers are pretty strongly urged to as a way of marketing their work, and for those who are a huge deal with a large following already, that does work–they have lots of questions being sent their way and Goodreads is a convenient way to aggregate them. But for those of us with a small, quiet group of readers who often don’t really have any questions, it’s hard to do much marketing via Goodreads–I think I’ve been only contacted a couple times that way, and those were obnoxious. Also, you can see reviews of your own books on Goodreads but really shouldn’t–it’ll just make you anxious. I do like Goodreads, though, but as a reader not a writer. It’s a convenient spot to keep track of what I’ve read, and also to scan down my friends list to see if anyone else has read the same stuff–and then I send that person an email about it in a non-GR context, because I don’t understand the in-platform communications at all. I suspect there’s lots more I could be doing. I do not have privacy settings on my Goodreads, and suspect I would not really understand them if I tried.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the only form of social media I do not find entertaining. I maintain an account that mainly focuses on my 9-5 job, though it does mention the writing as well. It’s pretty up-to-date and not that interesting. I use it for basically nothing–sometimes I get in touch with former coworkers or freelancers that way if I don’t have another contact method for them, and very occasionally I reach out to people I would like to hire or people who would like me to hire them. Most people, in my opinion, use LinkedIn badly–but perhaps it is me that does. I’m not going to connect with a stranger just because they send me a request, and having a bajillion contacts is not going to get you a job if you don’t know any of them. I do not read any of the feeds or promoted articles. Basically I figure this is a good professional thing to have–if I try to hire someone and they google me, I want them to find this account very staid and reassuring so they will come work for me. Ditto if I want someone to hire me–when I need a new job in the future, I’ll have this all set up, so that’s good I guess. Otherwise, I don’t really see the point of LinkedIn–and I’m baffled by what people use it for in their creative careers. I don’t think one gets gigs as “fiction writer” via LinkedIn–but who knows? I have privacy settings on this account, but they’re pretty minimal.

Instagram: Just when I thought social media was dying and I would never love anything new again, Instagram! Instagram is fun and pretty and friendly! It’s also quick and simple–you post a picture, people see it, maybe they like it, maybe they say something about it but often they don’t. That’s fine! Instagram is about sharing interesting things to look at or bits of your life or both, not bickering about finer points of whatever or getting people to agree with you. It is very simple and pleasant. Yes, one can promote their own work on Instagram–there’s whole worlds on the site devoted to promotion of various commercial goods–but even more so than with other sites, you really need to slide that in with a bunch of other stuff. As a visual, a single book cover–or a single face–gets old really fast.

And that’s it–everything I do publicly in the social media space. I have a few communication apps as well but not the ones you use socially–you have to actually, like, know my phone number in order to contact me. Is this way too much? Oh, for sure–but I like it, it’s recreation. I don’t touch Goodreads, LinkedIn, or my blog most days, and only check in on Twitter and Instagram for a couple minutes. Facebook…yeah, that’s a time suck, and blog posts like this can be too, but like I say, I enjoy it. As promotional tools, I would say most forms of social media have limited returns if you’re not there for the sake being there first and foremost–if you find you hate a platform, it’s fine to shut down your profile, and if you find you hate all social media, it’s fine to keep just one platform and update it in limited but friendly way when you have news to share. There’s really other stuff we could all be doing.

August 23rd, 2017

Reading at Queen Books and Publishers Weekly Review

I know I said I wasn’t doing any summertime readings but–hey, I got asked to do one and it sounds fun. Queen Books in Leslieville is doing a Thank You party for all their loyal customers on Saturday and they’re having readings throughout the day. Mine’s at 6pm, so if you’re in the neighbourhood–or want to be–please come on out! I’ll only be reading for 10 minutes and the other readers are spaced throughout the day so you wouldn’t be able to see me and someone else too, unless you wanted to hang in the bookstore for a couple hours (not a bad plan, really; full schedule here) but I hear Queen Books is a lovely spot and I’m excited to see it–and I’d be excited to see a friend or two there too!

Also, So Much Love got got reviewed in Publishers Weekly. And it’s really nice. If you don’t feel like clicking on the link, a little bit of it says ” The novel is a delicate exploration of the lasting repercussions of the cruelty humans inflict on one another.” At another point, there’s the phrase “beautiful mundanity,” which is really a lot of what I’m trying to achieve with my writing, so I’m thrilled they got that. And no, I’m not 100% certain why a US magazine would review a book that’s only available in Canada, but I’ll take it!

July 31st, 2017

Niceness and fall

My last post might have made it seem like So Much Love is being constantly inundated with reviews and criticism, but heading into its fifth month of life, that’s not really the case. There are still some nice mentions popping up here and there, though, which are fun to read and share, like getting to be on this summer reading list in The Star on Friday or Cathy Thinking Out Loud’s pairing So Much Love with White Sangria. Who knew? I love seeing my book resonating with folks in different ways…

I’m pretty much on hiatus from events until fall. Mark and I did a few things at the end of June/beginning of July while we were technically on vacation in the Maritimes because when else are we there and also, two books in one season in one marriage? Too lovely too resist. But otherwise I’ve largely had the summer off from literary events and will be good and energetized when I get back to them in September. Here’s a few that are scheduled–there’s more on the calendar later in fall but the September ones are a bit firmer and of more immediate concern with regard to your CLEARING YOUR SCHEDULE SO YOU CAN BE THERE. Anyways…

WordFeast Festival in Fredericton will be hosting me for a couple days. I will be giving a lecture on the evening of Friday September 22, following a reading by author Riel Nason. The next day, I’ll be giving a two hour workshop and that evening I’ll be reading from So Much Love as part of an evening of readings and music.

Closer to home, my husband Mark Sampson will be participating in a the PechaKucha Night on September 29 (tickets are free, but you still have to book them–click the link for the EventBrite page). PechaKucha I think means chitchat in Japanese and basically means a night of short, fun presentations on a bunch of interesting topics. Ours will be, natch, on the wonders of being married to a writer.

Somewhere in there I’m also doing a few private events–school visits, a book club–all of which I’m looking forward to! If you are in Markham or Fredericton, I hope you can come to one of these, or else one of the other Fall events, or invite me to something else–I love to go to stuff!

July 26th, 2017

Reviews aren’t for authors; or, cry on your own time

Here’s the caveat–I am so so lucky. I know it, make no mistake–all three of my books have been reviewed in a good number of publications, often in a really thoughtful and insightful way, often even positively. Lots of fascinating and fantastic books don’t get that. I am lucky. Of course.

But publishing a book means taking years of your life and a lot of your heart, soul, and brain, and putting it into a package that invites comment, which is terrifying. It is necessary for work to be criticized and discussed–if no one is thinking hard about a book, what is it even for? But sometimes writing doesn’t feel like work–it feels like love. And it would be horrible if strangers criticized how we love our partners, our families, our children–if they said said we didn’t really love them properly, could have done better, could have done more. And a book isn’t a person and writing isn’t an emotion, but sometimes it feels that way–so it gets confusing.

The best piece of advice of advice I ever got about reviews, which I think I have mentioned in this space before, came from my friend Scott, a serious reader and all-around thoughtful person. I was agonizing over a review of my first collection that felt not constructive nor thoughtful but simply mean. I didn’t know what I should do with it or learn from it, what lesson I should take. “Reviews aren’t for authors, they’re for readers,” Scott told me. “You don’t need to do anything with it.” I don’t remember exactly, but I bet he suggested that if I was going to get so upset, I might be better off not even reading the reviews.

He was, as usual, very right. Reviews are written for readers–to help us decide what books are worth our attention and interest and reading time, not to mention book-buying dollars. Criticism–and I’m going to leave it up to you where the boundary line between reviews and criticism is–tries to engage the book in a larger conversation about what people are writing these days and ever and why and how and what it responds to and how that’s all going. Both forms strive to be interesting writing on their own, even if the reader has never and will never read the book in question. Helping the author is really nowhere on this list of things to do.

I would love to say that, from that day forward, I never worried about reviews but stopped reading them or just skimmed them with a quirked eyebrow, remarking “Interesting!” before going about my day. That is not true, though I manage the latter sometimes. I’m never going to stop reading reviews, nor do I even want to. It is so very hard to write a book, to get all those thoughts and ideas into the universe, and why do I do it if not communication? I love these pings from the universe back, these signals that I’ve been heard, my ideas thought about and engaged, even if not wholly positively. Or positively at all. I am always grateful for that engagement. It’s not just lip-service above about being lucky.

And I’ve learned things from reviews. Sometimes someone will say, “This is what this section of the book means, for these reasons!” and it will ring utterly true, even though that was not in my head when I wrote it. Reviewers–professional and otherwise–have connected things within my books in amazing ways, making me think harder about what I even knew when I wrote it. Sometimes it’s readers at events, or folks on Goodreads, who make a fascinating point, giving me credit for an idea I didn’t even know I had! Of course, sometimes they are criticizing a deficit I didn’t know was there but is glaringly obvious the second it’s mentioned and I want to crawl into a hole. “Oh, yes, that ignoble failure, now I see it.” Nevertheless, I want to know about these things, even if it results in spending the evening on the couch staring at the ceiling while clutching a squirming wailing cat. Though reviews are not for writers, sometimes there is good stuff in there for us, if we have the patience and strength to go looking.

Unfortunately, those are not the only kinds of review-reading experiences a writer can have. I have read reviews of my own work–both pans and raves–that seem to be reacting to another book entirely, and I can’t recognize anything they seem to be reading. They give me credit/blame for things I never thought I was writing and, unlike the kinds of reviews mentioned in the previous paragraph, no matter how carefully I read, I never get what they are talking about even if all the characters have the same names and experience the same events. These sorts of reviews feel terrible even if they are positive–no one likes to be misread, even if it’s every reader’s prerogative to interpret events through their own filters.

That is a difference of interpretation, I suppose, though a wide one, but then there’s differences of fact–occasionally you’ll run across a review that’s so riddled with errors it makes you squirm. Sadly, most book reviews have at least some tiny errors in them–I’ve noticed this in those of my own work and those about many others. Book reviewers get paid pretty little and I don’t blame them for not wanting to go back to see if the character’s name is Bill or Bob, or whether they get on the boat before or after the dance party, but it can be unnerving to read a review with lots of those little mistakes. I’ve never seen one egregious enough to make me write to the editor, who perhaps wouldn’t care anyway, but privately, it makes me nervous.

There are also negative reviews where, yes, I see how a reasonable person could hold that view, but I respectfully disagree. There’s nothing to do with those but quirk that eyebrow and move on, but they stay with me late at night. There’s nothing I can argue with, most of the time, in reviews like this–it’s like arguing about whether chocolate tastes good. I believe it fervently, but it’s not like I have any proof. The definition of an opinion is that there can be others–if there’s only one possibility, then that’s a fact, which “this book is good” could never be. But I feel so terrible when someone doesn’t like my work–see first paragraph–even when I accept that they aren’t wrong. I can go around and around in circles in my head for hours, trying to construct an argument about why the reviewer is wrong, but it never amounts to anything. Reviews in this category can be well or poorly written, intelligent or simplistic, but are always very sad for the author. I wish I could say that, when an intelligent thoughtful review of my work comes out and basically makes the point, “This book is bad, don’t read it” I share it around and say “isn’t this interesting” but that isn’t what I do. I cry privately and do nothing. There’s a couple such reviews out there for So Much Love–feel free to google, I just can’t bring myself to provide links.

The final category of reviews is the saddest: the vitriolic review. With these, the reviewer hates the book but also seems to hate the author or at least finds it appropriate to reference the author as someone who has deliberately or through great failure of intellect and heart written a bad book. These reviews are usually but not always poorly constructed–without references or examples, just an outpouring of emotions the reviewer feels about the book (ie., great distress, often rage). They can be smart, well-constructed pieces but they usually aren’t–a personal feeling of affront and thoughtful argument don’t often go together. Although occasionally you just get a really smart, insightful writer who for whatever reason, hates the book in a deep personal way–very devastating. Though it’s actually not all that much less devastating to be ridiculed in a badly written review.

In all but the final category, I can chat politely with the reviewer for a few minutes if I run into him or her at a party. It may not be a long or personal chat–if the best thing I have ever done, which I spent years of my life doing, did not impress you, I don’t think you’ll enjoy my restaurant recommendations or stories about my cat–but I respect you as a literary professional and I’ll try to be one too, even if I might have to cry in the bathroom later. Reviewers in the last category, at least in recent years, I google and find a photograph, which I memorize. I told someone this once, and before I could finish the thought, the person jumped in “So you can punch them?” which is insane, given my personality. So I can RUN AWAY before anyone attempts to introduce me. I cannot face a human who hates my work–and by extension me, I really make no distinction–that much.

I would never punch anyone. I would never even be rude to a reviewer unless they did something horrible like attempted to stop me from fleeing. Reviewing is a hard job–it takes 6-10 hours to read a book thoroughly and thoughtfully, and perhaps 3-5 more hours to write even a short pithy review–for this, most reviewers make $100-200, some less, some nothing. They do it for the byline and exposure, maybe, a little, but mainly most of them do it for the good of literature. To incite dialogue, to start a conversation, to offer a new perspective. If I think a reviewer is wrong–and I think lots of people are wrong about a whole world of things, including traffic signals and mayonnaise–I might politely try to open the topic, but not about my own work. Too close, too raw, and to dangerously likely to be a vested interest. I think I have clarified all my emotions about reviews into a fine intellectual strata, but witness this cat who has not been able to get free in several hours and perhaps that is not true.

So I keep my mouth shut, or rather I bitch to people I know for a fact love me and don’t bother anyone else. Anyone I have ever seen come aboard of a reviewer about a review of their own work has come off sounding pretty pathetic, even if the review was in fact poorly reasoned or poorly written or both. Basically, it doesn’t say much about our faith in our own work if we can’t let others speak freely about it, even if the wider group of “others” occasionally includes some morons. Trust that the truth will out. Or don’t. Find a cat. Write a very long blog post. Even better: write another book. Leave the reviewers alone–they’re working hard too.

July 16th, 2017

The liking goes on…

From Fred

432. Cold showers
433. Sparkling water
434. Koalas
435. 90s workout videos on youtube
436. Izombie
437. Bubble wands
438. Navy blue eyeliner
439. Confederation Bridge (I guess it was controversial for locals, but for an outsider 425. very exciting)
440. Body Break’s Hal and Joanne (they are husband and wife, who knew?)
441. The shape of the province of Alberta
442. Your Father’s Moustache as a name for a dining establishment
443. That time in 1987 when Robert Munsch visited my school.

Me again

444. Raspberry jam
445. The second seat back from the back door on the right side of the aisle on TTC buses
446. Pop (the beverage, and the word)
447. Getting the eye gunk off a cat so they look all nice and clean
448. Baby tummies
449. Hiring cool people
450. Netflix (everyone knows this, but it still needs to be said)
451. Deckle edge pages
452. French flaps
453. French cuffs
454. Cuff links

July 12th, 2017

Things We Like, Vacation Edition

…and so many great things happened. I’ll format this post as additions to the list of things we like, but with more explanation than usual….

417. The show Mainstreet on CBC PEI, where Mark and I did a short interview with Angela Walker and got called a “superpower couple”!!

418. Beaches beaches beaches! We tried to go to one a day and didn’t quite make it but saw plenty of good ones. If you’re heading to PEI, I’d recommend Brackley Beach, Canoe Cover, Rustico Beach, Victoria-by-the-Sea beach, walking the boardwalk in Victoria Park and pretty much any opportunity to see a body of water–they’re all lovely.

419. Fireworks Restaurant at Inn at Bay Fortune is probably the nicest restaurant I have ever eaten in. But maybe not quite a restaurant–they employ a staff that gardens on the property and the garden supplies all of their vegetables and herbs–when it’s too cold to garden, the restaurant closes. They serve all local fish and meat, cheese and I think wine and beer too. It was such a lovely experience in a lovely setting on the water. I understand most readers won’t be near Souris, PEI anytime soon but if you are go here!

420. GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) on Netflix The thing about being on vacation is that you spend all day every day with your significant other, and by the end of the day you are out of things to talk about. So we read a lot (more below) and watched GLOW, which is so funny and interesting (I love the insider stuff about how wrestling moves work) and stars Allison Brie, who is always great to watch. A total joy–I only how there will eventually be more than 10 episodes.

421. The Wonder Woman movie–this one probably doesn’t need a link, you know what I mean. It’s very good. I always want to see movies in theatre and rarely get the time, but I heard that you HAVE to see superhero movies in theatres, plus I really wanted to support this female-superhero thing with $$, so we made time for it on the trip. It was delightful!

422. #RevlonXLashes, a freebie product I got from Influenster. In addition to just generally enjoying free products, this one is a pretty good long-lasting mascara–decent for a drugstore brand. I have gotten way into mascara lately and have been spending too much money on lovely Lancome things (Hypnose is the best I’ve found so far–you?) but this is a nice cheap alternative that lasts all day.

423. This fun Open Book Lucky 7 interview that got posted while I was away.

424. Sunsets in Riviere-du-Loup, the town in eastern Quebec we always stop in because someone at a party once told us they have the prettiest sunsets. That person was right!

425. One Day We’re All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is a funny book that is also smart and very readable. I sped through it in two days, mainly on the beach–proving that a beach read, like a beach body, is whatever one you bring there.

426. Naps. I took a bunch, mainly in the car on the very long drive east and then west–they were glorious.

427. Sweet potato fries. In my head, somehow, these aren’t that good until I try them again and realize they are my favourite thing in the world. Why do I always forget that?

428. Golden Doodles! Everyone in the family seems to be acquiring these. They are charming and VERY energetic.

429. Being barefoot on grass.

430. Coming home to my cats.

431. Answers to Reading Survey, in the comments on the original post and on Fred’s blog. So very interesting–and not over, if you were still wanting to answer!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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