October 27th, 2017

Some nice things

I’ve been just maintaining this file of things I keep meaning to mention on the blog but I haven’t had time to write a post about each one and now there’s a bunch, plus some will eventually get out of date, so here they are, unthematically linked and without surrounding prose that’s worthy of them but at least I got to them instead of, like so many drafted posts, just letting them live in the drafts folder forever.

My friend Hilary June Hart started Cackle Productions to better share her wonderful humour with the world. You can watch her first video, the all-too-close-to-home Fertility Nag Bot Informercial and see for yourself.

My friend Kerry Clare wrote this great blog post on how to have a great blog (hint, not like this) and it’s really inspiring!

2017 Short Story Advent Calendars are available for pre-order and they look amazing.

Mark and I did a Pecha Kucha presentation you can now watch online. It’s about our marriage and it’s a bit sweety-sweet, but also funny.

The author Sharon Bala wrote a nice brief review of So Much Love, which I was especially happy about since I just read her lovely story “Butter Tea at Starbucks” (I’m behind!), which is up for the Journey Prize.

Andrew Daley’s new novel Resort is out November 2. I blurbed it so obviously I think it’s good–“Resort is a taut twisty story that starts out being about a life of crime but encompasses so much more: love, literature, and the limits of trust are all seen from new angles. I was enthralled from start to finish,” is what I said. But you should probably read it and see for yourself.

May 25th, 2017

Amazon First Novel Awards

Guys, it has been really really great being an Amazon.ca First Novel Award finalist. The teams from The Walrus, Amazon, and Penguin Random House have made the experience feel really special and fun, but what has been best has been reading the books. I figured a judge (the very impressive Tanis MacDonald) who liked my book a lot would also like other books I would like, and I was right. Since the nominees were announced, I’ve read The Break by Katherena Vermette, White Elephant by Catherine Cooper, Accordeon by Kaie Kellough and half of The Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains by Yatsuko Thanh (I’m never quite as fast as I think I’ll be!) and it has been a truly amazing experience. The books are all so good! And so different! And so thrillingly heartfelt, moving, technically complex (all of them wrestle with point of view and who tells the story) and ambitious. And as I was reading, and honestly, truly engrossed, some tiny part of my brain was thinking, Someone thought your book was this good, too. It has been a great feeling.

Last night was the very fun and swanky pre-awards dinner with all the nominees and our chosen plus ones, editors and other publishing folks, people from the Walrus, Amazon, and the judging panel (the final decision is being made MacDonald plus Gurjinder Basran and Casey Plett and assorted other luminaries. It was delightful to hang out and enjoy dinner and talk to people about all these amazing books without any big announcement at the end of the evening.

That’s tonight, of course, and while I have no worries at all–I know without a doubt that a fantastic book will win tonight, and I can’t feel sad when that happens–I am sorry to see this lovely time end. It is very nice to celebrate books and very nice to have my own book celebrated, and I feel very very lucky indeed.

April 26th, 2017

Authors for Indies, the Winnipeg Review, some fun interviews

For the first time ever, I’ll be participating in Authors for Indies this year. This is a great event that I have always missed due to scheduling, not lack of love. What it is is, authors go to indie bookstores and help out–sell books, chat with customers, create displays, run event tables, whatever the booksellers need. This is a day for authors to give back to the many independently run bookshops that do so much to support us. It is also, from what I hear, a lot of fun.

I’mventuring out of my comfort zone in terms of the city, heading first to Etobicoke and A Novel Spot from 10:30 to 11:30 and then on the Bolton and Forsters Book Garden from 1 to 3. I’m looking forward to seeing these shops, both of which I’ll be seeing for the first time, some new parts of the GTA, and meeting lots of readers. Especially, I’m looking forward to talking about BOOKS, books other than my own. I’ll be recommending lots of great ones like Sex and Death edited by Sarah Hall and Peter Hobbs, The Weather Inside by Emily Saso, Mitzi Bytes by Kerry Clare and as many others as I can get people to listen to me for. I’ve also recently realized that I can SHOP while I’m in these stores, which is super-exciting. So it’ll be a very good day, as long as I don’t get lost (well, I’ll probably get lost but I’m leaving extra time–as long as I don’t get VERY lost).

In other news, I still have the Bibliobash tomorrow night, and tonight I will be gluing one of my shoes back together in anticipation–wish me luck. Yesterday was a lovely reading in Aldershot for Different Drummer Books with Kyo Maclear and Trevor Cole that was lots of fun. Yesterday also saw a lovely review of So Much Love by Dana Hansen in the Winnipeg Review, which I thought was so insightful and generous and thoughtful. My IFOA 5 Questions interview got posted, in anticipation of the May 10th event with Kerry Clare and Amy Jones and me! And my very silly answers to the Hamilton Review of Books’ Proust Questionnaire got posted, which is delightful event though I’m pretty embarrassed as to how much I talk about my cat.

I think that’s all the news for now…

April 21st, 2017

The Making Room Anthology and Out in the Open on the CBC

Oh, you guys, the Pivot at the Steady reading was so nice. Every reader was great (even me, if I do say so humbly–I lived up to the evening I think!) the host was great, everyone that I spoke to in the audience was great, the vibe in the room was great, even the temperature was great. I wish I went out to readings as often as I used to–it was about once a week, more or less, in my late twenties and I just went to anything my friends suggested or that sounded cool to me. Now 10 years later it’s less than once a month unless I am myself reading and I really miss it. Stupid increasing decrepitude.

BUT I am reading a lot these days in support of So Much Love and while that in itself is a lot of fun, it’s also wonderful in that it gets me out listening to all the talented folks who are on the bill with me at readings. Like Saturday night, for example, when I’ll be reading at the Toronto launch of the Making Room anthology with so many brilliant and talented women like Amy Jones, Ayelet Tsabari, Eleanor Watchtel and tonnes more. It should be an amazing night. If you can’t make it or don’t live in Toronto, you can still order the anthology, which is huge and amazing and well worth reading. $26 is a steal for a book that covers 40 years of female and feminist writing in Canada. I’m not all the way through yet but I’m just floored by the strength and diversity of the gathering.

Sunday will be a day off from me and my book, but if you miss me, you actually hear me on the radio talking about the only other thing besides books people ever want to talk to me about–my big crazy jaw surgery! I’ll be on Out in the Open with Piya Chattopadhyay at 11am on Sunday morning, 11pm on Tuesday, or you can listen online at the link above. It’s an interesting show concept, on personal transformation, and I’m looking forward to listening to all the interviews myself!

March 30th, 2017

Ongoing adventures

Hello from Vancouver, where last night I read at the Incite series and yesterday was on the Global BC News at Noon. I find the clip pretty unwatchable, but apparently that is how people feel about seeing themselves on TV–most other people who have watched it think it’s fine (or have been too kind to tell the truth). It was very fun to do the interview with Sophie Lui and Squire Barnes, who were total pros and very good and making me feel both comfortable and smart–what good TV presenters do! I still can’t watch the clip, though.

I’ve discovered this lovely blog review at the Bookshelf blog by Andrew Hood. Andrew is an old friend whose work I deeply admire, so this was a delight to stumble across.

I also finished off a blog interview with Steven Buechler at Sea of Pacific Tranquility about So Much Love. I talk about how we are all know about crimes like the ones described in SML but we know about them in tiny ways, and most of us have the privilege of turning off the news when it gets distressing–but some don’t. The people who experience the crimes and their families don’t, and I wanted to use fiction and whatever empathetic imagination I possess to explore that world and that experience, an experience that doesn’t end.

It’s hard thing to get right–and I’m never going to capture the breadth of experiences in the world, because I’ve only written about a handful of characters and also because fiction is an art and what people think of art can be subjective–but just because I’m done the writing of the book doesn’t mean I can stop thinking carefully and deeply about the subject matter and how I present it each and every time I’m in public or online. I think I need to work on that.

Can you tell I’ve had some tough talks recently? Or have been spending too much time by myself perhaps? Or both? I have one brilliant sunny day left in Vancouver and then I’m going to come home and read at The Ontario Writers Conference Festival of Authors. And then maybe lie down for a little while.

March 25th, 2017

Constant excitement

Oh boy. We had the launch party on Wednesday evening and despite me being pretty intense about the whole thing–I showed up over an hour early “just in case,” and then when everything appeared to be fine went out to dinner with friends but didn’t eat–it was really a lovely, loving evening. The M&S publicity staff did a great job setting up a party with wine and cheese and books and chairs for all who wanted them, and my brilliant editor Anita Chong made a lovely speech where she put the brilliance all on me (lies!) I was truly touched by how many friends, old and new, came out to wish the book well on its journey into the world. It was pretty great to have my family there, and as a special favour I had asked my in-laws to extend their vacation in Toronto half a week to be there too, and they did it, and even baked me a cake. And my brother- and sister-in-law even managed to get my niece there for part of the evening, no mean feat with a two year old. I laughed, I didn’t really cry too much, there was a lot of gorgeous cheese, and I received many hugs. It was intense, but great–and then some friends drove me off to finally get some food and I kind of slowly and gently collapsed. One cannot do too many evenings like that in a lifetime, but I’m glad this one happened happened.

Then I spent Thursday evening frantically working on the lecture I gave Friday at Laurentian University (Barrie campus) on the women in media/gender studies themes in my novel. They are most certainly there, but it is not necessarily a novelist’s role to pull them out or identify them, so it was a bit challenging to talk about my process with the book and stay in line with the the syllabus’s goals, but the class seemed to go well and I certainly enjoyed talking to the youth, so we’ll count it a win.

I’m taking this weekend off from book stuff, but on Tuesday I fly to Vancouver for more. Wednesday is a “media day,” in which I do interviews around Vancouver. Since those are local outlets, I don’t know that I’ll be able to share any of the results here, but if I can, you know I will. Then that evening I am very much looking forward to returning to the Incite reading series presented by the Vancouver Writers Festival and the Vancouver Public Library, where I’ll be reading with Janet McNulty and Lori McNulty. Hooray!

After spending Thursday frolicking in Vancouver (please don’t rain) I’ll be back in Toronto Friday morning to prepare for my Friday evening event at the Ontario Writers’ Conference Festival of Authors. That is in Pickering, suburban friends–please stop by if you are free. I have to admit that tickets–available on the site–are a bit pricy at $20, but I will try to make it worth your while. Also, I hear there are snacks.

After that, I plan to collapse or else start living in my car in order to defend it from being towed as my parking lot is being torn down and my poor car is homeless. This is really not your concern but is taking up a lot of space in my brain! ANYWAY, elsewhere on the internet there was a nice blog review of So Much Love posted today at Literary Hoarders and yesterday a lovely interview I did with Brad de Roo went up at Canadian Notes and Queries. That one was one of the most thoughtful and well-read interviews I’ve done in recent memory, and it was a real pleasure as a challenge to answer Brad’s questions–I hope you enjoy it.

Things promise to calm down soon–well, by the end of April anyway–and I will make an attempt to talk about something other than myself/my book in my next blog post but really, all this attention for SML is pretty thrilling and I am most certainly grateful for it.

March 14th, 2017

Launch day!

So Much Love is real and available for your reading pleasure in stores, online, and–I believe–in libraries today. You can get a hard copy or digital in myriad formats, and then you can read it and see what I’ve been working on all this time–and even tell me what you think? I fixed my contact page so I’m easy to write to!

This isn’t the celebration I was anticipating for this book–things are challenging for me right now and I haven’t been able to do the obvious thing, go to a bookstore and visit my book out in the world. There have been some reports that it is truly out there, though–even on tables, even actually purchased by actual humans! So I’m semi-satisfied with that, though hopefully I’ll get out there myself soon.

But lots of stuff is upcoming, book-wise–perhaps I will eventually have seen enough of my book, though right now that doesn’t seem possible. A few highlights:

March 22, Book launch in Toronto!! There’s a complete list of events in the right sidebar, so I’ll mainly refrain from mentioning events I’ve talked about previously, but this is the big one, and I’m very excited. If you’re in Toronto and enjoy books, snacks, short readings, and–possibly–me, please consider stopping by.

April 2, 11am, I’ll be on the radio on Out in the Open with Piya Chattopadhyay. This isn’t even book-related–it’s an episode about personal transformation–but I think being on the radio is amazing, so here we are. I hope you can listen!

April 4, Reading for the Toronto Review of Books with Jessica Westhead, Heather Birrell, Antanas Sileika, and the one and only Mark Sampson.

April 25, Books and Brunch with Different Drummer Books at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Aldershot, with Trevor Cole and Kyo Maclear.

Before all of that, though, I’m finally going to make it out to a bookstore to celebrate another book, Mitzi Bytes by my dear friend Kerry Clare. In addition to being a very talented writer, Kerry is also the best Enjoyer of Events I have ever encountered, and sharing a book birthday with her has really helped me engage with the spirit of the thing. I also read Mitzi in draft (as Kerry did for SML) and can vouch that it is funny, wise, and surprising–can’t wait to read it in its final form. I will be raising all the glasses on Thursday, and speeding through the book soon after. You should too!

March 30th, 2016

Pages Unbound, hanging with students, literal and figurative frosting

In the endless drudgery that is novel-completion, I am very fond of anything that is not novel-completion. Especially things that make me feel writerly without requiring me to, you know, actually write anything. That sort of thing is really the icing on the cake of this whole career choice I’m making…

So getting to talk with a classroom of college students last week about reading and writing (along with my husband Mark Sampson and the wonderful professor (and friend) Nathan Dueck was a joy and delight. So was tagging along with Mark to launch his new poetry book, Weathervane alongside Dorothy Moahoney at the fabled Biblioasis store (it’s a lovely as I’d hoped!)

And so is the prospect of getting to take part in “Burst: New Voices in Canadian Literature” on May 6 as part of the Pages Unbound festival. The wonderful and talented Suzanne Alyssa Andrew and I will be sharing the stage with a bunch of other emerging types, and I’m so excited to meet and hear them. And to read a little myself, too!

Sharing what one has written is the frosting of writing, of course–it has to be, for if you are counting on publishing and ensuring accolades to sustain you emotionally or (heaven help you) financially, you might well starve to death. Writing as well as I possibly can needs to be enough for me because it would be easier to do almost anything else and no one wants to listen to me complain about something I could easily elect not to do. But I like this line: “If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you’re not a writer.” (it’s from this essay by Josh Olson–warnings: snark, swears)

So I write because I’m a writer and if it’s hard it’s my problem because I wanted to tell these stories. Them being written, and available for me to read myself is the sustenence here. But I do really enjoy the icing on the cake, giving the work to others and seeing what they think–so grateful the opportunities to do so that come my way.

Possibly, frosting is on my mind of late, because I was in the States last week (after Windsor it seemed natural to go on to Michigan and see some of the rockstars we know there) and a friend asked me to see if I could find any rainbow-chip frosting. Apparently it used to be available all over North American, then only in the States, and most recently no one could find it anywhere. I googled and found that the frosting had in fact been discontinued and is now coming back. I also found this insane video of a guy who who got 7000 people to sign a petition to bring back the frosting (!!!!) and then, when invited to a party celebrating his success, seemed absolutely terrified.

Anyway, I bought the frosting and my friend was delighted. I bought a tub for myself too and am really looking forward to trying it–can 7000 people be wrong? I can’t find a way to tie this back into the post or the central metaphor, but basically: you take your fun where you can get it.

February 27th, 2016

Treats for writers

There’s definitely people in the literary community who would crucify me for saying this, but I sometimes describe writing as a lucrative hobby rather than a job. I do this not because I think writers should not be paid for their work–I absolutely do–but just for personal morale purposes. If you line up writing income beside other jobs, like bank teller or physiotherapist, and compare incomes, you’re going to feel really really bad about writing. Whereas if you make the comparison instead to other hobbies, you feel like you’re coming out ahead. Knitters I know spend hundreds of dollars on wool, needles, and patterns and what do they end up with–some sweaters. Skiers are constantly buying clothes and equipment and paying for travel, and they don’t even get a product. Whereas all I need is the laptop I would own anyway, an internet connection, and a few pens–and I’m well on my way to writing the stories I love, and maybe, sometimes, as few bucks. It’s a cheering way of thinking about it–I assume the skiers, knitters, and I all have fun, but my fun is the cheapest, and the only one that’ll put the fun-haver occasionally in the black.

That said, there are a lot of products and services targeted at writers for a hefty cost. Many of these are fun, some of them are helpful, none–beyond a decent dictionary and the aforementioned computer–are really necessary. There’s always a way round, and I would encourage anyone who is worried not to feel pressured into paying money for something just to feel more “writerly.” If you want something because you think it would bring you joy or convenience or be helpful in your work and you can afford it, great–go for it–but assume that buying writer stuff is the same as any other capitalist transaction: once the money is spent, it’s gone. The worry I have is when folks tell me they’re going to spend x on a thing for writers that is guaranteed to pay for itself when they sell their movie option or whatever. Don’t do that–those things might not be scams, but there’s no such thing as a guaranteed return on investment in this crazy game called literature.

That said, I am finally finally nearly finished with my novel, and there are few things I’m going to buy my writer self as a reward. These things are fun for me and also, I hope, a bit helpful for the book–but if it turns out that they aren’t that helpful, ok, I’ll get some joy out of them and write off the money. I’ll put my hoped-for treats at the bottom of this list, after all the other ones I’m aware of.

Writing classes: So fun and valuable to me–I’ve taken half a dozen as an adult and learned a tonne. I’ve also met some wonderful other writers who are my workshop-friends now. I no longer take classes, but we still work together and offer each other feedback on our work, so what I got out of those initial, expensive classes was the ability to create free classes of my own. It was also a real blessing to just get out in the world with my stories and have people start to read them in a very supportive environment. While I no longer do these, writing classes were a really valuable first step when I needed them.

Books: This one is so obvious I almost didn’t put it on the list. Buy as many books as you can afford. When you run out of money, head for the library or borrow from a friend, but it’s really great to own the books you love best, so you can consult them or just reread for pleasure whenever you need a hit of high-quality literature. Buying books is also a good way to meet authors you admire, because everyone likes to be asked to sign their books (people who say they don’t are LYING).

Fancy notebooks and pens: I never buy these because I get them as gifts so often, but they are nice to have. I’m much less of a longhand writer than I once was, but I do like to have books to take notes in at meetings and workshops, and good fast-running pens. True confession: sometimes I use my nice stationary at my job instead, but it still makes me happy.

Manuscript evaluations and other editorial services: In general, I would recommend the first option on this list over this one–teach a man to fish and so forth. But some people learn better one-on-one, and some have issues with a particular manuscript rather than the craft of writing as a whole, and in those cases it does make sense to seek out a professional consultation and see if the editor can help you. My only advice would be to get a recommendation on this–there’s tonnes of people doing this kind of work in a variety of ways, so you want to find someone you can trust–and then consult on exactly what you need and can afford. Real, thoughtful substantive editing on a full manuscript is a huge job, something that often takes writers by surprise (though I don’t know why, considering how hard it is to write the damn thing in the first place) and can rightly be very expensive. A manuscript evaluation–an editor reads through your book and sends a few pages of notes on what’s working and what isn’t, but mainly leaves the how-to-fix up to you–can be a lot cheaper and still really insightful. If you want to go this route but are stumped at finding someone, hit me up–definitely don’t do this via google.

Writers’ retreats: Oh, my goodness, I want to do one of these. These are basically fun little summer camps for writers–you get food and a place to stay in (usually) a very pretty or interesting setting. There are other writers around to talk to in the evenings, and really nothing else to do but write during the day. How perfect does that sound? However, these are typically very expensive, and I don’t have a good justification for taking one. If I want to spend a week writing, I just take the week off from my job, sacrificing that income, and go write in my home office. To pay to write in a nicer place, while desirable, would be hard for me financially on top of the lost income from not being at work, and I really don’t have a hectic enough home life to justify it. BUT I WANT TO. If you do this, let me know how it goes–and send pictures! EDIT: Lovely Julia pointed out to me that there are fully funded residencies in the states, and even some that make up your income while you’re there. Obviously, I’m not too conversant in this stuff, but definitely I should be looking into it!)

Professional website design: I did this one–you’re looking at it! I love Rose-coloured and I spend a lot of time on it, so it sense for me to have a pretty, personal design that suits me and my work and accommodates the things I want to share in the ways I want to share them. I’ll go back to the designer (www.createmethis.com) for site refresh for the new book, and this is one of the aforementioned treats that I’m really looking forward to. It’ll be fun to have the site look different after half a dozen years of pink and the subway map. That said, I don’t think anyone needs to do this–you more or less do need a site of some kind, so that people can easily find you bio, events, and publications all in one spot, but you can totally do that with Blogspot or WordPress.com or any of the others free or cheap self-design sites. It can make you feel lovely and professional to have a lovely professional site, but it is totally a treat (can’t wait!)

Headshots: This is the other thing I’m going to do soonish in support of the new book/because I want to. I was pretty much told I had to get professional head shots for my first book, and though that turned out not to be true, I loved doing it. Professional photographers are so cool and interesting, and so different from writers, and it’s fun to spend a few hours trying to look like a real writer. Not to mention stage-managing the shoot so that the mood suits the book, maybe buying new clothes or whatever. Totally vanity, but if you’ve spent a few years in your sweatpants writing a goddamn novel, you are entitled to a little vanity. Or so I believe. Anyway, if you don’t want to go this route, it is fine, but you should still put a little thought into it. Basically, don’t take a cellphone selfie and call it a day. Try to find a friend who has a nice camera and takes photography at least a little seriously (easy way to tell: ask your publisher to send you the specs of what they need in a photo, then ask the friend if they understand those specs–if yes, they’ve got the gig) and ask them to take the pic in exchange for dinner or something like that. Spend some time thinking about how you want to look and where you want to be in the photo, and ask the friend to take a whole bunch of shots so you have options. Then go to a nice restaurant.

There are so many more treats you could buy your writing self: business cards, specialize software, fancy writing hat (ok, that last one is not a thing, I don’t think). There’s also stuff I know nothing about, like the services of a professional publicist to promote your book. Sounds legit to me, but I know no one who has done it, so I can’t offer any advice. And there’s probably lots more that I’m not even thinking of.

So basically, write your book, do your drudgery, put in the long exhausting hours, and then buy yourself a treat or two. You’ve earned it.

 

January 18th, 2016

Best Canadian Stories 15

Oberon Press sent me a couple copies of the lovely Best Canadian Stories 15, which includes, among other wonderful things, my story “Marriage.” Actually, Oberon sent it a couple weeks ago, but CanPar bafflingly just held on to it, never gave me any delivery notices, and eventually returned the package to whence it came. Grr, CanPar, but yay the kind folks (hi, Nick!) at Oberon who sent it out a second time.

If you get a chance to pick up a copy, you totally should–there’s stories by Alice Petersen, Kathy Page, Adrian Kelly, Kevin Hardcastle and tonnes more awesome people that aren’t so web present. I can’t wait to read it all!!

To temp you, here is a photo of the book, being nuzzled by me for some reason (I took a few versions of this photo–this was the best one, sadly).

Hello, gorgeous!

Hello, gorgeous!

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