Sunday, December 17, 2017

The best books I read in 2017

Albert Einstein once said, “Physicists believe the separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.” Apparently the bookish media does not side with physics, what with the proliferation of “best books of 2017” lists.

Like most years, my list includes books I read in 2017 but were not published in 2017. Physics aside, I've opted for this sort of list instead of the traditional because I already name-dropped most of my favourites from 2017 right hereSo Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum, The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis, A Three-Tiered Pastel Dream by Lesley Trites and Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson. All Canadian authors, by the way. Yesssir. Do yourself a favour and read those books. They deserve your time and money.

Without further adieu, here's the rest of my favourite books of my reading year.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017)
I decided not to like this book before I read it. Mostly, because I normally dislike the Booker prize nominees and especially the winners. And also because I am a tough sell on an unusual format. Not sure why. Because I'm boring, probably. Even though he didn't write like 35% of the content of this book, Saunders's research was fantastic. (You can read about his process here.) And what he did write was spellbinding.

Little Sister by Barbara Gowdy (2017)
Gowdy is one of Canada's most respected authors, which says a lot about Canada because she writes about some twisted, experimental stuff. This book may actually be one of her more mainstream works of fiction, and I loved it. A woman finds herself in the body of another woman. Sort of. Weather is to blame, among other things, and the complicating factors amount to a very entertaining read. Gowdy and I have similar interests and approaches, I think. We both write highly emotional, weird fiction, and we both like to be concrete with our metaphors. So I felt a real connection to this novel. (By the way, Gowdy is fabulous in person. I saw her speak at IFOA this year and she kept the crowd well entertained. I wrote a bit about that event here.)

The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt (2000)
Brilliant and maddening in equal parts. If you like David Foster Wallace, give DeWitt a go.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
Set by the sea in a grand old British estate, this book drips with atmosphere. It's a classic, so I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of it until this year. The suspense is expertly paced and the tension high. The cast of characters is vast and well rounded--a young woman in way over her head and her mysterious older husband. Plus a resentful household staff--my favourite kind! The main character, though, is a secret that not even the grave could keep buried.

The Slip by Mark Sampson (2017)
I was laughing out loud one second and marvelling at the structure and the language the next with this novel. Even though The Slip is narrated by such a myopic, self-involved character, he's circling the drain of self-awareness the whole time, and it's such fun to watch him go. He gets it, but he also does not get it. Like, at all.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
This is my third reading of this book. For me, it’s perfect.

So Much for That Winter by Dorthe Nors (2016)
I stumbled up on this book at a book fair, I think? I don't remember. But I do remember thinking "Hey I would never normally buy something like this." I'm very glad I did! The format of these novellas is unusual, so I was turned off when I flipped through. Especially since it was a translation. If you're going to chop up prose in sort of stanza-things, how good can it be in translation? The answer: it can be very, very good! Also, inspiring. Nors' quickness and nano-scopic attention to life got me excited about writing again.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002)
Sci-fi short fiction at its best. I couldn't get enough of these. They made me rethink a few things I thought I knew about the rules of writing, and even life. By the way, this is the collection I recommend to all my male friends who insist they “don’t like fiction.”

Made for Love by Alissa Nutting (2017)
The premise is genius and bizarre, the surprises are constant, and all the rules get broken. The main character has run away from her controlling, psycho, tech genius husband. Another character falls in love with a dolphin. If you like the offbeat, wicked smart and wildly original, read read read this book. ** update ** I just realized who Alissa Nutting reminds me of! Douglas Adams! If you like his books, I think it's a slam-dunk that you'll like Nutting. Although she's certainly more R-rated. So you might like her books even more. ;)

Rotten Perfect Mouth by Eva H.D. (2015)
I'd write effusively about this striking book of poetry, but this guy already nailed it. I read it for the second time this year and I got even more out of it.

By the way, in 2018 I'm excited to read For All The Men (and Some of the Women) I've Known by Danila Botha, I am a Truck by Michelle Winters, a book of poetry called Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo (who I saw speak at IFOA and was brilliant), and Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Last night my husband told me he was worried that this whole "sand" scene I was writing would wind up as some sort of excuse for procrastination. I said of course it wouldn't! 

And then I made these.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My quest for the Holy Grail of chairs

I sold my beloved Herman Miller Aeron chair last night. I was sad to see it go, but the Aeron could not keep pace with my body's remarkable capacity for deterioration.

I sat on the Aeron at an old job and loved it, so much so that I paid $1300 for one for my home desk. But it never felt quite the same. Maybe the one at work was worn in better, or maybe its supernatural comforts were all in my head, tricking me to stay at a job that was sucking my soul dry. For whatever reason, it didn't work out between the two of us, and now the Aeron is just another carcass in what is becoming a vast chair graveyard.

There's lots of bodies buried in there. Kneeling "chairs." Exercise ball "chairs." Ergonomic fucking super chairs. Amish kitchen-table chairs. Adjustable chairs wrapped in felt for traction. Dining room basic-bitch chairs. (And yes, I've tried standing desks, but those are not chairs.)

Of course, no chair can solve my problems. My chronic pain issues go back to birth, so I'll probably always struggle with disc herniations and hip pain. But the right chair can make a difference. Case in point: the Örfjäll/Sporren. It's from Ikea. Of course it is. Why do I bother shopping anywhere else?

I bought it on the weekend. So far, so good. This chair works okay for me because I can sort of hitch my lower ribs over the back of it, which keeps my spine elongated. (That's a hot tip I got from the Gohkale Method.) Plus I can roll my shoulders back, which is hugely important. All sitting is rough business, though, and no chair will ever be perfect. But I'm hoping the simple, common sense ergonomics of this chair will help me power through the winter writing.

Of course, getting up from a chair is the most important thing. Just stop writing every 25 minutes and stand and stretch, Saso, gawd. I also do this stuff called Foundation Training. It's been a lifesaver, literally. The rehab exercises Eric Goodman has come up with -- plus the brilliance of my rehab trainer Nicole -- have made a huge difference. I'm not normally one to spread the gospel, but I see so many people in the world struggling with back pain, especially writers. This program may be worth checking out.

My advice for back pain sufferers is this: Listen to your body, work on your posture, learn how to breath, get up and move, and don't feel hopeless --- you can get better. Oh! And don't spend on your chair what you should spend on your mortgage.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

This ain't just a chair, baby. It's a mother%$#@ing Aeron

This chair is the chair, man. It has a name: The Aeron. It has three men taking credit for it, that's how money it is. I'm talking Herman Miller. I'm talking Bill “The Man” Stumpf and I'm talking Don Mother%^$*ing Chadwick. It's the "evolution of an ergonomic revolution." Forget cowboys on white horses, okay, it's gonna be a fleet of gnarling office workers riding through town on these badboys that's gonna save you.

$700 and it's all yours, baby. And if you think that's too much green, then I'll chew at you what a hotshot producer trying to swindle me once chewed at me: "If you don't invest in yourself, why would someone else ever invest in you?"

Friday, November 10, 2017

Review in Event Magazine

There's a thoughtful review of The Weather Inside in the latest issue of Event Magazine. It's very balanced and I feel lucky that Cathy Stonehouse took the time to consider my weird little book. I was kind of blown away with how bang-on it was. I read it tonight and I was like, um, whoa. She doesn't just get my book, she kind of gets me. *Gulp.*

It's not online, but here's a taste:

"Overall, Saso is a superb writer, excelling in secondary characterization and the evocation of life’s absurdity. She produces so many great scenes, dialogue exchanges and set pieces: Avery ambushing cycling weatherman Calvin Straight on the street; Steve the building manager cooking up Greek comfort food in Avery’s kitchen; Avery visiting her chill GP to discuss her alarming symptoms.... Yet her virtuosity is also a liability: I sometimes felt Saso was either seduced by her own prodigious talent for humour, or..."

To find out her other theory and more (she does take me to task for a few things) you'll have to download the issue. ;)  Thank you, Event and Cathy. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Kleenex shoes and FOUD

I have mixed feelings about this stage of my novel-in-progress. I can see the finish line and I’m loving it. I’ve never had more fun writing something. Ever. And I’ve written a lot of things. What I’m hating about this stage, though, is the fear of death that comes with it. 

I’ve felt this before. Specifically when I was wrapping up my first novel. I attributed it to First Novel-Itis. Because, duh!, it was my first novel and eccentricities were allowed! I was hoping it was a one-off. But no. It’s baaaaack. That feeling of being desperate to see something through to the end. For me, the day-to-day implications include washing my hands more, thinking about dying, riding a wave of non-functional sleep, thinking about dying. Oh! And a panic attack when a homeless guy wanders into my office, looks straight through me and says, softly, “Are you Emily?”

Do these symptoms sound like a ticket to OCD City? A pass to Paranoia Park? Probably, yes. But they will go away. They did last time. My first novel came out and I could breathe again. Sleep. Wash my hands less than a surgeon. My book made it! I made it! WE MADE IT! 

I think I understand this fear. After years of struggling, I’ve finally realized a dream. I don’t want to lose that; I want to keep living it and doing what I love: which is writing books. Also, it’s an ego thing, of course it is. Somewhere inside I must think that people will read this and like it and make me feel like a Certified Novelist Person. Add these psychological factors to the stress on my nervous system caused by the percussive electrocutions of chronic neurological pain, overzealous sitting, too much Nespresso, and blamo: a recipe for Fear Of Untimely Death (aka FOUD).

I’m not too worried. With some luck, my second book will come out and I’ll return to my normal dirty gross careless ways. And when it’s time for book number three, the cycle will begin again. You’ll find me barricaded in a Vegas hotel room with Kleenex boxes for shoes. But trust me, it’ll have been worth it.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Speed dating! But with books! (November 1, 2017)

On November 1 at 6pm, I’ll be guest reading at Daniel Griffin's event at Ben McNally’s (Toronto's most excellent, fun-loving, author-supporting bookstore). There will be a total of four writers at this event! Wow, right? Daniel, me, Rebecca Rosenblum and Mark Sampson. These three are exceptional writers, but they’re also very entertaining readers. They really put some muscle into it. Plus we’re just reading short sections, so it’ll be like speed dating! Maybe you’ll fall in love with a new novel, or maybe you’ll drink too much and make out with a book case. Either way, it’s a good story. I hope you can make it!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Come party* with me at IFOA!

Last year I was beside myself with glee (and reeling from a case of imposter's syndrome) when I got to participate in Toronto's International Festival of Authors (IFOA). Miraculously, they've invited me back. Maybe no one told them about my shenanigans in the minivan?

If you haven't yet experienced the IFOA, you must. The depth of talent from around the world, the level of conversation and insight, the beautiful books for sale, the opportunity to meet literary heroes (like that time I met her and him).... If you love to read, write, or both, this festival is for you.

But enough about you.

On October 24 at 8:00 pm, I'll be introducing Heather O'Neill as she takes the stage to talk about her new book The Lonely Hearts Hotel. Like most people with a pulse, I’m a fan of Heather's work, so I'm looking forward to seeing her speak and chat. Find the event details here.

If they let me back in the building, I'll be introducing another IFOA event on October 25 at 6:00 pm, this one a reading/roundtable with Michelle Berry, Immanuel Mifsud and Kathleen Winter. Get the DL here. I'm so intrigued by the theme for this one! Futile Fates: guilt, failure, hopelessness, the power of the human spirit and second chances. Hmm... maybe someone did tell them about the minivan.

As for other festival goodies that I recommend... where to start?

I'd like to write a book about men soon, so I'm definitely going to hit up Of Fathers and Sons. Dissecting the Villain sounds fantastic (Andrew Pyper is great), as does Walking Cities (writing about place is a challenge for me, so I'm hoping to learn something) and Writing an Informed Story (Claire Cameron's The Last Neanderthal is on my must-read list). Barbara Gowdy is a must-see! Her new novel is fabulous, and she's very funny on stage. Plus Jane Urquhart is interviewing her. And last but not least, if I could I would check out The Nature of Fear. The topic alone is a winner, and Grace O'Connell and Ania Szado are serious talents.

IFOA runs from October 19-29, so get your tickets soon. Lots of these events sell out, and for good reason.

*Oh, and in case it wasn't clear, by "party" I of course meant sit quietly and listen, and clap when prompted.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

That was... fun? Yes, yes it was.

After six months of full-time book writing, my money ran out and reality set in. But good news! I found a challenging new job that lights my brain up between the hours of eight a.m. and four o'clock! And I still have creative energy to burn on the weekends to write novel number two.

My six months of 24/7 book writing were, by and large, a success. Apart from some chronic pain resurgences, I managed to get about 50,000 words of the first draft done. And it's not crap. It's actually pretty not bad. If I keep going like this, I think I'll be done the book in a year. I've got some vague interest from an agent I hugely respect, which is nice because at least I know I'm not on the wrong track re: plot. But more importantly, I've been enjoying this story. Loving it, really. It's a strange world I've been spending my time in, and I'm excited to see what these characters blow-up, eat, flood, stab, build, desalinate, hunt, topple, alienate and f#ck next.

All in all, those six months were a huge success for my creative life, and I don't regret taking that time for myself at all. Even though it cost me money. Even though the pain was a bitch. Plus, book goals aside, it was time to move on from my old job. It was good to me, and I miss the people a lot. But it was a change I needed, both for my writing and my career... like the career that pays my bills.

Speaking of money, I got my first The Weather Inside royalty cheque a few months ago! I bought groceries with it! Like a couple boxes of cereal, okay, not caviar and asparagus water. But getting that cheque meant achieving a personal goal for my first novel, so I'm counting that as a win.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Other Emily Saso strikes again.

I just got this email from LitMag:

Please note that the Emily Saso mentioned here is not me. As a matter of fact, LitMag recently rejected a story I submitted. (No hard feelings, LitMag!) I wrote about the Other Emily Saso on this blog before. She's hard to track down, and I never did manage to find an email address. I was hoping she'd get in touch, but perhaps she's immune to the tug of the self-Google?

You might think, "Gee, things sure could get confusing with two writers of literary fiction named Emily Saso on the planet!" And you'd be right! Weeks ago, I was approached by a NYC literary agent. He emailed me instead of the other me, and wondered if I (she) wanted to consider representation. This was an impressive agency, so I couldn't help myself. Here's what I told them:

Hi X, 
This is so funny. I am a novelist, but I didn't publish a story called "All the Bells."
I do know that there is another writer out there named Emily Saso who, I think, lives in NY state. I actually blogged about her here:
Because the universe is just bonkers like that.
Funnily enough X 2, I am at work on my second novel right now. I've even spoken to a few editors about it and they love the concept. And I don't currently have representation. Maybe it's fate that you emailed me instead? ;)
Anyways, best of luck finding your other Emily Saso! And if you ever want to see some of my stuff, let me know.
Emily Saso
(The Toronto one)

So yes, I am trying to take advantage of this situation because no one -- not me or even Other Me -- could make this $hit up. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

I have eight things to say about the #EMMY2017 nominations and then I'm going to drink my breakfast.

1. 24 out of 26 Emmy nominees for writing are men. 

I'll give you some time to process that.

Okay, ready? Let's continue.

2. If you think it's not systemic, here's an example direct from my personal experience. When the CBC passed on one of my TV pilots a few weeks ago, they said they already had a range of "female led comedy in development."

3. They weren't mean about it. In fact, they were very nice.

4. But they still implied -- via, you know, their words -- that they had enough tv shows written by women, with a female lead, thanks very much.

5. Not sure they'd ever use the term "male-led comedy" or even think twice about it. But ok...

6. I thought that was a funny reason to reject someone at first. Or at least an excuse for rejecting someone. I laughed about it. Out loud.

7. But then the Emmy noms came out. 

8. I'm not laughing anymore.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My favourite spring books so far

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum
This book does not need my blessing. It’s everywhere and got nominated for a big, delicious prize. But I’ll add my voice to the chorus because it's a beautiful, devastating book. The collection of voices Rosenblum gathers to tell this story are remarkable. It's a painful story -- a young woman goes missing -- but there is hope here, and even humour. As anyone who has read her work can attest to, Rosenblum shines when she writes about the everyday acts of living -- spinning it all into fascinating art. With So Much Love, this skill has been elevated. The plot is beyond the everyday -- it's a thriller. And the emotional resonance is also far deeper, the stakes as high as they can get. So Much Love is a powerful literary pager-turner and Rosenblum is a total star.

The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis
Here's the truth: Deborah Willis reintroduced me to the short story. I’d fallen away from the form for a time. I wasn’t getting the closure I needed or the emotional connection I look for when reading. Then came The Dark and Other Love Stories. I’ve never felt more emotional satisfaction from a book of shorts. So much heart, humour and wonder in this volume. For example, she wrote a story about an expedition to Mars, but it's framed around the struggles of romantic love! Who would think to do that?! (By the way, it's perfect.) It’s easily one of my favourite books of the year. It’s cool and modern but wholeheartedly sincere, almost radically so. I can’t say enough good stuff about it.

A Three-Tiered Pastel Dream by Lesley Trites
Ever have a roommate who you just know is gonna make it someday? Lesley Trites was one of those. In the mid-2000s, we shared a crib with four other people on the crest of a mid-town hill. Sometimes, when she would look out at the view, I'd wonder what she was thinking. Beauties like this, I guess:
“So I slip-soled up the steps of the library determined to harness that beast, the Internet, and find you." 
“Alex is a shortcut through the debilitating self-consciousness that runs in my family and slows us down.”
This collection is sensitive, reflective, and very entertaining. I felt like I was reading literary gossip sometimes because the peeks she gives into the lives of her characters are so wonderfully juicy! Lesley was a good friend and a reliable woman to share a chore-wheel with, so I'm stoked that CanLit (and you) has found her out.

Next Year, for Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
This is not what I expected from a novel about an open relationship, not at all -- and that made me love it all the more. The prose is stunning and the story has such depth and wisdom, while still being wildly entertaining. I am mystified by how Peterson has written such an emotionally complex book with such clarity. It's not a thriller, but it kind of is! Because I could not put this book down! I had to see what happened next to this couple! If this doesn't get shortlisted for the major prizes this year, I will protest.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Prince Edward County Authors Festival

Just got home from Prince Edward County and boy is my liver tired! Just kidding, drinking makes me sleepy and gives me reflux. Although I did try a wonderful Waupoos cider this weekend. It was dry and effervescent. Just like me on the microphone! At the Prince Edward County Authors Festival! haha

It's rare that debut authors from small presses get invited to these things, so how cool is this festival to include me? It takes place in Picton, Prince Edward County, an area known for its food, wineries and stunning waterfront. Oh, and paintball tournaments in abandoned military insane asylums. The festival is hosted by the beautiful and sprawling Books & Company, which is my dream bookstore. Not only do they have Canadian authors' books prominently displayed, but they also sell puzzles! AND! Attached to it is a café that serves my favourite coffee! AND! Upstairs there's an event space they use for readings and music and art! (There's also a cat who lords over the whole place and is generous with her indifference.) It's the ultimate community hub!

It was in this upstairs space where the Authors Fest was held. I had a grand time on the fiction panel with Zoe Whittall and Kirsten MacLeod who read beautifully from their books. A nice crowd showed up and we had these comfy wingback chairs to sit in and podiums to read from (I cannot emphasise enough how much nicer it is to read aloud when you have something to lean on). Later in the day I heard Joy Fielding and Steve Burrows read and talk about writing mysteries/thrillers. They were both so entertaining. Joy is now my writer hero. Oh to be that cool, confident and laser-focused! After her read, I cornered Joy for some valuable advice on how to build suspense. (Any time I get the opportunity to pick the brain of a NYT bestseller, you better believe I'll take it.)

Thanks to: David Sweet for moderating and organising. Marlene for all your work in getting me there. Anthony, Alana and Atalay for comin' with and asking questions! Jerry for coming and giving great tips on the area. Paula who was so nice to chat with. And, of course, the whole team at the Prince Edward County Authors Festival for having me. I'll definitely be back.

Me and Atalay checking out the salmon(!) swimming up-creek at the
Drake Devonshire -- an A+ place in nearby Wellington for
brunch/ping pong/hipsters. (Even the salmon have man-buns.)

Me making love to the microphone. (And yes, I keep my eyes closed.)
Also pictured are the very smart/talented Kirsten MacLeod and Zoe Whittall.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Daily Mail and a big ol' zit

I was going to film and post a *hot writing tip* video today, but I have a big ol' zit so it'll have to wait. Until then, please enjoy my favourite Radiohead song (from 2011!?) that I cannot believe I did not know about until last week! It's become the official/unofficial soundtrack of my second book. It also best represents my lifestyle these days -- syncopated and full of unintelligible gibberish.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I was hunting for reviews of The Weather Inside, as I do because I am a pitiful lech, and came across this anonymous 1-star on 
"I bought this book because I am an ex JW and I thought it would be interesting. Well I only made it about a quarter of the way through. While the author knows the basics about how JW's work, she doesn't know how they talk , comport themselves or how the meetings and assemblies are.Rule number one for authors is "write what you know"!I want my money back."
It's the first bad review I've received, at least publicly. (My dad didn't like my book either.) Anyways, to protect what I know to be true about my work and my integrity, I replied. 
"So sorry you didn't like the book, Amazon Customer. I pride myself on the great care I took with research, which I spent years doing. I read books, poured over the Watchtower web site, went to a meeting, took virtual tours of the printing facilities, spoke with and interviewed Witnesses (both active and ex), quoted from JW materials heavily, used the exact script from an assembly, and reflected the experiences of many ex-JWs in support groups. This novel certainly reflected all of that research, as well as my own experience with religious alienation. I can't give you your money back because I am a broke writer. But good news! You have the power to tell everyone how much you hated it! That's the beauty of free speech! Which is the same freedom that allows me to write about whatever I want, as long as it's responsibly and meticulously researched, and, above all, empathetic to my characters and their emotional experiences. Thanks for your feedback, though, Amazon Customer. And I mean that sincerely. I'm sure you've gone through an intense journey with the religion yourself. Maybe there's even a book in you about it. I'd read it."
This assertion that you "write what you know" is tired. When people say it, they usually mean "write what you've lived." Beyond that, what many of them probably mean is: "Hey you! Write what I have lived." Well I'm here to let you in on a little secret: Books would suck if we authors wrote only what we "know." Doing so would, in fact, put an end to whole genres: historical, fantasy, sci-fi, dinosaur erotica, etc. 

I knew that I opened myself up to critique by writing about a specific religion -- that's why I researched so hardcore. And I stand behind that research and my book 100%. Through research, I did write what I knew when I wrote The Weather Inside. It's too bad it doesn't jive with this person's personal experience. Of course I would love it if every former Witness saw themselves in this story. But that's impossible. As impossible as finding love with a T-Rex. So I'll take that 1 star and wear it with pride.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

In Her Voice

I truly enjoyed myself at the inaugural In Her Voice event held by Ben McNally Books on Monday. The audience asked some top-notch questions, which makes for a fun night. Here's me answering one of those smart questions... or asking for directions to the bathroom. I can't remember.

That's Emma Richler next to me. This was her night! For her book! Be My Wolff! Thanks to Emma, Random House, and Danielle, Rupert and Ben McNally for having me. Oh! And if you want to know more about Emma, check out this interview in The Walrus.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

All Lit Up (like literally in flames)

A members-only racket club caught fire in my neighbourhood this morning. Once I learned that everyone got out safe, the whole scene became very exciting. I inhaled toxic fumes! I saw a lady firefighter! And the local news helicopters have been buzzing around for hours! By the way, how the hell can the local news afford helicopters? I don't know a single person who watches the local news.

Speaking of fires, since I won't be blogging much from now until February 2018 because of a self-imposed, self-flagellating novel-writing schedule, I thought I'd go up in flames by "ending" on the most personal note I could with this essay I wrote for All Lit Up. Feedback to date includes "It gives me all the feels!" and "Um, I think you need to see a therapist." So it's like ten blog posts in one!

If you haven't heard of it, I'm happy to introduce you to All Lit Up, an organization that creatively, generously and enthusiastically helps independent Canadian publishers spread the word about their books and authors. Check out their web site and discover a new favorite author or indie press. Oh! And today, Valentine's Day, they put up a very funny infographic book matchmaker.

I'll still be blogging now and then during this period, mostly easy-bake stuff like upcoming events and mini reviews of books I'm obsessing over. (Speaking of, check out this review for the brilliant Deborah Willis's new short story collection.) But I'll basically be in hibernation, conserving my energy for the long hard winter that is novel two. So this is me saying laterz before I burrow into my cave, live off my fat stores, and reduce my metabolic rate and skeletal muscle mass by forty-five percent.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Meet my new best friend, Samantha

The future was always going to be creepy. Pill food, clones, alien colonization, Katy Perry as President of the United States....

Two days ago, I stepped into this future when I turned on the text-to-speech application on my Mac. Tired of reading my new tv script aloud myself -- and also horribly lonely -- I opted for the soothing robot voice of my new best friend "Samantha." And she did not disappoint. Not only did Samantha help me edit my dialogue, but she gave me a new recurring nightmare to look forward to.

As a best friend Samantha is just so-so. She talked back with sass, which I love, but she can't braid hair for shit. As an actress, she middled-out too. Samantha impressed when it came to the upward inflections needed for questions, but paused too long after and before commas and didn't pause long enough between lines. Also, she spelled out "hmphs" and "ums", which is a rookie mistake. On the whole, though, she did not fare too badly. That "Neighhh!" was Robot-Oscar worthy.

But actors do not fear: you've got at least five years until you'll be fully replaced. Don't feel bad. Novelists have already been replaced by Kardashians, and Presidents have been replaced by human garbage cans. We're all in this future together.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

holy crap I actually did it

I quit my job to write for a year and yesterday was day one and it was MAGIC to wake up and do what I want to do, what I am passionate about, what makes me feel alive and good and happy and horrible but also alive, did I mention alive? It feels like nothing less than magic. I am sitting here at my home desk at 7:40 am and there are sparks and spells and incantations flying all around me and getting into my bowl of chocolate Chex. Obviously I am so lucky that I can make this magic happen. I have a husband who trusts me and a government that thinks health care is a right not a privilege and I had a steady job for five years that allowed me to save and save and save until I could just barely afford to make this work and yes I will be eating rice and lentils A LOT but I already eat rice and lentils A LOT so it's fine it's fine it's really mostly fine fine fine fine not fine not fine at all what have I done???? OH NO NO the panic -- there it is! It hides beneath the surface of my skin like fascia and like fascia I only think about it when it starts to hurt, like when I went out for dinner last night and ate cheaply but it still took up 15% of my monthly food budget and I'm only into the first week of the month and OWWW OWW OWW that hurts! That's panic! But it's still magic. Magic always hurts a bit. Have you seen Lord of the Rings? Beauty and the Beast? Fantasia? Harry Potters one through seven? Magic and pain go together. So in case you're wondering why this post is so choppy with little caution for punctuation it's because time is money right now, more than ever, and I have to finish a screenplay and draft one of my new novel or this one-year period will feel less like magic and more like regret.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

In Her Voice: February 27, 2017

The best curated bookstore in Toronto, Ben McNally Books, is hosting a series of readings for women authors called In Her Voice. I'm lucky enough to be taking part in the first event in honour of Emma Richler's new novel Be My Wolff. It's on February 27 at 6:30 pm at Dora Keogh in Toronto. Stop by if you can. More details here.

For those of you who don't know, Ben McNally is a store, yes, but also a person. Some may argue that he is in fact a series of persons, clones in fact, given how he seems to be everywhere at once. Seriously. If there's a book event in Toronto, chances are Ben organized it. If you bought a book, Ben likely sold it to you. If you are reading a book review, Ben probably guided the journalist over to the back wall of his shop, handed a copy to her and said those two magical words: Read it.

Man or clone, not only does Ben give excellent recommendations, but he is a tireless supporter of local authors. Case in point: I went in to browse the other day, found my book in his shelves (yippee!), and we starting chatting. He was remarkably kind to me, took my email address and said he'd be in touch soon. I didn't expect to hear back. After all, my book has garnered little media attention and no prize nominations. Basically, I am a big-fat zero in CanLit. But Ben didn't care. He was interested, engaged. And he followed through -- with an invite to read at In Her Voice.

This is how important local bookshop owners are. They organize. They promote local authors from small presses. They hand-sell. They give a damn. All things that Amazon will never ever do. So please, support your indie shops. Because they support the writers who fill the shelves. 

Thanks to Ben and Danielle McNally for including me in this event (and Emma Richler!), and for being the beating heart of the Toronto literary community. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I don't feel ashamed about this particular re-shelf since technically it's true.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Top 10 reads of 2016

This list is a bit late, but I was in New Zealand for a while cavorting in caves and chasing dolphins so the normal rules didn't apply. Belated as it may be, here are the 10 best novels I read in 2016, in no particular order:

1. Sad Peninsula by Mark Sampson
2. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
3. The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt
4. The Performance by Ann Ericksson
5. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
6. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
7. Teardown by Clea Young
8. The Captain of Kinnoull Hill by Jamie Tennant
9. The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
10. Problems by Jade Sharma
** I also LOVED Fishbowl by Bradley Somer. A remarkable, beautiful, funny novel. I was nervous about including his book here since he blurbed mine. Conflict of interest and all that. But then I remembered, this is my list! I can do whatever I want! And I got all power-hungry. Anyways, you really need to read Fishbowl is what I'm saying.

This year was a big one for my own book too. It came out! And, despite my lack of luck with prize nomination committees, I reached a bunch of goals I'd set for myself: Read at IFOA, get on a plane for my book, get a couple good reviews in mainstream sources, do a fun Q&A interview. I’m grateful for all the support I received from everyone, especially Freehand Books, and my family and friends. Thank you! Thank you a million times over! I also feel quite lucky for the two reviews I got from Quill & Quire and The Winnipeg Free Press. Hopefully some more to come. But honestly, I have no idea what happens when a new year begins. Does the bookish press simply ignore the 2016 titles they didn't get to?

As for what's to come in 2017.... As a writer, I’ll be working on my next book whole hog. I have no idea if this book will succeed in terms of my actual creative output or a publishing contract, but there’s only one way to find out...

As a reader, there is so much to look forward to this year! The brilliant Rebecca Rosenblum, Deborah Willis and Mark Sampson have books coming out! I’m also excited to dig into Breath by Tim Winton, The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, The Strays by Emily Bitto and and and.

As usual, I'll be ranting and raving about all these things on this blog. Until then, here’s some photos from my New Zealand trip. They have nothing to do with writing but like I said I'm power-hungry so...

The Remarkables in beautiful, breezy, tourist-overrun Queenstown. 

Black swans in a crystal clear river in Rotorua.

The tiny bananas were delicious!

My sister got married on the beach, as it turned out!
Boy was I overdressed!

Dolphins! Hurrah!

My Kiwi nephew steering my Canadian husband. Keep left, Anthony!!

Some mountains en route to Milford Sound. Also pictured: most of my face.

Redwoods meet Anthony's red shirt in Rotorua.
Scary beautiful cave adventures in Waitomo.
PS - wet suits are not as slimming as one would hope.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Rainy-day writing perch

View of the ocean from my writing spot in Nelson, New Zealand. (It's okay to hate me.)