Best Books of 2012

So thrilled to say that Above All things has been added to two end of year lists!

It made the list of best books of 2012 and the Globe and Mail 100 list.


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Early Word Live Chat

This past Friday I did a live chat over on EarlyWord.

If you missed it you can replay it here.

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The Next Big Thing

The lovely Ayelet Tsabari, author of the upcoming collection of stories The Best Place on Earth, tagged me to answer a virtual interview about my next big thing. You can read about Ayelet’s here.

My Next Big Thing is an upcoming collection of poetry that will be out in the spring.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?

Arguments with the Lake.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

A number of years ago I was asked, by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, an environmental justice organization, to write some poems about Lake Ontario that I could read on a tour with Gord Downie,  Andrea Nann and Mark Mattson to try and engage people with Lake Ontario and the issues we face. Of course I said yes, and started thinking about the Lake, my relationship with it, its history, its story.

Shortly after the tour I started my Creative Writing MFA at Guelph and as parted of a poetry class was asked to write a series of poems around a subject or theme. I decided to stay focused on the lake. I thought I had lots left to say about it. I liked engaging with something so physically close to home (a big change from my other work to date). Shortly thereafter, though I realised I didn’t quite know how to say everything I wanted to say. I needed a new way to access the lake. I tend to understand my world, my life, through narrative. I needed a story I could sink my teeth into.

While reading I came across the story of Marilyn Bell’s swim across the lake and thought it was a fantastic way to explore the lake – what it was, what it’s become.

What genre does your book fall under?


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

They don’t generally make movies of poetry books – although it has happened. But there’s also already a movie about Marilyn Bell called Heart. You can head over and watch it on Netflix.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A collection of poetry based around Marilyn Bell’s 1954 swim across Lake Ontario.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Arguments with the Lake will be published in the spring by Wolsak and Wynn. A couple of poems will be in an upcoming issue of THIS.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Not very long (especially compared to my first novel) I don’t think. Maybe a couple of months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I guess it fits into the world of narrative poetry, fictional biographical poetry – not that I would put it next to these – but The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Ondaatje or Gwendolyn MacEwen’s TE Lawrence poems.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The work was initially inspired, by the folks at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, and in particular Mark Mattson’s and Krystyn Tully’s hard and important work. I was inspired by how they envision a community on Lake Ontario, in how they see the stories, the art that comes out of our relationship with the lake as part of the work to protect it and keep it accessible.

For the most part I write from a place of asking questions – and similar to my novel, Above All Things – I think the question for me about these poems was why and how? Why and how does someone set out to swim across Lake Ontario and what happens as a result of that first decision.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The poems are only partially about Marilyn Bell. While I was researching I stumbled across the story of another young swimmer named Shirley Campbell. She tried to swim across Lake Ontario twice – the two years following Marilyn’s successful swim. Both times she had to be pulled from the water even though she was so close to finishing. Her life went in a totally different direction than Marilyn’s and it’s a fictional version of Shirley that is the voice of most of the poems. I wanted to imagine what happens when you are so much better at something than almost everyone else, but that still counts as a failure?

And now, find out what these five fabulous writers are working on… 

Aga Maksimowska

Jael Richardson

Carrie Snyder

Laurie Graham

Catherine McKenzie

 Message for tagged authors: Rules of the Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)

***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?

Where did the idea for the book come from?

What genre does your book fall under?

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Be sure to line up five people in advance.

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International News

The US cover of Above All Things

Above All Things will be coming out soon in the US and UK! I am excited and nervous and can’t wait to see what readers in both places have to say about it.

And here are the gorgeous covers.

The UK cover of Above All Things

I’ve also done my first US interview, with Nora Rawlinson at Early Word. You can listen to the podcast here.

Above All things will be available in the US on Feb. 12th; you can pre-order it here and then in the UK on March 7th and can be pre-ordered here.



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5th Annual Writers Reading

I successfully survived IFOA – a fantastic 10 days of meeting tremendous authors, editors, publishers and, of course, readers!

I have a couple of days to rest up and then read again on Saturday in Wesport at the 5th Annual Writers Reading.

What: The Westport Arts Council’s 5th annual Writers Reading

Where: Westport United Church,

When: 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, November 3, 2012,

With: Richard Gwyn, Steven Heighton, Catherine McKenzie 

After that I’m reading at Queen’s on Nov. 13th, at Backbeat Books and Music on Nov. 17th and the Grimsby Writers’ Series on Nov. 19th!

Stay tuned for more details.



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International Festival of Authors and Canada Reads

The International Festival of Authors starts this week.

I wrote a post for their website explaining what it feels like to be part of this years festival – so I won’t repeat how excited and thrilled I am here.

Here’s where you can find me over the next two weeks:

IFOA Woodstock with Kjersti A. Skomsvold, Linda Spalding, Cordelia Strub

7:30PM, OCTOBER 17, 2012


Novelists for a New Age – a Round Table with Matt Lennox, Stacey Madden, Aga Maksimowska, Grace O’Connell and Catherine Bush

Sunday, October 21, 4:00pm, 2012
at the Lakeside Terrace
Reading with Bill Gaston, Rawi Hage, Kyo Maclear
Saturday, October 27, 2:00pm, 2012
Lakeside Terrace
In addition to events, it’s also Canada Reads time again. This year they’ve broken it down by region, so Above All Things qualifies in Ontario. If you’d like to head on over, you can nominate it for this year’s showdown!
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Upcoming Events

The fall is, of course, when the literary world gets really, really busy.

There are tons of new book launches – including Jael Richardson’s memoir, The Stone Thrower – festivals, readings, awards and more.

Here’s where you can find me over the next couple of months:


Literature for Life’s WORDS 2.0

Friday, Sept. 7 at 8:30 onwards

99 Sudbury


Eden Mills Writer’s Festival

Sunday, Sept. 16 at 12:15

Eden Mills, Ontario


Word on the Street

Sunday, Sept. 23 at 12:30

Queen’s Park, Toronto, Ontario


Kingston Writers Festival

Saturday, Sept. 29 at 2 and 9

Holiday Inn, Kingston, Ontario




International Festival of Authors

IFOA on tour in Woodstock, Ontario

Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 7pm

Woodstock, Ontario


Roundtable discussion

Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4pm

Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario



Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2pm

Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario




Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7pm

Kingston, Ontario


First Edition Reading Series

Saturday, Nov. 17 at 7pm

Backbeat Books and Music, Perth Ontario


Grimsby Author’s Series

Monday, Nov. 19

Grimsby, Ontario




Pivot Reading Series

Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7pm

Press Club, Toront



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CBC Reader’s Choice and One Cool Thing

Above All Things made the top ten for the CBC Scotiabank Giller’s Prize Reader’s Choice (that’s a mouthful)! Which is fun and exciting.

I know there are skeptics out there who think of this as nothing more than a popularity contest – who can stage the best Facebook campaign, who has the most friends – and there’s some truth to that. At the same time – as a writer – I want to take every opportunity I can to get my book to a reader who might not come across it otherwise. If I won’t do my best to get the book attention than why on earth would I expect my publicist or publisher or even book sellers to do it?

Does everything need to be democratised? Of course not. But this CBC contest won’t change the shape of the Scotiabank Giller Prize. And it is absolutely unfair to books that are coming out in the fall, like Miranda Hill’s short story collection, that the jury has had a chance to read, but the rest of us haven’t. Still it’s a way for books to get a little more press and a little more attention and that can’t be a bad thing. There are a few books in the top ten that I didn’t know about before, that’s for sure.

So – if you feel like it – head on over to CBC Books and vote for Above All Things. You can vote once a day if you want. Sure, there were lots of deserving books that didn’t make this list, but there are great books that did, like Aga Maksimowska’s Giant.

And One Cool Thing for the week: Last week I went hiking in the Adirondacks and managed to climb Mt. Marcy. She’s no Everest, but she is the highest peak in New York State and while my body felt good on the 10 hour hike, my feet didn’t. I was breaking in new boots in hopes they’ll be ready for a slightly larger adventure that’s being planned down the road and man did they do in my feet!

I tried a couple of combinations of moleskin and waterproof Band-Aids that ended up as rubbery globs in the bottom of my boot. Thankfully, though, I had just finished Cheryl Strayed’s Wild in which she sings the praises of New Skin. I bought a no-name bottle, slathered it liberally on my feet and voila – I could walk! I even managed another peak a day later.

I plan on carrying a bottle in my bag from now on for all those strappy sandals and high heels that look so good and hurt so bad.

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Literature for Life and WORDS 2.0

One of the best day jobs I’ve ever had was working for a great literacy organization in Toronto called Literature for Life.

Literature for Life runs reading circles for pregnant and parenting teenage girls in the Greater Toronto Area. Essentially these are book clubs, based in shelters and youth centres in Toronto’s high risk neighborhoods.

As a facilitator at these reading circles I would choose books that appealed to teenage girls and then meet with them once a week to read together and discuss them. The magic that happened in these circles was obvious.

Young women who had never read books before became engaged with the written word. They talked passionately about the books and characters, and then quickly began to reflect on their own lives in relation to the plots they read.

They began to write poems and stories – finding the value in their voices and becoming advocates for themselves and their children.

Once a month or so they would be given new books, for themselves and their children, so that their babies were encouraged to read and love reading from an early age.

Like all charities, Literature for Life relies on the support of the community. While I haven’t lead a reading circle in some time, I still support Literature for Life and it’s works. That’s why I’m thrilled to be the Honorary Chair of their upcoming event WORDS 2.0.

WORDS 2.0 is a party with a purpose. So come on out, support a great cause and have a great night.

When:  September 7, 2012 at 8:30pm

Where: 99 Sudbury

Buy Tickets

For more information check out the event on Facebook.



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One Cool Thing

This is a salute and a blatant rip off. 

I’ve been listening recently to a great podcast called Scriptnotes  by John August and Craig Mazin. Ostensibly about screenwriting and Hollywood, they have lots to say that’s relevant for any kind of writing – and they take writing incredibly seriously, while also realizing that writing is kind of a weird job.

Recently they’ve added a feature to the end of the podcast where they each chip in with one cool thing. I thought I’d borrow that from them and start with my first one cool thing being their podcast.

If you’re into movies, writing, scripts, Hollywood or anything along those lines, you should definitely check it out. 

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