Off the Page
A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between
Margriet Ruurs on creating Stepping Stones, a book that's changing the world.
With great power comes...
Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every mo …
We continue our 2016 Giller Prize coverage this week—generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU—by checking in with fina …
Stunning works that didn’t rack up the shortlist spots or awards, but still deserve the spotlight.
"It just makes sense that our commercial scene, when allowed to flourish as it finally is now, would be just as strong a …
Today in our special 2016 Giller Prize coverage, our conversation with finalist Mona Awad. She’s the author of the acc …
How to get a story started...and finished.
This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful to you, faithful readers, who return to these pages and these bright, eclectic folks t …
Linda Leith on how one of the most influential recent books in China came to join the CanLit canon.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey, by Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr, is one of the most remarkable picture books you will ever encounter, not just in the goodness of the book itself, but in the incredible transnational story of its creation. To make the story even more amazing, the author and publisher are donating a portion of the book's revenue to organizations supporting refugee-based causes, which is part of the reason that I went out and ordered three more copies of Stepping Stones as soon as I read it.
It's nice to be reminded that books can change the world.
In this post, Margriet Ruurs tells the story of how Stepping Stones came to be.
As a children’s book writer I am always on the look-out for unusual, attractive art—even though authors usually have nothing to do with the illustrations of their books. But when I spotted an amazing picture on Facebook by an artist from Syria, I knew that I really wanted this art in a book of mine.
The picture I’d spotted showed a mother tenderly holding her baby. Behind her, a father struggl …
Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.
Here are some great books to inspire young readers on the theme of Responsibility.
Being Me, by Rosemary McCarney, illustrated by Yvonne Cathcart, is part of the "Rosie the Red" series, featuring a socially conscious little girl. Rosie is ruminating about her future life's work when her dad introduces her to the local Food Bank. She learns how to volunteer, which makes her feel "important, useful and a little bigger." Her sense of duty increases when she sees a classmate's mom using the Bank. Rosie and her friends make posters to promote the cause. "I knew I could do something before I grew up," she says. Kindergarten to Grade 3.
Phoebe Gilman's Jillian Jiggs keeps getting distracted from cleaning her room. She'd rather play dress up with her friends—pirates on her sailboat bed, chickens in a coop, robots made from cardboard boxes, dragons, royalty, canaries. This rhyming classic inspires dramatic play and provides humour. Each time Jillian avoids her …
We continue our 2016 Giller Prize coverage this week—generously sponsored by Publishing@SFU—by checking in with finalist Catherine Leroux. Leroux’s novel The Party Wall brims with exquisite storytelling. She weaves four distinct storylines into a complex work that questions what we believe about our emotional and physical memories.
The Giller jury’s citation reads, in part, “Intriguing, wise and strange, the novel reveals layers of love and tension that hold mystery yet keep a crystalline clarity. Leroux’s prose, beautifully translated by Lazer Lederhendler, never abandons aesthetic precision. Her story is always assured, yet remains open. Its architecture holds a centre pulsing with life.”
Catherine Leroux was born in 1979 in the northern suburbs of Montreal. After holding various jobs she became a journalist and devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, Marche en forêt, was published in 2011 by Éditions Alto, and her newest novel is Madame Victoria (Éditions Alto, 2015). The Party Wall, her English-language debut published with Biblioasis in 2016, was selected for Indies Introduce for Summer/Fall 2016.
One of the best things about publishing a book is being provided with a platform to talk about the books you love, and even to put your own book in such a literary context. In this list, Emily Saso (whose new book is The Weather Inside) champions some of her favourite works that deserve some more time in the spotlight and a place on your bedside table, too.
When it comes to the big prizes, all is not fair in love and CanLit. With stiff competition from our country’s best talent and, in some cases hundreds of books up for one award, even the most brilliant novels can’t walk away winners. The following titles fell into that category—stunning works that, over the last five years, didn’t rack up the shortlist spots or awards, but deserve the spotlight, the acclaim and the readers nonetheless.
Sad Peninsula, by Mark Sampson
How did he do it? How did Mark Sampson climb inside the mind of Eun-young, a Korean wartime “comfort woman” and rip my heart out in the process? Not since She’s Come Undone have I been this affected by a novel and this …
My first encounter with Marissa Stapley was through her bestselling novel, Mating For Life, which I adored for its smarts and abject bookishness—not enough novels have references to Lauren Groff's debut, The Monsters of Templeton, I think. Since then, I've also come to admire Stapley as a reader and a critic, particularly in her role as commercial fiction columnist for The Globe and Mail. Her work and literary championing has made me curious about commercial fiction as a genre, and also how it fits into the Canadian literary scene.
In this Q&A, Stapley delivers the lowdown.
KC: So let’s start with the hardest, biggest question: what is commercial fiction? Where do its boundaries blur? Are there boundaries at all?
MS: There are some books that fall firmly into one category or the other—but most books don’t. When I pressed myself to try to come up with an answer for you, one that seemed to reflect the opinion of many, all I could come up with was: commercial fiction is focused on plot and entertainment and less on the craft of writing; literary fiction is less focused on plot and doesn’t care if it’s entertaining, because it’s art.
Oh, how I hate that answer! It’s too general. It marginalizes and excludes. And while I do understand the need to label …