Off the Page

A blog on Canadian writing, reading, and everything in between

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Book Cover Bird's Eye View

Ann Eriksson Launches BIRD'S EYE VIEW

By Kerry Care

"Anyone, young or old, who wants to learn more about the birds that live in their neighbourhood or on the other side of …

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The Chat with John Elizabeth Stintzi

The Chat with John Elizabeth Stintzi

By Trevor Corkum

Writer John Elizabeth Stinzi has the distinction of publishing two fabulous debuts a week apart this past spring. On The …

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Robert Bateman

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Bird Books

By Julie Booker

A flock of tales to get young readers into birding.

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Book Cover Hope Matters

Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Nonfiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

We're looking forward to books about history, true crime, memoir, nature, music, dance, food, and so much more. There's …

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Book Cover The Woman Before Wallis

Exploring Sister Bonds

By Bryn Turnbull

One of our most anticipated debuts of the season, Bryn Turnbull's The Woman Before Wallis, tells the true story of the A …

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 The Chat with Cicely Belle Blain

The Chat with Cicely Belle Blain

By Trevor Corkum

This week on the Chat, we’re in conversation with Cicely Belle Blain, author of the forthcoming poetry collection Burn …

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Book Cover Indians on Vacation

Most Anticipated: Our 2020 Fall Fiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

New books by old favourites, sparkling debuts, and more than a few timely books about pandemics are among the titles tha …

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Book Cover County Heirlooms

Summer Eats: Kohlrabi Slaw, from COUNTY HEIRLOOMS

By Natalie Wollenberg and Leigh Nash

"I’ve always been impressed that seeds will produce all the food you need to live. It’s miraculous."

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What's YOUR Canadian bookshelf, Laura Penny?

Laura Penny

"What's YOUR Canadian bookshelf?" turns the spotlight on the shelf-lives of extraordinary ordinary Canadians. The feature begins with Laura Penny, author of Your Call is Important to Us and More Money Than Brains. Laura Penny has a PhD in Comparative Literature, a MA in Theory and Criticism, and a BA in Contemporary Studies and English. She has worked as a bookstore clerk, a student activist, a union organizer, a university instructor, and her writing has appeared in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Saturday Night, and Toronto Life. She lives in Halifax, where she teaches at Mount Saint Vincent University.

I read grossbuckets for both my jobs. My professor gig requires I read and re-read a lot of great stuff and then enjoy heaps of student interpretations thereof. Writing non-fiction requires I plough through piles of research and reports and news, horrible news. Even though my work sometimes makes me go glue-eyed, I still unwind from reading by reading. I dig celebrity junk food books: Keith Richards, Tina Fey and Jay-Z all showed me a good time, in that order. I also love short stuff. Happily, Canada has a number of exceedingly talented writers who are great at packing maximum punch into minimal pages. Since I don't want to be a blog hog—and frankly, lit …

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Canadian Books on the Big Screen

For authors and publishers, it's an exciting event when a book is optioned for film or TV, and even more thrilling if it’s made into an acclaimed movie. It can also be tough, artistically speaking, because it often requires the author to step back and separate as much as possible from the book to allow the film or TV series to establish its own life and energy. Michael Ondaatje (interviewed by Willem Defoe) said of his decision to not write the film script for The English Patient:

“I spent six years writing the book, the last two years of which were spent creating the only structure I thought it could have. So to turn around and dismantle that structure and put the head where the tail was ... There’s no way I could have been objective and known what should go, what should stay.”

Ondaatje ended up being very pleased with the film, perhaps because of the distance he maintained from its production.

As of this writing, there are currently several Canadian books that have recently been optioned for film* or are in production. They include (and publishers, authors, and agents, please write us with additions!):

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The State of the Canadian Short Story in 2015

In 2011, a group of Canadian writers declared the Year of the Short Story (YOSS), “to bring short fiction the larger audience it deserves.” In the years since, in notable short story developments, Alice Munro has been awarded the Nobel Prize and Lynn Coady won the Scotiabank-Giller Prize for her book, Hellgoing. So we decided that now would be a very good time to take stock, to check in with some fine writers across the country to find out where Canadian stories are at.

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Book Cover Eating Habits

49thShelf: Does the short story still need defending? Championing? Does the short story even care?

Megan Coles: If the novel is CanLit King, then the short story is our second son; the sexy, irreverent Prince who is liable to get naked and fly fighter jets. Originality is always in need of defending as its merits aren’t readily understood and people are instinctively adverse to risk. The form is inherently daring and untamable. That’s what makes it so exciting and integral to innovative Canadian Literature. The short story is limitless: tight and expansive in the same breath, generous and ruthless in the same beat. The short story is its own champion. It can’t care in a pragmatic sense. Anxiety would inhibit which is totally counterintuitive to the form. Instead, the short story take …

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Louise Ells: Short Story Stunners

Louise Ells shares short story collections that inspired her as she wrote her own debut, Notes Towards Recovery

*****

Notes Towards Recovery comprises 21 short stories thematically linked through loss and the spaces around loss. At the centre of my stories are women who navigate holes created in their families due to distance, disappearance, dementia, divorce, or death, often reinventing themselves in the process. How do you identify yourself after losing the role by which you were defined? If you have always labelled yourself as a mother, who/what do you become when your child dies? 

Questions my characters ask include: How do we live with the knowledge that we are unable to protect from all harm the people we love? How do we confirm the truth of a matter, when the facts of an event are accessible only via a memory, which may or may not be entirely trustworthy? How do we make a choice when both options are equally difficult to imagine? What role does silence play in communication? Woven throughout the collection is the suggestion that people create identities though the telling and re-telling of their stories. 

Due to their brevity, short stories are a medium well-suited to the exploration of loss; even as I introduce a character, I am readying readers for the los …

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The Recommend: June 2017

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This month we're pleased to present the picks of Jennifer LoveGrove (Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes), Marjorie Celona (Y), Veronika Martenova Charles (The Land Beyond the Wall), Leanne Dunic (To Love the Coming End), and Danika Stone (Internet Famous).

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Jennifer LoveGrove recommends RM Vaughan's Troubled

This is a poetry collection about a love affair. About the end of a love affair. About a relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient. And the patient is the poet.

I’ve been a fan of RM Vaughan’s poetry since I first read it in the 90s, and this 2008 book has all of his characteristic ferocity, wit, and beautiful, devastating imagery. The collection depicts a dangerous, fraught, taboo relationship—one between a psychiatrist and patient. One where the patient, this time, is the poet. To say it is autobiographical would be an understatement; it is fiercely vulnerable, it is the poetry of redemption and vengeance and testimony, and it is devastating and beautiful.

Th …

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