Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Memoir Conversations and Craft

Dazzling Memoirs

By Marjorie Simmins

Marjorie Simmins, author of MEMOIR: CONVERSATIONS AND CRAFTS, recommends her dream lineup of memoirs.

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For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

For Fans of Grisham, Munro, Wolitzer, Shriver, and More

By Kiley Turner

Isn't it great when you find a new author or series that fits your reading taste to a tee? Here are a few new books that …

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Book Cover Big Reader

A Taster: Spring 2021 Nonfiction Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

Life stories, family, baseball, and retreat. These highlight the nonfiction we're most looking forward to this spring. 

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ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

ICYMI: Don't Miss These Beauties

By Kiley Turner

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our attention spans, making it possible to miss really great fiction. These books caug …

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Book Cover Small Courage

Small Courage: Parenting Memoirs

By Jane Byers

A recommended reading list by Jane Byers, whose new queer parenting memoir is out now.

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The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

The Chat with Kimiko Tobimatsu

By Trevor Corkum

Author Kimiko Tobimatsu and illustrator Keet Geniza have teamed up to create Kimiko Does Cancer, a timely graphic memoir …

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Book Cover Best Canadian Poetry 2020

A Record of Literary History: Best Canadian Poetry 2020

By Marilyn Dumont

An excerpt from Marilyn Dumont's introduction to BEST CANADIAN POETRY 2020.

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Book Cover Book of Donair

The Donair: Canada's Official Food?

By Lindsay Wickstrom

Excerpt from BOOK OF DONAIR explores how a bitter rivalry between Halifax and Edmonton helped propel the donair to be de …

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Book Cover My Ocean is Blue

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Questions, Questions

By Julie Booker

Great picture books that engage with questions and encourage readers to think about answers.

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Book Cover Gutter Child

Most Anticipated: Our 2021 Spring Fiction Preview

By 49thShelf Staff

Exciting debuts, and new releases by Christy Ann Conlin, Pasha Malla, Eva Stachniak, Jael Richardson, and more.

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In Conversation With: Brian Busby on John Glassco and the Pleasures of Reviving Forgotten Literary Traditions


Recently, I was visiting a friend. It was getting late in the day and she offered to make us dinner.

"What would you like to eat?" she asked.

"Whatever you put in front of me," I replied.

The same can be said of my gig as Host at Canadian Bookshelf, the foreknowledge that my reading interests are going to expand in ways I can't begin to imagine, and that's just how I like it.

Case in point, I was thrilled when McGill-Queen's University Press responded to our initial call for author interviews with the suggestion that I might like to chat with Brian Busby, curator of The Dusty Bookcase: A Very Casual Exploration of the Dominion's Suppressed, Ignored and Forgotten and author of Character Parts: Who's Really Who in CanLit and A Gentleman of Pleasure: One Life of John Glassco, Poet, Translator, Memoirist and Pornographer. The more I read, the more I thought, "I can't wait to see what ends up on my plate."


Julie Wilson: In a recent interview with Trevor Cole about his podcast performance archive AuthorsAloud, I asked if he had a compulsion to both collect the voices he curates for the project. There's a pride in having all those recordings in one place and it serves a unique purpose by housing short readings by Canadian poets and fiction writers. Your blog—The …

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Robert J. Wiersema on the Springsteen songs that don't appear in his mixtape-memoir Walk Like a Man.

Book Cover

Please join Canadian Bookshelf host Julie Wilson (aka Book Madam) in conversation with her chum Robert J. Wiersema as they talk about coming of age and the soundtracks of their youths. Rob's mixtape heavily features Bruce Springsteen, the subject of his latest book Walk Like a Man (D & M Publishers); Julie realizes she has a lot of Enya on vinyl and a worn out cassette of Bronski Beat's The Age of Consent.

When: Tuesday, September 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay St., Toronto, ON

RSVP on Facebook

And now, a few words from Rob:

I've come to realize over the past couple of books that writing is at least as much about what you cut out, and what is not written, as it is about what actually appears on the printed page. Suffice it to say, I learned this the hard way.
I don't feel so bad about writing long and editing back, though, when I remember that Bruce Springsteen wrote and recorded more than seventy songs for the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. He left sixty plus on the cutting room floor; the remaining ten songs comprise what might just be a perfect album.

With my book Walk Like a Man, I didn't overwrite. (Well, no more than normal, I suppose. After all, what's twenty thousand words between friends?) Given the nature of the book—short es …

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Biographer Sandra Djwa Talks About Journey With No Maps: A Life of P. K. Page

Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page, by Sandra Djwa.

Journey with No Maps (McGill-Queen's University Press) is the first biography of poet P. K. Page. The product of over a decade's research and writing, the book follows Page as she becomes one of Canada's best-loved and most influential writers. "A borderline being," as she called herself, Page recognized the new choices offered to women by modern life but followed only those related to her quest for self-discovery.
The book is shortlisted for 2013 The Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction, to be announced March 4, 2013. It's author, Sandra Djwa, talks to 49th Shelf about the process of charting a map of an intensely private, yet revered, personality. An excerpt follows the chat.

P. K. Page, considered one of Canada's most beloved poets, is the author of more than a dozen books, including poetry, a novel, short stories, essays and books for children. Awarded a Governor General’s Award for poetry (The Metal and the Flower) in 1954, the BC Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary excellence in 2004, and appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1999, Page was also shortlisted twice for the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize, in 2003 for Planet Earth, and posthumously for Coals and Roses in 2010. A two-volume edition of Page's collected poems, The H …

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Elspeth Cameron on Writing Lives and Aunt Winnie

Book Cover Aunt Winnie

Elspeth Cameron is an award-winning biographer and memoirist, and she blurs the two genres in her latest book Aunt Winnie. Winnie Cameron, Elspeth's aunt, was born in Seattle, raised briefly in Dawson City, and then moved to Toronto to live in Rosedale with her family in the 1910s. Over the course of her life, she saw the city change from one dominated by the English and Scotish immigrants, horse-drawn buggies, to a multicultural city where the car reigned supreme. But Winnie wasn't able to keep up with the times: she remained a perpetual debutante, and eventually became a bankrupt, unable to cope with the demands of her changing times.

Elspeth Cameron talked to us about her book, Toronto in the early 20th century, the difference between men's and women's archives, and about how a biography takes shape. 


49th Shelf: Your Aunt Winnie skirted the edges of history in some fascinating ways—her early life in Dawson City during the Gold Rush and that dance with the Prince of Wales, for example. But you make clear that she was never of her history, always just outside of what was happening around her. What made her a compelling biographical subject anyway, beyond your close personal relationship with her?

Elspeth Cameron: I actually see her at the centre of some thin …

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Elaine Lui on the Big Love Driving Listen to the Squawking Chicken

ElaineLui_cr Dexter Chui

As a years-long devotee of Elaine Lui's world-famous gossip and entertainment blog, Lainey Gossip, I read her debut book, Listen to the Squawking Chicken, the moment I could. The book is aptly described on its jacket as "a mother-daughter memoir that will have readers laughing out loud, gasping in shock, and reconsidering the honesty and guts it takes to be a parent."

The book works on several levels—some serious, some funny, many surprising, and all dauntless—and Lui agreed to answer some of my questions about this. 

(Photo credit: Dexter Chew)


KT: Theory: Listen to the Squawking Chicken is at once a love story, a biography, a a Feng Shui 101 course, a drama, a comedy, and a memoir.

Elaine Lui: This is mostly correct, although I’d like to clarify that it’s not so much a Feng Shui 101 than it is a very selective introduction to it. Feng Shui is very complicated, very nuanced, and sometimes very secretive. And I would never want to misrepresent myself as an expert in the practice. Bad things can happen when Feng Shui is used for dark purpose …

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