Off the Page

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

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Book Cover Legacy of Trees

Launchpad: Legacy of Trees, by Nina Shoroplova

By Kerry Clare

"A fascinating answer to why we should care about trees in the first place." —Wayne Grady

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Eric Walters' New Book Explores the "Now Normal"

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Eric Walters' New Book Explores the "Now Normal"

By Geoffrey Ruggero

Written, published and released during a pandemic: Eric Walters defies traditional publishing norms to create a book for …

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Book Cover The Abortion Caravan

The Abortion Caravan: A Ragtag Army of the Willing

By Karin Wells

The Abortion Caravan, intent on bearding prime minister Pierre Trudeau in his den and removing abortion from the Crimina …

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

By Jennifer Byrne

Forest of Reading is Canada’s largest recreational reading program, celebrating Canadian books and authors. In the eye …

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Covers of books celebrated this spring by regional awards

Big Fiction

By Kerry Clare

Fall book season is exciting with its televised ceremonies and fancy galas, but spring is just as interesting, with regi …

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Book Cover Sister Dear

10 Unapologetically Twisted Reads

By Hannah Mary McKinnon

Ten crime reads to help you discover why authors in Canada have their own hashtag (#ReadTheNorth), and deserve a place o …

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Book Cover Murmurations

Launchpad: Murmurations, by Annick MacAskill

By Kerry Clare

Populating her poems with birdsong and murmurings of the natural world, MacAskill highlights how poets and lovers share …

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

By Erika MacNeil

This is the second pair in a series of interviews with a host of Forest of Reading authors interviewed by Erika MacNeil, …

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Book Cover One Earth

Launchpad: One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao

By Kerry Clare

This is a book to be celebrated and shared!” —Elizabeth May

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Book Cover In Veritas

Launchpad: In Veritas, by C.J. Lavigne

By Kerry Clare

“The perfect mix of incandescent writing and enthralling storytelling. C.J. Lavigne has given us something we can beli …

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Novelist Ali Bryan on Gender-Neutral Domestic Humour

Ali Bryan, author of Roost (Freehand Books).

Working in the space "hilarity and humiliation" (Todd Babiak), Roost (Freehand Books), by Ali Bryan is about family tragedy and the moments for which we hadn't planned. Roost plays with the absurd nature of forced transition, resulting in a truly laugh-out-loud debut novel, something The Toronto Star picked up on calling Bryan an "amusing writer who has mastered the voice of the self-deprecating female, amusing without being annoying."

We contacted Bryan for comment, and to ask the question, is domestic humour a many-gendered thing?

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Julie Wilson: Let's start with The Toronto Star quote. I read it and had a kind of knee-jerk reaction. Were they commenting on gender? Domestic narratives? Writers who pull from life?

First, how does humour fit into your life?

Ali Bryan: I’m fascinated by how laughter tends to evolve from a simple involuntary reaction—a baby playing peek-a-boo—to a complex coping mechanism. Charlie Chaplin said “laughter is the tonic, the relief the surcease for pain.” I love the notion of laughter as tonic. Something wet and consumable and physical. It’s hot yoga for your mental and emotional junk drawer.

Personally, I use humor as a vice to cope with the everyday. Baby spitting up milk puke on husband’s side of the bed is made funny b …

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Launchpad: The End of Me, by John Gould

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching The End of Me, by John Gould, of which Bill Gaston writes, "John Gould's skill with the short form is miraculous in the way of bonsai, the grand made to bloom within the small. And who knew death could be so wise, invigorating, playful—so richly alive?"

*****

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

A collection of 56 sudden stories—funny, sad, absurd—about mortality.

Describe your ideal reader.

Likes to wonder more than assert, and to inhabit different points of vie …

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Of Determined Rebels and Patriot Wars: Fighting for the Survival of Upper Canada

Book Cover Death of a Patriot

Don Gutteridge's latest book in the Marc Edwards Mystery series is Death of a Patriot. Here, he fills us in on the book's historical background.

*****

My fiction series, The Marc Edwards Mysteries, tells the story of Upper Canada in the 1830s and settlers’ struggles to make their lives there. The books depict settlers’ threats from not only annexationists in the United States, but also from within Upper Canada’s own governing party, the Family Compact.

Upper Canada’s Family Compact was composed of a handful of would-be aristocrats who controlled the Upper Chamber of the Legislature and were in thick with the Governor of the day (appointed from Britain). The Upper Chamber (Legislative Council) was appointed by the Compact-friendly Governor and held veto power over bills passed by the freely elected Assembly. This power was routinely abused to stop the Assembly’s reform legislation that would benefit the farmers and ordinary citizens of the province. In this way the Compact kept all the best appointments and sinecures for themselves and controlled the banking system, to the detriment of debt-ridden farmers.

Meanwhile, below the border, many American politicians were calling for the annexation of Upper and Lower Canada, and some of those in the Assembly were a …

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Finding the Formula: Robin Spano on the Art & Science of Mystery Writing

book cover death plays poker

If you dissected my brain (please don't), I'm pretty sure “writer” is not the career you would choose for me. My happy place is with numbers – with math, physics, chemistry, logic. Anything involving formulae and rules. This is what makes my world make sense, and it's the side of my brain that works without being pushed. Sudokus, for example, are much more intuitive for me than crossword puzzles.

But to excite me emotionally, give me a crossword over a Sudoku. It's more work, but there's way more reward. I've always loved reading, getting lost in a world of fiction with characters who parallel the real world but don't actually live in it. Writing fiction has always done the same-- I get to dive into a parallel reality, shape it in a combination of how I see the world and how I'd like to see it, and learn about real life by watching the characters move and play.

My logical university major was physics-- my high school favorite because it yielded maximum grades for minimal effort. Since I laboured long hair-pulling hours to get only decent grades in English and history. Even biology was too organic, not formulaic enough--why would I even contemplate pursuing writing as a career? Yeah, it was still a passion. But I also love snowboarding, and I'd never delude m …

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