Off the Page

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

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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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Book Cover See you On the Internet

Avery Swartz on How to Win with Digital Marketing

By Kerry Clare

Avery Swartz on why digital marketing matters now, what she's learned from her own missteps, and special advice for publ …

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Book Cover Grandmother School

Launchpad: Grandmother School, by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney

By Kerry Clare

"How great a treat it will be to read this book in a grandmother’s lap."

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Kidsbooks' Owner Phyllis Simon on Matching Children Up With the Right Books

Visiting a good children’s bookstore, especially but not only when you have kids of your own, is an instant mood booster and occasion for awe. A combination of impressive stock, ingenious store layout including play/explore areas for kids, and friendly, knowledgeable staff can make such a bookstore a favourite family destination for years—a local and cultural institution.

Vancouver is lucky enough to have Kidsbooks, which former librarian Phyllis Simon opened in 1983 in Kitsilano, and which now includes three locations, an online storefront, and a co-partner, Kelly McKinnon.

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Kidsbooks' lounge area (Kitsilano location)

Kidsbooks is famous for its incredible, elaborate window displays (people still talk about their “Hogwarts” storefront façade that celebrated the release of the fourth HP book) and insightful staff experts who specialize in tracking down exactly the right book for a particular child. This discovery and selection service is an amazingly important service when you consider how one book—or a suite of books—can turn a child onto reading forever, and conversely, how not finding the right reading materials can convince them that they’d rather sleep in an outhouse than curl up with a book.

Canadian Bookshelf asked Kidsbooks’ Phyllis Simon a li …

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Interview with a video wrangler: Jen Knoch, on keeping her city reading

Jen Knoch runs the Keeping it Real Book Club, and Keeps Toronto Reading (in conjunction with the Toronto Public Library’s April campaigns) by curating a series of one-minute video pitches by avid readers for their favourite books. We were interested to discover just how a library patron becomes partner in a literacy campaign, and to find out why Jen can’t get enough of these video book recommendations.

Jennifer Knoch

CB: You've written before about the great relationship you have with the Toronto Public Library. But how did you become their Keep Toronto Reading video wrangler?

JK: I think I just sort of just fell into it. Kismet perhaps? When I came across the Keep Toronto Reading campaign last year I thought it was wonderful, and totally in line with the mandate of my book club-cum-blog, which emphasizes offering passionate recommendations for books you love. I'd just come off doing one-minute video pitches for the CBC for Canada Reads, so I was feeling pretty comfortable with the medium (and with pressuring others into doing using it).

So I decided to try and get enough people to make video recommendations that I could release one a day for all of April. Not long after I declared my intentions, Ab from the TPL got in touch and said they'd like to feature the videos …

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In Conversation With: Tony Burgess

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A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a patio when a gentleman, back lit by an early-summer sun, approached my table to boast that he recognized me from the back of my head. I shaded my eyes, Tony Burgess coming into view. "I recognize you from the front of your head," I (may have) replied, and he settled in with us for the duration of our stay. I quite liked his company. My only other dealings with Tony have come in late hours in the form of Facebook messages that read like non sequiturs. He's a prolific creator across genre and form, a master at drawing discomfort from the reader and one of the more truly interesting characters you'll have the pleasure to meet.

For my first interview as Host of Canadian Bookshelf, I hope you'll enjoy our get-to-know-you banter. I guess it's true that books really are the social object around which readers converse.

Julie Wilson: A friend recently told me of a dating site in which members are asked, alongside other questions, how they feel about horror films. Seems this is a huge signifier in terms of compatibility between prospective mates. Come to think of it, the first time I saw you from afar you were covered in fake blood at the opening party for The Scream in High Park. What's your relationship to violence and gore? Are you les …

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In Conversation With: Suzanne Desrochers (Bride of New France, @penguincanada)

06_22_bride_of_new_france

I met Suzanne Desrochers (Bride of New France, Penguin Group Canada) in a carpool en route to an event in Uxbridge hosted by Blue Heron Books. Suzanne sat in the front. I sat in the back. Over the sweet music remix provided by publicist Barbara Bower, we shouted back and forth about a variety of topics: England. Agents. Babies. On the return trip, we sat together in back, talk turning to, well, England. Agents. Babies. Back in our usual corners, I asked Suzanne if she'd like to expand a bit on some of the comments from the evening's panel: traversing the divide between academic writing and fiction, unveiling previously hidden historical figures, and a day in the life of one writer with kid and another on the way. Hurrah for us, she agreed, and I think you'll enjoy the chat.

Julie Wilson: I recall reading somewhere something to the fact that the longer a scientist works in the field the more likely he or she is to ascribe to one faith or another because there comes a time when one simply cannot reason away every discovery. I recently had the pleasure of seeing you speak on a panel about memoir and family history and this sprang to mind again. All three authors on the panel—you, Camilla Gibb and Susanna Kearsley—come either out of an academic background, in whi …

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In Conversation With: Trevor Cole (Practical Jean, @McClellandBooks)

Trevor Cole

Trevor Cole is the author of three novels. The most recent is Practical Jean, which was short-listed for the Rogers Writer's Trust Fiction Prize and recently won the 2011 Leacock Medal for Humour. (Read an excerpt on our shelf.)

Cole is also the creator of AuthorsAloud.com, a website dedicated to presenting short audio readings by Canadian poets and authors of literary fiction. With over 100 published writers represented on the site, those who know my penchant for podcasting will appreciate how happy I was to have the chance to chat with Trevor about performance, collecting voices and, as it happens, Pop Rocks.

Julie Wilson: AuthorsAloud gathers recordings from Canadian fiction writers and poets. The purpose is both to offer a space to writers in which to perform their work and to introduce readers to authors outside of a retail environment. It's an aural treat. As someone who's been recording poets for a number of years and has just started soliciting submissions for "Writers Reading Recipes"—enjoy Trevor's rendition of "Cranberry-Orange Relish" by John Engels—I feel you and I are intimately aligned in our appreciation for performance. To create an online presence dedicated to curating and building a library is a dedicated feat. There must have been a moment i …

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