Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Logo Bookstore Day

Celebrating Canadian Independent Bookstores

By [Kerry Clare]

Canadian Independent Bookstore Day is happening April 28—a day for Canadians to get out into the community and celebra …

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Book Cover Between Breaths

Books for Earth Day

By [Kerry Clare]

Fantastic books for readers of all ages and across genres, about nature, ecology, and conservation. 

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The Chat With Jessica Westhead

The Chat With Jessica Westhead

By [Trevor Corkum]

Jessica Westhead has an uncanny ability to combine humour and despair in her writing. In her latest collection, Things N …

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Book Cover The Honey Farm

A slow, creeping madness...

By [Kerry Clare]

It seems that Canadian literature is rife with stories of isolated characters and their slow creeping madnesses. And yes …

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Book Cover Yes or Nope

16 Seriously Funny Poets

By [Kerry Clare]

A totally scientific list of the funniest poets in all of Canada.

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Book Cover Surfaces

Eric Schmaltz: Reading at the Intersection of Text and Image

By [Kerry Clare]

"These books highlight the intersection of text and image to create compelling explorations of linguistic meaning-making …

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The Recommend: April 2018

The Recommend: April 2018

By [Kiley Turner]

This month we're pleased to present the picks of Shawna Lemay (The Flower Can Always Be Changing), Andrew Battershill (M …

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Book Cover the Return of Kid Cooper

Reimagining the Old West

By [Kerry Clare]

A recommended reading list by Brad Smith, who (according to Dennis Lehane) is "a writer to watch, a comet on the horizon …

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The Chat With Kevin Chong

The Chat With Kevin Chong

By [Trevor Corkum]

A modern-day story of infectious disease and rising social inequality, The Plague is Kevin Chong’s take on Camus’ cl …

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Logo National Poetry Month

Celebrating 20 Years of National Poetry Month

By [Kerry Clare]

This April, National Poetry Month is all about looking back and moving forward. It’s the twentieth anniversary of Nati …

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Karen le Billon (French Kids Eat Everything) on how to turn your picky eater into a healthy eater.

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen le Billon (HarperCollins).

Born in Montreal and based in Vancouver, Karen Le Billon is an author and teacher. Married to a Frenchman, she has two daughters, and her family divides its time between Vancouver and France.

French Kids Eat Everything (HarperCollins) is Karen’s newest book, a memoir about family and food, inspired by a year spent in her husband’s hometown—a small seaside village in Brittany.

Karen has a PhD from Oxford University, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Rhodes Scholarship, a Canada Research Chair, and Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 award. She currently teaches at the University of British Columbia.

She is one of the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation’s Real Food Advocates.

Follow Karen on Twitter: @karenlebillon and Facebook. And continue to check in with Karen on her blog.


Julie Wilson: North American children are three times as likely as French children to be obese. One of the ten French Food Rules is "No snacking." It's OK to feel hungry between meals. How is this different from the family that grazes throughout the day, eating 5-6 small meals a day?

Karen le Billon: Snacking is a hotly debated subject! Even researchers don't agree on the benefits and downsides of snacking. The French perspective (at least the official one, endorsed by Association of Fr …

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Raiders of the Lost Story: Alex Boyd on the Return of Ongoing Narrative.


I read only literature, but often turn to something closer to complete escapism for my film and television: Sci-Fi, mysteries, and lately I’ve discovered film serials. Aimed at children and youth, and told in chapters that preceded a feature film, they ran from the silent era to the 1950s, when TV episodes made them obsolete. 

The acting is very nearly always stilted, the pace frequently a little slow, and the special effects clunky, but it can be fun to watch something that isn’t quite as absurdly polished as modern action films, and they have other, interesting qualities. They’re often ongoing stories, told in 12 or 13 chapters, with cliffhangers (literal ones) at the end of each chapter to keep viewers engaged.

When television replaced serials, it was to spend decades producing interchangeable episodes that would eventually be ready for syndication five days a week in any particular order. Only recently, with people carrying home videos to watch (and presumably always able to see something from the beginning) has television returned to stories with a beginning, middle and end. And let’s face it, it’s much more satisfying. I wonder if it has anything to do with film serials having been produced in a more literate era, before television eroded reading skills, and to a certain extent our interest in evolving characters. If that’s fair to say, it bodes well that many people now seem to really prefer ongoing narratives again. I know The Simpsons is still going after …

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Why Magic? Guest Post by Buffy Cram

Book Cover Radio Belly

“…There must be possible a fiction which, leaving sociology and case histories to the scientists, can arrive at the truth about the human condition, here and now, with all the bright magic of the fairy tale.” -- Ralph Ellison in his 1953 acceptance speech for the National Book Award for Invisible Man.

When it comes to my writing, the one question I get asked more than any other is “Why magic?” The questioner has usually just finished declaring me a magic realist or a fabulist or just plain kooky and they want to know why, in such difficult times, I have chosen to write about a father and daughter transforming the Pacific Garbage Patch into the last continent after Global Warming, or a teenage girl who wakes up with a Russian radio transmitting from her belly, or a woman who watches her boyfriend disappear into thin air.

There is an undertone to the question that suggests magic is frivolous, that reality is more serious and therefore more useful to people—after all, nobody ever asks the realist writers “Why reality?” But there is another shade to the question that I’ve only recently been able to detect and only because I’ve spent the last decade living and writing in other corners of the world. There seems to be a belief, both here and abroad, that …

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Christopher Heard on the magic of luxury hotels and the stories told behind closed doors.

Christopher Heard, author of The Suite Life (Dundurn Press).

Christopher Heard, author of The Suite Life (Dundurn Press).

Christopher Heard has published biographies of Kiefer Sutherland, Britney Spears, and Johnny Depp, among others, during more than a dozen years as a TV interviewer and film reviewer for the shows Gilmour on the Arts and Reel to Real. Heard currently co-hosts the radio travel show Planes, Trains and Automobiles and contributes weekly pop culture commentary to Bynon's Toronto Weekend. He lives in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter at @AuthorCHeard.

I studied film and television in university, then production in college, before returning again to college to complete a post graduate certificate in Creative Book Publishing. I like stories, more so the storied people who tell them. So it was a personal thrill to interview Christopher Heard — biographer, reviewer, interviewer — about his latest book The Suite Life: The Magic and Mystery of Hotel Living (Dundurn Press), which is chock full of  personal and celebrity anecdotes about the endearing appeal of hotel life.

Julie Wilson: "With each new hotel experience I lived and each new hotel story I was told, another fibre was added to the fabric of my desire and dream to live in a hotel." 

You've con …

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Excerpts from Billeh Nickerson's Impact: The Titanic Poems

Excerpts for 49th Shelf from Impact: The Titanic Poems by Billeh Nickerson.  Published by Arsenal Pulp Press (2012).




One passenger believed it was her husband,

the ship’s jolt just another expression of their love.

Others thought it was an earthquake

or a mishap in the galley—

a runaway trolley, a stack of fallen dishes.

The baker wasn’t sure what happened

though he hoped his loaves would not fall.


While airtight after airtight compartment filled,

a second-class passenger ordered his drink

with chunks from the berg.

A small child sucked pieces of ice

as if they were candies,

and her brothers scraped up snowballs,

their mother worried only

they could lose an eye.




Unlike his musician compatriots

whose instruments could be carried on deck


the ship’s piano player could only watch

as his band mates played on.


At first he just swayed to the music

then tapped his feet and hummed


but he couldn’t withstand

the ache to play along


even without a sound

his hands slipping from gloves,


his cold fingers

tickling the air, ghost-style.




By chance the Carpathia’s wireless operator

kept his headphones on

while undressing before bed


and in what should have been the last moments

of his long shift, he overheard messages

destined for the great ship.


Come at once.

We have struck an ice berg.

It’s C.Q.D., Old Man.


When her Captain learned of the disaster,

he ordered heating and hot water turned off

to conserve as much steam as possible,


so that her passengers,

scheduled for sunny G …

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