Off the Page

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

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Book Cover When Raven Becomes Spider

Illustrators' Gallery: When Raven Became Spider

By [Kerry Clare]

On supernatural characters in Indigenous art and modern comic superheroes.

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Book Cover Malaika's Costume

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Respect

By [Kerry Clare]

Books about respecting differences, community, one's own self, and the earth.

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Book Cover A Bird on Every Tree

Carol Bruneau: Change Your Take on Nova Scotia Lit

By [Kerry Clare]

"This is no mere exercise in voice: this is a reflection of a writer utterly in touch with her stories—not only what t …

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The Chat With Naben Ruthnum

The Chat With Naben Ruthnum

By [Trevor Corkum]

We’re leading off the fall in conversation with Naben Ruthnum, author of Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race. Curry is pa …

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Book Cover You Are Not Needed How

Annette Lapointe: How’d We Get All the Way Out Here?

By [Kerry Clare]

The author of You Are Not Needed Now on stories whose characters are found in strange and unexpected places. 

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Book Cover Snacks

YUM! Janis Thiessen on Canadian Snack Food

By [Kerry Clare]

Hawkins Cheezies, anybody? Yes, please! 

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Logo Whistler's Writers Festival

Your Fall 2017 Literary Festival Guide

By [Kerry Clare]

We've been waiting for this all year long...

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Shelf Talkers: Back to School and Beyond

Shelf Talkers: Back to School and Beyond

By [Rob Wiersema]

For possibly the first time in this column’s history, two of our booksellers have chosen the same book.

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Book Cover The Burning Girl

A Conversation with Claire Messud

By [Kerry Clare]

The Giller Award-nominated Messud on her new book, The Burning Girl, plus quarries, teenage time, and her favourite Cana …

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Canadian Bookshelf Takes You Back to School

Yellow student-crossing sign

It’s hard to escape the allure of the Back to School season, with its new shoes, backpacks, and three-ring binders, shiny pencil cases with sharpened pencils inside, and fresh, pink, perfect erasers. Even with another month of summer still technically before us, and even though many of us aren’t even going back to school, September is still a month of yellow busses, crunchy leaves and new beginnings. The good news is that anyone can start studying via Canadian Bookshelf and the amazing array of how-to books that can be found in our virtual library.

So you want to find out How to Be a Spy. Or even more mysteriously, How to Crack the Cryptic Crossword? You can find out How to Be Happy, or at least How to Be Not Too Bad.

How to be a Spy

Heritage House Publishers has a whole line of fishing manuals, from How to Catch Trout to How to Catch Crabs, and at the end of the day there’s always How to Cook Your Catch. Back on dry land, there is How to Make a Garden, How to Get Your Lawn off Grass, and you can go to natural extremes with How to Get Your Lawn and Garden Off Drug …

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Profiling Carolyn Black: [warning: photographic evidence]

The Odious Child by Carolyn Black.

Challenge: To profile an author who is notoriously shy about being profiled in the media.

Solution: Let her suggest that she be left out of the process save for a mysterious envelope.

To know something about Carolyn Black—author of the short story collection The Odious Child (Nightwood Editions)—I should first tell you something about me personally. If all goes to plan, by the end of this piece you'll know everything yet nothing that could be tied to a PIN.

Something about me: If you let me tell your story, I'll oblige. I'm writing this from Saving Gigi at Bloor and Ossington. I don't live in this neighbourhood. I've just sent a text to a friend which reads: "Finally looking at the images Carolyn Black sent for her CSI-like author profile. Laughing too loud at toenail clippings. May have to pick me up from the precinct."

Something about Carolyn Black: Carolyn Black will palm you an envelope at a reception for the Trillium Book Awards with the express instruction not to open the envelope that contains four smaller envelopes, each housing a sample of Carolyn's body. Each sample has been photographed, albeit carefully-crafted, and stored on the flash drive Carolyn slips into your other hand. While this encounter has its beginnings—you'd anticipated the images (if …

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Six Books I'm Rereading: A List by Elizabeth Hay

Elizabeth hay

Elizabeth Hay’s latest novel is Alone in the Classroom. Her other works include Late Nights on Air, which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and has been an enormous national bestseller, as well as A Student of Weather (finalist for The Giller Prize and the Ottawa Book Award), Garbo Laughs (winner of the Ottawa Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award) and Small Change (stories). In 2002, she received the prestigious Marian Engel Award. Elizabeth Hay lives in Ottawa.

Man from the Creeks

The Man from the Creeks, Robert Kroetsch, 1998: Kroetsch’s sudden death in June made me pick up his last novel once again. I came to it for the first time a few years ago, ten years after it was published (I often come late to books) and fell in love with its tender, amused and desperate tone. What underlies the novel/adventure/yarn/love story is Robert Service’s ripping poem “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” The poem calls to the storyteller/poet in Kroetsch and the resulting 307 pages are perfect.

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On the Insidious Absence of Stories, and Bridging Ethnic Solitudes: Guest Post by Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak's debut novel, Necessary Lies, won the Amazon.com/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 2000. The Winter Palace, a novel of Catherine the Great will be published in January of 2012 in Canada, U.S., U.K., Holland, and Poland. She lives in Toronto where she is at work on her next novel about Catherine the Great.

I’m Canadian and I’m Polish. I have two internal voices in two languages that have become indelible parts of myself. I’m a North American and a European, for both cultural traditions have shaped me and both demand that I listen to their arguments. To complicate it further, I was born in Eastern or New Europe, as the lands from behind the former Iron Curtain are often called, in what Timothy Snyder, the Princeton historian of 20th century atrocities, calls the bloodlands.

I am also a writer.

Two decades ago I started writing about Polish immigrants to Canada who, like me, arrived here in the aftermath of the Solidarity crisis in search of a home. I wrote in English, not only because I was a graduate student of English at McGill, but also because English allowed me to tell these Polish stories to readers who did not share my ethnic background.

The characters of these early stories are forced to re-examine their heritage. Having left their homel …

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Sneak Peek: Brian Francis Reads from Natural Order (Doubleday Canada)

Brian Francis (Photo credit: Paula Wilson)

June 9, 2010, four intrepid writers took to the stage at The Gladstone Hotel to participate in Literary Death Match, an international touring event created by Todd Zuniga. It's good fun and not nearly as cutthroat as it sounds, just four writers reading from new or published works, then judged onstage by a panel of peers, the winner decided by a random task such as a cupcake toss or dance-off. (And, somehow, it's one of the more literary gatherings you'll hope to attend.) I had the pleasure of judging last winter's Toronto event and produced and co-hosted June's. (Look for us again this November with a special Giller des Refuses edition!)

That night, a fresh-faced, pleasantly-groomed fellow approached me to ask if it was going to fly with the audience if he read a sad passage from his upcoming novel. It was Brian Francis and this is what you need to know. The same guy who will make you cry this fall when Natural Order publishes with Doubleday Canada is the same guy who wrote the hilarious 2009 Canada Reads contender, Fruit about a boy with talking nipples and the same guy who maintains one of the most earnest blogs I've encountered in a good, long time, Caker Cooking—"from casseroles to canned corn, this is the best of the worst of mangiacake cuisine."

But, rememb …

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