Off the Page

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

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Book Cover This Is All a Lie

Tacit Permissions: Literary Goals Beyond One's Grasp

By [Kerry Clare]

A list by Thomas Trofimuk, whose This Is All a Lie has been called "a powerful, dazzling accomplishment.” 

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Book Cover Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Lianne Oelke on Strong YA Narrators

By [Kerry Clare]

Leanne Oelke, author of Nice Try, Jane Sinner, recommends amazing YA novels that are unabashedly Canadian. 

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The Chat with Carleigh Baker

The Chat with Carleigh Baker

By [Trevor Corkum]

Next up on The Chat, we speak to Carleigh Baker, author of the sensational short story collection Bad Endings, a finalis …

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The Chat with Ahmad Danny Ramadan

The Chat with Ahmad Danny Ramadan

By [Trevor Corkum]

We begin The Chat in 2018 with a conversation with Ahmad Danny Ramadan, author of the stirring debut novel The Clothesli …

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Book Cover The Figgs

Most Anticipated: Our 2018 Spring Fiction Preview

By [Kerry Clare]

Here are the books that will be rocking CanLit in the first half of 2018. 

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Book Cover We All Love the Beautiful Girls

Our Holiday Reads

By [Kerry Clare]

Happy Holidays! Here are the books the 49thShelf.com team will be reading during the break. 

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Book Cover On Island

Books for the Holidays Part Three

By [Kerry Clare]

Book recommendations for all the special someones on your holiday shopping list. 

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Shelf Talkers: 2017's Must-Reads

Shelf Talkers: 2017's Must-Reads

By [Rob Wiersema]

For this year-end column, we’ve combed through the dozens of recommendations, a year of reading, to create a double-ha …

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Book Cover Whispers of Mermaids

Picture Books For the Holidays

By [Kerry Clare]

Some of our favourite books this year, titles that would make great gifts for readers of all ages.

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Book Cover Glorious and Free

Books for the Holidays

By [Kerry Clare]

Still haven't finished your shopping? Here are a few suggestions to help you cross out a couple more items on your list. …

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EXCLUSIVE PODCAST: In Conversation With Marina Endicott (The IFOA Edition)

Marina Endicott, author of Good to a Fault and The Little Shadows.

I first met Marina Endicott at the unveiling of the 2010 Canada Reads during my stint as online guest host of the CBC Book Club. We clicked immediately. She's easy with a laugh, tells a great story and is a gracious conversationalist. So, it was a pleasure to go another round with this grand dame in a hotel room overlooking the Toronto harbour while she's in town for the 2011 International Festival of Authors.

Grab a cuppa, because we yammer on for about twenty (glorious and action-packed) minutes. Topics covered include: youthful self-awareness, family theatre productions, The Partridge Family and the "matter" of literary awards. It all ends with a rousing melodramatic reading from Marina's latest novel The Little Shadows (Doubleday Canada), a particular treat because it's a passage she's never performed in front of an audience.

We begin our scene mid-conversation. Two women appear to be discussing death and dragonflies. Let's listen in, shall we?

Marina Endicott has several appearances left on her IFOA schedule. See below for all details.

Thursday, October 27, 8:00 p.m.
Fleck, A Verse Comedy
The IFOA hosts a reading of Fleck, A Verse Comedy featuring Linwood Barclay, Alan Bissett, Marina Endicott, Jim Fleck, Brian Francis, Rodge Glass, C.C. Humphreys, Helen Humph …

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Picture Books We Have Known and Loved (by Sara O'Leary)

Sara O'Leary

Right now I am the only one in my household who is the right age for picture books as both my boys have outgrown that stage, although the younger one does write them. But as first a mother, then a reviewer, and then a children’s writer I have spent an inordinate amount of time immersed in them.

After years and years of writing book reviews I have a personal library that is probably smaller than it was when I began. My attitude to books has shifted – the ones I don’t care about I get rid of and the ones that I particularly like I tend to pass on to someone else. But picture books are different.Our collection has been winnowed down over the years and several major moves, but the books we have loved are now part of the family and wherever we go, they go with us.

Here are a few of the picture books that stay with me (both literally and figuratively).

Yuck, a Love Story by Don Gillmor, Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay: I’m not putting this list in order but I am putting this one at the top, which may or may not be a coincidence. When I think about one o …

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In Conversation With: Cheryl Foggo on the Personal, Political and Creating Space for Characters of Colour in Children's Literature

Cheryl Foggo is the author of Dear Baobab, illustrated by Qin Leng (Second Story Press). Dear Baobab is about a young boy, Maiko, who moves to North America from his village in Tanzania. He begins to identify with—and converse with—a little spruce tree that grows too close to his house. Rather than destroyed, the tree is ultimately relocated to a forest with the care of Maiko and his new family. It's about displacement, adopted homes and familial support. This summer, Quill & Quire gave Dear Baobab its highly-coveted Starred Review.

I had a chance to correspond with Cheryl about her personal and political journey as a writer, and the absence of people of colour in children's lit.

Julie Wilson: I've been thinking a lot about conversations I've had of late with editors and authors about the over-saturated publishing marketplace. Are there too many books? What constitutes a "necessary" book? Is that a dangerous question to ask? I consider your latest book, Dear Baobab, necessary and essential, yet it clearly comes from a personal place. Do you consider yourself a political writer? For instance, when writing this book, were you consciously responding to an absence of stories about people of colour?

Cheryl Foggo: Although my impulse to write comes from a creative core …

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That Trying Genre: Guest Post by Susan Olding

Susan Olding

Pity the essay—so undervalued that nobody recognizes it. We pass it by without a nod, or imagine we see it in a dozen other faces. “Ah, there you are! I’ve been looking for you! We must catch up,” we say, pumping a hand or slapping a rounded shoulder, all the while checking our watch in anticipation of our next appointment. Nobody wants to read the essay. Nobody wants to buy it. It’s so unpopular that in the 2012 Canada Reads—the first nonfiction edition ever—books of essays are explicitly ruled out.

But why? What makes the form so dismissible? Traditionally, the essay has been considered a minor genre, a species of “belles-lettres.” Pretty, perhaps—but useless. Lightweight. Like a lavender-scented lace handkerchief hidden in a great-aunt’s attic. At the same time, we associate it with those silly five paragraph stumps of thought that we were made to write in school. Not to mention the fact that when we hear its name we tend to imagine a tract or a sermon or a rant—all worthy literary forms in their own right, perhaps, but no more relation to the essay than a terrier is related to a cat.

Maybe that is the real, the deeper problem. Like a cat, the essay wants to go its own way. In an unstable world, we want to know what we’re getting, and wi …

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Excerpts from The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011, guest editor Priscila Uppal, series editor Molly Peacock

The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011 is published this month by Tightrope Books.

From Priscila Uppal’s opening essay:

Cover Best Canadian Poetry 2011

“If I have a critical bias, which I suppose everyone does as much as we try to remain as objective as possible, I admire poetry that surprises and challenges, that offers a new perspective or piece of wisdom I haven’t previously considered, that interrogates and innovates poetic conventions and genres and reverses the expected, either in terms of subject matter or language or form, or provokes unconventional emotions, that welcomes other fields of knowledge and art forms and methodologies, that reminds me of something important I seem to have forgotten or puts an entirely new thought in my head, that stuns me with exquisite beauty or sadness or profundity or ecstasy, poetry with a vision—whether pessimistic or idealistic—with something at stake, something to prove, something to lose, something to gain.”

From Molly Peacock’s Introduction:

All poets are asked to define poetry—by students, by mystified readers, and by poetry initiates as well—and all poets muster their own ways to describe their own art. Yet many of us feel that the way we describe the art we practice is inadequate to the enterprise itself. The poem is a hint, a cha …

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