Off the Page

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

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Book Cover The Boat People

The Boat People: Sharon Bala's Recommended Reading List

By [Kerry Clare]

"Literature was where I found the deeper emotional truths and in the end, so many of the books of my shelves seemed to b …

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Book Cover Sugar and Snails

Most Anticipated: Our 2018 Spring Books for Young Readers Preview

By [Kerry Clare]

Amazing picture books, early-readers and middle grade, and YA titles that will delight readers of all ages.

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Book Cover Up Home

Picture Books for Black History Month

By [Kerry Clare]

A perfect opportunity to highlight these excellent books which celebrate Black heroes and Black culture. 

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Book Cover I Am Josephine

Notes From a Children's Librarian: Animal Books

By [Kerry Clare]

Great nonfiction titles to introduce "Animal Classifications," the Grade 2 science unit. 

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Book Cover Love Me True

Lesley Buxton: "Are You Still Married?"

By [Kerry Clare]

An excerpt from a new book of essays, Love Me True, which delves deep into the mysteries of long-term bonds. 

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Logo Growing Room Festival

Your 2018 Spring Literary Festival Guide

By [Kerry Clare]

Mark your calendars, everybody! Across the country, incredible festival volunteers have been conspiring to pull off amaz …

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The Chat with Canisia Lubrin

The Chat with Canisia Lubrin

By [Trevor Corkum]

Today on The Chat, a conversation with Canisia Lubrin, author of the superb debut collection of poems, Voodoo Hypothesis …

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Book Cover Happinesswise

Most Anticipated: Our 2018 Spring Poetry Preview

By [Kerry Clare]

Our Spring Preview continues with poetry, exciting debuts, new books by award-winners, and books by your favourites. 

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The Chat with Jordan Tannahill

The Chat with Jordan Tannahill

By [Trevor Corkum]

This week on The Chat, we speak to Jordan Tannahill, interdisciplinary artist and author of the much-anticipated debut n …

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Book Cover The Red Word

A #MeToo Reading List

By [Kerry Clare]

15 books to make you think more deeply about the #MeToo movement.

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Author Profile: Sierra McLean, Ten-Year-Old Grand Prize Winner of theToronto Roald Dahl Day Story Contest

roald-dahl-day-logo

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic novel, James & The Giant Peach, Small Print Toronto invited young authors between 9-12 years old to compose a short story based on the scenario: "What would happen if James discovered the Giant Peach in today’s Toronto?" The panel of judges included Kelley Armstrong, Susan Kernohan, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, Mark Medley, Evan Munday, Kevin Sylvester, Vikki Vansickle and Janet Somerville. A Toronto Roald Dahl Day celebration took place on October 23rd at The Gladstone Hotel, where Sierra McLean was announced as the grand prize winner. To read her winning entry “James Goes To The R.O.M.”, please visit the online home for YA author and blogger Kat Kruger.

I had the privilege to chat with Sierra about her writing practices and the life of this burgeoning young author.

Julie Wilson: Sierra, congratulations on winning the Toronto Roald Dahl Day Story Contest! How did you come up with your idea for "James Goes to the R.O.M."?

Sierra McLean: I didn't really come up with it until I had written most of the story. In fact, that's what I do with most stories that I write. I come up with a basic idea, and then add to it as I go along. I find it a brilliant way to do things!

Before I write a story, I always …

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Warming Winter Minds: Guest Post by Kim Anderson

Kim Anderson

Winter is a traditional storytelling time for Indigenous peoples living in North America. In the past, family members would spend their cold winter nights listening to Elders as they sat near the fire and told the stories that sustained the community. Some of these stories were every day stories, while others contained family and community laws and had strict protocols around the telling – but all contained lessons embedded in the multiple layers of meaning. Each community member, young or old took their own lesson out of the telling – lessons that would unfold and change over time.

As an urban Cree/Metis mom & writer, running as fast as everyone else in this speedy 21st century world, I don’t have the benefit of sitting with teachers by the fireplace every night. But I do have Elders that I work with, as well as books of traditional knowledge that warm and sustain me. I have recently been working with Elders for an oral history project on Indigenous masculinities, and three of the men I have interviewed are also authors. Tom Porter, Dominique Rankin and Rene Meshake share stories from their respective traditions (Mohawk, Algonquin, and Ojibway) through books in English and French, although they integrate their Indigenous languages throughout as a way of furt …

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Giller Bridesmaids: Where are they now?

What is the "Giller Effect" for those writers whose books are shortlisted for the prize? A look back at previous nominees might provide a clue, and also serve as a reminder of some great books calling out to be discovered again. NOW UPDATED FOR 2013! 

Book Cover Funny Boy

1994: Winner, M.G. Vassanji, The Book of Secrets

 Bonnie Burnard, Casino and Other Stories: Burnard would go on to win the Giller Prize in 1999 for A Good House. Her latest book Suddenly was published in 2009.

 Eliza Clark, What You Need: Clark's most recent novel is Bite the Stars (2000).

Shyam Selvadurai, Funny Boy: Selvaduri published Swimming in the Monsoon Sea in 2005, a YA novel which was nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award and won the Lamba Literary Award in 2006. His latest novel The Hungry Ghosts has been nominated for the 2013 Governor General's Award for Fiction. 

Steve Weiner, The Museum of Love: Sweet England was published in 2010, and was shortlisted for the 2011 ReLit Awards.

1995: Winner, Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance

Book Cover Piano Mans Daughter

Timothy Findley, The Piano Man's Daughter: Findley would be short …

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A Shoe in the Wall: Guest Post by Tristan Hughes

Tristan Hughes Sticks in Lake

Up here in northern Ontario the hunting season has arrived. The evidence is unmistakable: a sudden proliferation of bright orange clothing, and, in the streets and roads, people talking excitedly about ‘sign’. Stripped of its ‘s’ and turned into a collective noun, sign stands for any evidence of an animal’s presence--scat, footprints, rubbed bark, a snapped twig--and in scrutinizing it, the hunter attempts to apprehend a narrative in the landscape: a story that will tell him what an animal has been doing and so, of course, where it might be. Like any decent novelist, the hunter is trying his best to engineer encounters, to reveal something otherwise hidden, to bring disparate lives into a brief--and sometimes fatal--moment of convergence.

It all reminds me of that literary hunter and tracker par excellence: James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo. In one of the novels in which he features--The Pioneers, I think--Natty comes upon a clearing in the forest, and surveying a nearby valley finds mingled there “scenes of nature, signs of men”. It’s a resonant and memorable phrase (one of my professors at university used it as the title for an excellent book) in which the ‘sign’ on show provides proof of human settlement and occupation, and hence the basi …

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In Conversation With: Farzana Doctor on Queer, South Asian Identity and Being a Psychotherapist

farzana-doctor-2

Farzana Doctor, author of Six Metres of Pavement and Stealing Nasreen.

On one of the last summery days of early fall, I met up with Farzana Doctor in Trinity Bellwoods Park to record a short excerpt from her second novel, Six Metres of Pavement, and to eat soft cheeses and drink fermented grape juice. We were visited regularly by dogs and the threat of the odd softball. Enjoy the chat!

Julie Wilson: This past summer, you received the $4,000 Dayne Ogilvie Grant for Emerging LGBT Writer from the Writers' Trust of Canada. While the writing itself doesn't necessarily have to feature LBGT themes, the writer must identify as LGBT to be eligible. LGBT teen suicide has been in the news of late—I'll point to a Globe and Mail editorial by Melissa Carroll and Rick Mercer's recent video address, which calls foul on the It Gets Better campaign, saying it needs to be better now—so I want to ask you how important it is for you to identify openly as a queer woman. And how does it impact your craft as a writer?

Farzana Doctor: It’s always felt important for me to identify as an openly queer woman. Queer identities are still oppressed ones (and this explains why it still hasn’t “gotten better”, or at least not …

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