Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover I Have the Right to Be A Child

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Citizenship

By [Kerry Clare]

How do you inspire kids to be good citizens? How do you launch a student’s understanding of rights and responsibilitie …

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The Chat with Governor General's Fiction Award Winner Joel Thomas Hynes

The Chat with Governor General's Fiction Award Winner Joel Thomas Hynes

By [Trevor Corkum]

Today we chat with Joel Thomas Hynes, author of the novel We’ll All Be Burnt in Our Beds Some Night. It’s this year’ …

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Book Cover I am Not a Number

Seeds of a Story: I Am Not a Number, by Jenny Kay Dupuis

By [Kerry Clare]

"I wanted to inspire all people to use Indigenous children’s literature as a means to begin to have frank, honest disc …

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Book Cover The Prisoner and the Chaplain

Michelle Berry's Hand-Sells

By [Kerry Clare]

Author of The Prisoner and the Chaplain on her favourite titles to sell at Hunter Street Books. 

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Book Cover Freedom's Just Another Word

Seeds of a Story: Part 2

By [Kerry Clare]

Nominees for the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards tell us about the places from which inspiration for their storie …

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The Chat with Governor General's Award for Drama Winner Hiro Kanagawa

The Chat with Governor General's Award for Drama Winner Hiro Kanagawa

By [Trevor Corkum]

"Indian Arm is a timely and evocative manifestation of the characters’ struggle with their relationship to the land,” …

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Book Cover I am Not a Number

2017 Seeds of a Story: Part One

By [Kerry Clare]

Nominees for the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards tell us about the places from which inspiration for their storie …

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Book Cover The Dog

Illustrator's Gallery: The Dog, by Margarita Sada

By [Kerry Clare]

The uncomplicated love and dedication of a dog can make anyone feel better. 

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The Chat with Governor General's Award for Poetry Winner Richard Harrison

The Chat with Governor General's Award for Poetry Winner Richard Harrison

By [Trevor Corkum]

We kick off our conversation with this year’s English-language Governor General’s Award winners in conversation with …

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Book Cover Tug of War

#LookItUp: Knowledge Matters

By [Kerry Clare]

"University presses offer the antidote to alternative facts and the assault on reason, and do it authoritatively and ele …

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Someone Who Writes

This week's guest post is from Angie Abdou, finalist in Canada Reads for The Bone Cage (published by NeWest Press) and author of the just released The Canterbury Trail (published by Brindle and Glass). In this post Angie speaks frankly and humourously about what happened when she discovered that the glamourous handle of "Writer" is elusive. She finds real meaning and substance in a humbler concept: she is someone who writes.

photo_angiebrock

I remember longing for the day I could call myself a Writer. I wasn’t exactly sure when that would happen, couldn’t be positive what transformative accomplishment would allow me to look in the mirror and say, “Ah, good morning Important Famous Writer Person.”

At first, I figured it would be as simple as publishing any piece of creative work. However, the momentous occasion of my first publication came and went without me feeling in the least bit transformed. Though I’d published a piece of fiction in a noteworthy and respected journal, I didn’t notice people treating me with a newfound awe, reverence, or even respect. My mom, it’s true, was quite impressed, but everyone else seemed unfazed (even as I waved said journal in their faces), and I felt more or less, well, exactly the same: self-conscious, insecure, and eager for approval. …

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Reading Lists on Canadian Bookshelf (Featuring Stacey May Fowles!)

In these days of overstimulation, distraction, and time constraints, finding ways to downsize and simplify feels pretty good. Maybe that’s why we love lists so much.

Lists of things to do or check out are oases in the midst of information chaos—especially when they’re made by people we admire and trust. When they include ten or so items, they are soothingly finite and doable—easy to bookmark, act upon, and feel excited about investigating. Just think of playlists from industry insiders (e.g., Kate Carraway’s mixtape, CHICKS, for the new Burner Magazine), awards shortlists, or numbered magazine cover lines.

Lists can provide a helpful and meaningful filter for search activities, which is why we’re making Recommended Reading Lists a prominent feature on Canadian Bookshelf. There will be lists by Canadian Bookshelf editors, lists readers create, and lists contributed by writers and subject experts. For example, here’s a list we’ve just received from one of Canada’s hottest new authors, Stacey May Fowles (author of Fear of Fighting and Be Good):

Unconventional Heroines, Lives, and Loves
A Reading List by Stacey May Fowles

Bottle Rocket Hearts, Zoe Whittall

A refreshing take on the typical coming-of-age narrative, Whittall submerges us in the frantic, y …

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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.

storecouch

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 litt …

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Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence by Sarah Leavitt

SarahLeavitt

We are honoured that our first Canadian Bookshelf guest post is by none other than Sarah Leavitt, author of the much-celebrated graphic memoir Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me (Freehand Books). Sarah is an avid reader of graphic novels as well as a breakout star in the genre, and here she reviews three penned by fellow Canadians.

Canadian Comics: War, Hockey, Old Men, and Silence

This winter I unintentionally took up the Salon challenge mentioned in the post below: to read outside my comfort zone.
 
I’d realized how unfamiliar I was with the cartoonists of my own country; all my idols were foreigners: Lynda Barry, Jules Fieffer, Art Spiegelman, Kim Deitch, Marjane Satrapi, David B, Joann Sfar. Recently I’ve been particularly obsessed with Lynda Barry and Aline Kominsky Crumb, along with Mary Fleener and other women from the Twisted Sister collections. These cartoonists’ books are well within my comics comfort zone: stories about weird outsiders, mostly women, told with panels full of scratchy lines and dark drawings, rants and yells and sound effects.
 
Discovering my Canadian favourites was like leaving a dark, smoky, overheated party and stepping outside into a silent snow-covered night.
 
It’s not like there aren’t any Canadian …

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Slow Down, We Move Too Fast

iStock_000004320069Small

That Shakespearian Rag’s Steven W. Beattie wrote a nice post Jan 4th, A TSR reading challenge for 2011, that identified and challenged a certain part of the literary zeitgeist we’ve been noticing as well: literati counting and publicizing how many books they’ve read over the year. Whatever the intention, the effects of this trend can be to make other readers cast doubts about their own dedication to books and/or to provoke a competitive spirit and sense that more reading = better reader. Neither is particularly positive, and both feel like unfortunate symptoms of the pressure-cooker, media-gobbling culture we work and live in today.

Reading used to be an escape from the daily grind, not an additional to-do, and Beattie proposes a lovely challenge to readers in 2011 that aligns the habit again with this rightful function:

“Instead of pledging to read more this year, why don’t we all try to read better: to be more sensitive, expansive readers, to enter more deeply into the text, to actively engage with books on an intellectual, aesthetic, and linguistic level. Let’s try to focus less on the quantity of our reading and more on the quality. Who knows? By slowing down a bit, you might even find you’re enjoying yourself more.”

One commenter to the post, B. …

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