Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
The Chat with Kathy Page

The Chat with Kathy Page

By [Trevor Corkum]

The tender story of a decades-long marriage, Dear Evelyn explores how time transforms our most intimate relationships.

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Book Cover Neighbourhood

12 New Books on Community Connections

By [Kerry Clare]

Our focus on community connections continues with this cross-genre list of twelve recent books that delve into community …

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The Chat with Harold R. Johnson

The Chat with Harold R. Johnson

By [Trevor Corkum]

In our first conversation of 2019, we chat with acclaimed writer Harold Johnson, author of the genre-bending memoir Clif …

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Book Cover Bad Ideas

Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2019 Fiction Preview

By [Kerry Clare]

The first half of 2019 promises glorious literary delights.

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Shelf Talkers: Books for Christmas Eve Shoppers

Shelf Talkers: Books for Christmas Eve Shoppers

By [Rob Wiersema]

"You’re an indie bookseller, the best of the best.

You work before dawn, you work without rest.

You’ve read all the bo …

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Pile of Books Christmas Tree Ornament

Happy Holiday Reading from 49th Shelf

By [Kerry Clare]

Happy holidays, and we're looking forward to sharing all kinds of excellent books with you in 2019.

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Book Cover Deep Underwater

Picture Books are for Everyone: A Holiday List

By [Kerry Clare]

Not just for kids anymore. Readers of all ages will appreciate this selection of some of the most wonderful picture book …

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Book Cover Out of Old Ontario Kitchens

Books for the Holidays

By [Kerry Clare]

Cookbooks, art books, books on gardening, and flowers: gorgeous books make great gifts. 

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The Chat with Alex Leslie

The Chat with Alex Leslie

By [Trevor Corkum]

We All Need to Eat is a spectacular collection, full of powerful stories that centre around Soma, a queer woman on the W …

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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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6 New Canadian books about the Titanic

While images of Leonardo di Caprio decorating its bow have at times threatened to overwhelm the story of the Titanic, that unsinkable ship that sank remains an object of fascination. In the century since the disaster, its story has been told countless times in books and films and even campfire songs, and now we can add to that a whole slew of new Canadian books that have just been published to mark the Titanic’s centenary this week.


Impact: The Titanic Poems by Billeh Nickerson: Perhaps poetry is what the Titanic required for the legend to be rid of its cinematic grandiosity. Nickerson has written his poems with an eye for detail, the ship itself already a ghost from the book’s start to its finish, but every single one of its rivets (and the men who built them) are rendered in remarkable specificity. So too are the passengers, crew and other details Nickerson brings back to life—the piano player who could only watch as his band played on, the woman whose last sign of her husband is the bruise he left on her arm as he pushed her into the lifeboat without him, somebody’s lucky penny drifting in the sea. Read an excerpt here.

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The Shadow in the Mirror: Guest Post by Lauren B. Davis

Book Cover Our Daily Bread

At a dinner party recently, someone brought up the topic of Israel and Palestine. Within moments, an educated and well-traveled individual I’ll call Joe stated Israel is a much-maligned island of moral purity in a sea of barbaric, immoral hatred. Israel, he said, has committed no atrocities, done nothing illegal or unethical, whereas the enemies of Israel have slaughtered children in untold numbers and desire only to drive Jews into the sea.

“And what,” I asked, “would Israelis like to do to Palestinians?”

“They have to go,” Joe said, eyebrows bristling in my direction.

I asked if it wasn’t possible both sides had more in common than not. After all, they are descendants of Abraham, they believe in the One God, they consider Jerusalem a holy city, and they would perhaps even like to live in peace, to tend their olive trees, to laugh with their children.

“No,” Joe insisted, “they are not like us. It’s a fallacy that if people get to know each other they like each other better. Often they like each other less.”

“Familiarity breeds ferklempt?” I asked.

There was some laughter at that but Joe still believed his side was right, the other side was wrong, whereas I tend to agree with Robert Benchley, who said, “There are only two kinds of people i …

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