Off the Page

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

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: A New Way to Celebrate the Forest of Reading

By Jennifer Byrne

Forest of Reading is Canada’s largest recreational reading program, celebrating Canadian books and authors. In the eye …

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Covers of books celebrated this spring by regional awards

Big Fiction

By Kerry Clare

Fall book season is exciting with its televised ceremonies and fancy galas, but spring is just as interesting, with regi …

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Book Cover Sister Dear

10 Unapologetically Twisted Reads

By Hannah Mary McKinnon

Ten crime reads to help you discover why authors in Canada have their own hashtag (#ReadTheNorth), and deserve a place o …

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Book Cover Murmurations

Launchpad: Murmurations, by Annick MacAskill

By Kerry Clare

Populating her poems with birdsong and murmurings of the natural world, MacAskill highlights how poets and lovers share …

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COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

COVID–19 Teacher Diary: Time to Slow Down, with Deborah Ellis & Richard Scrimger

By Erika MacNeil

This is the second pair in a series of interviews with a host of Forest of Reading authors interviewed by Erika MacNeil, …

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Book Cover One Earth

Launchpad: One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao

By Kerry Clare

This is a book to be celebrated and shared!” —Elizabeth May

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Book Cover In Veritas

Launchpad: In Veritas, by C.J. Lavigne

By Kerry Clare

“The perfect mix of incandescent writing and enthralling storytelling. C.J. Lavigne has given us something we can beli …

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Book Cover See you On the Internet

Avery Swartz on How to Win with Digital Marketing

By Kerry Clare

Avery Swartz on why digital marketing matters now, what she's learned from her own missteps, and special advice for publ …

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Book Cover Grandmother School

Launchpad: Grandmother School, by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney

By Kerry Clare

"How great a treat it will be to read this book in a grandmother’s lap."

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Book Cover Maknho and Memory

Launchpad: Makhno and Memory, by Sean Patterson

By Kerry Clare

The story of "the Ukrainian Robin Hood."

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Marita Dachsel on Poetry by Canadian Women

Book Cover Glossolalia

Marita Dachsel's Glossolalia was released this week. Glossolalia is an unflinching exploration of sisterhood, motherhood, and sexuality as told in a series of poetic monologues spoken by the thirty-four polygamous wives of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In Marita Dachsel's second full-length collection, the self-avowed agnostic feminist uses mid-nineteenth century Mormon America as a microcosm for the universal emotions of love, jealousy, loneliness, pride, despair, and passion. Glossolalia is an extraordinary, often funny, and deeply human examination of what it means to be a wife and a woman through the lens of religion and history.

To mark International Women's Day (March 8), Dachsel shares with us a list of her favourite poetry by Canadian women writers.

Most of my favourite poetry books are written by Canadian women. Narrowing the list down to a reasonable number was difficult as we’re a lucky country to have such a wealth of talent. Ultimately, I chose eight collections that I keep returning to for inspiration, for pleasure, for comfort, for a challenge.

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Roy MacGregor on the Kids' Hockey Series The Screech Owls

Book Cover Face-Off At the Alamo

In 1992 I became a sportswriter by accident. I had been on Parliament Hill for 14 years and was in a small dispute with my editor at the Ottawa Citizen over parking. We who worked on the Hill thought the paper should pay for parking if, as the paper had stated, it no longer wished us to avail ourselves of the free media parking at the bottom of the Hill by the river.

The editor, Jim Travers, took me to lunch and told me he had solved my problem: “From now on you’ll be parking at the Civic Centre—we want you to cover the Ottawa Senators.”

But if that was happenstance, it was nothing compared to how I became a children’s author.

I had never written for children, did not read children’s books— had not read many as a child, even, as I much preferred comic books. But Doug Gibson, then publisher of McClelland & Stewart, wanted to talk to me. M&S had heard from librarians and teachers that the reasons boys did not read much was because there were few books out there on subjects that fascinated active boys. He wanted me to consider writing hockey books for kids. There hadn’t been a hockey series, he said, since Scott Young’s books some two generations back.

I thought about it. Why not try it? Trouble is, I thought in today’s hyper-active world, hockey alo …

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Susan Swan on Self-Censorship and Freeing One's Expression

Freedom to Read Week 2013 image

Throughout Canada, it's Freedom to Read Week, February 24–March 2, 2013. Presented by the Book and Periodical Council, Freedom to Read Week is "an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

We talk to Susan Swan, author, writers' advocate, and a participant in Freedom to Read, about self-censorship and some of the authors she most admires.

Julie Wilson: In Canada, we have it much better than writers in Turkey. South Sudan has just become a pilot country for the UN Plan of Action on the safety of journalists. So as a country seen from abroad as one of the most progressive in terms of free expression how does censorship to your mind play out in Canada?

Susan Swan: The Western publishing world is heavily mercantile now. Then, too, our Canadian reading audience tends to be fairly genteel. Both these factors encourage authors to write to please readers. Some of the younger writers like Sheila Heti, Natalee Caple, Stacey May Fowles,  Annabel Lyon, Karen Connelly, and Sam Bernstein (to name just a few) write original books that make you question the way you think about yourself and the world around you, and I admire that. But a lot of book …

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Three Poems by Kathryn Mockler

Book Cover The Saddest Place on Earth

About Kathryn Mockler's new poetry collection The Saddest Place on Earth: When Donald Rumsfeld briefed his press secretary on how to deal with the media, he said: 'Begin with an illogical premise and proceed perfectly logically to an illogical conclusion…They [the media] do it all the time.' Kathryn Mockler's new collection of poems applies Rumsfeld's advice to powerful poetic ends. Deeply interested in American politics and the absurdity of our mediated relation to the political sphere, the beautiful and entertaining narrative poems in The Saddest Place on Earth follow absurd premises to their most logical conclusions. Here, God appears on Oprah, Hurt Feelings and Anger rent a cottage together on Lake Huron for a week in August, and the saddest place on earth is discovered in a Chinese restaurant at the end of a stripmall. Kathryn Mockler's approach to language and the world results in an extremely engaging, moving and often hilarious poetics of deep disorientation.


I’ve got a bad case of environmentalism. I was up all night with a

sick stomach and a sore head. And this morning I had a nosebleed, but it was

an oil spill that came out instead of blood.


I hate it when that happens. I had a bird’s beak embedded in my nose like

a sliver the last ti …

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Notes from a Children's Librarian: On Real Women and Strong Girls

Sarah Ann Glover

Our Children's Librarian columnist Julie Booker brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

Sometimes a book mysteriously survives the weeding process again and again, a publication that doesn’t belong in a children’s library but is too good for the recycle bin or the Goodwill. One such text reappeared this week: The Teacher’s Manual of the Tonic Sol-Fa Method by John Curwen, copyright 1875. A sketch of a seemingly depressed Mrs. Glover points to a scroll of letters, the famous notation method which she invented. Her face is strangely masculine and sad, considering she drew thousands of young singers to her teaching method. This started me thinking about books about real women and strong girls who’ve made an impact on the world.

Book Cover No Girls Allowed

Susan Hughes’ No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure pulls together many stories of courage in an easy-to-digest format for kids. The graphic novel begins with Hatshepsut, 1800 BCE, who disguised herself in order to become a pharaoh. My favourite tale includes the …

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