Off the Page

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

Latest Blog Posts
Book Cover the Changeling of Fenlen Forest

Misfits, Marvelous Worlds and Magical Creatures in YA Fantasy

By Katherine Magyarody

Adventures don’t just happen to princesses and Chosen Ones…they also happen to lone wanderers and misfits.

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Book Cover I Keep the Land Alive

Reading Beyond Earth Day

By Kerry Clare

Happy Earth Day! These books celebrate nature and the wonders of the world around us, underlining why it matters so much …

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Books to Spark Inquiry and Design Thinking

Books to Spark Inquiry and Design Thinking

By Allison Hall

Design thinking can take students to many different end results: a tangible product or invention, a virtual design, or a …

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Book Cover Smells Like Stars

The Space Between

By Kerry Clare

Books that challenge binary and complicate matters in the most interesting and useful ways.  

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The Chat with Téa Mutonji

The Chat with Téa Mutonji

By Trevor Corkum

Vivek Shraya launched her imprint VS. Books with Arsenal Pulp to highlight bold work by new and emerging Indigenous or B …

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Book Cover These Are Not the Potatoes

26 Books to Celebrate for Poetry Month

By 49th Shelf Staff

Featuring highlights from amazing new poetry being published this spring. 

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Book Cover War / Torn

War/Torn Identities

By Hasan Namir

A recommended reading list from the author of the new poetry collection, War / Torn

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Book Cover The Centre of the Universe

How an Email to an Astrophysicist Changed My (Book’s) Life

By Ria Voros

YA Author Ria Voros explains how two literary worlds collided—and tells the amazing story of what happened next. 

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Book Cover The Case of Windy Lake

Farley Mowat, Comics, SciFi and Manitoba

By Michael Hutchinson

A recommended reading list by Michael Hutchinson, whose Mighty Muskrats middle grade series launches with The Case of Wi …

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Choose Kindness! Kids Books that Explore This Crucial Value

Choose Kindness! Kids Books that Explore This Crucial Value

By Sarah Campbell

As parents, teachers, librarians, family, and friends, we want to raise children who know how to be kind. Reading allevi …

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Robert J. Wiersema on the Springsteen songs that don't appear in his mixtape-memoir Walk Like a Man.

Book Cover

Please join Canadian Bookshelf host Julie Wilson (aka Book Madam) in conversation with her chum Robert J. Wiersema as they talk about coming of age and the soundtracks of their youths. Rob's mixtape heavily features Bruce Springsteen, the subject of his latest book Walk Like a Man (D & M Publishers); Julie realizes she has a lot of Enya on vinyl and a worn out cassette of Bronski Beat's The Age of Consent.

When: Tuesday, September 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Ben McNally Books, 366 Bay St., Toronto, ON

RSVP on Facebook

And now, a few words from Rob:

I've come to realize over the past couple of books that writing is at least as much about what you cut out, and what is not written, as it is about what actually appears on the printed page. Suffice it to say, I learned this the hard way.
I don't feel so bad about writing long and editing back, though, when I remember that Bruce Springsteen wrote and recorded more than seventy songs for the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. He left sixty plus on the cutting room floor; the remaining ten songs comprise what might just be a perfect album.


With my book Walk Like a Man, I didn't overwrite. (Well, no more than normal, I suppose. After all, what's twenty thousand words between friends?) Given the nature of the book—short essa …

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What I Read on my Summer Vacation: Guest Post by Andrew Larsen

Andrew Larsen (in a hat!)

As a stay at home dad, it’s never easy to carve out time to write. Summer presents a whole new set of challenges. This past summer I was able to do some writing in the very early morning, before the rest of the house was awake. On the whole, however, my kids’ summer vacation meant that I had to take a vacation from writing. So, instead, I read. What a treat! I so seldom get a chance to read. And with the beginning of the new school year I resolve to read even more. Meanwhile, here are some of my recently read favourites:

Chapter Books

Banjo of Destiny by Cary Fagan:

Quirky and delightful, Cary Fagan’s Banjo of Destiny tells the story Jeremiah Birnbaum. Jeremiah is the unconventional child of wealthy parents who appears to have it all. In fact, it all counts for nothing. The greatest thing he has is his passion to learn to play the banjo. Overcoming numerous hurdles, to say nothing of his foolish parents, Jeremiah follows his heart and discovers that he is capable of creating much more than just good music.

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In Conversation With: Julie Booker on photography and how to frame a story. (cc: @houseofanansi)

Julie-Booker-author-of-Up-Up-Up

I recently met up with Julie Booker, author of the short story collection Up, Up, Up (House of Anansi). After an hour of talking, we realized we'd stumbled upon an interesting topic, how to match the right storytelling tools to the right story. In particular, I was interested in Julie's travel photography. We decided to pick up the chat here, and what begins as a conversation about photography becomes a pleasantly-meandering exploration into how we gather our stories, place ourselves within them, and ultimately decide what to keep and what (and how) to share the rest.

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Julie Wilson: A few months ago, I learned that you're an accomplished photographer. When I first saw your photos, I said to your husband, Denis De Klerck (Mansfield Press), "I didn't know Julie's a photographer." He replied, "I don't know that she thinks of herself as one." I thought it was interesting, that artistic talent is not necessarily akin to artistic pursuit. Or, possibly, it's a matter of using the right tools for the right story. So, let's begin there. Is photography a way to document your travels or a frame in which to tell the stories of your travels?

Julie Booker: I began travelling alone in my 20s because I wanted to bust out of my small, safe life. I started with a few summers backp …

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Books with Old Folks (by Brian Francis)

Brian Francis (Photo credit: Paula Wilson)

"I’ve never met a senior citizen I didn’t like. Cranky, kind, loud-mouthed, timid, I don’t really care. They’re always fascinating to me. In my new book, Natural Order, I’ve indulged my love of seniors with a host of elderly characters. Here are some other CanLit novels that also feature old folks."

BRIAN FRANCIS' first novel, Fruit, was a 2009 Canada Reads finalist. He has worked as a freelance writer for a variety of magazines and newspapers. In 2000, Francis received the Writers' Union of Canada's Emerging Author Award. He lives in Toronto.

Exit Lines by Joan Barfoot

"Honest to God, we’re just old, we’re not morons.”

Barfoot’s 2008 novel was many things: funny, sad, honest and pointed. Set in a retirement lodge, Exit Lines centres around four residents who find an ability to bond with one another in surroundings that would challenge the best of us. In spite of that (or because of it), they discover the preciousness of their own lives.

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Newfangled Styles for Newfangled Lives: Guest Post by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Tanya Lloyd Kyi lives in Vancouver with her husband and children. Her most recent book, 50 Underwear Questions (Fall 2011), takes an amusing look at the role underwear has played through the ages. The Blue Jean Book (2005) is the story of denim’s rise from its origins with hardscrabble miners and cowboys to its popularity among laborers, rebels, and the incurably hip. An updated version, including comic-style illustrations, has been published in 2011 under the name The Lowdown on Denim.

I’m a pop culture idiot. When my husband quotes old TV shows, I stare at him blankly. When my friends play “name that tune,” I lose every time. My knowledge of brand names is pitiful and fashion labels are a lost cause.

It’s not my fault (or so I tell myself). We didn’t have cable until halfway through elementary school. Our truck had an eight-track player. There wasn’t a mall or movie theatre within an hour’s drive. When my cousin visited from Vancouver and brought a Weird Al Yankovic cassette, it was like she’d arrived from another planet. (A cool planet.)

I’m not exaggerating. My town was so remote, we were wearing 1980s hairstyles well into the 90s. I’d prove it, but my grad photos spontaneously combusted, due to excess Ice Mist.

So, when my publisher sugges …

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