Off the Page

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

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Book Cover What is Long Past Occurs in Full Light


By Marilyn Bowering

“Bowering is one of our essential poets...."

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Book Cover Moles

Wild Books About the Natural World

By Rachel Poliquin

Seriously fun non-fiction for middle-grade readers.

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Books for Summer Adventures

Books for Summer Adventures

By Sarah Campbell

Summer is a time for adventures! When you’re a kid anything can be magical when school is out — whether it’s campi …

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Book Cover One Piece of String

Notes from a Children's Librarian: Drawing the Line

By Julie Booker

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

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Book Cover Float and Scurry

Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Poetry Preview

By 49th Shelf Staff

The poetry releases that are going to be making waves this autumn.

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The Chat with Derek Mascarenhas

The Chat with Derek Mascarenhas

By Trevor Corkum

Derek Mascarenhas' debut collection of short fiction, Coconut Dreams (Book*hug), explores the lives of Aiden and Ally Pi …

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Book Cover Crow

A Whisper to a Scream: Books with Compelling Narrative Voices

By Amy Spurway

"It is not just what is being said, but how."

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Book Cover Tiny Lights for Travellers

9 Great Memoirs by Women

By Naomi K. Lewis

A recommended reading list by the author of Tiny Lights for Travellers

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The Recommend for July 2019

The Recommend for July 2019

By Kiley Turner

This week we're pleased to present the picks of Arthur Slade (Amber Fang), Heather Smith (The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota' …

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Book Cover Postcards Talk

Notes from a Children's Librarian: For the Love of Snail Mail

By Julie Booker

These picture books address the epistolary form in different ways—and high inspire some writing from holiday destinati …

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Put a Bird On It

There are times that we at the Canadian Bookshelf miss the non-bookish zeitgeist boat, and so it was only quite recently that we discovered the very funny "Put a Bird on It" sketch from the television series Portlandia. The sketch is clearly onto something, however, and it's not just handbags and lampshades that have been receiving the Put a Bird Treatment lately. Many recent Canadian books have been similarly bedecked, including the usual suspects (avian guides), but also poetry books, memoirs and novels. Bird books, it turns out, aren't so rare after all, but we think they're kind of lovely.

Check out the Complete Canadian Bookshelf Put a Bird on It Books List, with some of our favourite birdish picks featured below:

Book Cover Bedside Book of Birds

The Bedside Book of Birds by Graeme Gibson








Book Cover The Crow's Vow

The Crow's Vow by Susan Briscoe








Book Cover One Bird's Choice

One Bird's Choice by Iain Reid








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Rebecca Rosenblum and Mark Sampson on loving an author, and the momentous highs (and moronic lows) of the writer's life.

Rebecca Rosenblum and Mark Sampson, writer couple.

Writers can be dissatisfied, wistful, complex. Manic, gleeful, hyperbolic. Imagine then two writers living together, day in and out. What is it like to work and live beside someone who shares your professional aspirations? What is like to love that person? I chat with Rebecca Rosenblum and Mark Sampson, writers and romantic partners, about how they make room in their household for evolving stories and stringent writing schedules.

If you're in Toronto, please join us at the launch of Rebecca's latest short story collection, The Big Dream, published by Biblioasis. Interviewed by Canadian Bookshelf's own Kerry Clare, you'll also get to catch a glimpse of two longtime friends on stage.

When: TONIGHT. Tuesday, September, 20, 7 p.m.
Where: Dora Keogh, 141 Danforth Avenue

Julie Wilson: As partners, how does your support of one another's career manifest itself? Time? Space? Personal sacrifice? First reads?

Rebecca Rosenblum: Well, whatever it takes, I guess. It's good to be able to bring a dysfunctional story, or an impersonal rejection, or whatever writing blow I've received to Mark and know I don't have to explain why it sucks. We do first read for each other sometimes--it's a little fraught, because obviously his opinion matters a lot to me and I'm more emotional reacting t …

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How to be a good creative writing student: Guest Post by Kevin Chong

Kevin Chong Photo

If you’re in a creative writing class, you will likely find yourself in a conversation with someone who insists that “writing cannot be taught.” Don’t argue with that person. Don’t talk about Gertrude Stein tutoring Hemingway in Paris, or name the many writers who come from these programs who don’t fit any set mould.

The best thing to do would be to nod agreeably. This person can’t be helped; they live in another reality. In 2011, “Can creative writing can be taught?” is a question that’s about as relevant as “Is nuclear proliferation the best way to peaceably resolve the Cold War?” or “Should I own a refrigerator?” It would be harder for anyone seeking to publish literary writing to avoid a writing workshop than to attend a class run by a university, college, or arts centre.

With this in mind, the question should be “how can I be the best creative writing student I can be?” Well, it depends. Here is some contradictory advice:

Drink a Lot. Excess seemed to work for some writers like Hunter S. Thompson and Kingsley Amis. Socializing, and the community that can arise from elbow-tipping, might take the edge off the solitude of writing.

Don’t Drink a Lot. If you wanted to be a better golfer, would you start by sleeping with hundreds of i …

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Places and Novels: Guest Post by Peter Behrens

Peter Behrens

I need to seed a book in a place. In my mind I plant the idea of the book in one very specific patch of ground and hope it will grow from there. Until I know where that patch of ground is, I'm lost and the story, the book, that I'm trying to write does not come into focus. I can’t grasp it. I have no traction on a story until I have a place.

In my novel The Law of Dreams, which is a story of the Irish Famine, I had to wrestle with the book for quite a while before I came across the place where it could be seeded. That was--guess where?--in Ireland, on a damp mountainside, in Co. Clare. A man who knew every inch of that ground as a naturalist, as a historian, and as an Irishman, was my guide that day. I’d been in Ireland many times before. I knew the country pretty well, and I wasn’t naïve about it. Ireland has always interested me as a real place, not a mystic wonderland. I feel connected there because I often see people who look like they could be my relatives; on the other hand being in Ireland always makes me very aware of being very Canadian, not Irish. So. We were tramping up and down that beautiful, quite barren piece of Connacht on a damp morning in November. I was fighting a flu which had nailed me the day after arriving in Dublin, from Los Angeles. I …

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In Conversation With: Shari Lapena on her love of wilderness adventure tales

One of the perks of this gig is that I get to invite myself into the homes of authors who offer me coffee, tea, maybe a little snack, and a good look at their bookshelves. There's always a nice chat, maybe another snack, and upon leaving I usually have an idea of how our follow up interview will unfold. In the case of Shari Lapena, I knew immediately that I'd want to know more about her love of adventure wilderness tales, which sits in opposition to her own writing style. Beyond a guilty pleasure, the impulse to return to one kind of tale, or one particular author, is a creature comfort, something that doesn't just bring us satisfaction, it roots us in a place where we feel at home in ourselves. Enjoy the chat, and Shari's short reading from her novel Things Go Flying.

Julie Wilson: Shari, thank you for having me in your home to record you reading from your 2008 novel Things Go Flying. You have a new novel out, Happiness Economics, launching September 27, at the Dora Keogh, 7 p.m. Toronto people, come on out! (Both novels are published by Brindle & Glass Publishing.)

One of the things I like about recording authors in person is the chance it offers to catch a glimpse at their bookshelves. You mentioned your "creature comforts," the non-fiction, adventure wilderness tales you're taken in by. I'm intrigued by the kind of books we tend to return to because we know they won't disappoint, be it a style of writing, topic matter or the unabashed fandom we have for one author over anot …

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