Quite note, soon to be obsolete: if you’re interested in attending an online book launch for Brent Van Staalduinen’s BOY, it’s tonight, Oct 1, at 7 pm. Just visit www.brentvanstaalduinen.com for info! Hosted by me. 😀
It amazes me, quite honestly, that GET LIT is in its fourth season. The first episode aired on my 47th birthday, and now we’re here, on the cusp of 2020, with the one hundred sixty-first episode. How’d that happen?
What this means is I’m starting to get more and more repeat authors, who have new books available (what a kick in the pants for me to make MY next book happen!) (it’s finished, I just need to shop it).
Today’s guest, back for a second time, is the fantastic Leslie Shimotakahara. We talk about her newest, Red Oblivion. Check it out and if you like it, you can hear her talk about her last novel, After the Bloom, in Episode 24.
Merry merry and happy happy, all!
Ron Sexsmith is one of those cats who flies under the radar. He’s never had a radio hit that I know of, but he’s still known around the world. His songwriting has been praised by the likes of Elvis Costello and Sir Paul McCartney – with whom he’s dined, at Sir Paul’s house, I believe…there are some pretty great stories there.
Ron didn’t join me to talk about brunch with famous musicians, though. He’s on Get Lit to talk about a dream he had – the dream that became the fairytale Deer Life, published by Dundurn Press. Ron’s a pretty swell fellow, and I hope you dig this conversation.
Also, it’s hot out, but if you live around here, you knew that.
Hi everyone, hope your summer is going. Here in southern Ontario, the weather’s decidedly unsummery many days, but at least you can leave the house without risking frostbite, so my complaints are fairly muted.
Work on the new novel continues. Waking early in the morning is far less painful now. The new pain is one some of you know all too well – grant applications. The Canada Council generously offers grants for research and creation, so I’m applying for one of those to cover the costs of heading to Japan for research. I missed the deadline that would have me approved/declined in September, but I’m going whether or not I get the grant, so I’m going to apply and find out if I get money in March. Why not. Still, grant writing. Ugh.
Today’s show is a great one because it features Mark Sampson, poet and author of Sad Peninsula and The Slip, his most recent novel (with Dundurn Press). I met Mark at the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, as we share a publisher (not Dundurn, but Palimpsest). I’m happy to have had the privilege. There’s also that weird little bit of serendipity involving his wife Rebecca Rosenblum, which you might recall from episode 25.
You’ll also notice that there’s a weird technical glitch two or three minutes from the end. Turns out you can work in a place for almost twenty years and still forget about the existence of an important power switch (and, hence, not think about it when your guest back his chair into it).
Enjoy the show!
It’s been two weeks since I was (intentionally) sequestered on Pelee Island at the Pelee Island Book House. I can say that I have, amazingly, maintained some of the momentum I gained working on my newest novel. I’ve also been asked, more than once, what it was like to do workshops – and be critiqued by – Margaret Atwood.
What can I tell you?
The mood at the retreat was one of anxious anticipation. Some people went a little beyond “anxious anticipation” in to “freaking out a little bit.” Though no one expected Ms. Atwood to come through the door guns a-blazing, it was still remarkably nerve-wracking to know the nation’s most famous author – whose biggest book was recently back on the bestseller list because of a television adaptation, even – was reading your work, thinking about your work, and critiquing your work.
It was pouring rain when she arrived, and could barely be heard above the rain on the roof of the sunroom – but once we’d all relocated to the big kitchen table, we began to relax. We spent two days at that table with Margaret (which is what we called her – no one was cocky enough to go for “Peggy”), days in which we discussed one another’s work, asked questions, and even shared lunch alongside her long-time partner Graeme Gibson, who dropped in both days.
The title of the workshop was “The First Five,” and we were supposed to submit the first five pages of a novel. That wasn’t the case for everyone, but it was close enough for jazz. Margaret’s critiques ran from line edits to deep discussions about major changes needed in the work. She liked mine, which was encouraging, though she did confirm something that I knew would be a major concern down the road.
So, what was she like? Was she going to be acerbic, or snarky? We know she doesn’t suffer fools. Well, luckily for us, none of us were terrible fools – she was extremely kind. Not like over-the-top sweet, she’s too wry for that…and she was quick to call you out if you needed calling out. Still, she was kind and fair and generous with her answers, criticisms and time. She told a lot of stories and was very funny. She seemed more relaxed on the second day, since we were no longer strangers. She honestly seemed to enjoy herself.
She would find items in your work to expand upon – whether it was Sumerian myth or Victorian dress or the history of zombies. Her sharpness was extraordinary and her depth of knowledge almost unbelievable. “How do I know all this?” she joked/mused at one point. “I’m old!” She answered questions about our work, and questions about herself as well (barring the ones she doesn’t answer, ever, such as “Are you working on something right now?”). And did I mention funny? Can’t stress that enough. She had a delightful way of cracking a joke, surveying the table, noting that we were all laughing, and then joining in the laughter.
As far as meeting literary geniuses go, the experience was as good as you can hope for.
On this week’s radio program I got the distinct pleasure of talking with long-time acquaintance Paul Benedetti. He was one of the younger gents in the newsroom when I first started my column at the Hamilton Spectator in 1992. I recall him being kind, encouraging, and a heck of a natty dresser. I enjoyed catching up with him and talking about his collection of columns, You Can Have A Dog When I’m Dead. Hope you enjoy our conversation.
Today’s episode features an interview with Mark Osbaldeston, author of the book Unbuilt Hamilton. It’s part of a series – the first parts being Unbuilt Toronto 1 and Unbuilt Toronto 2. Yes, they seem fairly specific to geography, but I believe anyone, in any city, can appreciate the follies and foibles of generations before; anyone can ponder the what ifs of their own hometowns.
Some of the things in this book are hard for me to fathom, and it’s almost a relief knowing that these ideas never came to pass. For example, I remember just how excited I was about the idea of there being a monorail-like elevated train in town. It seemed like a great idea – when I was a kid – and it wasn’t until I read this book that I started to see how it would never have worked. (If you’re from Hamilton, no, I’m not going to start a discussion about the current LRT plan. Let’s leave the screaming and shouting to Facebook).
Things are heating up around here. I’m finally starting to flow on my new novel, and eventually – I promise – I’m going to write more actual blogs about writing. In the meantime, enjoy this week’s show.