All posts tagged reading

Life is Beautiful

life is beautifulI was really taken with this image….


Stacks of books with a small handwritten note, ripped from a page, and peeking out from between two novels with a small heart and the inked “life is beautiful.”

It perfectly captures ME.

I was always a bookworm growing up, and found quiet refuge in reading. As soon as I opened a book, the rest of the world fell away. And as I read “The End”, as much as I missed the story and the characters, I knew there would always be another book to open. I was always happily searching for the next one.

As I grew, I continued to read and it still brought me happiness. But I also paid attention to all the small things in life that are joyful – my daughter giggling in her sleep when I tickled the soft skin under her chin, my husband reaching for my hand, and finding it, without having to look, the comfort of sinking my head into a fluffy pillow at the end of a long day.

I think that my thirst to read, my (continually refining) powers of observation, and my inclination to always try to look on the positive side of things will serve me well as an ever aspiring writer.

What special qualities do you have that are important to your life as a writer?

Photo Source:


Book Launch of The Poisoned Pawn!

My friends Tara Hollister and Sarah Atchison accompanied me to the book launch of Peggy Blair’s The Poisoned Pawn at the Orange Art Gallery in Ottawa. It was a very fun evening with a Cuba theme and not only did we get to chat with Peggy again, Tara was able to cozy up to the Mayor – Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa).

Fun all around, and some interesting art to look at too!

See my review of the Poisoned Pawn here.

To come – an interview with the author.


Novels…A woman’s universe?


When it comes to novels, it’s a man’s world but a woman’s universe



From Saturday’s Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Mar. 09, 2012


When Mary Anne Evans wanted to be taken seriously as a novelist, she gave herself a man’s name and wrote an essay, Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, lacerating the “feminine fatuity” that she saw cluttering the literary landscape of her day.

Needless to say, George Eliot was never invited into the Oprah Book Club. But 150 years after Evans made her debut under that name, her gender-switching strategy remains all too plausible.

To be taken seriously as a novelist in the 21st century, an era in which the making and reading of fiction is dominated by women, being a man is as important as it ever was. And after suffering centuries of condescension and outright oppression, women are taking notice like never before, boldly claiming ownership of a genre that has long served their sex as a liberating force.

A series of simple pie charts released recently by VIDA, a U.S. women’s literary group, illustrates the complaint: Classifying book reviews in the most prestigious American and British periodicals according to the sex of both reviewers and the authors reviewed, the VIDA charts are a rogue’s gallery of voracious male Pac men chomping at minority wedges of female participation.

Males outnumbered females almost three-to-one in the 2011 book pages of The New Yorker, according to the VIDA Count, with an equal or greater disparity in Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books and the New Republic. Among major publications, only the New York Times Book Review approached parity. And of all the publications surveyed, only the British magazine Granta showed a slight tip in favour of female authors and reviewers.

Meanwhile, in bookstores, women rule – responsible for as many as four out of every five novels sold – and more than twice as likely as men to read them, according to various surveys in the English-speaking world. With so-called “literary reading” declining sharply among both sexes, women have become even more prominent as supporters of the art – while at the same time the Great Men still presuming to bestride that shrinking world become more nakedly vulnerable.

Women’s leadership in reading begins in elementary-school classrooms, where girls continue to exceed boys in reading skills and enthusiasm in virtually every measured jurisdiction. Some observers blame an overly “feminized” early-school curriculum – too much Jane, not enough Dick – for the gap.

But the scruples that might make educators reconsider the Hardy Boys are unknown to publishers, who teeter on parody feeding voracious book clubs such titles as The Time Traveller’s WifeSecret DaughterThe Tiger’s WifeThe Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Midwife of Venice. Huffington Post blogger Randy Susan Meyers, a strong advocate of the VIDA Count and its cause, is author of The Murderer’s Daughters.

The new literary front in the age-old gender war first appeared in 2010, when “women’s fiction” authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner lambasted the mainstream media for its fawning treatment of “serious” novelist Jonathan Franzen – the same author whom Oprah Winfrey had abruptly de-clubbed almost a decade earlier due to his infelicitous remarks about the women’s fiction ghetto he hoped to avoid.

Like VIDA, Weiner blamed “a very old and deep-seated double standard” that considers male-written novels like Franzen’s The Corrections and Freedom as “literature with a capital L” while treating books by women on the same subjects as “unworthy of a serious critic’s attention.”

More recently, Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul destroyed what’s left of his reputation (after foolishly deciding to reveal all to his official biographer) by condemning all women novelists, including Jane Austen, for their “sentimentality” and “narrow view of the world.”

“I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not,” Naipaul said. And all of it, he added, “unequal to me.”

Snobbism about women’s fiction “goes back a long way,” according to Belinda Jack of Oxford University, author of the upcoming The Woman Reader. And before snobbism stretch millennia of active suppression during which women were prohibited from writing almost anything. “Public speech and harlotry were very closely associated,” Jack said in an interview, describing the very narrow range and reading and writing permissible to women up until the 19th century.

Some psychologists and neurologists trace the origin of the fiction gap to women’s demonstrably superior capacity for empathy, which is thought to enable them to occupy the minds of fictional characters with greater ease than men. And profit: New theories of literature see an evolutionary advantage in the ability to infer the motives of others, a talent that sharpens with reading fiction – and would seem to depend mainly on women to function.

Jack explains women’s historical affinity for the novel in terms of its role as a liberating force. Trapped in a domestic space that forbade self-expression, women traditionally turned to novels “to see more of the world,” according to her. “The amount of life that could be seen at first-hand was limited, and so seeing it at second-hand through reading was attractive,” she said.

Reading novels was in itself an act of subversion, and themes evolved to suit the enterprise. “A lot of the novels that many women would say were the greatest novels do explore unconventional patterns of female behaviour and female life,” Jack said, adding that history is repeating itself today among women in Muslim countries who risk severe punishment in order to read imported novels by, for and about liberated women in the West.

Meanwhile, back home, the Internet regularly launches new literary careers without interference from any gender filter that might once have operated in traditional publishing houses. It made 27-year-old Amanda Hocking, a lonely outcast from the U.S. Upper Midwest, a millionaire with her 99-cent tales of paranormal romance. It shocked and appalled British clerics by making former British call girl and blogger Belle de Jour a national sensation.

They still get no respect, but no literary force has done so much to change the world – nor continues to do so – than the historic team of women novelists and their eager, overwhelmingly female readers.





In honour of this special occasion, I want to share this funny article with you 🙂

“How to Date a Writer” By Heather O’Neill


The following apply to moi –


  1. Be eccentric. Writers are impressed by silly things. Remember their original loves were characters in novels. Act like a fallen aristocrat, or be impossibly whimsical like the Mad Hatter, or whine like a petulant Holden Caulfield and they will adore you.
  2. Be prepared to turn up in fiction. You might find yourself portrayed as a 1920’s fop who forges paintings for a living. You might find yourself seducing and ruining the life of a chorus girl who is a fragile violet. And then you will read pages analyzing your wickedness and moral shortcomings.
  3. Don’t interrupt them at their work. If you find them in the kitchen dressed in underwear leafing through the a book of photographs while butting out a cigarette in a bowl of ice cream, you must treat this scene with the utmost respect. As if you had just walked in on a surgeon in the middle of open heart surgery.
  4. Don’t yell at them for daydreaming. If you date a writer, you will sometimes think that they have suffered brain damage. You will bring them to your cousin’s wedding and they will spend the whole time staring at a styrofoam bird on a cake. Many writers were picked on as children. Why? Because they were weird from the get-go. They were often to be found at the back of the class smelling erasers, or talking to caterpillars, or walking down the street with an encyclopedia balanced on their head. They cannot help it.
  5. When they are on a roll, they will ignore you for days on end.
  6. All this said, if you have the chance of dating a writer, by all means, take it! Take it! They can find more ways to say I love you than any other people on the planet. And imagine the Valentine Day poems you will receive!


The Joy of Books!

Check out this video!   For Book Nerds everywhere!


Book Club Recommendations?

For those that have been following, our “Bookworms” Book Club has now read several novels – The Glass Castle, Spin, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and The Birth House.  Check out the links to see my quickie reviews and recommendations!

It’s now my turn to pick our next book and I’d love to get YOUR recommendations.  I’d like to hear about more Canadian authors, but am happy to read any great book – so leave a comment below with your book club “pick” 🙂


The writer’s audience…

“The whole duty of a writer is to please and satisfy himself, and the true writer always plays to an audience of one.” — E.B. White


Digital lit: How new ways to read mean new ways to write

Globe and Mail
Last updated Monday, Jul. 11, 2011


The Next Day is a graphic novel about people who have attempted suicide. Once it is posted online in September, you’ll be able to click your way through it according to your own preferences about how it should unfold. CityFish is a Web-based short story, about a Nova Scotia girl visiting relatives in New York. Unfurling horizontally, like a scroll, it looks like a scrapbook, full of photographs and short videos of the places it describes. Inanimate Alice is an episodic, interactive, multimedia novel for children that offers text, videos and puzzles as it recounts the adventures of a heroine who becomes a video-game designer.


More related to this story


The e-book is changing the publishing business, but will digital technology actually change the way we tell stories, the way writers write – for better or for worse?

Some speculate that the move to reading off electronic tablets will force writers into shorter and more direct narratives. Others worry that the rush to add video will turn writers into screenwriters on creative teams that produce novels as a branch of filmmaking, and they wonder if the nifty interactivity of video games can ever be applied to serious writing to create a new digital literature. As for us faithful readers, will we be hard-pressed to ever find a writer who can still produce a good old-fashioned novel?

“There is a kind of reading people do on screens that is different from the reading they do on the page,” Lev Grossman, the American novelist and technology writer for Time magazine, recently told the Book Summit, an annual industry conference in Toronto. “It is powerfully linear, which can be really intoxicating … [On an e-reader] I sometimes find my finger is clicking faster than my eyes are going. I have to keep up with my madly clicking finger. It’s a … very powerful narrative, very plot-y feeling to the reading and, as it happens, I am a plot-y writer.”

The e-book format doesn’t encourage lingering on particular images or phrases, referring back, skimming forward or comparing passages; so Grossman predicts the emergence of hybrid novels that combine literary fiction with plot-driven genre writing. For example, his 2009 book The Magicians – an adult science-fiction/fantasy novel about a youth who enrolls in a university of witchcraft but finds it unsatisfying – operates both as genre fiction and as a critique of genre fiction.

Not everyone agrees, however, that the e-book will make much difference to writers’ style. Some observers point out that its goal is to reproduce the traditional reading experience as closely as possible, and many argue the video components that can be added to an e-book are no more revolutionary than the interviews with a movie’s director and stars that appear as extra features on a DVD. Real experimentation may lie elsewhere.

“E-books as we know them are electronic replicas of books, it’s paper under glass,” says Kate Pullinger, author of the children’s novel Inanimate Alice – which can be viewed free online. (She also won the 2009 Governor-General’s Award for her conventional novel The Mistress of Nothing.) “If you are going to put a work of fiction on a computer, why would you not use the multimedia components a computer has to offer you – image and sound and interactive games?”

Montreal electronic writer J.R. Carpenter, creator of CityFish, agrees: “I have been using the Internet as a medium since 1993. …There is fantastic multimedia, non-linear storytelling that has been going on since the beginning of the Web, and e-book publishers are not interested in that.” She says that a work such as CityFish, which explores odd corners of New York through the eyes of a displaced teen, is another way of reflecting the imagination, adding the visual images and sounds that are associated with places in the author’s mind.

These multimedia experiments often use short texts because readers seem unlikely to tolerate long passages of type in a video or interactive environment. “Maybe the chunk is not the chapter; maybe the chunk is the paragraph, and one paragraph can lead to more, different paragraphs,” says Caitlin Fisher, Canada Research Chair in digital culture at York University, who used that approach in her 2001 multimedia novella These Waves of Girls. “People have been figuring out how to get their message onto a single screen. It makes some writing better and some writing worse.”

Another tricky decision is how much power to give to the reader. Since the 1990s, fiction writers have experimented with hypertext, letting the reader follow secondary or subsequent passages out of the main text (perhaps never to return). Seminal works – such as These Waves of Girls, a hypertext short story about a car accident, created in 1987; or Shelly Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, a feminist retelling of the Frankenstein story, published in 1995 – established the new field of electronic fiction, and the issue of authorial control has been hotly debated ever since.

“You get these interactive projects – it’s such a novelty, the first 20 minutes the person is just learning the interface,” says Alex Jansen, the owner of Pop Sandbox, a small digital publisher that produced The Next Day and will turn to fiction with a forthcoming photo novella based on a short story by Toronto writer and Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith. “By the time they are done clicking, they have taken the narrative into the middle of nowhere. You do still need a storyteller.”

The Next Day team discussed how much interactivity they should really include in the online version of the project, which will be hosted by the National Film Board’s and TV Ontario’s websites, and finally decided to limit it. You can chart your own path through these four stories of attempted suicides and their emotional aftermath, but the site is programmed so that you can’t limit yourself to a single story but will hear at least part of all four.

Prof. Fisher agrees that the issue is how to draw the reader through the text. “It’s interesting to say maybe people would navigate your novel like a game environment,” she says. “People find a game environment compelling. [But] does it always have to be a puzzle or maze? Could great writing draw you through it? … We don’t have serious writers experimenting with it.”

Fisher also notes how seductive video is, hoping books will not simply be replaced by some version of interactive film or augmented reality. “We have this push that all literature can become movies. Everyone can cheaply make and edit moving pictures. It is pushing out interesting experiments in writing.”

In that regard, e-books augmented with video interviews or apps that add video content to classic texts – for under $20, you can watch Fiona Shaw recite T.S. Eliot’s poem on The Waste Land app, or chart Jack Kerouac’s progress on the maps provided in the On the Road app – seem counterintuitive to those who think the whole purpose of reading a book is to engage in an act of the imagination that makes it a less passive experience than watching a movie or TV.

“It is such a terrible idea,” novelist Grossman said of video-enhanced e-books, at the Book Summit. “It is not a more-is-more situation.”

E-book videos and fancy apps also require production budgets usually only available to big publishers working with bestselling titles. Although few literary writers would claim that “monetize” is an elegant word, the issue of how to make money from digital work that is usually published free online is emerging as key to future experimentation. The early hypertext novels remained rarefied projects, not because of their content – it was generally accessible – but because they were often available only on discs, and were never distributed by major publishers. (Both afternoon: a story and Patchwork Girl are available as $24.95 CDs from the American hypertext publisher Eastgate). Today’s experimentation is openly available online, but, Fisher points out, it is often being created in universities by salaried scholars.

Independent creators do get some grants to make digital texts – Carpenter, who got some Canada Council funding for CityFish, lives like a visual artist on grants and fees, while Jansen puts together budgets much like a film producer and got a NFB/TVO grant for emerging documentary makers for The Next Day. But unless writers who earn their living directly from their writing can take up the digital call, the new forms are unlikely to go truly mainstream.

“I’d be happy to purchase an $80 electronic novel that promised to take me places I hadn’t been before, but it’s a hard sell,” says Fisher, who wants to see writers making technology work for them rather than technology shaping the form. “It is crucial writers be there asking what kind of tools might be useful … and not just accept what computer science hands them.”



I thought this article was really interesting because it didn’t just describe e-books and new technologies as a concept, but also provided interesting examples as well as the differing viewpoints on this debate.

How do you feel about the changes being made in book publishing? Are you eager to use “multimedia” books, or will your “traditional” hardcover or paperback do you just fine?  Should we avoid giving more “power” to the reader?


New book from “Game of Thrones” author

The book every fantasy fan has been waiting for

Published Friday, Jul. 01, 2011


A Dance with Dragons
By George R.R. Martin
Bantam, 1,016 pages, $38

It’s the book everyone has been waiting for. At least it’s the book every fantasy fan has been waiting for. In fact, they’ve been so antsy that they’ve been badgering Martin relentlessly on his website, imploring him to get off his, er … robust derriere. It has been six years since A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in a riverine series called A Song of Ice and Fire. If you haven’t read any of them, the plot is far too complex even to hint at in this space, but if you’ve been watching A Game of Thrones on cable TV, you’ll garner a good idea of the work of Martin, sometimes called the “American Tolkien.” As for A Dance with Dragons, it doesn’t release until July 12, but it’s already No. 3 on’s bestseller list.


My husband has been a long-time George R. R. Martin fan and has been waiting for this book for the past few years.  We both followed and loved HBO’s first season of Game of Thrones and I have to admit that I am looking forward to seeing the second season. 

In fact, HBO did such a great job with Game of Thrones, that it has inspired me to pick up these books and read them from start to finish.  Lucky me- I won’t have to wait 4 years for the next book! 

Has anyone out there been inspired by a TV series or movie to go read a book they might not have otherwise picked up?


How Adam Mansbach’s expletive-filled children’s book was born


From Monday’s Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Jun. 13, 2011 12:00AM EDT


Adam Mansbach can thank bleary-eyed parents for making him a bestselling author. Based on mere tidbits about his searing new adult lullaby of a book, Go the … to Sleep, a viral phenomenon was born.

The book began its life as a pithy Facebook update that Mansbach, a 34-year-old based in San Francisco, wrote last summer.


Nestled among his usual material – “mostly quotes from eighties’ rap songs” – was a quip about his bedtime defeat at the hands of his energetic then-two-year-old daughter, Vivien.

“It began with me cracking a joke about ‘Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, Go the … to Sleep,’” says Mansbach “I’m no social-media wizard. It’s not like I used Facebook in any particularly sophisticated way. The response was positive enough that it encouraged me to keep making the joke for the next couple of weeks in real life.”

Then, he sat down to write a full book of four-line stanzas; the first two lines of which are mostly soft and lilting – with the second two lines expletive-laden pleas that resonate with any parent who has been on the losing end of a bedtime battle.

For example:

All the kids from day care are in dreamland.
The froggie has made his last leap.
Hell, no, you can’t go to the bathroom.
You know where you can go?

… And, yes, of course, the punchline is go the [expletive] to sleep.

Illustrator Ricardo Cortés, a Brooklyn-based friend of Mansbach’s, contributed the colour-drenched images of children cuddling with animals and other, more realistic, nursery scenes. Taken alone, a reader would never know they formed part of a humour book.


The cover of Adam Mansbach and Richard Cortes book, "Go the ... to Sleep"


“Adam got it to a T and I thought my images should play the straight guy in a comedy,” Cortés says.

Soon after the pair signed with indie publisher Akashic Books, the book cover – with the moon cleverly blocking out a few key letters – and a single stanza were made available on Amazon.

From there, it’s been a series of hairpin turns on a roller coaster of a publishing ride.

The use of four-letter (and other) expletives on every page, he says, is key to the “interior monologue that bubbles up.” Leaving them out was not an option.

“The book was a very naive, unconsidered, unstrategic burst of honesty and [an] attempt at humour. Those are the words that run through my mind, so I went ahead with it.”

For parents in on the joke, this wasn’t the same as sharing cute pictures of kittens or dancing babies. Mansbach’s book released a pent-up valve within the modern culture of parenting.

“There’s this culture of preciousness and perfection around parenting so people are a little bit reluctant to admit to some of the frustrations because you’re supposed to be a super parent and not complain,” says Mansbach.

Based on the early success of the concept, Akashic decided to move up the publication date from October to June. Now, 300,000 copies have been printed, the book is about to go into its fifth print run and before the book has even been released – on Tuesday in Canada – there’s a movie deal. A full version of the book recently went viral after being leaked online by a bookseller.

Mansbach, who has just completed a stint as a visiting Rutgers University literature professor and whose other, lesser-known, books include Angry Black White Boy and A Fictional History of the United States with Huge Chunks Missing, insists the leak was not a marketing ploy.

The fact that it’s the ultimate ironic baby-shower gift mitigates any slide in sales the pirated version might cause.

“I don’t want to be too happy-go-lucky about it. In most cases a leak would hurt a book,” says the author from a “working vacation’ in Martha’s Vineyard. “In ours, it seems to have helped because of this perfect storm of factors: It’s a gift book and it is bad form to print out a low-resolution PDF and staple it together and take it to a baby shower.”

As for further buzz, some may arise from the release last Thursday of a light-hearted statement from a children’s publisher pointing out some uncanny similarities to kid-lit star Nancy Tillman’s work It’s Time to Sleep, My Love. (Both Mansbach and Cortés say the connection was not deliberate.)

One thing is certain, however – what started as a Facebook update has landed Mansbach more fame (and potential money) than any of his prior, more considered books. Which all bodes well for a graphic novel he has planned for a February release.

“The protagonist is a down-on-his-luck alligator trainer from the Everglades who ends up having to represent Earth in an inter-species inter-galactic gladiator tournament.”

Given Mansbach’s last year, it might just fly.



*I am pregnant with my first baby and I really got a kick out of the idea behind this book

Any other recommendations for “children’s” literature ? 😉


For some more fun, check out Samuel L. Jackson reading the book

Video – Youtube

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