On Readings


First some nice news: I made the shortlist for the ReLit award. Yay!


That picture above is from the first reading I ever did back in 2005. As usual, I was highly polkadotted. I did one or two readings after that, but it wasn’t until my book was launched last October that I started reading more. In the past few weeks I’ve done 3 readings: a story excerpt in a bar to a group of creative writing students, the opening 2 paragraphs of a story on the radio and another story excerpt at Drawn & Quarterly, a bookstore, followed by a casual panel discussion. I’ve come to the realization that despite the experience I’ve accumulated over the past few months, reading to a group of people still makes me… uncomfortable.

I enjoy myself, but mostly what I enjoy is everything about the event except my actual reading. Reading for the group of creative writing students was ideal: they were quiet and responsive, I had a gin and tonic before going on stage, the lights weren’t too bright and I loved listening to the others, all of whom are great examples of good readers (Jessica Westhead, Ian Orti, Dave McGimpsey). The radio show, an afternoon spot on CBC’s Homerun, was more nerve-wracking, but I had Katrina Best with me to diffuse anxiety. Neither of us knew we had to read on the radio until the last minute. In Katrina’s case, not until she was asked, on live radio by the host. She handled it like a pro and has the bonus of having an ultra smooth British accent. I sat in my chair, listened and was so grateful to a get a few extra minutes to figure out what I was supposed to read. And as far as bookstores go, Drawn & Quarterly is such a dream to read in. It’s small and cozy so you’re kind of hugged by beautiful books and there are always enough chairs for everyone. Plus I had a glass of wine before going up.

In general I don’t mind public speaking. It makes me nervous, of course, but not so much clam-up-and-faint nervous as hyper-butterflies-in-my-stomach nervous. You would think that reading would be more relaxing – there’s no real need to memorize your lines and you get to hold something solid and comforting while you’re up there. And while I do think that most writing is better experienced by reading silently to yourself, I understand the pleasure of being read to, of hearing the cadence and rhythm of words spoken out loud. What bothers me is that I’m not the best one suited to read my work out loud. My approach is to do everything I can to avoid “reading voice” – you know it when you hear it, that poetry slam lilt, the drawn out syllables at the end of each sentence – but I’m afraid that in retaliation I resort to an overly casual, conversational, vaguely Valley Girl tone instead.

I’m probably overthinking it, right? I’ll get more comfortable the more readings I do? Fingers crossed, for my sake and yours, if you happen to be listening.

Now You're Supposed to Miss Me

I wanted to write a post about the readings I’ve done in the past 2 weeks, and I’ll get around to it soon, but I’m feeling worded out right now and am instead posting an entry about mid-nineties nostalgia, a topic that is discussed in some form or another somewhere on the Internet on a weekly basis. I’m also currently working on a movie project set in that time frame. I should write about that sometime too! It’s still in its infancy, although Soraya and Chris have been working fantastically hard.

Here are my favourite articles I’ve read so far: Carl Wilson on The Gen-X Nostalgia Boom and Liz Barker’s I Hate All This Nevermind Nostalgia And Want To Die.

In all of this mid-nineties reminiscing, my thing is Canadian indie rock, the poppy, kind of twee, often lo-fi stuff that emerged mainly out of the Maritimes or Ontario (the bands in Ontario were the ones I was more likely to see at a Sunday afternoon all-ages show). I cut my teeth on these bands – a Sloan fanzine was my first zine, for instance. Wilson says in his article, “What is nostalgia good for, then? For one thing, it runs search-and-rescue missions against the disposability of consumer capitalism”, so on this evening where I don’t feel like typing many words, here is my personal search-and-rescue mission, my mid-nineties Canadian indie rock soundtrack, minus a few bands I didn’t have the heart to include (I’m looking at you, hHead) and yes, heavy on the Eric’s Trip side projects.

Oh youth, music with a little bit of fuzz, Canadian indie rock, etc.

Scrapbook #19: Camping

First: A quick reminder that the Fiction Funnies event I’m reading at is Wednesday – tomorrow! It would be lovely to see you, fellow Montrealers. (Details: here or here or here.)


It’s a rare thing, these days, for me to go more than 24 hours without Internet access. 3G means I can check email or write a Twitter update or Facebook status or Instagram my surroundings pretty much anywhere as long as I’m willing to pay data roaming fees, and I am often willing to pay data roaming fees. (Sigh.) But then occasionally I’m somewhere where I don’t even have the option. The middle of the desert, for instance. And, most recently, a few days in the woods in Vermont. Amazing tall trees, lakes and rivers to swim and canoe in, but no Wifi. Vermont always feels kind of magic to me – there are bakeries and craft beer pubs and bookstores and farmer stands in just about every little town you happen to pass through. We experienced all of those things, and then because we were camping, also threw in equal measures of fresh air, campfire, outdoor cooking and reading. It was really, really nice.

Here are a bunch of pictures. Continue reading

Book update: ReLit, Fiction Funnies, R.E.M.

Despite these lazy summer months, book stuff persists – and I’m grateful for it. I was more worried about Bats or Swallows being greeted with thudding silence than bad reviews, and so every little nod to my little book always makes me happy, especially 9 months after it was first released.

1) Bats or Swallows was long-listed for the ReLit Award, along with many other lovely books. Yay! From the website, “the winner of the ReLit Award receive the ReLit Ring, which features four moveable dials, each one struck with the entire alphabet, for spelling words.” Cooool.

2) I’m excited about this reading at Drawn & Quarterly on August 17.

Reading in Montreal - Aug 17!(Isn’t the poster great?)

From the invite:

Fiction Funnies at Drawn & Quarterly
featuring Katrina Best, Cordelia Strube and Teri Vlassopoulos
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Drawn & Quarterly Store, 211 Bernard O
Doors at 7 p.m, Free!

Three fantastic fictioneers read, discuss role of humour in writing. Montrealer Katrina Best’s first book of short stories, Bird Eat Bird, recently won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. It’s a funny, smart, offbeat and insightful collection that explores themes that are equally parts poignant and hilarious. Cordelia Strube, author of the Giller longlisted Lemon, is a Montreal native now living in Toronto. Her novel features a teenager trying to survive high school with three (sort of) mothers, one deadbeat dad, one cancer-riddled protege, one tree-hugging stepbrother and a 60% average. And Teri Vlassopoulos is the author of the short fiction collection Bats or Swallows, shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, stories told with grace, wit and a bold and original eye for comedic detail.

Here’s the Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=165551930185370

3) This is due entirely to searchbots, but this entry at reference.com for R.E.M.’s song “Country Feedback” includes my book as a “related article”. It delights me to no end. (Humour me. As Michael Stipe might say, I need this.)

Scrapbook #18: Summer.

These summer days are passing by in waves of frantic activity followed by humid, languid sloth. What is summer if not a chance to fit in as much travel into as little time as possible and if you’re not doing that then pushing the boundaries of just how many hours you can spend laying around a park and drinking a bottle of wine? I’ve been doing both, although I could do with more of the latter – I’m admittedly a little tired these days and feeling behind on things I want to do, even if some of those “things” are not particularly important, like “bake a pie”. Still – no complaints.


But I’m feeling quiet, blog-wise. I was in Toronto over the weekend for a dear friend’s wedding. The weekend was perfect: the weather was beautiful, the wedding made me weepy-happy, I ate fried chicken and waffles at The Stockyards for late brunch the next day and we got to see Soraya and Chris twice as we passed through Kingston between Toronto and Montreal. On our way home Andrew and I stopped along the St. Lawrence River – the light was nice and it seemed a shame to be in the car. I dipped my feet in the water and it was warm and we decided we might as well go swimming. I wore my underwear and one of Andrew’s t-shirts and we swam in the warm, wavy water and when we were done we wrung out our clothes and got back in the car. Drove into Montreal later than expected, so I was tired at work the next day, but for good reason.

It’s best to do these things in the summer, to soak up all that lovely golden light. I hope you’re doing the same.