Recap: Toronto, part 1


Andrew and I left for Toronto early Sunday morning after the Montreal launch. It was a gorgeous, crisp day, and we took our favourite Montreal-Toronto detour along the 1000 Islands Parkway to break up the monotony of the 401. As we were driving, we noticed that A&E Books, a tiny bookstore housed on the second floor of a house, had their OPEN flag waving on the side of the road. The store has been closed every time we’ve passed it in the past year or two, so we took advantage of it to stop in and browse the books. I ended up with a Norton Anthology of personal essays and Andrew found a book of early Montreal history. Next up was a lunch break for burgers in Kingston, and then we arrived in Toronto where my mother was waiting with dinner for us as well. Oh, Toronto.

The nice thing about the launch in Toronto was that I didn’t have to work while I was there. I slept in and  Andrew and I had brunch at Mitzi’s Cafe, which is always sunny and bright and has the best oatmeal pancakes. We  had time to check out Jon Muldoon’s exhibit “Buried Waters”, which is currently on display at GalleryWest (1332 Queen St W). Jon, a friend, is an underground photographer, and the owner of the gallery was nice enough to let us in to look at the photos even though the gallery was closed. The photos looked gorgeous, and I highly recommend checking them out while you have the chance.

As the day progressed, I started feeling a little more nervous, and so when Andrew left for a meeting, I brought myself to a cafe on Baldwin Street, sat at a table with a pretty table cloth and a vase of flowers and bought myself a glass of red wine. The sun was starting to set outside, and the cafe had big windows, and it was a nice, quiet moment, a good way to gather my thoughts.

Toronto launch!
The Toronto launch for Bats or Swallows was held at the Dora Keogh, a small pub on the Danforth. It was the perfect size – not too big – and well lit, and I appreciated having good bar access. I loved the diversity of people who came to this launch: My mother and her friends, so many wonderful friends I’ve made over the years because of the Internet or zines, my childhood best friend and her brother (who I hadn’t seen in maybe 10 years), writing group friends, a contingent of urban/underground explorers, people I’d met simply because of the book. It was amazing, and my only regret is that I didn’t get the chance to talk long enough with those who were there (or take enough photos with them).

Toronto launch!

Nic, in perfect publisher form, brought Jenner and I roses, which is the kind of thing that makes me choked up. Jenner was kind enough to read her story from Rememberer, and then I read from Bats or Swallows. It was a bit strange reading in a bar – there are bound to be talking people in the back – but it was still a good experience, and the closest I’ll ever get to my teenage rock star fantasies.

Toronto launch!

Afterwards, I flitted around and talked to different people, gave more hugs, signed some books. On the drive back to my parents’ house, Andrew and I stopped at a McDonalds for the perfect late night snack, and there was a line-up of teenaged boys shuffling their way into the Future Shop nearby, each of them excited to buy whatever game had been released at midnight. We sat huddled in the car, sharing a Big Mac between us and watching these boys, and it was hilarious and wonderful. I’d gotten the seriousness out of my system after the launch in Montreal, and this was just pure fun, the entire, long day.

Thanks to Nic for organizing, obviously, and Jenner for reading at the last minute, and to Rupert from Ben McNally Books who was manning the book table all night too. (P.S. Toronto folks can buy signed copies of the book from Ben McNally.)

Again, photos from Andrew.

Samantha wrote a lovely recap about the night as well:

Recap: Montreal launch

Montreal launch!Bow on my dress + books in the background

The book launches are over and I’m back in Montreal. The past few days have been so great. Overwhelming in a good way – full of fun and so many hugs, but also occasionally nerve-wracking. I want to record what they were like because I want to remember. Who knows when I’ll have another book published, if ever, so I really want to enjoy it. (I don’t mean that in a doomsday kind of way, but the process of creating a book is so long that it could be years and years and years before I get the opportunity again.) (I hope it’s not that long.)

I’ll start with Montreal.

Montreal launch!The crowd at D&Q. I especially like this photo because Kenneth & I were discussing Lesley‘s surprise party, which was held the next evening, and I was pretty excited about it.

The Montreal launch was held at Drawn & Quarterly on Friday night, and I only spent a few hours at work before admitting that my concentration was shot. My co-workers are wonderful, and many even attended the launch, so no one minded when I snuck out in the early afternoon.

Montreal launch!Signing books and Caro‘s excited face in the background!

Drawn & Quarterly is only a short walk from where I live, and it’s one of my favourite bookstores, cozy and full of beautiful books, and the staff is always friendly. Jenner arrived soon afterwards (we were meeting for the first time!), and we poured plastic cups of red wine and unboxed bottles of beer for guests. It was a rainy, blustery day in Montreal and I was curious about who would brave the awful weather, but slowly the bookstore started filling up. It is such a nice feeling to see a room full of people you know or kind of know or don’t know at all, browsing through books, sometimes yours, waiting for you to start reading.

Montreal launch!Jenner reading from the intro to Rememberer

Jenner and Katie read from Rememberer, and I read from Bats or Swallows. The bookstore is a good atmosphere for reading – everyone pays attention (or at least is polite enough to act like they are). I was pleasantly thrown off when people laughed at the parts they were supposed to. (For those familiar with the book, I’ve been reading from “My Son, the Magician”.) After it was over, I signed books, chatted and contributed in finishing off the booze supply. Later I met with my best friends for a dinner at Senzala down the street for celebratory Brazillian food.

Montreal launch!

But let me tell you: when I got home on Friday night, just after midnight with mascara-smeary eyes and red wine stained lips, I was exhausted, exhilarated, tipsy, but also suddenly drained. I’d been trying my best to not be overtly nervous about everything, but after it was over and I was at home, I let myself acknowledge that in addition to the happy-excited-grateful feelings, I’d also been nervous and stressed out. It was a bit of a delayed reaction, and it felt really intense at the time, as things tend to feel when it’s after midnight and what you really should be doing is sleeping. But, I got it out of my system and woke up feeling an uncomplicated, easy happiness. I woke up wanting a greasy brunch. So I had one.

Andrew took these photos, naturally.

Caroline also did a lovely recap of the Montreal launch over here:

Radio On

By the water

Vince Tinguely is kind enough to interview Jenner-Brooke Berger and I on Tuesday November 2 for his radio show on CKUT (90.3 FM in Montreal), The Kitchen Bang Bang Law. We’ll be on around 12:30 pm to talk about our books, and I’ll read a little something from mine. I’ll post links to it afterwards if you miss it.

Edited to add: The interview is online here: We come in at the 29 minute mark, so skip ahead.

Montreal and Toronto book launches!


For awhile the thought of a book launch made me nervous. Not just reading in front of everyone, but the logistics of it, all the inviting and planning and figuring out what to wear. And what to read. And, I don’t know, it’s a book, just buy it and read it curled up in bed or on the subway to work and why do I have to be involved anyway?

(In the only creative writing workshop I took in university, we did a small unit on reading out loud, and our prof assigned each of us a passage from a classic text to read to the class. I got something from Moby Dick. He gave me a B. In a class of easy A’s, I understood the underlying message: You suck at reading out loud. I think I’ve improved since then.)

Now that plans have fallen into place (thanks to Nic and Jenner), I’m excited for the launches planned in Montreal and Toronto, to enjoy everything about them, even the nervousness. It’s good for the character to be nervous sometimes.

So, details! The amazing Jenner Brooke-Berger is going to drive down from Halifax to launch with me in Montreal. She’s the editor of Rememberer (the other fall 2010 Invisible release, remember? No? Buy a copy of the book then!). I’ll read from my book, she’ll read from Rememberer (and maybe some other contributors will join us), you can pick up copies of the book and you’ll have a great time.

TV and JBB(This is what Jenner and I look like.)


Friday November 5, 2010
Drawn & Quarterly, 211 Bernard Ouest
Double launch!
6:30-9:30 pm

Facebook invitation here:!/event.php?eid=101613523241948


Monday November 8, 2010
Dora Keogh Pub, 141 Danforth Ave.
7:00 pm


Hosted by The Fine Print:

Facebook invitation here:!/event.php?eid=164378236920509

There might be a Rememberer party in Toronto too. If not, they’ll launch on Monday as well. I’ll keep you posted, as always.

Weekend in Toronto, update

Purple tightsWearing purple tights on a rainy evening

Back from a few days in Toronto. Some book/zine related highlights:

- First bookstore sighting at Book City on Bloor! Maybe I propped them up in front of John Updike for a better photo. Maybe.

Book sighting at Book City!

- Zines! I came home with fantastic new (to me) zines from Chris, Sarah, Maranda and more.  Amy (Twelve oh Two distro), and Francois (Great Worm Express Distribution) organized a mid-afternoon social, and I listened to Sarah and Chris read hilarious, passionate excerpts from early issues of their zines in the charming Naco Cafe while outside it rained and rained. Later on I met/caught up with various Broken Pencil staff, like Lindsay (who I’d met years ago when we were still just kids making zines), Hal (who was the first person to ever send me a letter saying “Hey, I’m going to publish something you wrote”) and Nathaniel (who organized the Radical Reading Series).

Nic & I at Canzine

- Canzine was just as I remembered: overwhelming, exhausting, fun. I felt like a grown-up and refrained from eating candy the whole day. I tabled with Nic for Invisible, and occasionally made people feel slightly awkward when I’d exclaim, “Hey, I wrote that!” when they’d  pick up my book and flip through it. (Note: sometimes awkwardness/guilt helps sell books.) It was lovely meeting people who stopped by the table. Every so often a familiar face would pop up, like Jaime, who used to make the most beautiful zines and now runs an equally beautiful photography business with her husband Joseph, or Laura Jane (who is working on a book with Liz that I can’t wait to one day hold in my hands), or Jen (who brought me homemade cookies and a card with my ISBN # typed on the front).

Reading at Canzine

-  The reading was fun too. I took advantage of Canzine to read my zine essay, “We Should Make Things” from the Shameless Anthology. My parents were in the audience, which was nice of them considering that they’re not used to sitting through poetry readings. (Thank you to Emily for saving them seats!) It was especially nice reading with some writers I’ve seen in Montreal before, like Natalie Zed and Damian Rogers.

So, yes, it was a great weekend. I might not be happy with Toronto’s newly elected mayor, but I always find it hard to leave the city either way. (But I will be back in 2 weeks for the book launch!) (P.S. More pictures on Flickr.)

Book update: Books or Zines

On Friday in Montreal it was a horrible rainy day. After work, I walked to the metro in that rain, but it had developed into the kind of rainstorm where your umbrella keeps turning inside out in the wind, and then you realize you’re going to get wet no matter what, so you put away your sad, broken-spoked umbrella, turn up the music in your earphones and curse a lot.

But it wasn’t so bad because I was holding 2 plastic bags filled with boxes of freshly copied zines and when I came home Andrew said, “Hello, published author!” and showed me my books, which had arrived in the mail that morning. I said, “I think I’m going to cry” and, given that my hair was a wet, frizzy mess and I was holding this droopy umbrella and too many bags, he thought something was wrong. “What happened?!” he asked, worried. “I’m HAPPY!” I said. I mean, obviously.

Things I Made

So now I have two new things I’ve made sitting in a pile on the kitchen table. You’ve heard a lot about the book, so here’s something about the new zine.

Places & Things

I keep thinking I won’t make another zine, but then, eventually I do. And because I wanted to write about my time in Greece in a tangible format and not just on this site, I put together a zine as well. Places & Things is mostly about Greece, but also other places I visited, and there are recipes too. This summer I read The Alice B Toklas Cookbook, and the zine owes a lot to that. Have you read it? It’s my favourite kind of food writing – more emphasis on the words than the practicality of the recipes. And this is even better because it’s filled with charming stories about Alice and Gertrude Stein travelling around France. There are recipes like “Bass for Picasso” and instructions for cooking 100 frog legs.  My zine (and recipes) are nowhere near as extravagant, but I respectfully borrowed Ms. Toklas’ format.

You can buy the zine from me here. I like to trade too if you want to go that route. You can also get it from me in person at Canzine in Toronto next Sunday or at Expozine in Montreal in a few weeks.

Oh, and I’ve been updating the book section of the site, so check it out if you have questions about getting a copy of it for yourself.

Book update: My first review

I’ll write a longer post shortly, but for now here’s a copy of the first review of Bats or Swallows, which appears in Atlantic Books Canada. It makes me happy, I’ll admit. (The book is officially out on October 15th – 2 more days!)

(Click to enlarge and read.)

Also: Montreal! The reading will be on Friday, November 5, 2010 at Drawn & Quarterly. More details will come, but save the date, please.

Making things

I started work again last week, and am remembering the good and bad things associated with so much structured time: the pleasure of being busy, but also getting worn out by it; feeling virtuous when I remember to pack a lunch, but savouring a few moments of calm when I escape on my own; after work drinks with friends; weekend brunch.

And balancing writing while you work full-time: I’m easing into that too. To tell you the truth, I haven’t written much since returning in mid-September. I spent one afternoon writing a very rough draft of a new story, but it still needs a lot of work. I’ve been getting some ideas and scribbling them on post-it notes, but they don’t count as actual work. They’re more like bait – I have things to work on if I want to, if I can figure out a way to organize my time. I’m giving myself some breathing room from my novel, too. I need distance and told myself to leave it alone until the end of the month. Even reading has taken a bit of a back seat – I can’t seem to sink into a book these days. While I wait for my latest online order to ship, which includes books that will snap me out of my reading funk like Darcie’s (It’s out! Buy it!) and Sheila Heti’s newest, “How Should A Person Be?”, I’m reading essays from Jonathan Ames’ “The Double Life is Twice As Good”, which I downloaded to my Iphone and is perfect for metro commutes.

Working on a zine

This weekend, I relaxed into something other than writing and started laying out the zine I mentioned a few weeks ago. There was no writing left to do, just the tangible, visual stuff: cutting up the text, choosing images, figuring out the most efficient way to lay it out. I worked on the kitchen table for awhile, and when that got messy, moved to the floor.

Word on the Street(My dear friend Emily snapped this at Word on the Street last week)

I feel like I keep dangling these projects in front of you without telling you how you can actually get them. So here’s a run-down:

  • I’ve compiled ordering information for Bats or Swallows over here, along with details about readings: It’s now available for sale on the Invisible site, and if you’ve ordered it from Amazon, I’m told copies are starting to ship. Some people got copies at Word on the Street last week in Toronto.
  • The zine won’t be available until Canzine on October 24, and you’ll be able to buy copies of it directly from me.

The Toronto launch for the book is a go on November 8th. We’re figuring out the Montreal launch. I’ll be travelling to New York City at the end of November (for an unrelated fun reason that I’ll give you details for in a bit), and I really want to do a reading there. If anyone has any tips for that, let me know. At the very least I can do one while waiting in line for a Shake Shack burger, no? I still haven’t gone. Two birds, one stone.

Book update: Cover art & other details.

Okay, so I’m back in Montreal. It’s colder than I expected it would be and I start working again on Monday, and most of our things are unpacked and I guess it’s true, I’ve officially returned. The good thing is that in addition to being back in the same country as my friends and family, and being less than a five minute walk away from Fairmount bagels and many, many brunch places, I am also really, really excited about my book, which is coming out really, really soon.  And that picture above? It’s the cover of the book.

I love the cover, and one of the things I was looking forward to about working with Invisible is that they make beautiful books with striking cover designs (my favourites include Stacey May Fowles “Fear of Fighting” and Jeff Miller’s Ghost Pine anthology). There were a few different versions of the book cover kicking around, and if you’ve seen the book listed anywhere online (like here on Amazon), you’ll see the original draft cover, which I thought was also great (especially since I love the aesthetic of woodcuts), but I think this cover fits best with the overall mood of the book, and I’m glad it was chosen as the final version. Megan Fildes, the art director, came up with all of the ideas;  I think she’s brilliant. I like the cover it for its simplicity, the bright but watery colours and the hand drawn letters. And my name is spelled correctly. (I have a hunch that my name will be spelled wrong 50% of the time my book is mentioned. Not only is my first name sneakily tricky, but 12-letter Greek last names also have a high frequency of misspells. I’m pretty much used to it by now.)

We’re sorting out details for book launches, but there a few things to tell you about:

  • Here’s the official page for the book on the Invisible site.
  • I will be reading at Canzine in Toronto on Sunday October 24, 2010.
  • The other fall 2010 release by Invisible is called Rememberer, and it’s this fun planner/art book. I have a new short story in that as well (one that I wrote this summer in Greece). Details are here (and hello awesome cover design!).
  • We’re discussing early Novemberish for a launch in Toronto and probably around the same kind of timing in Montreal. I’ll get back to you on that. And I will definitely be reading at other cities over the next few months, but I’ll keep you posted on everything.
  • Invisible will have a table at Word on the Street in Toronto this week, and rumor has it that copies of the new books arrived on Wednesday, so there might actually be a few kicking around Toronto?
  • I’m on Goodreads! Add me as a friend or add my book to your bookshelf. (I feel weirdly OCD about Goodreads – do I add every single book I’ve ever read? What if I leave out something really important? I’m also kind of icked out about rating books, which I know is weird of me. Right now I’m just adding books I’ve read since this summer.) (I’m overthinking this, aren’t I?)

That’s it for now, but expect more soon. Thanks, friends.

What I've Been Working On

Ever since we’ve been back from France, it’s been hot. Really, really hot. We left Athens a few days ago because the city was empty anyway and we’ve been cooling our heels in Agistri, swimming twice a day, drinking a lot of icy drinks and getting stuff done. So, just what have I been working on in Greece? Not just swimming and drinking, promise. I spent some time finalizing things for Bats or Swallows, but mostly I’ve been working on other projects.

It’s funny how words accumulate, how slow and painful it can be, but how one day you look at the Excel file you use to track your word count (you do that too, right?) and you realize it’s a higher number than you expected it would be. Most of the words need to be rewritten or reordered or resomethinged, but at least you have material to work with, clay to mold. You have ideas that have actually been put on paper.

I’m working on a novel. I was anticipating a breakdown point with what I’m working on now, for it to implode, but it’s August and it hasn’t happened yet. Which means, I think, that I’m doing a better job than I have in the past.

I haven’t shared much of the writing from this project – it’s very first drafty and sometimes doesn’t make sense and every page or so there’s something in the writing that makes me cringe. I get self-conscious when even Andrew looks over my shoulder as I’m typing. For awhile I was calling the book Living Expenses, but that title doesn’t fit anymore. I have another title in mind now, but maybe it will change too. Not-Living Expenses is about a family. A small one. It’s about marriage and roadtrips and the Greek shipping industry, which sounds more ambitious than it really is. It’s an internal book, I think. Maybe the first novel you write has to be internal.

I can tell you the names of the characters in the book. There’s Zoe and Anna and Nicholas. I have a good handle on Zoe and Nicholas. Actually, you’ll be able to read a little bit about Zoe in Bats or Swallows in a story called “Swimming Lessons”, and you’ll probably be able to tell that her story belongs to something larger. She was the one that started everything. I think I know Nicholas pretty well too because I’ve been writing him for the past month. Actually, I call him Niko now that we’re on better terms with each other. I’m not going to share any writing about him yet, but if he had a soundtrack, it would include these songs (excuse the crappy You Tube links; I don’t have an Internet connection and I don’t want to use all of Rosy’s bandwith uploading MP3s):

(Okay, enough vaguely creepy talk about my characters as if they were real people. You do that too, right?)

I’ve also been writing a zine. I can tell you the name of the zine because I had to submit a bio for a reading I’m doing in the fall and I included it, so now I really have to finish it. The zine will be called Places and Things. The last zine I made was a few years ago and I keep thinking I won’t make any more, but then I get it in my mind that I really, really want to make one, so I do. I like zines because they’re forgiving like that, and also private.

When I first discovered the Internet as a teenager, it felt like a private space. Hardly anyone I knew used the Internet, and the concept of Googling someone’s name didn’t really exist. Most people didn’t have websites (“homepages”) and I actually shared an email address with my parents until I finally signed up for Hotmail a year- maybe more than year! – later. My zine, on the other hand, felt really public. It was being distro-ed by zine distros that no longer exist, I had reviews in magazines like Broken Pencil. I got mail. Now it’s the other way around. Blogs and websites are the norm, I’m all over the place online, and I rarely get letters (and when I do I’m horrible at responding to them, argh). I may not keep up with zines much anymore, but the zine world feels like a small, private place I still like to visit from time to time.

None of these things are finished yet, but they’re getting there, and with some patience and luck (on my side, and I guess yours too depending on whether or not you want to read them), they’ll eventually see the light of day, some sooner than others.