echoic mimic

Things have been kind of quiet on my front (slowly chugging away on some writing, preparing for year-end in my daytime accountant life, enjoying this last gasp of summer), but I quickly wanted to tell you about what you should do this Sunday October 2, 2011 if you live in Montreal:

Come to The Sparrow, buy yourself a few drinks and listen to a mind blowing line up of readers, one of whom is especially dear to me, Lesley Trites. You might also know her from her wine blog, Girl on Wine. Lesley and I have been literary sidekicks since we both moved to Montreal 5 years ago, and sidekicks in general for a few more years before that. We’ve read each others’ first drafts, been to countless poetry readings where we didn’t know anyone else but each other, drank many bottles of wine, and shared many milestones in each other’s lives (she was in my wedding!). So, yeah, you can say we’re tight. Which is why I’m so excited and happy about the launch of her first book of poetry, echoic mimic, which is being published by Snare Books. Lesley’s poetry is beautiful and surprising, and echoic mimic captures this perfectly. From the description of the book, it’s a “mixed-genre long poem whose narrative thread follows the tumultuous life of a girl named Ada through a complicated love-hate relationship with her small hometown and its inhabitants, as she leaves to land wide-eyed in a new big city.”

I’m going to do an uninterview with Lesley in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that as well, but in the meantime check out her site for details about readings she’ll be doing in the near future and how to order her book.

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.)

Face to face

Since returning from California, I haven’t had much time to breathe. A combination of work deadlines plus more traveling has left me sleepy, but all for good cause. Some fun stuff happened; I have pictures.

I’ve mentioned the ladies I keep in touch with from the Humber program I took a few years ago, and last week I was lucky enough to meet a handful of them. Lisa McGonigle, author of “Snowdrift”, happened to be in Montreal for an Irish Studies conference at Concordia. She arrived while I was out of town and even though we had never met, I had no qualms about letting her stay at our place (and catsit our surly cat, Archer.) When I returned, the two of us met up for a drink here in the city and finally met in person. We laughed a lot.

photoGiggly after some wine

Then I took a train down to Toronto. I had been invited, along with a number of other alumni, to speak to the participants of the Humber School for Writers summer workshop. There were 13 of us in total, and it was illuminating hearing the various paths one can take towards getting a book out there into the world. Everyone advocated persistence, but there were also little blips of good luck, bad luck, strange detours and rejection woes along the way. I talked a lot about the importance of querying a publisher suited to your writing and how important it is to have a supportive group of people around you. I also quoted Lorrie Moore’s story “How to Become a Writer”, which has the best piece of writing advice: First try to be something, anything else. Ha.

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But let’s talk more about that supportive group thing. My pal Darcie Friesen Hossack was also invited to the talk, and she took a plane all the way from BC to attend. I was overjoyed when I found out that we would finally get a chance to hang out, and like my meeting with Lisa earlier on that week, I was instantly comfortable around Darcie. Her talk at Humber was exactly what you would imagine from Darcie if you’re familiar with her writing: eloquent, wryly funny, ultra professional.

DSC06796Darcie at Humber

It was an absolutely gorgeous day in Toronto, and after strolling around the Humber campus, we headed downtown to meet even more members from our little mailing list. Five us crowded around a table in the patio of Terroni, ate incredible Italian food and spent almost 3 hours gabbing about writing and life. (And near death – Lynda, who is a pilot, had an impressive arsenal of terrifying/exhilarating stories about situations she’s encountered in the air). It was the perfect way to spend a summer night, and I hope to repeat it again soon.

DSC06818Lynda, moi, Darcie, Keri and Amy at dinner

DSC06799A cute photo of Keri and Amy

DSC06810We took photos of the food. Is that tentacle calling to you? It called to me.

Thank you, ladies. Truly.

Fried eggs + things to do in Montreal

Bacon and eggs

I’m in Cape Breton right now doing things like looking at the ocean and driving along country roads and playing with a sweet, but overly excitable doggy, but here are a few quick things:

- I’m over at Bookmadam reading M.F.K. Fisher’s recipe for Aunt Gwen’s Fried Egg Sandwiches. Julie Wilson has been collecting mp3s of writers reading their favourite recipes. Last week kicked off with folks such as Darcie Friesen Hossack and Iain Reid. Ms. Fisher is one of my favourite writers in the world, and her particular blend of memoir food writing has been an inspiration for years, so it was a no brainer picking something of hers. If you’re not familiar with her, Ms. Mary Francis wrote elegantly about everything from oysters to fried egg sandwiches, translated Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste and is basically the definition of someone who lived and wrote like a motherfucker. This recipe is from An Alphabet for Gourmets (which contains one of my most favourite essays, A is for Dining Alone), but I would also highly recommend The Gastronomical Me, which was the first book I read of hers and the one I still love the most.

mentorship2011_webflyer

- If you’re in Montreal on Monday May 30th, come hear me and 6 others read writing we’ve been working on over the past few months with our lovely QWF mentors. You can get an idea of the novel I’ve been alluding to on this site. I’ve been carrying the thick stack of paper around with me because I’m just kind of pleased with the heft of it, proof that it exists and that I’ve really been working on something tangible. It’s a nice feeling.

- Also, for Montrealers, if you’re in town this weekend don’t miss A St-Henri le 26 aout, a documentary that follows various people in St. Henri as they go about their day on August 26, 2010. It’s a charming movie, the kind that really captures the neighbourhoody vibe that exists in Montreal. A good friend, Danielle, is one of the people featured in the movie and she brings the filmmakers to the top of a silo and then through a drain underground. It’s playing at Cinema Parallele all weekend.

Blue Met panel recap

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Here’s a photo of me peeking out between some folks in the audience at my Blue Met panel on Thursday. For a summary of what we talked about, a blogger has written about it over here: http://nascentnovelist.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/the-city-as-a-character/

If you’re looking for reading material involving “the city”, I talked about What We All Long For by Dionne Brand, Bottle Rocket Hearts by Zoe Whittall, Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill, The Tin Flute or Bonheur d’occasion by Gabrielle Roy and Lisa Moore/Michael Winter/Kathleen Winter’s portrayals of St. John’s. I mentioned an anecdote about D.H. Lawrence that I picked up from Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage. And of course, my fellow panelists own books – Gail Scott’s The Obituary is about Montreal’s Mile End/Plateau area and Peter Dube’s latest, Subtle Bodies, is set in surrealist-era Paris.

Having never spoken at this kind of writerly thing before, I was nervous, but in the end was happy with how it turned out. I learned that it was a good thing I didn’t write down word for word what I wanted to talk about or else I would’ve just read off the paper, and I didn’t want to do that. I learned that a glass of red wine beforehand will make me feel less nervous. A last minute purchase of a new dress from H&M helps too. I learned that a conversation involving writers and Montreal will eventually turn into a discussion about what it’s like being an anglo writer in this city and I realized that because Montreal is the city where I first truly felt comfortable calling myself a writer, I haven’t faced the particular challenges that might come with growing up and being a writer here. I learned that if you’re at a book signing table sitting next to Bernhard Schlink, probably you will sign zero of your own books. I learned that despite being wired on adrenaline for the longest time afterwards, I will still wake up at 5:45 the next morning to watch the royal wedding. All great lessons, no?

Blue Met, next Thursday

In the past week or so I’ve done many things: participated in a mass sing along at a Pixies show, watched the Montreal symphony orchestra play Debussy’s The Sea, ate sublime Portuguese food and mediocre Indian, made homemade pasta, had kitchen table talks with the loveliest of houseguests, delivered the entire first drafty-draft of my novel to my writing mentor, attended a bachelorette party that involved sparkly red nail polish manicures and a stripper named Will Power, worked a few 12 hour days, and, after all of that, started developing the beginnings of a cold. Of course. So, I need a few days to rest, and hopefully an Easter Weekend trip to Toronto will do the trick.

But first I wanted to let you know about a few things:

1) Kim posted an interview with me over on her website. Thank you, Kim!

2) If you live in Montreal, I will be participating in a panel as part of the Blue Metropolis literary festival on Thursday April 28 at 8 pm. I’ve been attending Blue Met events since I moved to Montreal (for example.), and am looking forward to participating in one. The panel is called “City as Character” and it’s being presented by the Quebec Writers Federation. Here’s the description:

From Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles to Sherlock Holmes’ London, the city has long played an important role as character in some of the most fascinating fiction of the last two centuries. Following on that tradition, three writers consider how “the city” plays an important role in their recent work.

With Gail Scott, Peter Dubé, Teri Vlassopoulos. Hosted by Sherry Simon.

Duration: 75 minutes.

More details are here: http://bluemetropolis.org//2011_prog2.php?act=programme1§ion=festival&event=28

Hope to see you there!

Last post of 2010

photo

Christmas vacation has officially begun, although the past few days have been decidedly festive: a potluck dinner with 10 of us crowding around a table eating 3 types of fowl and more types of wine, roasting marshmallows at the little Christmas village at the nearby park, rolling out cookies, watching Cirque du Soleil performers contort themselves into the most unbelievable positions while hanging from silk ropes or simply off each other, sitting on the floor wrapping presents, the ubiquitous office cocktail party, fa la la la la, you get the picture.

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One quick trip to the Atwater market and then we’re heading out to Toronto for the holidays with a car full of presents and a cat (we’ve decided to let Archer accompany us on our Christmas travels). In Toronto I’m hoping to do a lot of baking, read some books and catch a late night Christmas day screening of True Grit.

2010 has been a good and important year for me, and it’s a little bittersweet to let it go, but I’m carrying a few talismans to remember it: photos and posters for our walls, new books in the shelves, a bunch of new words. I feel armed and ready to tackle another year. So, here’s to 2011 and to new words and new photos. Thank you for reading these posts and regardless of what you celebrate I hope it involves some kind of sweet, warm, freshly baked good and a few glasses of wine.

Notes on NYC

Times Square

Back home with a suitcase a little heavier from some new clothes, but also new books, including a stack of fresh Elevator Alleys, all beautiful and shiny. New York City was good to us, and it was nice to be there and not feel so harried to do everything. We had time to walk blocks and blocks, to go to some museums and galleries, to sometimes choose to spend a night in so that we could order take-out and gossip with a dearly missed friend, to fit in more meals in general.

The Met

I love the Met. I haven’t been to all of the major museums in NYC, but of the ones I’ve been to, the Met is my favourite. It’s so sprawling and sumptuous, marble statues and amazing furniture, paintings I’ve seen in books and photographs too. And it’s pay by donation, which is appreciated in an expensive city. This time around my favourite things were Stieglitz’s weird photos of Georgia O’Keefe’s hands and the Paul Strand’s portrait of Steiglitz when he’s old and bitter. We took wrong turns trying to leave until a guard directed us past the gigantic Christmas tree. Afterwards we bought coffee and a cupcake and ate it on the steps, and then walked back to Hell’s Kitchen, cutting through Central Park, and once we made it out the other side, it was dark, and all the windows in Bergdorf Goodman were lit up and there were blinding Christmas lights all the way down Fifth Avenue.  (I’m still impressed by all the stereotypical New York City stuff, I admit. I probably always will be.)

NYC book haul

I thought I would limit myself to 3 books, but that didn’t quite work out. (From The Strand and McNally Jackson).

Doughnut Plant

NYC is good for enabling whatever kind of food preference you have because there is such a sheer volume of restaurants and diners and food trucks and greenmarkets and specialty shops. I like a lot of bad foods, but you can get such good bad food in NYC that I find it hard to say no to anything. Bready bagels, which are not as a good as Montreal bagels, but I do concede that they’re better vessels for that magic combination of egg/cheese/bacon. Even better was a fresh buttermilk biscuit, split in half. I had fried chicken that was made from chickens that ran free in Amish country in Pennsylvania before meeting their demise. BBQ, including the creamiest creamed corn, studded with hot peppers. One night we ordered in milkshakes from the diner down the street, partially because I liked the novelty of ordering in milkshakes and partially because I just really wanted that milkshake.

Book launch

The most important reason for being in New York was for Andrew and Michael’s book launch on Tuesday night. Third Ward is a great space in a fittingly industrial area of Brooklyn. We drank book-launch-red-wine and then watched the presentations, first Jean Kahler and Jessica Rowe  for their book, The End of New York, about Staten Island, and then Andrew and Michael for Elevator Alley. Michael gave the room information about this unique/important part of Buffalo and Andrew talked to us about his motivations for his photos.  When the room finally emptied out, we took the subway back into Manhattan and ate late night Italian food. The books are beautiful, the colours just right. Electric Lit wrote about the night as well.

So, thanks NYC. That was fun. I hope to see you again sometime soon.

Back to work, back to NYC

Expozine table

After the book launches died down, I spent a long day at Expozine in Montreal, where I shared a table with Molly, who I’ve known through zines since we were both in high school. We used to write letters to each other because neither of us had an email address – that’s how far back we go. I picked up some beautiful zines, which I should tell you about one of these days. There’s been a revival of sorts among zinesters I used to know, and there’s something very comforting about it.

Recent books

I’ve also picked up these books at various readings or zine fairs, and I’m slowly working my way through the pile. (So far I have very good things to say about Sheila Heti’s newest, “Three Deaths” by Josip Novakovitch and the poems in “The Lateral” by Jake Kennedy.)

And finally, for the first time since I left Greece in September, I pulled out a copy of my novel draft and read all 70,000+ words, after which I realized how much work I had to do, got tired, and baked a batch of Madeleines, and then some weirdly flat whole wheat chocolate chip cookies and then a big pot of boeuf bourguignon instead of tackling edits. And then I got really full over the shock and went back to work. I’m feeling stubborn about this particular project.

Actually, there’s one thing I can do to get away from fretting about a book that no one really cares about: skip town and head to New York City. Naturally, right? So, this Saturday, Andrew and I are flying to NYC where we’re looking forward to hanging out with Soraya, eating as much amazing food as possible, visiting the Stieglitz/Strand exhibit happening at the Met, etc. But the real reason for the trip is this:

Elevator Alley
60 pages, 20 color photographs, published by Furnace Press, NY
A photo documentation and critical analysis of the largely derelict Childs Street grain elevators in Buffalo’s First Ward, Elevator Alley tackles the history, present and future of the giant structures that played a central role in Buffalo’sindustrial development and subsequent decline.

Andrew took all the photographs and Michael Cook wrote all the text. (For those keeping score, Andrew and Michael have collaborated once before on um, criminal charges.) The book is being launched, along with 2 others, on Tuesday November 30th at 3rd Ward in Brooklyn. If you’re in the area, please come – it will be fun, there will be booze, Andrew and Michael will present their work, and you can get a copy of a truly gorgeous book.

More info about Elevator Alley:

These past few months have been an excellent period for book publishing in the Emond-Vlassopoulos household, and we hope to the trend continues far into the future.

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: https://secure.ckut.ca//64/20101102.12.00-13.00.mp3. We come in at the 29 minute mark, so skip ahead.