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"That's Not Bhangra" places in Ten Stories High

On a dull, snowy Saturday, my wife Jeanine and I were happy to drive to St. Catherine's, ON, where I was honoured to read at the launch of the Canadian Authors Association's (Niagara) launch of Ten Stories High, its 2017 short-story contest anthology.



Ten writers had stories in this, Volume 17 of Ten Stories High. From all the entries, 40 were selected by CAA Niagara volunteers for the judge, André Narbonne, who is a University of Windsor lecturer and member of the Writers' Union of Canada. Mr. Narbonne determined the 10 winners -- seven honourable mentions (including mine) and three prize winners; all of us read at the launch.



"That's Not Bhangra" (2,600 words) is about a middle-aged woman who, as a young person, had wanted to be a ballet dancer. Based (extremely loosely) on my own experience, the tale addresses the theme of artistic rebirth. All selected stories in the anthology dealt with rebirth in various forms, and the cover illustration, with its death-i…
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Richard Wagamese was a Genius

Richard Wagamese died at 61 in March 2017, less than two months ago, and it bothers me that his writing isn't better known and loved. Once you know it, it's hard (in my experience) not to love. But other than short obligatory mentions in the media, his death, at least in Canada, has garnered little sorrow or interest outside of the writing community itself.

That's unfortunate: it's a missed opportunity, for three reasons.

First, in contrast to what I've learned in the news media and from nonfiction dealing with Canada's residential schools, it was only in reading Wagamese's novel Indian Horse (2012) that I could understand -- intellectually but especially at a gut level -- that sorry chapter in Canadian history.

Second, Wagamese's fiction can help heal historical wounds. His fiction at times relates the effects of Colonialism (as they've played out in Canada) in excruciating detail and from a First Nations viewpoint, but nevertheless his writer'…

"Paper Icon" in POLISH(ED) anthology

In fall 2017, Guernica Editions releases POLISH(ED): Poland Rooted in Canadian Fiction, edited by Kasia Jaronczyk and Małgorzata Nowaczyk. POLISH(ED) is an anthology of short fiction by or about the Polish diaspora in Canada.

Distributed by the University of Toronto Press, the book contains short stories by emerging and established writers. Two of the latter are Eva Stachniak and Ania Szado.

So, I'm honoured that my short story "Paper Icon," first published in Other Voices (Edmonton) in 2011, appears in POLISH(ED). The tale follows a widowed Polish immigrant in Stratford, Ontario, as she struggles to keep open her run-down bed-and-breakfast shortly after 2008's global financial crisis.

Interview: Adam Lindsay Honsinger

I recorded this interview with Adam Lindsay Honsinger in 2016 about his literary novel Gracelessland (Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 2015). The interview also available on iTunes, as part of The Village Podcast from the Bookshelf, a bookseller podcast coming out of Guelph, Ontario.

Nominated twice for The Journey Prize, Honsinger is a writer, teacher, and illustrator. Many of his short stories have been published in literary journals, including Descant, Prism International, Other Voices, and Exile Quarterly. At the 2010 National Magazine Awards, a story of his won Silver.

Honsinger grew up in suburban Toronto in the 1970s, and the myth of suburban bliss figures strongly in Gracelessland, as does the protagonist's father's obsession with Elvis Presley. Kepler Pressler -- the name plays simultaneously on the famous astronomer and Elvis -- is the main character. The wordplay with Kepler's name tips off the reader of the humour to come.

This book is often playful. Howev…

Review: The Morelli Thing

The Morelli Thing by Frank Lentricchia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book gave me a bracing glimpse of the Mafia-ruled towns in New Jersey. Frank Lentricchia is an academic and writer of English criticism, and as a novelist his style is understated but competent: like good underwear, you're not aware of it!

The story contains a host of characters on both sides of the law, including a hired killer with high-fashion-model looks and a "moral" vendetta to kill people who've killed people she cares for. And there's a fascinating piece of mob history, based on actual characters and events from the 1940s.

This was an entertaining read that raised some thorny moral questions -- and made me empathize with the owners of a small-time illegal gambling joint!

Salon at the Writing Room

For the last two years, The Writing Room at The Bookshelf has been open on Mondays from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. It's a quiet place to write among other writers of all types and levels. Just so you know, it really is quiet: silence is a rule, and no cellphones are allowed.


At the end of every session, the last 15 minutes are available to anyone who would like to discuss their writing with other writers. This critiquing/gab session is restricted to those interested in doing so; you don't have to participate, and most folks don't.

Reading Night, aka "The Salon" On June 21, The Writing Room held its twice-yearly reading night, aka "salon" (pictured here). The writing space is located upstairs in The Bookshelf, Guelph's fabulous bookstore-cinema-bar.

Any participating writer who wants to read signs up ahead of time, and each reader introduces themselves and a bit about their current project or successes.

I have read at three salons now, and it's always …

Bridging Historical and Contemporary Fiction (Guest Blog Post)

Historical fiction, like all genres, has fuzzier boundaries than publishers and bookstores would have you believe.

As I learned in writing my novel The Two Row scholar, some novels of contemporary life can have strong historical elements that influence character, setting, and plot. The challenges of this hybrid category form the topic of my essay: "Even contemporary fiction can have historical elements."

Thanks to M.K. Tod for the opportunity to write a guest post on her blog, A Writer of History: Inside Historical Fiction.

Inspiration: Our Home on Native Land

Our Home on Native Land is a documentary video that aided the research for my novel Blood of Disrespect. This doc features interviews with people on both sides of the Grand River Land Dispute (aka "Caledonia"). When some members of the Six Nations of the Grand River  blockaded highways running through it and the town of Caledonia, the protest began  in February 2006. The Six Nations reserve is located about 100 km (60 miles) from Toronto, Ontario.

In researching my novel, Blood of Disrespect, viewing Our Home on Native Land informed the development of characters on both sides of the dispute. I hasten to point out that neither of the two individuals in this video appear in any guise as characters in the novel. But their stories highlight the family discord and personal pain that some people experienced.
A SureHallLick Production, presented by Mohawk College. Produced by Megan Hall, Theo Scheurwater and Wymon Stanlick. (Standard YouTube Licence)

Subtext II: Types of Subtext

My earlier post "Subtext I: In a Nutshell" detailed the four building materials of subtext: characterization, human "stuff," nature, and mood/atmosphere. Those are the raw materials for creating subtext.

But what about subtext itself: is it one "thing" or does it come in different varieties? Well, it comes in six types, as Elizabeth Lyon discusses in Writing Subtext.

If you can learn to identify, and use, each type of subtext, your fiction will carry heightened emotional depth and suspense.

The TypesSexual AttractionPredator MenaceIn Dialogue Unaware CharactersNaïve CharactersIn Setting
The Types in Action A good exercise is to first find a passage of fiction that has foreshadowing and/or prompts you (as a reader) to ask story questions. Then, try to identify which type of subtext the author has used.

To get you started, here are some samples from novels. (Note: Elizabeth Lyon's book Writing Subtext gives examples of the types, but I have independent…

Review of Giles Blunt's The Hestitation Cut

Today, on Bookshelf Reviews, my review appeared of The Hestitation Cut, Canadian crime novelist Giles Blunt's latest book, a suspenseful look at dysfunctional relationships. It's the story of a failed monk's obsessive love for a famous -- and suicidal -- New York City novelist. But fear not, you'll find humour too within this novel.

See the full review at the Bookshelf Reviews blog.