International Festival of Authors Recap

The Journey Prize IFOA 2013 So the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) is over for another year and it was, as always, a whirlwind. This year was a year of firsts for me: I hosted three events and also blogged for the festival (I also got to host the brilliant Ann Patchett at IFOA Weekly shortly after the festival, which was beyond dreamy – don’t miss her new book of essays, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage). Both hosting and blogging were fantastic fun.

So, for those outside Toronto, or just wanting to relive the festival fun, here are the blog posts I wrote during the festival, re-capping three excellent events:

IFOA 2013: The Journey Prize 25th Anniversary Celebration

IFOA 2013: Messages from the Bottle – Jowita Bydlowska and Ann Dowsett Johnston in Conversation

IFOA 2013: The Humber School for Writers – How We Write Panel Discussion

Until next year, my fine literary friends!

The Queen’s English: Join Us in Kingston

The Queen's EnglishIt seems I can’t stay away from the town of Robertson Davies, Steven Heighton, Diane Schoemperlen, Bronwen Wallace and so many other great writers.

If you’re in Kingston on September 21, 2013, please join the Queen’s University English department, myself, and a bevy of fantastic writers for the Queen’s English Quasiquicentennial (say that three times fast). That’s 125 years of Queen’s University English goodness. I’ll be reading and discussing bookish things with Moez Surani, Gillian Savigny, Alex Porco and the inimitable Carolyn Smart.

Recent Recommended Reads

It’s warming up in Toronto, which means one thing: SUMMER READS.

Is there anything better than lying in the Grange or in the sand on Ward Island or basically anywhere in the sunshine, reading a great book? (Spoiler: no, there is not.)

So I wanted to share a few awesome recent reads, in case you’re looking for something to kickstart your warm weather reading. In no particular order, the best of what I’ve been reading lately:

Truth & Beauty Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett: Truth & Beauty, memoir

This book is utterly gorgeous. It tells the story of Ann Patchett and her best friend, the American poet Lucy Grealy. It’s a fascinating, hilarious, heart-breaking relationship and Patchett is a scorching good writer. My copy has copious tear stains all over the last thirty or so pages. Also an interesting peek into the American writing scene.

The Interestings

Meg Wolitzer: The Interestings, fiction

I reviewed this book for the National Post and it was an absolute treat to do so. Meg Wolitzer says so many smart, dead-on things in this book that I feel like you could write them all down and carry them around in your pocket like an inanimate therapist/best friend. If you want more, you can click through and read my review, which I was careful to keep spoiler-free. This is a big book, but it flies by. Not easy reading, but so, so good.

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeCarol Rifka Brunt: Tell the Wolves I’m Home, fiction

This is maybe the most interesting book I’ve read in recent years. It’s written effortlessly and never does what you expect it to. The simple summary is that it follows 14 year old June, an outsider in upstate New York, after the death of her beloved uncle. When she discovers her uncle had a lover for decades that she never met, she’s jealous and hurt. But soon June and the lover strike up a secret friendship that becomes one of the most moving things I’ve read in recent memory. I could rave about this book for too long so I’ll stop here, but: read it.

Days That End in Y

Vikki Vansickle: Days That End in Y, middle grade readers

Full disclosure: Vikki is one of my best friends. She’s also brilliant and has written FOUR books in the time that I’ve written one (what murderous jealousy?). This is the third and final instalment in her series that began with Words That Start With B. Her heroine Clarissa is completely irresistible, even when she is cranky and sometimes (a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do) sneaky.

Funny, achingly real and genuinely suspenseful — don’t miss it.

The Modern World

Cassie Beecham: The Modern World, short stories

These stories are sharp and raw, darkly funny, completely spot-on. Told in voices that are sulky yet vulnerable, unapologetic yet tentative, there’s so much real, real life here.

I hope you all find some great summer reads. I know I’ll be on the hunt for more!

Dirty Little Secret

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorthy Parker

My second post for the Random House’s Hazlitt site is up! It’s about the strange and somewhat nerve-wracking process of learning to actually call myself a writer (something which still feels a bit surreal for me). Hope you enjoy it!