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!


Profile in Taddle Creek

Grace O'Connell Taddle Creek rooftopThe fantastic Conan Tobias at Taddle Creek is one of the best editors in the business for my money. So I was pretty excited to be profiled in Taddle Creek (and to be working with Conan on the magazine these days!).

Heather Hogan, who conducted and wrote this interview, was absolutely fantastic to work with; we met up in Kensington and I ranted about my usual favourites (Atwood, fairy tales, mental health, short fiction, etc.) while she asked a lot of intelligent questions.

Click here to read the profile.

(Also, I love that photo because it looks like old New York to me.)

Canada Writes: My Reader Interview


Before the holidays, I served as a reader for the CBC Canada Writes short story contest (readers make the first round of cuts, after which the jury makes the final selection). Canada Writes is the Cadillac of writing competitions in Canada, so it was exciting to be involved. It’s been around for years, and some of the past winners have gone on to be huge names in CanLit, including Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields and Michael Winter.

I read a LOT of stories. It was both fun and daunting to realise the volume of submissions (it’s one thing to know it, it’s another thing to see your allotted portion of it sitting on your living room floor). So if you entered and didn’t end up the short list, don’t despair!

The CBC Books team put together interviews for each of us readers, and mine was just posted today. Click here to check it outIt was great to have a chance to talk about what I look for when judging a story and what, more generally, makes a fantastic piece of short fiction.

You can also check out the longlist for the competition. The winner will be announced March 26.

Best Lyrics of the Year (an unbooky post)

CBC music logoThis isn’t strictly bookish, but it’s fun and involves two of my favourite things: music and CBC.

The CBC Music folks asked me and several other writer/editor types to pick their favourite lyrics of 2012 (any genre of music) and talk about why they are great.

I opted for “The Machine in Your Hand” by The Magnetic Fields and “Think That You Might Be Wrong” by Great Lake Swimmers, two songs that have great lyrics in very different ways. The other commentators chose a huge range of artists — check out the posting (linked above) and see whether you agree with our selections!

My bonus selection for best single line is another Magnetic Fields selection, from “The Horrible Party”: My dear, it was heaven until they ran out of champagne. Which pretty much works for every situation.

Book Club Questions for Magnified World

I’ve had a few notes asking for questions that book clubs could use to organize discussions around Magnified World. I love book clubs and I’ve put together a list below. There are quite a few points here, so I would recommend just choosing a few of these questions that might interest you and your group.

  1. Was Carol a good mother? How could you argue that she was, and how could you argue that she wasn’t?
  2. Why do you think Gil appears when he does?
  3. What roles do sex, violence and the body play in Magnified World?
  4. What sort of man is Chris, Maggie’s father? Do you feel he is a sympathetic character? How are he and Maggie similar or dissimilar?
  5. Is the ending of Magnified World hopeful or not? Why do you think the story ends in George’s?
  6. What role does the city play in the book? How can the city be viewed as an additional character?
  7. What do you think happen to Tracey after Wooster House? Do you believe she and Chad ran away together or do you believe Dr. Rosenberg’s story?
  8. Why is the store an important space for Maggie? What does her relationship with the tarot cards and crystals tell you about Maggie as a person?
  9. Why does Maggie write in her notebooks so much? What benefit does it provide for her?
  10. Is Gil a negative or positive influence on Maggie?
  11. What is Gil’s nature? Is it clear by the end of the book who or what he is?
  12. Gil’s body is mentioned frequently, whether he is attractive, menacing, injured or otherwise. Why is his physicality important? What does his body mean to Maggie?
  13. How well did Maggie know her mother?
  14. In what ways were Maggie and her mother the same? How were they different?
  15. Both Dr. Rosenberg and Carol are displaced Americans. In what other ways are people in this book outsiders or displaced?
  16. Why is the story of Elaine an important anecdote? What sort of marriage do you think Carol and Chris, Maggie’s parents, had? Were they in love?
  17. Maggie goes to Georgia looking for answers. Does she get any?
  18. How do the epigraphs included before the novel’s text relate to the story and to Maggie?
  19. Is the grieving process different when a loved one is lost to suicide rather than illness or accident? How does Maggie’s story address this?
  20. What does the title Magnified World mean to you?

Image credit: Steve Clayton, via

My Short Story in the Globe & Mail

This Saturday, the back of the Arts section of the Globe & Mail featured a verrrry short story I wrote a little while ago. It’s not even 1000 words, but it’s a story that’s always had a strange hold on my imagination. Plus, I’m super excited to see fiction in the newspaper! My thanks to the good folks at the Globe & Mail.

I also love the images they used alongside it — they fit perfectly. Go figure I would write a story where the most appropriate images are beer and Joni Mitchell….

The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers!!

Growing up, CBC Radio 1 played in my house pretty much morning until evening everyday. So this interview, chatting with the amazing Shelagh Rogers for CBC’s The Next Chapter, was particularly exciting for me (and by exciting, I mean I basically cartwheeled down to the CBC building to record it).

The episode opens with an interview with Katrina Onstad (who I just had the pleasure of reading with yesterday at The Word on the Street), and follows with discussions with Randy Boyagoda and Colleen Brown. I’m the last one on the docket (I start at about 29:55) and Shelagh asks me incredibly interesting and insightful questions. This was a really fun interview for me (not to mention a total trip to be on CBC) so I hope you’ll check it out!

ELLE Canada Fashion Dare!

The very nice people at ELLE Canada invited me to participate in a series called “Fashion Dare”, where a regular person (that’s me), test drives a new and upcoming trend. Then we chatted a bit about Magnified World and my writing process, which was lots of fun.

I’m pretty clueless when it comes to clothes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them. Luckily, the fashion geniuses at ELLE made it all easy for me, dressing me in beautiful things, doing my hair and make-up and generally making me feel very glam (especially for eight o’clock in the morning!).

The photo isn’t up online, but if you happen to be browsing the racks at the grocery store, I hope you’ll check out the October edition of ELLE Canada, on newsstands now. UPDATE: You can see the photo online via the awesome site In The Company of Artists!

As a side note, it seems making writers over is a popular pursuit — check out this fun story about the National Post Arts Editors getting spruced up for the Toronto Film Festival.

Final Hazlitt Post: The Hanged Man

My final post for Random House’s Hazlitt site is about tarot cards. I learned quite a lot about them while I was writing Magnified World. In fact, reading about tarot was one of my favourite parts of the research process. And the hanged man is one of my favourite cards.

This is the end of my guest blogging gig for Hazlitt, but there’s lots of fantastic content on the site, from both authors in the Random House stable and many others. Happy reading.

Random House Launches Hazlitt; I chat with Steven Heighton!

So my publisher, Random House Canada, has launched a fantastic new online publication, Hazlitt, which is already chock full of excellent content (the site is named after essayist William Hazlitt, who I remember from my fourth year Romantic Literature seminar as “the handsome one” – though, interestingly, he looks best in his self-portrait…).

Anyway, I’m happy to say that Random House included me in the fun; I corresponded with author Steven Heighton for a while a few weeks ago, talking about truth in fiction. The result was this posting for Hazlitt: “If It’s Fiction, It Better Be True”.

I hope you’ll check it out! Steve is a fantastic writer, a mentor and a friend, and it was a treat to have the chance to talk to him about writing.

Magnified World on the CityLine Book Club

I woke up on Friday to a very pleasant surprise: I’ve been included in CityLine’s Friday Reads Book Club. And I’m in very good company: Marilyn Smith, a guest expert, posted a recommendation of Chris Cleave’s Gold in the same posting where Suzanne Ellis, Editor, posted a recommendation of Magnified World. It was a lovely surprise, especially to be featured alongside Chris, who is a wonderful writer and who I had the pleasure of meeting briefly a while ago at Random House.

Thanks to Suzanne and the CityLine Book Club!

The Three Rs Interview with Slightly Bookist

JC Sutcliffe of the fabulous book blog Slightly Bookist recently invited me to participate in her Three Rs interview series.

Here’s the post! The things JC asked me about were fun to think about, like typing vs. longhand, my all-time favourite books and my reading habits while writing. And there are lots of other great posts in the series as well — hope you’ll check it, and Slightly Bookist in general, out!