Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Aya Tsintziras

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Aya Tsintziras is the author of the YA novel Pretty Bones, which was selected for the Canadian Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens in Spring 2012. She has a BA in Political Science from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing a Masters of Journalism at Ryerson University.

Please send your questions and comments for Aya to

On Writing, with Aya Tsintziras

Aya Tsintziras is Open Book: Toronto's January 2013 Writer in Residence.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Pretty Bones.

Aya Tsintziras:

Pretty Bones is a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl named Raine struggling with anorexia and relationships with her boyfriend, best friend and mother.


What motivated you to write about anorexia?

Pretty Bones

By Aya Tsintziras

From the publisher:

Raine has a family, good grades, best friends and a boyfriend who loves her. But then anorexia takes over, and her life spirals out of control. Her efforts to hide her condition are finished when she collapses at a school dance. Although she's whisked away to treatment, Raine isn't ready to accept who she really is and get the help she desperately needs. For Raine, coming-of-age means coming closer to death.

Read more about Pretty Bones at the James Lorimer & Company website.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Jennifer Close on Writing, Reading and Teaching

Yesterday, as it seemed to alternatively rain and stop raining, I sat at a tiny table in the lobby of a Toronto Harbourfront-area hotel. "Hi!" Jennifer Close said as she walked over, with her red hair and a navy dress with white polka dots on it. "Did you come in before you missed it? It seemed like there was lightning!"

Jennifer was in town for a few days this week (she lives in Washington) promoting her second novel, THE SMART ONE, which is witty and funny and an amazing read. She had been up since 6:15 that morning for an appearance on Canada AM, had tweeted for Random House from 11 a.m. to noon, and was preparing for a reading last night at Harbourfront.

My Last Post!

As I write this the wind is howling and the snow is falling, which would make it the perfect writing afternoon. But instead I'm doing homework for my copyediting class. Which is at least related to writing...

Today is the last day of my time as WIR for Open Book: Toronto! It has flown by. I've really enjoyed getting the chance to write about writing and reading.

I thought I'd finish with some recent links on writing and publishing.

Here's an excerpt from the new book Why We Write and an interview with Jodi Picoult, one of my favourite authors:

An interesting piece on whether it's okay to find humour in The Bell Jar:

Reading As a Kid

I come from a family of avid, passionate readers. Reading was a big part of my childhood, from my parents reading to me when I was little, from the Bread and Jam for Francis by Russell Hoban tape I listened to on repeat on car rides to Florida for our annual winter vacation, to the Babysitter's Club and Franklin books I devoured. That's why it's so inspiring to watch two kids I know -- Owen (aged 6) and Leah (aged 3), children of family friends -- grow up with a strong love of reading.

Why Poetry Matters

In high school, I wrote (really cheesy) poetry. Like a lot of teenagers! I stopped once I started university, but I never stopped loving the genre. Throughout my undergrad at the University of Toronto I was involved with two literary journals -- Acta Victoriana and The Hart House Review. This was really fun and it was nice to be involved in something creative, and to talk to others who loved poetry, too.

Poetry matters because, at its heart, it is a celebration of words.

Of course all writing and stories are made up of words too, but poems especially are about the beauty of language.

Take my favourite poem as an example. I love "Diving into the Wreck" by feminist poet Adrienne Rich. Here's my favourite passage:

"I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.

How TV Can Make You a Better Writer

We all know you should read books in the genre you write in. But what about watching TV shows in the genre you write in? For example, if you write adult fiction, what better way to learn how to craft dramatic story arcs than watching Mad Men or Breaking Bad or (my personal favourite) The Good Wife?

Since I write young adult, I love watching teen shows. Some of them are cheesy and only function as guilty pleasures. Others are really well crafted and inspire me to write better. My two favourites for plotting are The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. Sometimes these shows teach you what is too crazy or melodramatic, but other times, they show you what compelling, surprising storytelling is.

Some Thoughts on Writing Classes

There are a lot of debates on the topic of whether writing can be taught. Stephen King gives his opinion (he's against them) in his amazing book On Writing. The quality of the class depends on the people involved -- the teacher and the other students. Because it's ultimately about getting feedback. Which is what I believe writing classes really come down to: teaching you how to handle constructive criticism.

The Joys of Creative Non-Fiction

Creative Non-Fiction, also called Literary Non-Fiction or sometimes the Literature of Fact, is basically non-fiction written like fiction. The "creative" or "literary" part comes from the use of literary devices like dialogue, foreshadowing, character development, emotion, word choice, etc. I got a crash course in this genre when I took a U of T Continuing Ed. course last year with Andrew Westoll, who won the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for his book, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary.

Love Children's Lit? Some Creative Outlets in the City

Interested in children's literature? Want to visit a specialty bookstore or take a writing class? Here are some creative outlets in Toronto to express your passion for this genre.

Take a trip to Mabel's Fables (, 662 Mount Pleasant Road)

This children's bookstore was a favourite of mine growing up, and chances are a lot of Toronto residents have fond memories of visiting this store as kids. Visit the website for a list of upcoming events, readings, and classes. You can also take your young kids there for storytelling time.

Sign up for the Writing for the Children's Market class at Ryerson's Chang School

An Interview with Kendra Martin

Today I have an interview with Kendra Martin ( Read on for details on her publishing job, why she wanted a job working with books, and what she's reading right now.

1.) Tell us about your job in a few sentences.

I work for publisher James Lorimer & Company handling publicity and promotion.

2.) What made you want to work in publishing? What's your background?

My passion for reading lead me to take an English degree at university. Soon I discovered my editing skills and love for books could translate into an actual career path, so I took the leap into the world of Canadian publishing. And now I never need to worry about not having something good to read ever again!

3.) Describe a typical day.

An Interview with Sharon Jennings

Sharon Jennings is a multi-published children’s author living in Toronto. For a full bio and a list of her books, you can visit her website here:

Read on to see what Sharon says about her background, why she writes for children, and why the absence of a routine works for her!

Why did you want to become a writer?

I never ‘wanted’ to become a writer: I gradually became aware that I was fascinated with story structure, had always been a voracious reader, and that I had stories to tell. I had a Master’s in English literature and had worked as an editor for many years. When I had my three children, I put it all together and began writing for kids.

What led you to the children’s book genre?

Having a Place to Write: The Tarragon Theatre

Writing is a solitary activity. You spend hours alone at your computer, lost in a world of your creation. That's why having a community and contact with other writers can help. For me this came when I was fifteen and was part of the Tarragon Theatre's Young Playwrights Unit.

To Outline or Not to Outline: That is the Question

Before you sit down to write, do you plan what will happen in the scene or chapter, or do you just go for it and let the words come out? This is a common question discussed among writers – I’ve seen it phrased as are you a “plotter” (an outliner) or a “panster” (someone who just writes without a plan). I think I’m somewhere in the middle, and there are definitely pros and cons for both.

That Elusive Inspiration: Ways to Find It

A pretty common question for writers is how they find the inspiration for their work. It's one of those questions authors are basically always asked in interviews. Sometimes inspiration finds you and everything seems to come together -- your story, plot, characters, even your motivation to keep writing. But other times, you have to find inspiration, and if you've ever experienced writer's block, you know how awful it can feel when you really want to be creative but it just isn't happening.

Here are some things that have worked for me to get inspired to write.

1.) Reading books in my genre (YA). This is probably the easiest way to get inspired -- if you're a writer, chances are you're an avid reader. Great books make you want to be great, too.


Last night I went to Toronto-based author Andrew Kaufman's book launch for his fourth novel, Born Weird, at the cozy pub Dora Keogh on the Danforth. About halfway through the event, Andrew was interviewed by CBC's Nora Young, and had some inspiring things to say about his new novel in particular and writing in general.

Deep Breaths and Downward Dog: What Yoga Has Taught Me About Writing

I've been going to yoga classes 3 times a week at the amazing studio The Yoga Sanctuary ( since May, and I've learned that yoga is definitely a mind and body activity. During this morning's class, it occurred to me that yoga is part therapy and part exercise. I always leave class feeling much better than when I came in. Today's class left me feeling inspired with these poetic words from my teacher:

"We are human beings, we falter, we get distracted but we always have the option of coming back."

Author Visits: Going back to my high school

They say you can never go home again, but it turns out you can go back to high school.

Steps to a Successful Book Launch

Happy Monday!

Today I'm writing about how to plan your book launch. These five steps are all based on my experience with my own launch in September 2011.

1.) Pick a location. The most common choices are bookstores or a bar/pub. Pick a place where you'll feel the most comfortable (and it helps if it's TTC accessible!) I chose Type Books on Queen West (, an amazing bookstore, and Becky Toyne (an Open Book columnist!) helped me with my launch and did a great job.

2.) Send out invites. Whether by email or Facebook event, this is the best part -- sharing the good news with your friends and family that your book is being published and you want to celebrate with them.

Finding a Writing Routine

Most of the time it feels like there are never enough hours in a day, and that feeling is amplified when we try to find the time to write. Figuring out a writing routine can take a while, especially if your schedule has changed, if you're working around a day job, or even if you are a full-time writer. But writers write, and there are some ways to make sure you do.

Coming-of-age novels: In praise of The Torn Skirt

The Catcher in the Rye, On the Road -- these are coming-of-age novels typically discovered in high school. The kind of books that illuminate life and make you, the reader, feel alive. My own favourite coming-of-age novel was The Torn Skirt by Toronto-born Rebecca Godfrey, the kind of writer who can only be described as brave and poetic.

A Love Letter to YA

Sometimes it feels like we don't choose what we want to write but it chooses us. I think it's the same with whatever genre we end up writing in -- things just fall into place. I was reading young adult (YA) books before it was even officially a genre. I grew up devouring Ann M. Martin's The Babysitters Club series, sitting on the floor of Chapters (back when Indigo was Chapters!) and trying to decide between two books before my parents smiled and agreed to buy me two more for my collection. They would probably be considered middle grade books now, but I also loved Kit Pearson's A Handful of Time about a girl time travelling after discovering a watch and The Daring Game about a group of boarding school girls who secretly meet at night.

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a great New Year's Eve, whether you went out or stayed in, and a great holiday in general filled with family, friends, good food and, of course, great books.

I'm really excited to be the Writer in Residence this month. As a 23-year-old author and student, a lot of my time is spent juggling schoolwork and writing, so some of my posts will be about figuring out a writing routine, carving out the time to write, and finding inspiration. I spent the latter half of 2012 developing a yoga addiction so I'm also going to blog about what yoga can teach you about writing (I swear it can! It's not just all deep breaths). I also hope to post some interviews with other Toronto-based authors.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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