Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

wayofthewest's blog

The Mysteries of Radio

Back in fall, my book Dust City was nominated for the 2012 Red Maple Award, part of Ontario's Forest of Reading Program. A couple months later, one of the organizers contacted the nominees with an unexpected proposition.

"We would like to see if a few of you could be voice recorded," she wrote in an email, "for a commercial" to be played on an Ottawa radio station. I agreed, of course. (How often do you get to make a radio ad?)

A few days later, I drove up to a grey, anonymous, commercial park in the northern netherburbs of Toronto. There I met some of the folks at Sky Words, a recording studio that specializes in "aerial advertising."

The Mysteries of Radio

In October, Dust City was nominated for the 2012 Red Maple Award, part of Ontario's Forest of Reading Program; a couple weeks ago, one of the organizers contacted the nominees with an unexpected proposition.

"We would like to see if a few of you could be voice recorded," she wrote in an email, "for a commercial" to be played on an Ottawa radio station. I agreed, of course. (How often do you get to make a radio ad?)

A few days later, I drove up to a grey, anonymous, commercial park in the northern netherburbs of Toronto. There I met the lovely folks at Sky Words, a recording studio that specializes in "aerial advertising."

Rhyming Verse is the First-Person Shooter of Children's Lit

I'm not what you might called "a gamer." You could count the number of video games I've played in my lifetime on two hands. I'm talking about single games—like single plays. Maybe twelve at most. So I'm no expert. But I was doing some research about gaming recently and I came across several articles (like this one) making the case that video games are addictive. There's even talk—idle talk, thankfully—of making "video game addiction" a mental illness.

All Writers Are Mystery Writers

Back on July 10, 2011, the New York Times Book Review printed a great little essay by Roger Rosenblatt, called "The Writer as Detective." I liked it so much it's pinned up beside me at the writing desk.

Here's an abridgement of one eminently quotable paragraph:

"All writers are mystery writers...Like them, we muck about in a world studded with clues, neck-deep in motives. Like them, we falter in our investigations and follow wrong leads...Only when we have finished a piece of work do we know true shamus loneliness, realizing that the chase is over and that no one has been watching us but us."

James Frey Wants Your Ideas, $250 a Pop

This week, The Globe and Mail reported on James Frey's "Damien Hirst-inspired" young-adult novel factory. Apparently, Frey's latest gambit is to hire young (and presumably desperate) writers to pen novels for him, which he'll subsequently edit and in doing so stamp his name on them, presenting each book as a collaboration. He views this as an improvement on book packagers like Alloy who, in lieu of royalties, tend to pay a flat fee of around $10,000 per manuscript.

Cornelia Funke: Arch Enemy

Since when did Cornelia Funke, the so-called "German J.K. Rowling," become my nemesis? It appears to have happened on this week, on September 14, when she released her latest book.

Here’s how it breaks down: At the moment, my first book is up for the 2011 California Young Reader’s Medal. The shortlist is exactly that: short. Three books, that's it:

Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley
Zorgamazoo by me

Writing Young Adult Fantasy Course at U of T

If anyone out there is interested in learning the ins and out(there)s of writing fantasy aimed at the amorphous reader we sometimes call “the young adult,” then I’m your man!

Starting on Monday, I’ll be instructing a night-course at U of T appropriately called “Writing Young Adult Fantasy”. If anyone is interested, there’s still time to enroll. You can be certain I’ll be slavering everything I know all over the genre — structure, characterization, thematic drive, naturalism versus narrative in dialogue…the list goes on and on. I swear.

Alan Cumming to do Zorgamazoo Audio Book!

Got some very good news today: My editor contacted me out-of-the-blue to say Alan Cumming (Titus; X-Men; The Good Wife; um, best Cabaret MC ever) is going to do the Zorgamazoo audio book!

It feels odd (and wonderful) to know that one of my favourite actors will be reading my novel -- and aloud, no less, which is how it's meant to be! Needless to say, I'm pretty flabbergasted over here.

Toronto vs. Pueblo. Flagship Library, please.

Yesterday I returned from a week in Colorado, where I presented Zorgamazoo to the schools of Pueblo. Something that struck me about the city -- a relatively small one, with a population just over 100,000 -- was the rather stunning main branch of the library system.

Passenger pigeons

So yeah, apparently in the 19th century there were at least 2 billion passenger pigeons in North America. The birds' only natural defense was to congregate in sheer numbers. There are multiple accounts of flocks a mile wide and 300 miles long. That's like a single flock from here to Detroit. Witnesses said it took hours from the thing to pass overhead.

Then folks needed cheap meat to feed their slaves, so they started killing the pigeons and packing them on trains back to NYC and Boston. The majority of the birds were killed in just twenty years, between 1870 and 1890. People doused their grain with liquor and shot the birds after they were drunk.

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