Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Liz Worth 2011

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Liz Worth is the Toronto-based author of Amphetamine Heart (Guernica Editions, 2011), Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond 1977-1981 (Bongo Beat/ECW, 2011) and Eleven: Eleven (Trainwreck Press, 2008), a shot of surreal punk fiction.

Please send your questions and comments for Liz to

The Proust Questionnaire, with Liz Worth

Liz Worth is Open Book's August 2011 Writer in Residence. In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Liz tells us about her heroes in real life and fiction, her dream of happiness and more.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.


What is your dream of happiness? Doing everything all the time. Or finally feeling satisfied that I’ve done enough.

Amphetamine Heart

By Liz Worth

Amphetamine Heart was pulled together from old journal entries and pieces of dreams. It leans on destructive emotions and relationships with people, places and substances, a lot of which is reflected in the discomfort with, and abuse of, the body that threads through these pieces. Worth makes poetry that is a little bit punk rock, a little bit heavy metal and a lot personal. Amphetamine Heart is being published as part of Guernica’s First Poets Series, which features first full poetry collections by writers 35 and younger.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

The Wrecking Ball: Winter Edition


Friday, January 13, 2012 - 8:00pm


The Garrison
1197 Dundas St West
Toronto, ON
M6J 1X3


Head to The Garrison on Friday, January 13th for The Wrecking Ball: The Winter Edition, featuring readers Liisa Ladouceur, Liz Worth and Natalie Zina Walschots. The bands playing are Battlesoul, Corpusse and Into Exile.

How Much: $10

Presented by: Golden Spruce Entertainment


The Garrison
1197 Dundas St West
Toronto, ON M6J 1X3 43° 38' 53.16" N, 79° 25' 6.6" W

Touring, Part Two: What to do, what to bring

When I posted the first part of this topic, I didn’t expect there to be such a gap in time between part one and part two.

But what’s my excuse? I was busy with readings and book fairs in and out of town. All good practice to get this second post out to you, right?


In my last post, I’d promised to talk about getting the word out, making a checklist, and how to deal with a bad turnout.

Touring, Part One: what you will do, what you won't, and how you can

Okay, let’s admit it: gigging at literary events can be a strange and sometimes scary experience.

But as an author, scheduled appearances can also be some of the best experiences, whether you’re doing a reading, giving a talk, or signing books.

When you get booked for a reading you don’t always know what you’re going to be walking into. Some reading nights are long-running series that have a dedicated, built-in following that will show up no matter who’s on the bill.

Other audiences might depend more on who you’re sharing the stage with, and depending on how varied the works are of the featured readers, you could find some new fans or end up feeling totally out of your element.

TINARS: Liz Worth Book Launch


Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 9:00pm


Parts and Labour
1566 Queen West
Toronto, ON
M6R 1A6


TINARS welcomes Liz Worth in conversation with Natalie Zina Walschots at the Amphetamine Heart launch.



Parts and Labour
1566 Queen West
Toronto, ON M6R 1A6 43° 38' 53.16" N, 79° 26' 55.68" W

Giving yourself permission to live your life, revisited

I have to admit that I had a lot anxiety about being a Writer in Residence here. Not because I didn’t want to – I did, I did, I did – but because I wasn’t sure I had enough to say. I was also worried about managing my time, and wondering if blogging here would take away from other writing.

But after I got my first post up, my anxiety lessened, and continued to do so with every new post. I also found that, while I still had moments where I wasn’t sure what I would write about next, they didn’t last very long because I went with how I was feeling, or with questions that had come up organically in conversation or online.

The day job

"You can't give up something you really believe in for financial reasons." - Robert Plant

When I meet new people and they ask me what I do, I tell that I write, but that I also work a day job.

I don’t really try to downplay the fact that I have to work, though people are sometimes surprised to learn that books don’t make any money, unless you’re one of the lucky few (i.e. Margaret Atwood, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, etc.) who end up getting really famous for your writing, or who end up getting really lucky by tapping into publishers who will invest in them.

7 albums that made me want to write

In the overdrawn, ultra nerdy, raging debate over whether lyrics are poetry or not, I tend to side with poetry.

There is always a danger in finding yourself in lyrics, because so often you end up disappointed when you find out that they were written with no backstory in mind, with no reality anchoring them, but no matter what I learn about these album, it won’t shake how I’ve reimagined them.

I don’t know that my feelings on these albums is necessarily an accurate reflection of what the artists intended to put out, but in the end, I don’t think it matters what my interpretation is of a song, anyway. We all need to make lyrics our own, to some extent, if music is to stick inside of us, and influence us.

Finding inspiration in the afterlife of old habits

Since early 2010, I’ve held a much more tenuous, uncertain relationship with alcohol than I ever have since I first started drinking.

Not long into January, 2010, I decided to do something I’d thought about frequently for years before, but was always too scared to do: I stopped drinking.

Before this, the longest I’d ever quit drinking was in the winter of 2005. Again, it was something I’d thought about before. I hated how nights spent drinking sabotaged perfect plans the next day. I hated how a Friday night could start out with pure happiness, only to fade into regret or embarrassment or a fuzzy, sad head the following morning.

Feel, don't think

On Monday night, I tweeted that I’d just written a “very satisfying” 1,000 words. One of my friends, Jennifer Goldberg, a writer and editor, promptly responded with the question, “what is the secret to writing 1,000 words on a Monday night after a full day or work?”

When I wrote back that caffeine, a clear starting point, a distraction-free environment, and a decent start time – preferably before the point in the night when my brain and body decide it’s bedtime – are my main tips, Jennifer suggested I blog about my process.

Of course, the beauty of blogging the process is I have way more than 140 characters to share my process, so here it is.

1. Pay attention to every thought

Making time, making the scene

In yesterday’s blog post, I talked about using social media, specifically Twitter, to connect with other writers. But I also mentioned a dilemma in making real life connections.

The dilemma, like many of my dilemmas, centres on balance, time, and relationships.

At the beginning of this year, I didn’t make resolutions, but I did make plans. There were things I wanted to do, and one of them was that I would go to at least one literary event a month.

I think it’s important that, as a writer, I support other writers. Sometimes the people I’m going out to support are my friends. Sometimes they’re people I’ve never even heard of. Sometimes they’re people whose work I have been a long-time fan of.

I like you on Twitter, but I would like you even more in real life

I am on my second Twitter account. The first was deleted after over a year of mostly inactivity. I didn’t get it, so I didn’t do much with it. People would follow me anyway and it made me feel bad so I deleted my profile and decided Facebook is where it’s at.

A few days later, something clicked. In a moment of clarity I understood what Twitter is all about. I got back on and started following people, and tweeting.

Notice how I said I started following people before I started tweeting? See, that was one of the things I didn’t get before.

My biggest “aha moment” with Twitter was that it’s about connecting. It’s about listening to what other people are saying and responding to them, or sharing their information. It’s about having a genuine interest in other people.

Bad press vs. bad press (Or, why I don’t write reviews anymore)

I first got published writing music reviews for a local magazine. The publishing schedule was infrequent and the gig didn’t pay, but it was a start, which is what I was looking for. The free CDs didn’t hurt, either.

I was a huge music fan and keen to get as much experience as a music writer as possible. I was also very young. Sometimes I think I was too young: too young to differentiate between critique and criticism and still too filled with the precious arrogance that so often takes hold of us in our early 20s. (I’m so relieved mine finally faded out of me years ago.)

I also was too quick in believing that my writing – whether it be wit or clever references or signature style – was as important, if not more, than the thing I was writing about.

Let's be friends. Really.

I’ve always been a big reader, but it’s only in the past few years that I started actively reading about writing, with a growing interest in learning more about other writers’ experiences and processes.

One of the most interesting, and unexpected, things I learned is that many fiction writers admit that they had a specific plan or plot intended for a character, but that it all changed when that character did something so interesting that it changed the course of the story.

I consider myself part of the school of writers who believe that writing comes through you rather than from you, that you happen to pick up something in the ether and channel it.

So, how's the book?

Yesterday, I wrote about dealing with the question authors often get, which goes along the lines of, “what are you working on next?”

That’s not the question that’s the problem for me. The hard one, the question I never, ever know how I should answer is, “how’s your book?”

It’s such a short, simple question – how could it cause a problem?

Maybe that’s just it – there isn’t enough to it. Nothing specific, as vague and blasé as “how are you?”

It’s made into even more of a problem because I appreciate that people ask, that they’re interested in what I do. And maybe that’s why I always feel like I’m disappointing them in my answers.

Let me explain why this trips me up:

The pressure of other people

The other day, a friend of mine asked if I ever feel pressured when people ask, “what are you working on next?”

When you’re an unpublished writer, working away on a project and hoping that one day someone will pick it up and help get it into the world, it’s a fight just to get people to take you seriously. Tell them you’re writing a novel and they’ll say, “Oh, everyone’s writing a novel.”

Or when they ask what you do, and you say, “Well, I work at this job, but really, I like to write,” they’ll say, “Do you have a publisher? Do you have a portfolio? Have I ever heard of you? Will I ever hear of you?”

But you’ll also run into cool people who will be interested, who will want to know what you write about, where you’d like to take it, and why you like to write.

When there's fire, save the writing

What are the first things you would grab if there was a fire in your building, or in your house?

With fire being one of my biggest fears, I’ve kept a mental list about this since I was a kid. It’s often updated, of course, changing in time with my priorities.

Giving yourself permission to live your life

“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.” – Chuck Close

Most of the time, I love this statement from Chuck Close. For so long, I’ve lived my life doing what I wanted.

When I wanted to quit my job and travel through Europe, I did.

When I wanted to publish a book about punk rock in Toronto, I did.

When I wanted be a freelance writer, and I was.

And when I wanted to start a performance poetry project, go to Las Vegas, and take the Greyhound for long-distance trips, I did.

But somewhere between all of that, an inadvertent side effect cropped up.

The soundtrack to a story

If I had to estimate, I’d say music has probably been one of my biggest influences, accounting for about 60% of the formation of my identity.

I took my first fashion cues from bands’ promo shots, let lyrics shape my perspectives and decisions (no matter naïve that may have been at the time), found my earliest heroes in musicians, and built some of my favourite first experiences around all-ages shows.

But when it comes to my writing, music holds a tenuous place. Not because its influence doesn’t run as deep into my words as it does in so many other aspects of my life, but because there are a lot of songs – too many songs – that will destroy my concentration.

When things are hard

"I still think of cutting, drinking, dying, leaving, but today I feel good. Hopefully that lasts."

The questions I'd rather answer

Might as well put this out there right from the start: things might get a little heavy during my time here at Open Book Toronto. That’s just how it goes with me sometimes.

Writers always have to answer the question, “what’s your book about?” Everyone has a different approach to this answer. For me, the answer that’s given often depends on who’s asking and how long I feel like talking about my writing.

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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