Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

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Canadian Bookshelf Interview: an adventure in Trinity-Bellwoods Park

I recently had the wonderful good luck to spend a late-summer afternoon with Julie Wilson, from Canadian Bookshelf.

Check out her interview with me:

There's also an audio link that we had to record a couple of times. We were in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, and we were "visited" by dogs and low-flying airplanes!

Last words: yet another numbered list

Well my month as Open Book: Toronto's Writer-In-Residence has come to a close. Here's what Iearned:

1. Numbered lists makes for lazy writing, but people love them.
Some of my most popular posts were numbered lists. For example, “10 Things I Wish I’d Known 10 years ago: Letter to my 30 year old self” got over 1050 hits. If I could find a way to write a novel as a numbered list, I’d do it.

2. Html code #@%! sucks.

The 10 Questions I Forgot to Ask Vivek Shraya While on the 401

I met Vivek Shraya years ago, but it wasn’t until we drove to a London Pride event this year that I learned more about him. In the forced intimacy that only a five-hour trip in a speeding vehicle can provide, Vivek and I discussed books, relationships, family, spirituality and life in Toronto. I was really impressed and curious about his ability to write, play music and make films.

Why I Love Visiting Book Clubs

I’ve visited a lot of book clubs. They’re all really different from one another. They meet in bookstores, libraries, living rooms, restaurants, university campuses and around lavish dinner tables with overflowing wine. Yesterday’s meeting was in the basement of a women’s shelter. I visit them in person or over Skype.

Group membership varies too: close friends, neighbours, co-workers, lesbian support group members, South Asian literary folk, or strangers who only see one another at their monthly get-togethers. They are almost always groups of women.

My 8 Rules for Touring

“Going on tour with your book?” friends ask soon after a novel’s release. I’m sure they imagine an all-expenses trip across Canada, complete with four-star hotels and handlers.

I usually offer too much whiney information about how I cobble together events, the majority of them close to home. How I mostly organize and pay for it all myself because gone are the days when publishers can afford such ventures. Sometimes I throw in enticing details about how I lug duffle bags of books with me, loading and loading them onto trains and buses.

Don’t get me wrong, touring has its wonderful moments. There are engaged readers, enthusiastic audiences, adventurous travel.

The line between self-promotion and being obnoxious

Just this past week, I received two e-mails with this apologetic introduction: “Sorry about the shameless self-promotion”. The senders then went on to announce a reading or new book.

The phrase, “shameless self-promotion” begs the question: is self-promotion shameful? And by extension, is promotion by others—publicists, friends, reviewers—somehow more valid or perhaps more tasteful?

As a therapist, I know that shame, at least for most of us, is a pretty damaging and useless emotion. It’s a skin-tight outfit we’re trained to wear early on in life, and by the time we’re adults, we forget it doesn’t even belong on our bodies. But I digress.

Celebrating a year of Black Coffee Poet: an interview with Jorge Antonio Vallejos

When Jorge Antonio Vallejos started his online magazine, Black Coffee Poet, just over a year ago, it immediately caught my eye. He covered stories, authors and issues that no one else seemed to be covering. I wanted others to know about this fantastic resource.

1.Wow, it’s been a year already. What was your inspiration for starting Black Coffee Poet?

I started Black Coffee Poet for two reasons:
A) I did not get into a MFA in Creative Writing Program that I applied to.

B) My readers of my column in university, The Condor’s View, wanted to see me continue my column or start something similar.

Do You Remember Your First Time?

Do you remember your first time at the Word on The Street Festival?

For me it was back in the mid-nineties. I was still new to Toronto, and when a friend suggested it, I didn’t know what to expect (really, a street festival devoted to reading?). Back then, WOTS took over a chunk of Queen Street, stopping traffic all day in the pursuit of everything bookish: magazines, novels, children’s books, poetry and on and on. It was a drizzly, cool day, but I was in nerd heaven.

The popular festival has grown since then, spreading across Queen’s Park. There are more tables, vendors, food options and stages each year. It’s always been a great place to listen to authors read, burn my tongue eating Murtabak and to pick up some new books.

Mentorship Matters: 7 questions for Elizabeth Ruth

I first met Elizabeth Ruth in 2005, a few weeks before her second novel, Smoke was to be released. At the time, I was an utterly frustrated aspiring writer, having received multiple rejection letters for my Stealing Nasreen manuscript. A friend in common suggested I speak with Elizabeth and introduced us.

It was the first time I’d ever been invited into a real writer’s home and I recall being both nervous and shy. Elizabeth was a gracious host and offered straightforward advice on getting published. She candidly shared her experiences of a world I so desperately wanted to enter.

10 things I wish I’d known 10 years ago: a letter to my 30 year old writer self

Dear 30 Year-Old Farzana,

1. You’ve got to get connected, girl! I know you feel intimidated at literary events because you think you don’t fit in. Put on a nice dress, a smile, and have a glass of Merlot. No, wait. I think you're supposed to wear skinny jeans. Buy skinny jeans.

2. Talk to people at those stuffy events! They might be just as insecure as you. Volunteer. Step up to the open mic. Be a part of the community.

3. Rejection is a badge of honour. Really. Submit your work. Submit it again. Know that your work matters. You can cry into your Merlot later.

4. Critical feedback is a good thing, even if you take it too personally. Stop taking it personally. Show your work to your friends at least. No, your girlfriend and writing coach don’t count.

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