The Dragon Book

>> Sunday, November 8, 2009

This week when we got back from Peterborough, there was a new book from Penguin Canada waiting for me. A collection of never-before published stories, The Dragon Book features - you guessed it - stories about dragons.

Lots & lots of dragons. Big fiery dragons, annoying little ones, a worm-like dragon, talking/non-talking dragons... all sorts of dragons.

And of course, all sorts of other characters to go with them.

There are a lot of big name authors who have contributed to this edition, including Jonathon Stroud, Gregory Maguire, Diana Gabaldon, Tamora Pierce and many others. Edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, the collection includes stories for everyone.

It's unlikely that any one reader is likely to enjoy every story - there are a few that just did not engage my interest, and given the limited amount of time I have for reading texts-that-aren't-on-the-syllabus these days, I happily moved on to those that did.

But with this many well-written stories to choose from, it just doesn't matter - there is still plenty of excellent reading in The Dragon Book. My particular favourite is "Oakland Dragon Blues" by Peter S. Beagle, although Kate Baker's "Are You Afflicted With Dragons" is a close second.

Whether you are looking for great reading for yourself, or perhaps a gift for a dragon-loving friend or family member, The Dragon Book is sure to please.


My ~New~ Book - Seeds of Pine

>> Thursday, October 1, 2009

On the way home from Peterborough today, Ross & I stopped at an antique shop. Lots of WAY cool stuff - including a $5000 desk that I am now coveting....and $600+ light fixtures that would be PERFECT in our Peterborough house.

Actually, also makes me wonder how much some of the light fixtures we DO have might be worth - there is one right inside the front door that looks like it has probably been there since the house was built in the early 1900s. It's missing a shade though - and not something you can just pick up at Home Depot.

Anyway, in addition to bunches of way cool antiques that would be PERFECT for the P. house, they also had a very nice selection of books. LOTS of Canadiana - and since I'm in Canadian Studies, now, I have a much better excuse to buy Canadiana, right? Right!

There were plenty I would have liked to buy - there was a Canadian military history that almost came home with me - but then we spotted a 1922 edition of Seeds of Pine by Janey Canuck.

Janey Canuck was the pen name of Emily Ferguson Murphy, who is one of the so-called Famous Five, "the women who carried the Persons Case to the Privy Council in England where, on October 18, 1929, the decision was handed down that women were persons qualified to become members of the Senate of Canada" (Library and Archives Canada). She was a social activist, the founder of the Federated Women's Institute for rural women, and in 1916, she became the first female police magistrate in the British Empire.

Most of what I have found out about her is focused on her activism rather than her literature - I'm looking forward to reading the book to find out why. And to assess whether this might be a potential editing project for an aspiring Canadian Studies PhD student! Will have to see what there is in the archives about her too... perhaps I shall have a look when I am in Ottawa next month. (Like I need more archive work! But seriously, I am interested)


Still Around

>> Thursday, September 24, 2009

Funny, isn't it? Now that I am in Canadian Studies, I just don't seem to have much time for reading Canadian fiction.

Obviously, I am going to have to make time for it again! I'm going into withdrawal.

Right at the moment though, I'm mostly engaged in reading Canadian NONfiction. Suppose I could write about some of that too.

Will spare you the many academic articles I have been reading for my core course - interesting as they may be. Actually, I have enjoyed reading them far more than I expected to. I'm a little embarassed at how much I have already learned - I am almost 50 years old and have lived in Canada for all but a few years (during which we lived in Germany; I'm an air force brat) - and I was around for many of the events I have been reading about - I just didn't pay much attention!

I should know a lot more about Canada than I do - and by the end of this year, I will.

But I am reading a couple of interesting nonfiction books - got 3 on the go right now, actually.

One is Taking Back Our Spirits by Jo-Ann Episkenew - a book about Indigenous literature, public policy and healing that is based on the author's PhD thesis. I met Jo-Ann at Congress earlier this year, and will hopefully see her again at Congress next year as well. The book is highly readable - a LOT more readable than many other based-on-thesis books I've waded through - and I'm sure that I will be able to use it.

I've also just finished Joseph Gold's The Story Species - that would be us, i.e. humans. A very interesting read, and like Taking Back Our Spirits, very relevant to my thesis research. Gold also wrote Read For Your Life which I absolutely love, and which is the most commonly cited book in many of my research papers - it is an excellent resource on the function of fiction, which is, of course, the topic of my doctoral research. Me - I'm doing doctoral research - isn't that cool?!

My bathtub book right now is also Canadian nonfiction - I've been reading Neil Sutherland's book about the history of childhood in Canada (Growing Up). I've read one chapter of this work numerous times - "When You Listen to the Winds of Childhood" - I used it when I was working on my honours essay in fourth year, and have used it since, also. When I saw the book in a used book store, I had to buy it.... but just now getting around to actually reading it!


The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet

>> Monday, July 20, 2009

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is the last of the books I added to use as an exemplars for my major research paper on fiction for emerging adults (18 - 25 year olds). I had intended to use Slam! by Nicholas Hornby, but was never as enthusiastic about it (it was originally published in the U.K. not in Canada - and there were rather too many similarities between it and one of the other novels I am using, Having Faith in the Polar Girls Prison by Cathleen With - not that the two books are really all that similar - but both deal with teenage pregnancy).

So when The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was suggested as one which fit in with what I'm doing, I happily accepted a copy and now, having read it, have decided to use it.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was written by Reif Larsen and is about 12 yo T.S. a genius mapmaker who wins an award and fellowship at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. He does not go to his parents (Dad's a rancher not into all the science stuff, Mom's a self-absorbed scientist) or even to his supposed mentor (who is the person that nominated him for the award) but rather sets out on his own, hobo-ing his way there by train.

The book is unique in that it provides maps, diagrams and other assorted materials in its margins, and also includes a secondary work supposedly written by T.S.'s mother. I found these bits somewhat challenging at first - I have attention issues so a novel which includes its own distractions can be a bit frustrating - but soon discovered that they were well worth exploring and really did add a great deal to the experience of reading The Selected Works.

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
is, as Stephen King calls it, "a treasure", and has a great deal to offer; I did, however, find the ending of the book to be rather a disappointment; Dad shows up and they run away through secret tunnels presumably heading for home, the end. Fortunately, it wasn't the ending that made the experience worthwhile though - clearly, in this novel, it is the journey that matters.


Too Many Girls!

>> Saturday, July 11, 2009

I have decided that I have too many emerging adult girls in my facebook connections and not enough boys.

My paper on emerging adults and Canadian publishing kept running into issues because of my not having been able to push the Internet survey bit through the Ethics committee's process - I had to axe that part of my application in order to get approval to do anything. Yesterday I hit upon a solution - a way of gathering data about what fiction emerging adults are reading: I logged into the weRead application in facebook and was able to copy & paste the titles/authors for all of my connections who are in the emerging adult group. Which gives me a lot of what I needed to work with - except for the fact that I only have a very few EA males as connections at all and not one of them uses the weRead app.

If you happen to have any 18 - 25 yo (preferably Canadian, but not necessarily) male friends/family/connections that use weRead (or Shelfari or any other such app) I sure could use your help to make a connection with them (assuming they don't mind) .... all I'm doing is making a list of the books in their collections - I'm not allowed to actually interview or anything :(


Archival Research

>> Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Went to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library to go through Mavis Gallant's manuscript collection there (the answer to your question, Phyl) .... and yes, once it's done, you'll be able to read it on the Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing website.

I could have stayed there for hours longer but hubby had driven me and had other things to do... as it was, we got tied up in traffic and got to his supplier 1 stinking minute too late, which SUCKED.

I ordered copies of bunches of pages though ... as soon as they come (in the mail) will get my essay written.


Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing

>> Saturday, June 27, 2009

SO much to write about when I find the time & energy .... am finished my summer school adventures and now embarking on an editing project in addition to the many other things I need to get done.

One of the things that came out of the EMiC course though, was that we had an opportunity to learn about the Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing project, which is a collaboration by The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster University Library (Hamilton, ON), the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, and Queen’s University Archives (Kingston, ON).

One part of the project involves the preparation of case studies by graduate students - and yes, even though I have bunches of stuff to get done this month, and even though the due date is sooner rather than later, I volunteered to write one. It is a good opportunity to do archival work, to learn about a particular Canadian author, and to have something published. And it is doable - 800 words is not THAT many afterall - although the truth is that going through boxes and boxes of material and sticking to less than 800 words is probably way more of a challenge than writing longer would be - whatever... I'm up for the challenge and looking forward to it.


Summer School

>> Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Finished Day 2 of TEMiC - that would stand for Textual Editing & Modernism in Canada. This week is all about theory. A LOT of theory - fortunately, I'm finding it all far more interesting than the theory we read in my Public Texts course - even the articles we actually READ for the Public Texts course (there are several) are more interesting now that we're actually going to have an opportunity to use them in practical, hands on sorts of ways.

While this week is all theory, next week is focused on PRACTICE - and we are actually going to do some editing and put together (short but) critical scholarly edition(s). I will also be doing a paper for the course - I took the credit option (I am such a sucker for punishment sometimes!) .... my plan is to focus on the intersect between editing theory and web usability; to look at issues of site design. There are several very effective online archives - the Rossetti Archive being the one most often mentioned - so I'm not starting from scratch...but hopefully I will come up with something useful. My goal is to come up with a paper that is not only potentially useful, but also, I hope, something publishable.


Bad Blogger!!!

>> Saturday, June 6, 2009

So .... here is is June 6 and I'm leaving for Victoria BC in a few hours to start learning all about digital editing ....and I haven't posted anything about Canadian fiction in eons; I'm sorry!

It's been a very busy couple of weeks - so busy that I really haven't read much of anything other than blogs and websites and ~stuff~ about pest control.

I now know WAY more about spiders, roaches, bats and bedbugs than I ever wanted to know - but hubby has his license and his product and his database and is good to go - so now tis time to focus on me and MY stuff.

I have a presentation to get done that has to take first priority - and a whack of reading about editing practice and theory, and about Canadian modernist poets. But I shall return - and when I do, will be about time to gear up for the Leacock Festival, which is one of the highlights of my summer.

It is a writers' festival that is held in Orillia every summer... normally I go to just about every event. Not sure that I'll be able to get to them all this year (there are a lot) as I still can't drive - but will get to as many as I can, and then will likely fill this blog with way more than you could ever want to know about Canadian authors and Canadian fiction.


Buying Books

>> Sunday, May 24, 2009

So - I said I was going to stay away from the Book Fair here at Congress ...and other than a visit there with Ross yesterday when we checked in (2 new books) I have.

Can I help it if authors bring their new books to the sessions too?

And if they are books that will help me with my Phd thesis so I just HAVE to buy them? Of course I do!

The last session I attended today was particularly interesting - it was a book launch for three new books - and even though all three sounded very interesting, I only bought one of them.

Taking Back  Our Spirits by Jo-Ann EpiskenewIt is called Taking Back Our Spirits: Indigenous Literature, Public Policy, and Healing by Jo-Ann Episkenew. I haven't read much of it yet, of course...I've been altogether too busy attending sessions and socializing - but I am very much looking forward to reading it. It, according to the back cover

traces the links between Canadian public policies, the injuries they have inflicted on indigenous people, and the role of indigenous literature in healing individuals and communities. Episkenew examines contemporary autobiography, fiction, and drama to reveal how these texts respond to and critique public policy, and how literature functions as "medicine" to help cure the colonial contagion.

In other words, it is about the function - and practical application - of fiction. And the author was there to sign it for me. Of course, I had to have it.

The Story Species by Joseph GoldThe Story Species, too, is about the function of fiction - literature as a "species survival tool". This one was written by Dr. Joseph Gold, who also wrote Read For Your Life, which is an incredible book that I have read - and cited - many times and will continue to use as I move into my doctorate. Oh, and he is here at Congress as well, and was willing to sign it for me. Of course, I had to have it.

Editing Modernity by Dean Irvine
Another book that we bought is Editing Modernity: Women and Little Magazine Cultures in Canada, 1916 - 1956, by Dean Irvine. He is the Director of Editing Modernism in Canada - a large project funded by SSHRC. I am attending 3 weeks of training that is all being offered through this project - and my RA at the National Archives of Canada, which I am having meetings about tomorrow - all of that is also under the EMiC project as well. So - duh - of course I had to have THAT book.

An Unrehearsed Desire by Lauren B. DavisAnd...well...with all that heavy academic reading .... obviously I also had to have a copy of Lauren B. Davis' novel, An Unrehearsed Desire. Contrast, you know. I met Lauren at last year's Leacock Festival in Orillia...and have been following her blog since then... so when Exile was offering it for only $10 at the book fair....


I Will Be Back

>> Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sorry for my lack of posts lately ...but am going to Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2009 in Ottawa next week and plan to attend several CanLit-related talks... so look for updates soon.


Do You Use Hubpages?

>> Thursday, May 14, 2009

Apparently at some point about six weeks ago, I signed up for a hubpages account - and promptly forgot about it.

This week, I've come across quite a few bloggers talking about hubpages, so I went back and had another look.

I put up four quick pages.... but no real sense of whether it's worth continuing to add to them... seems to me I have enough with my blogs... but we shall see, I guess.

My hubs are:

Do you use hubpages? As a primary source of income, or as backlink builders?


Dissertations & Thesis

>> Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Today I have been wandering through Proquest's online database of dissertations & theses finding tons of stuff that I can use for my major research paper and for my Phd thesis topic.

I like working with dissertations & theses, even though they tend to be several hundred pages longer than the journal articles I could be using. In part, I find them useful for the depth of the information they provide - but also, I figure that if I'm going to have to write one, I might as well be reading them so that I will have a better idea of what my end goal is.

While I haven't found any that are directly related to my own topics - which is actually a good thing, since if my topic(s) had been done already, there wouldn't be any point to ME doing them - there are plenty that are relevant. An added benefit, of course, is that they often point me to other articles that I can use.

So ... it is more than a little time consuming - but in the long run, will make my major research paper - and eventually my thesis - just that much better. At least that is the plan.


Les Miserables

>> Saturday, May 9, 2009

No, it's not Canadian ... but this Canadian loves Les Miserables... and since that is what I am doing today .... listening to Les Mis rather than reading anything, I thought I would post a bit about it.

Have you seen it? I know Stephanie has ... and I have gone to see it every few years ...seems to me it should be about time for Les Mis to hit Toronto again! Not quite sure how long ago it was here last though ... I know Ross & I went, so has to be within the last 8 years.

We like musicals - have been to about one a year since we met, although not this year! Might have to do something about that.

Anyway, there are lots of musicals that I enjoy - but none has ever challenged Les Mis for its spot as number #1. I own the Dream Cast version pictured here - it is excellent. I especially enjoy Act #2 and listen to it about twice as often as I do the first side - typically, I start at the beginning... but then when it's over I don't want it to be over so I start side #2 again. Oh, and I love the encore in this one, too. They have Jean Valjean's from all over the world singing ...including Canadian Michael there... Canadian content after all :)


Virtual Freedom by Sean Kane

>> Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Still not reading much .... no attention span for it... but thought I would tell you about Virtual Freedom by Sean Kane, a novel that I read more than a year ago, as I just happened to see it on my newly organized CanLit shelves.

Published in 2001, Virtual Freedom was particularly interesting for me because it was written by a Trent U professor, and set in a fictional university called Avalon. It is dedicated to Thomas H.B. Symons, the Founding President of Trent, and the person that our graduate students lecture series is named after. Since at the time I purchased it, I had been accepted at Trent, but not yet been there, it was a natural choice when I saw it on a 4 for $20 table at my undergrad university's book sale.

The novel is an enjoyable read, with many very funny passages. I particularly remember the scenes involving a group of retired professors holding court - in a food court at a local mall. And student protests, and the interactions between the new Dean and students, particularly one who is all about women's issues..... hmmm...I think that now I have talked myself into reading it again.


Survival by Margaret Atwood

>> Monday, May 4, 2009

Survival, by Margaret Atwood, is not a new book. It was originally published in 1972 - the edition I have been reading this week was published in 2004 by McClelland & Stewart, and includes a new introduction by Atwood.

Survival, I think, should be required reading for any student of Canadian Literature. It wasn't for me - it has been referenced several times throughout the course of my studies, and we were given a chapter of it to read for my first CanLit course - but really, the book is so important, that now that I've read it I can't imagine that I would ever teach Canadian literature and not include it on the syllabus.

I am glad I ordered it... I've actually had it sitting here for several months ...just didn't get to reading it until all of my papers and marking were done.

ANYWAY, in a comment thread somewhere that I can no longer find, we were talking about differences between US and Canadian lit... and that the US tends towards a frontier mentality - good vs evil; conquering, all that good stuff - while Canadian literature tends to focus on survival.

All of that is discussed in Atwood's Survival. Not that she takes credit for coming up with all of the concepts - she clearly states that she is, in this work, drawing on the work of Northtop Frye (the other book I bought with this one and will likely talk about sometime soon) and others.

In the 2004 Introduction, Atwood writes:

We now take it for granted that Canadian literature is an acknowledged category, but this proposition was not always self-evident. To have any excuse for being, the kind of book I had in mind had to prove several points. First, that, yes, there was a Canadian literature - such a thing did indeed exist. (This turned out to be a radical proposition, and was disputed by many when the book appeared.) Second, that this body of work was not just a feeble version of English or American, or, in the case of francophone books, of French literature, but that it had different preoccupations, which were specific to its own history and geopolitics (6).
The book provides exactly that - evidence and examples to prove that there is such a thing as Canadian literature, and highlight its differences. Each chapter builds on the original themes of survival, and especially victim/victimizer. I was particularly interested in chapters dealing with First People, women and "the paralyzed artist" - but have found every chapter interesting and relevant.

This is a highly readable and entertaining book - SUCH a relief after all of the theory and other assorted forms of academic torture I have been reading over the past year....and it really is not at all as dated as one might expect of something written more than 30 years ago. In fact, it is not at all dated.

I highly recommend Margaret Atwood's Survival for anyone interested in Canadian literature.


Coal and Roses by P.K. Page

>> Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coal and Roses by PK Page
Coal and Roses is P.K. Page's newest book of poetry. It includes a collection of twenty-one glosas, and is published by Canadian publisher Porcupine's Quill.

The glosa form opens with a quatrain, borrowed from another poet, that is then folowed by four ten-line stanas terminating with the lines of the initial passage in consecutive order. The sixth and ninth lines rhyme with the borrowed tenth. Glosas were popular in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries among poets attached to the Spanish Court.

P.K. Page's glosas are highly readable and enjoyable - one does not need a degree in English literature to understand and enjoy them. My particular favourite in this book is "How to Write a Poem" which builds off of a quatrain of John Ashbury's "Paradoxes and Oxymorons" It was one of the three glosas read by writer Andrea Johnston at yesterday's book launch.

Page did not attend the dedication and book launch, although several family members were there, and she did record a video which was viewed as part of the dedication ceremony.

The Colloquium Room in which most of the classes and meetings for the Trent University English Public Texts M.A. program are held is now officially called the Page Irwin Colloquium Room. It was a beautiful room already, but is even more remarkable now that it includes several of PK's paintings - and my favourite piece, which is an embroidered work that PK's mother did of some of her childhood drawings.

There was another book launched at the same event. This one is gorgeous but was way out of my price range, unfortunately. It is called The Golden Lilies, Poems by PK Page, and is a limited edition:

Hand-set 18 point Cloister Old Style type printed on St. Armand hand-made paper using a Vandercook #4 proof press. Wood engravings printed directily from the blocks on Iwami White hand-made Japanese paper, with a hand coloured frontspiece printed on Gampi Torinoko hand-made Japanese paper. Hand sewin into yellow linen hard covers. Binding by Taylor & Murdoch.

The book is truly a work of art and I would love to own a copy. Maybe someday!


Canadian Modernist Poets - PK Page

>> Friday, May 1, 2009

PK Page Canadian Poet and Artist
Poetry has never really been my thing... I did study it in school, and I have written some... but will all there is to study in Canadian literature, I tend to head off in other more interesting to me directions.

But now that I have a new job - and one which will, I think, significantly enhance my CV - I shall have to pay more attention.

I have been offered a Research Assistantship with The National Archives of Canada, and will be working on Canadian Modernist Poetry, and especially with the many works of poet and artist PK Page. My role will be to tag digital images of her work and to create a database linking the finding aids to those images. At this point, I don't know all that much about tagging digital images - but since that is the focus of my three weeks of summer school, I will learn.

Tomorrow, we're off to Peterborough to the official dedication of the Page Irwin Colloquium Room at Trent. That's the room used for most of the classes for the MA in English Public Texts program, so I know it well.

The event will also be a book launch for 2 new works:

Coal and Roses is a collection of new poems published by The Porcupine's
and The Golden Lilies is a selection of eight of these poems, with ten
wood engravings by Alan Stein hand printed at The Church Street Press.

PK Page was born in 1916 and is still publishing and still painting at 92. She has more than 37 published books to her credit, numerous awards and honours, and her art hangs in the National Gallery of Canada, among other places. I am looking forward to it.


Still Not Reading Much

>> Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Perhaps it is just that I have done SO much reading over the past 8 months ... now that school is finally done (well, except for my major research paper, and that is waiting on approval from the ethics board and for my proposal to come back from my advisor) ...I just haven't been motivated to pick up a book and start reading.

I HAVE almost finished Stephanie: the rocket scientist's Bete novel though ... am really enjoying it! But as to Canadian fiction, mostly this week, I have been relocating it rather than reading it.

I have bookshelves in my office - two walls of them... and still never enough room for all of my books! Over the time I have been doing the school thing, they have become increasingly chaotic, with schoolbooks and everything else all over the place. So yesterday I started trying to organize them somewhat.

It is slow going - my wrists are weak yet, so moving piles is something I can only do a little at a time, and for a short while, then I have to take a break. Fortunately, I've got time now for frittering now :)


Book Meme

>> Sunday, April 26, 2009

I stole this meme from Stephanie at Ask Me Anything... and she got it from Books and Movies.

1. To mark your page you: use a bookmark, bend the page corner, leave the book open face down? I know better...but I do all of the above none the less.

2. Do you lend your books? Most often I give them away without expecting to get them back. I made the mistake of lending a signed book out once - never again! Never did get it back.

3. You find an interesting passage: you write in your book or NO WRITING IN BOOKS! I write in books - mostly just in books I use for school though, not my pleasure reading (although sometimes those end up being one and the same)

4. Dust jackets - leave it on or take it off? Gotta go! I always mean to put them back on when I'm done reading but, well, you know...

5. Hard cover, paperback, skip it and get the audio book?
I much prefer paperback, especially since I wrecked my wrists. I have a book stand that I still use a fair bit for hardcovers or textbooks. Pain in the butt to actually read with it though - and it doesn't work worth a damn in the tub!

6. Do you shelve your books by subject, author, or size and color of the book spines? I make piles on the floor around my desk, mostly... or beside my bed... or on the bathroom counter. The book fairy comes along and puts them on shelves.... he also finds them again when I need a particular book.

7. Buy it or borrow it from the library later?
I buy it - or whine so my sister gets it for me, cuz she's got connections. I try to avoid libraries as much as possible because they always want you should bring them back!

8. Do you put your name on your books - scribble your name in the cover, fancy bookplate, or stamp?
Hardly ever.

9. Most of the books you own are rare and out of print books or recent publications?
All of the above. I have a lot of signed editions from Canadian authors that attend the Leacock Festival... and also a lot of advance reading copies cuz I am spoiled (or maybe it is that I whine well).

10. Page edges - deckled or straight?
Who cares? Well, people do - including many people who study Public Texts (yeah, that would be me) ... but mostly I care more about what's on the pages than what they actually look like.

11. How many books do you read at one time?
I often have many, many books on the go at once .... unless something really engages me, in which case, all the rest get left where they are until I am done that one.

12. Be honest, ever tear a page from a book?
Nope, although I have once or twice torn a recipe from a magazine at the doctor's office.

If you should decide to do this one, I hope you'll let me know...would love to read it.


Not a Review of Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

>> Friday, April 24, 2009

It would be a review - and I will write one eventually - but right now I am just trying to kill a few minutes while I wait IMpatiently for hubby to finish his breakfast so that we can get out the door and on our way to Peterborough - we're going to be late already and I do so wish he would hurry the hell up!

Anyway ... to keep myself from rushing him which, I know, would have exactly the opposite effect, I'm staying in here at the computer poised to go as soon as I hear him make any indication that he's ready... so I thought I'd write a quick post about Robert J Sawyer's Wake.

Excellent book - it's just loaded with bits that I can use in my viral contagion essay - seems like every time I flip through it, I find more that I can use and hadn't noticed before.

I really enjoyed the main protagonist, Caitlin's story - but for this essay both that thread plus the epidemic in China plot threads give me tons of scope.

Yay ... the dog's cleaning his dishes - we're on our way as soon as I hear a flush :)


Having Faith in The Polar Girls Prison

>> Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Having Faith in the Polar Girls Prison, written by Cathleen With, is one of the three books I am working with for my Major Research Project re: publishing & emerging adults. Published by Penguin Group, it is scheduled for release later this month.

Trista, the main character, is a young native girl who is in the prison with her infant daughter, Faith. Told in her voice, the novel uses a stream of consciousness style, which allows the reader to experience Trista’s confusion and distress as she comes to terms with the possibility of losing Faith to foster care, and with the events that led to her incarcaration.

For a more detailed review, visit Quill & Quire.

My interest in this novel - aside from the fact that Andrea, my sister, recommended it for the project and she gives me free books so ….. is that although the title and cover suggest - to me, and to others in my course as well - a novel for adolescents, it is being released as Adult fiction….which gives scope for discussion in the paper. It also includes a whole bunch of themes that I am dealing with elsewhere - portrayals of First Nations people in literature being the big one, of course.


French Fries - A Short Story by Flit

>> Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This is another of my short stories, previously published on and as well.

And yes, this one is (mostly) true.

Originally, I used made up names for my little darlings but somewhere along the way I changed them and now when I read it (at writers’ festivals and so on) I usually go with their real names. It seems silly to change just the names when the story is based on real events.

Both of my daughters have blogs on, btw…. Jess writes about her job as a early childhood education provider , and Tamara is working on a public relations theme . They’re all growed up now (ha! as IF!) and both have graduated college.

No critters - or children - were harmed in the making of this story…although french fries became a banned substance at our house for a very long time!

French Fries

“Oh, you must miss them” people used to tell me when my kids were away for a few weeks in the summer. Uh yeah. Right. Miss them. Not! I loved it when they went to camp, or to my sister’s, or to – well, just about anyplace I could send them. As long as they were safe and happy wherever they were, that worked just fine for me.

No hockey, no baseball, no last minute runs into town for a piece of Bristol board for a school project assigned three weeks ago, due tomorrow. No constant bickering over every little thing. No competition for my attention. No fighting over who gets to pick what restaurant we go to or what bedtime story or what TV show to watch. No TV in fact; it goes off the day they leave, and stays off. No noise! And most important of all, no stress – by comparison, anyway. I love my girls, really. But some days…!

Like the day Tamara made French fries; that was fun. For some reason that I don’t remember, I had let her stay home that day. A headache or something, most likely. Jessica had gone to school and would be taking the bus home; usually I drove them, but that day I was supposed to have had a late class, and she didn’t want to wait for a ride. My class ended early, but she would have already left on the bus, so I just headed home. We lived about halfway between Barrie and Orillia, then, on the 7th line of Oro, in an apartment above what used to be a motel, but at that point was just a bunch of mostly empty rooms. It wasn’t a great location, but the apartment itself was pretty nice; everyone had their own bedroom, and it had a great balcony with a view. Of course, the view was of a gas station and the highway, but beggars can’t be choosers, or so I’ve heard. The place we had been living in had been sold and we had been forced to move several months before. There wasn’t much available in the city at that point– and what there was had so much competition for it that a single mom with two teenagers and a dog, working only part time while going to school to be a geek…well, I wasn’t a prime candidate for tenancy.

Anyway, so I’m driving up the highway and I’m almost home and there is a fair bit of traffic, which is pretty usual for dinnertime. An ambulance comes up behind me with its sirens and lights going; I pull over, and let it go by, thinking that people that don’t get out of the way are such jerks and idly wondering if there’s an accident up ahead. Um, nope – not an accident. The ambulance is going to a fire. And not just any fire, but a fire that just happens to be in my area. I’m driving northbound on the highway and I’m almost to my house, and I see flashing lights and fire trucks in front of it. Please let it be the gas station or the restaurant or….Oh! Nope, it is most definitely my house. My dog barking her fool head off on the balcony. My front door open, with firemen with hoses heading up the stairs. And my kid on a stretcher being pushed across the parking lot towards the ambulance, which still has its flashing lights going.

And I, of course, am on the wrong side of the blasted highway and I have to drive past my house, take the next exit, stop at the stop sign and wait until it’s clear to turn left and go over the overpass from which I can’t see a blessed thing. And then I follow the road around and there is another stop sign and the school bus has just gone by and had its stupid flashing lights on and kept all the cars waiting while the kids crossed the road and now there is a backlog and I have to sit at the stop sign and wait while my house is on fire and my kid is in an ambulance and the lights are flashing and I can’t see and I can’t get there and…

Finally I am clear to turn left and then right onto the bumpy mess that our landlord considers a road and I am in such a panic I almost don’t register that Jessica is running down the road ahead of me and I don’t want to stop to pick her up but I do anyway. I yell at her to hurry and she does; she has seen the fire trucks too, from her school bus and she is near hysterical, not about her sister, but about her animals. “If any of my animals are dead she’d better hope she is too!” She is not helping, and I ignore her and screech to a stop behind the ambulance and startle the paramedic who is adjusting an oxygen mask over Tamara’s face.

The paramedic must have figured I was the mom and I was a tad stressed; he is telling me that she’s okay, she’s just inhaled a bit of smoke and she’s upset so they’re just giving her oxygen just for a few minutes and then Tamara is crying that she didn’t mean to and she’s sorry and Jessica is still ranting about the animals and …eventually… my heart starts beating again and I remember how to breathe.


Author Letters

>> Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sorry I haven't added anything to this site this week - I think I'm just too swamped in Canadian fiction to write about Canadian fiction right now!

I'm working on an essay (that has to be done by Monday) about Catharine Parr Traill and her children.

CPT, as she is commonly called, was born in England but emigrated to Canada with her husband in 1832. She and most of her sisters, some here and some there, was a writer. In addition to the work that she is most known for, The Backwoods of Canada, she wrote many other works both for adults and for children. And she wrote letters. Many, many letters!

Which is great, because I happen to really like reading people's letters....especially authors' letters. It interests me - not so much the descriptions and so on ...and in this case, I could surely do without some of the preachy content ... but often there are very interesting differences in how an author constructs themself in their letters to various people, and also, I have found, in more than a few instances, that often you can see material from the letters that winds up in the fiction.

I am looking forward to reading some of CPTs later works to see if this holds true in hers as well as it did when I was studying Margaret Laurence's novels and letters. But first I have to get this paper done. And then the next (viral marketing in publishing) and then the 2 short papers and 20 essays to mark and 100 database marks to calculate and submit and OMG I'm never going to get it all done before the 24th!!! What am I DOING here? I should be working!


Canadian Fiction

>> Thursday, April 16, 2009

..... but not necessarily all written by Canadians.

Basically, I expect that this blog will end up being about whatever this particular Canadian winds up reading :)

With a writers' festival, some homework/research and whinging about grad school and having too much to do thrown in for good measure. Hey, you've got to go with what you're good at, right?


The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart

>> Monday, April 6, 2009

The book I have just finished, The Stone Carvers , by Jane Urquhart , is one that I expect will be added to my collection of books worth re-reading.

I met Urquhart at last year’s Leacock Festival in Orillia Ontario; she signed a book for me. That book was just a collection of Canadian short stories that she had edited though - not one of hers. I should have bought one of hers at the Festival. But I was being a ~good girl~ … I go to the Festival every year…. almost every event …. and thoroughly enjoy it… but it does tend to get a ~bit~ expensive if I start buying all the books I want to buy there. So I just stayed far, far away from the book table last year.

But then one of her novels, Away , turned up on my Canadian lit syllabus this semester, I had a good excuse to buy that one, right?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. So when I saw a copy of another of her novels, The Stone Carvers , used but in perfect condition, for $5 in a used bookstore, I grabbed it.

The Stone Carvers tells the story of siblings Klara and Tilman, who are both carvers, as was their grandfather. It is set predominently in Ontario in the early 20th Century.

Klara, for most of the novel, remains on the family farm, where she supports herself as a tailor, and after the man she loves goes off to war and doesn’t return, is content to be the eccentric spinster who remains on the family farm. Tilman runs away from the farm while still a child, in spite of the drastic lengths his parents go to to keep him there. He returns many years later, after having lost his leg in the battle at Vimy Ridge. Together, they journey back to Rimy to work on the monument being built by Walter Allward .

Urquhart’s prose is as poetic as her poetry, and she does a beautiful job of creating fictional characters that seem every bit as real and fully developed as the nonfictional characters, such as Allward. The Stone Carvers , like Away , makes it ever so much easier to develop a sense of Canadian history….something I very much appreciate, since it is all stuff I need to know if I do go onto Canadian Studies. I’ve never been so great at memorizing dates or that sort of thing… you know, the stuff you need to do if you’re going to sound like you have a clue…. Urquhart’s novels make history real.


Life, Death and Other Trivia By Ruth Dickson

>> Sunday, April 5, 2009

Life, Death and Other Trivia by Ruth Dickson
So…. homework this week (for my Public Texts course) included the task of buying & reading a book from , and writing an email to the author (no direction given as to what the email was to include).

So …I did. Even though I have purchased other books from Lulu, hey…. that doesn’t count cuz this was HOMEWORK. (Any excuse will do Innocent)

I cheated a bit though…. rather than just wade through the way too many books they have listed on Lulu …although I did actually look at some….many of which seemed to be categorized in ….ummm…totally illogical categories…. I chose to put my $$ on a work by an author I already know from .

Not, of course, that I know her - we’ve never met… but she stands out on Gather as someone who writes well and who is extremely witty, funny, and, on occasion, more than a little caustic. Dame Ruth will never be accused of political correctness… but for an extremely intelligent & entertaining view of the world, reading her work is a no-brainer.

I loved Life, Death & Other Trivia - particularly the sections about men & their body parts, and about the author’s view of a better way to choose a president. Oh, and the last chapter about religion and… and… and….

It was most definitely the most fun I’ve had doing homework in….well…. forever!

Dame Ruth also has a blog …which you should visit …but really, you should buy the book .


eReaders Guest Post

The Kindle is a big and exciting topic now that the second incarnation is out there. It’s loaded with cool features and is backed by the conglomerate. I, of course, don’t have one.

Sony eReaderWhat I got for Christmas is a Sony eReader and I’m lovin’ it. There were several reasons I chose the eReader. It can read pdfs and word files, so I could put my own novels in ‘em and bring ‘em. The wireless feature in Kindle didn’t interest me and I liked the Sony’s all-metal case. It looked, apparently, slightly better than the original Kindle (according to reviews) and the size was excellent (I saw one in Borders). And it was cheaper.

But why get an ereader anyway? Well, first of all, I love gadgets and I’m an avid reader. When I travel, I’m used to bringing six or more books with me so the thought of replacing them with one book-sized contraption is appealing. I’m absent minded and am constantly misplacing books so it’s nice to be able to find my favorites. My favorite books I read over and over and over again. Also, at least with the Sony, one can have as many as 8 eReaders using the same library, so I can let everyone in the family have access to my library if I get them a similar unit.

So, how is it? It’s great. It’s much easier to read than a computer, the screen is clear. You can read several days in a row, all day, on the same battery charge. It comes with a nice magnetized leather case (don’t bother buying one) and it feels very solid. The buttons are easy to use. The eReader, at least when I got it, came with 100 classics downloads, the $2 classic books (i.e. public domain) novels out there. That’s quite a hefty number and so I could stock up my Shakespeare and Poe and Dumas and Jane Austen and…

The menu is not desperately intuitive and the Sony eBook store wasn’t as easy to navigate as I would have liked. One can’t read it while charging and the software to transfer books wasn’t perfect.

Still, I have learned to love it and have already begun buying ecopies of my favorite rereadable books so that I never have to do without them again.

Steph: the rocket scientist


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

>> Friday, April 3, 2009

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
I was thinking about what to write about in this blog today …. something to do with fiction …but something that doesn’t require too much brain power because I seem to be fresh out.

But somewhere along the way while I was sulking about my cruddy day today, I remembered this book. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is just the right sort of book for me today. I’m tempted, actually, to order a copy, since I no longer seem to have one.

I was surprised to read that this book was first published in 1972! It is definitely a classic. I remember reading it to kids at the camp I worked at, and later, to kids in residential treatment for behavioural issues when I was a Child & Youth Worker…. and of course, I read it to my own kids, as well.

Now I am thinking that I shall have to buy another copy for the grandbabies…. yeah….right…that’s a good excuse, right?

Whatever works :)

What are your favourite children’s books? The ones you think every kid should have?


>> Thursday, April 2, 2009

End of an Era is the novel that Robert J. Sawyer ’s wife recommended when I asked her, via email, for “the best” Sawyer novel to read if one was interested in the topic of viral contagion, since that was the subject of one of my courses this semester.

End of an Era is a relatively short novel, easily read during one rather longish soak in the tub (no, I did not drown) And it does indeed address the topic of viral contagion, although not explicitly so until the latter part of the novel. Archeologist Brandon Thackery and his colleague & friend, Klicks, travel back in time in an effort to study dinosaurs before their extinction, and to attempt to discover the reason for their eradication. And yes, of course they are successful…but beyond that, I ain’t telling.

In addition to dinosaurs, time travel, and viral contagion, the novel includes aliens, space & astronomy - all packed into an engaging and highly readable package. As always, Sawyer succeeds in incorporating so much actual science that by the end of the book you feel like you’ve learned a whole lot - given that it is, after all, science fiction, you don’t necessarily know how much of it could actually happen (might have to Ask Stephanie ) …but it all feels pretty believable. That is, I think, one of the major differences between Sawyer and many other science fiction authors, and it is one I very much enjoy.

To read Chapter 1 of End of an Era , visit Sawyer’s webpage - you can also order signed copies there, at no extra cost. There are also several other resources there, including a A Discussion of the Book’s Opening Line and a Reading Group guide. And of course, and both carry End of an Era as well.


Navigating Canada's Health Care

>> Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Navigating Canada's Health Care by Grosso and Dector
Navigating Canada’s Health Care is, as you might expect, nonfiction rather than the fiction I more often review. But it came in the box of fiction for review - doesn’t that count?

Anyway, Navigating Canada’s Health Care is written in plain, straightforward language. It was written by Michael Dector, an economist who has served as the Deputy Minister of Health in Ontario among his many other roles, and Francesca Grosso, who has been involved in heath policy and health care communication for more than 15 years and who, along with Dector, worked to establish the Health Council of Canada.

The book contains a huge amount of information, and to be honest, I have not read all of it. Rather, I jumped right through the early chapters, in which the authors provide information about having a baby in Canada (been there done that - twice), getting the best care for your child (they do that themselves now that they’re ~supposedly~ all growed up) and child safety in Canada (maybe I’ll read that if/when I ever get to spend more time with the grandbabies) …. and started my more attentive reading in The Middle Years.

Okay, so maybe I fit in the tail end of that section or into the next …but the middle years section includes the sort of helpful information that I can use. It provides advice for finding a doctor - no easy task given the shortages around here - and, once you have one, working with your health care team, and assembling your own health record. I have no doubt that that particular task would be particularly useful for me… although once I started to read it, I kind of lost interest - sounds like a fair bit of work to me! Yes, I am lazy as a matter of fact.

The most useful section of the entire book, at least for me right now, is the last one (after Managing Aging which includes altogether too many sections that apply to hubby & I) …. Navigating Care Swiftly and Safely …. that would be the one that gives guidance and advice about needing to be your own advocate - or have someone that can do that for you - and about being a squeaky wheel. I have read the whole section through once… and will probably read it again once more before I head off to my next doctor’s appointment.

Navigating Canada’s Health Care seems to be a very practical, usable guide to Canadian health care…. I will definitely be trying some of the suggestions.

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