Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Beverley Stone

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Beverley Stone lives in Toronto where she works in the financial services industry. When she is not drafting contracts, she is writing fiction or using a lint remover to get the cat fur off her belongings. Her first novel, No Beautiful Shore, is published by Cormorant Books Inc (Toronto, 2008). Her one and only short story, "The Vomit Pan," is published by Upstairs at Duroc (Paris: Issue number 9, 2008). She is working on a second novel and hoping that this one doesn’t take eight years to complete.

Author photo by Aaron Schwartz.

Ten Questions with Beverley Stone

OB:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

BS:

No Beautiful Shore is my first novel (Toronto: Cormorant Books Inc., 2008). The only other piece of fiction that I have written is a short story called “The Vomit Pan,” which is in Upstairs at Duroc, Issue 9 (2008). I wrote an environmental poem once when I was twelve. I think there is some trophy at home in my old room and the poem may have been published somewhere. God willing, no copies remain.

OB:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

16. The Secret to Living the Writing Life (and no, its not booze)

I think, based on my limited experience to date, that the secret is patience -- many levels of patience. Patience with yourself, patience with your overworked and undercompensated publisher and his staff, and patience with the national broadcaster and large Canadian newspapers. It is a waiting game and some of the stuff that you are waiting for may never come.

I realize that I have an advantage here. All my life, I have stood in the background waiting for someone to pay attention to me. I have been perfectly trained for this publishing racket. I know how to patiently seek attention, hoping against hope, that someone, anyone, will notice me.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

15. What’s worse that not being reviewed?

Hoping nervously for a good review is so much easier than assessing other people’s work. I got a gig reviewing another first-time novelist’s work for a book section and God, it felt like I was trying someone for murder. What if I got it wrong? I was worried that I would be unjust, perhaps missing the whole point of the novel. However, if I was too lenient and acquitted, then a writer might go and do it again to other innocent readers.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

14. Readings are Hard on Wallflowers, Part II

It’s scary when you have to stand up in front of a group of your friends and read. The audience has a mix of expressions – hope, fear of failure, expectation.

Let me tell you that this is a whole lot better than reading into an empty room.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

13. Readings are Hard on Wallflowers, Part I

The reason that I am writing about bathroom renos here is that in the midst of preparing for my first reading some guys came over and tore out my bathroom. I was nervous about the reading. I was also covered in a fine layer of plaster dust.

A guy was sawing ceramic titles on my front porch. He stopped, looking at the pounds of snow falling straight down out of the sky. Then he lit a smoke. He had an eyebrow piercing. I imagined him dancing somewhere large and cavernous at 4 am.

He had been working on my bathroom for three days. Where it used to be was a hole, sans toilet, sink or bathtub. I was washing, ETC., at friends’ houses, which was sub-optimal, as the business types say.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

12. Book #2 – The Unsequel

I am working on something new, and have been for about two years. No Beautiful Shore has been published into the middle of the development of Book Number 2 and now its flow has been interrupted.

Number 2 is a very different book than NO BS. There are ex-pat Newfoundlanders in the story, but it is set in Toronto. Setting has become a major obstacle to me. I am, in fact, having a great deal of trouble describing Toronto. Like most things in life that I fight with, I think that it might not be about Toronto. I think it might be me.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

11. Literary Pilates

My pilates teacher said, “You don’t need a pilates instructor. You need an exorcist.”

I am a famously bad pilates student. In the old days, I would have been in the remedial class with others who were physically geeky and destined for careers in academia. Now, I am mixed in with fit, fine women who have stomach muscles and a refined understanding of right and left.

Building muscle tone is not so much about heavy lifting. It’s about repetition. It is about trying and trying and trying until you get better -- similar in many ways to writing. Those first few pages or lifts, you think, I can do this. A few more and you’re exhausted. Only over time (maybe) do you build the strength to make it look easy.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

10. What Do I Know, I’m just the Writer.

Slowly readers’ comments have started to trickle in, and I have to say that I am surprised about the varied points of view. Some people are really, really mad. How could I do that? How could I do what I did to Wanda? And when is the sequel coming out?

Sequel? I had done with these guys. I had “moved on”, as they say in the world of romance. These characters were a part of my past.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

9. How will I go on if the Radio Personality does not ever call?

I have gotten over things in the past. I have been turned down for jobs, past over for promotions and dumped by mean men (who I still secretly hope get communicable diseases that cause skin afflictions, preferably open sores and boils). But how will I go on if the Radio Personality disses me?

Finally, the CBC lets my publisher know that they might get around to No BS in June, when the Radio Personality is on holidays, replaced by a Less-Famous Radio Personality. This is a bit like waiting for an audience with the Queen and then being told that actually you will meet with the new Canadian grand-daughter-in-law because Herself is up in Scotland walking the corgies.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

8. Who do you have to blow in this country to get reviewed in a national paper?

Am I going to have to pull a Brittany to get some attention? I have hair I can shave, but who is going to lend me a baby to sit on my lap while I drive to the grocery store? This strategy presumes that I am being pursued by a pack of rabid paparazzi, hoping to capture my shorn nether-region on film.

Sadly, it ain’t so.

I’ve been talking to people and reading online articles about the process of getting reviewed. I know that experienced authors claim that they don’t read them, but for novice wallflower writers like me, a review says somebody noticed. There are apparently services that will review your book for a fee, but paying for it seems so sad.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

7. Why do other writers seem so confident?

Sorry about the outburst of full-frontal bi-polar a few days ago. I realize I am sounding like the Canadian Bridget Jones (“157 lbs, 14 Matinee Slims, 7 Rye and Gingers, pack of President’s Choice Mac and Cheese, 6 butter tarts, ½ Nanaimo bar and a diet Coke.”).

Still no word from the Radio Personality. Does the CBC think new writers in the country are mentally balanced and are not taking their slights personally? That we, in fact, have busy, vibrant lives and do not sit home waiting to be called for interviews.

What kind of drugs are those people on?

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

6. OMFG. A Radio Personality Called.

Eff you, Esteemed Book Editor. A certain Radio Personality (the “RP”) of the national broadcaster wants to talk to me on the air. OK, he didn’t call actually. His producer called.

This is like being asked to dance by the really good looking guy in Grade Eleven who drinks beer out of the back of his pick-up and has forearms like wrought iron from hauling nets with his father and lifting fish pans (sorry, this is not a culturally accessible image for mainland Canadian girls perhaps).

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

5. Neurotic Writer Waits for Attention (or Look at me, I Wrote a Book)

Every Saturday I am not reviewed by an Esteemed Books Editor (“EBE”) in A Large National Paper’s First Fiction section. Every Saturday, I start the weekend by being almost pushed down the stairs by 3 ravenous, raccoon-sized cats, who shove me into the kitchen before I can make the turn to go to the front door. As I pour the kibble, I think, please EBE, please. He does not hear my silent praying. It never occurs to me to actually take this up with God, who has often hung me out to dry as an intervener in the past. Now I pray directly to the guy who can make things happen. Please EBE.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

4. After the Party’s Over

The pinnacle of the beginning of the process is the launch party.

Cormorant threw a shindig and people I hadn’t seen in years came. Family flew in from other places to surprise me. I bought a new dress (described by my less-than-tactful friend as ‘conservative’ and ‘slippery’, although that seems to be an impossible combination to me).

After the party, I spent the weekend with my surprise guests, dissecting with my siblings which part of the book was most likely to trigger Mom’s stroke. They of course underestimate her, as she’s far tougher than she seems at 82.

THE WALLFLOWER CONFESSIONS

3. "Is it autobiographical? At all?” they say.

In addition to buying my book, people I know are now reading it. My co-workers and friends are a bit surprised about some of the language and the adult content in my coming-of-age story. “Do you know that there are a lot of bad words in your book?” someone at the office asked the other day. I nodded. “Did you put them there?” he said. I wanted to blame the salty language on my publisher, as I did when my mom commented on the “F” and “C” words in the book (sorry Marc Côté, but my mom thinks you’re a potty mouth and a bad influence. I am not allowed to invite you to my next birthday party.)

The Wallflower Confessions

2. Exposed

Publishing is like standing naked on the Don Mills Overpass above the 401 at 8 a.m. on the first Tuesday morning in September after Labour Day.

There use to be a person who stood there, blessing the traffic I think. She may not have been at Don Mills, but it was some where in the northeast part of the city. She always looked cold and vulnerable, even though she was fully clothed. She wore a white robe that the wind pinned to her frame.

Here’s how this book thing happened. For six years, I worked intermittently on the story. For two years I waited while the publisher got to me, as they worked on their then current lists. Then I worked some more, trying to make the story a coherent narrative. I waited some more while it went to the printer.

The Wallflower Confessions

1. Be nice to me. It’s my first time.

No Beautiful Shore is my first work of fiction. Publishing your first story is a big deal for any writer, but for someone who is terminally shy it’s terrifying. Publishing implies that someone will want to hear what you have to say, but I’ve never had the relevant body parts to imagine that someone would want to read what I made up.

Now, however, I am exposed. I am outed as a writer. And you know what? I am thinking that writing is probably the best outlet for wallflowers like me. Writers get to be the centre of attention without being the centre of attention. We get to say our bit without having some short, blond girl with a perky nose look away bored, just to put us in our place.

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.