Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

speacock's blog

The Best Job Ever

During Q&As, I'm often asked why I became a writer. My favourite answer is that I did it because I didn't want to have a job. It's a response that is only partially facetious.

Most jobs involve an individual participating in some sort of chain of production in our world, some sort of service, sometimes almost thoroughly for money, other times to make oneself of use. A writer, an artist, in my opinion, doesn't really fit in to any of that.

Oscar Wilde said, in the introduction to "A Picture of Dorian Gray," (if my memory serves me well) that "You can forgive a man for making a useful thing, as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is useless."

The (Should Be) Great Farini

I've just returned from a grueling tour in Calgary and Regina, where I gave 16 presentations in six days and then took a flight home that got me to Toronto just past midnight. Coming back, reflecting on my tour and considering the many things I had to do on my return, I recalled that I still hadn't responded to an e-mail from a teacher in the Bowmanville, Ontario area who recently let me know that her school board was building a new school, and they were looking for names. She knew, from hearing me give my presentation to her students some time ago that I would have a perfect name in mind.

The Need for Narrative

It is interesting to look at trends in TV programming and consider why some shows are popular and others aren't. Sometimes it seems a bit baffling. Why, for example, is there such an interest lately in home renovating shows. On the surface, they seem pretty pedestrian. Why in the world do people keep watching them and why do networks rush to make them?

An obvious answer is that we all either own homes or would like to own one, and put ourselves in the places of the people fixing up their abodes. We fantasize about doing the same.

But I think there is much more going on than that. I think the popularity of these shows reflects the deep-seated human need and fascination with narrative.

Scary Stories

I always find it amusing when I travel across the country doing readings in schools for young people, as I was doing today in Regina, that kids love scary stories so much. But it isn't just that. It's also that they often like those stories to be much scarier than their parents prefer them to be. They like "dark."

The IODE & The Violet Downey Award

I'm in Calgary doing a couple of readings for the Public Library and schools. Before that, I had the pleasure of addressing the combined chapters of the IODE of that city. You may well ask yourself ... who, or what, are they?

Their full name is the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. Sounds very old-fashioned, doesn't it? In some ways, they are. A women's organization, they were founded at the time of the Boer War near the turn of the last century, specifically, I believe, to support Canadian soldiers and generally stand by the British Empire and its ways.

Reading, Writing, Baseball ... and the Death of the Attention Span

An excellent question someone asked me about one of my recent blogs that dealt with high school students not being interested in, or required to, write short stories got me thinking. The question posed was ... "WHY are they not interested?"

Kids Ask Authors the Darndest Questions

I just returned from London, Ontario where I was spoke at a private school - two classes of grades 6, 7 and 8 students. I was in Richmond Hill the day before and will be in Calgary and Regina throughout next week.

Almost every YA novelist who speaks in schools allows a bit of time, often at the end of presentations, for questions. It is amazing how often kids, from Newfoundland to B.C., will ask exactly the same questions; and it's interesting to consider why they are curious about those particular things.

The Inside Scoop on Robertson Davies

In an earlier incarnation, I was an M.A. student at the University of Toronto. All my professors were bright and interesting men who helped me better understand literature, but one stood out. Well, how could he not stand out ... he was Robertson Davies.

Kids Lit vs. Adult Lit

Authors who write for "Young Adults" have often encountered the frustrating situation of appearing at Writers Festivals and finding their names in tiny print at the bottom of promotional material. There are the featured, important, real writers, those who write for adults and create complicated art for the ages ... and then, those who make up stories for kids.

No Short Story Writing Please, We're in High School

I help to run a short story writing contest in a town in southern Ontario. It has been very successful since its inception about five years ago. In fact, I'm guessing that it is one of the most successful of its kind in Canada - we get about 250 to 300 entries in a single year. Another author and I go into the schools each year and pump up the kids and really push them to be creative. We also have the support of a wonderful children's librarian and the Public Library itself. But two years ago, we decided to do something different. Instead of just inviting the students in elementary grades, we decided to open it up and bring in the big boys and girls ... high school writers.

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