Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Standing in the Light

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Well hi. This is me standing nervously in the spotlight, governing my nerves. The light is blinding, I cannot see you out there, but in this bath of white energy I see dust motes floating, falling slowly, and the momentary effect is that I am being lifted by the light, as if buoyed by its power while it conducts me into the belly of a flying saucer.

Oh. Are you still there? Right. A little writing indulgence to kick off a "hello" message at the commencement of my month as Writer in Residence for the kind folks at Open Book Toronto.

I've worked with words and books both behind the scenes — as a small press publisher, an acquisitions editor, a typesetter — and as an author. I've both self-published and followed the traditional publishing route, done readings, and received grants (thanks for those). I suspect many out there have never heard of me, or have vague recollection of seeing my name somewhere, so I have no illusions about my fame, let alone my popularity. I've had nice things said about my work (by geniuses) and less than nice (by morons).

I have very strong opinions about books and writing, and some of them will emerge here. Feel free to agree, disagree, bolster, challenge, or respond in any way that feels appropriate. Discussion is good. Debate is even better.

The foundation of my assessment of good writing is purely meritocratic. I don't care if the work is written by a woman or a man, Newfoundlander or an Albertan, a Canadian or a Columbian, the child of a celebrity, someone photogenic, someone I'm supposed to adore, someone who’s won a dozen major prizes. I don't care about the writer's race or religion or sexual orientation. I don't even care about genre. You won't earn praise from me by doing anything but good writing, by being anything but a good writer.

I don’t know if this idea is controversial, especially coming from a white male writer. Please tell me if it is. My reasoning is that it’s less prejudiced for writing to be considered on merit alone. I shouldn’t have to know anything about you. Any additional information exists outside the writing. It can only skew my perception. That’s not fair to the work. You want to be judged on the work alone, right? Tell me if you don’t — make your case.

Good writing to me is interesting, innovative, challenging; it's been produced with care and intelligence and wonder, it is generally free from cliché, it is composed with the purpose of being engaging, entertaining, with the goal of transforming something in the mind of the reader. It needs to stir something in me, and it needs to stay with me. All of this is of course perfectly and completely subjective.

My gauge of good writing is that it makes me want to write. It creates a quandary: I want to continue reading; I want to stop reading, to write.

What’s your gauge?

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.

Brian Panhuyzen

Brian Panhuyzen is the author of the short-story collection The Death of The Moon (Cormorant, 1999) and a novel, The Sky Manifest (ECW, 2013).

Go to Brian Panhuyzen’s Author Page