Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Jessica Westhead

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Jessica Westhead's short stories have appeared in major literary journals in Canada and the United States. "Unique and Life-Changing Items," which appears in And Also Sharks, was shortlisted for the 2009 CBC Literary Awards. Her first novel, Pulpy & Midge, was nominated for the ReLit Award. Westhead lives in Toronto.

Visit Jessica's website, jessicawesthead.com.
Please send your questions and comments for Jessica to writer@openbooktoronto.com

Ten Questions, with Jessica Westhead

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Jessica Westhead:

My short story “Patrick Josephine Meets the Meatball from the Moon” was published in the now defunct CRUNCH! magazine when I was in grade 3. I remember thinking, This is the big time.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

And Also Sharks

By Jessica Westhead

From the publisher's website:

The forlornly funny stories in And Also Sharks celebrate the socially awkward, the insecure, the unfulfilled and the obsessed.

A disgruntled follower of a self-esteem blog posts a rambling critical comment. On the hunt for the perfect coffee table, a pregnant woman and her husband stop to visit his terminally ill ex-wife. The office cat lady reluctantly joins her fellow employees’ crusade to cheer up their dying co-worker. A man grieving his wife’s miscarriages follows his deluded friend on a stealth photo-taking mission at the Auto Show. A shoplifter creates her own narrative with stolen anecdotes and a kidnapped baby.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Draft Reading Series 8.1: The Sort-of-Cyber-Edition

When

Sunday, August 12, 2012 - 3:00pm

Where

Merchants of Green Coffee
2 Matilda Street
Toronto, ON
M4M1L9

Details

Draft Reading Series and Found Press are pleased to announce the season 8 of Draft. For this year's season opener, authors will be placed at three large tables, where guests can gather, listen to them read and engage in discussions about the world of e-publishing.

This event will take place at the Merchants of Green Coffee
2 Matilda Street (between Queen St East and Dundas St East)

Investigate how digital publishing can inhabit a place in the physical world.

Join: Suzanne Alyssa Andrew
Laure Baudot
Andrew Forbes
Bryan Ibeas
Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
Maria Meindl
Richard Rosenbaum
Sarah Sheard
Jessica Westhead
Lauren Wing

Location

Merchants of Green Coffee
2 Matilda Street
Toronto, ON M4M1L9 43° 39' 35.874" N, 79° 21' 14.2524" W

Celebrate the Short Story! Jessica Westhead at the November WCDR Breakfast

When

Saturday, November 12, 2011 - 8:30am

Where

Ajax Convention Centre
550 Beck Crescent
Ajax, ON
L1Z 1C9

Details

On Saturday November 12th at the regular breakfast meeting of The Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) author Jessica Westhead will speak about her writing path and process, and her publishing experience as a short story writer. Her love for this literary form led her to found YOSS along with other writers and short story fans. Her short story collection, And Also Sharks, was published by Cormorant Books in spring 2011.

Location

Ajax Convention Centre
550 Beck Crescent
Ajax, ON L1Z 1C9 43° 51' 26.28" N, 79° 0' 45" W

Brockton Writers Series

When

Wednesday, September 7, 2011 - 7:00pm

Where

St . Annes Church
270 Gladstone Ave
Toronto, ON
M6J 3L6

Details

Don't miss this month's The Brockton Writers' Series with readings by Pratap Reddy, Jessica Westhead and Mayank Bhatt.

All welcome. Books and other goodies for sale! Writers’ networking session is at 6:30pm.

PWYC ($3-5).

More info: http://farzanadoctor.wordpress....

Location

St . Annes Church
270 Gladstone Ave
Toronto, ON M6J 3L6 43° 38' 53.16" N, 79° 25' 6.6" W

Deer in the Bloglights No More!

Blogging is hard!

Before Open Book Toronto so kindly asked me aboard, I had very limited blogging experience, having written exactly two posts for other people’s online homes (one on notebook love, for Rebecca Rosenblum, and the other on Giller crashing, for The New Quarterly).

My own website doesn’t have a blog component. I do get excited about updating my pages occasionally—I’m all proud of myself for knowing how to do basic HTML, which sounds so much fancier and more computery than it is.

Bucket O’ Literary Oration Advice

At a reading I attended once, a writer brought what appeared to be an entire manuscript with him to the stage. Then he told a joke about how he was going to read the whole thing to us, haha! It was not a funny joke, though we laughed out of anxious politeness. Then he started reading, and reading, and reading…and we began to feel afraid. As he made his way through his enormous pile (which he didn’t read all of, but still far too much of), he would fling each page away with a disdainful flick of his wrist. Paper fluttered down around him, drifting on the breeze of our quiet sighs of desperation before coming to rest in a new pile, which he left for the next reader to deal with.

One and a Half Men: The King of Awkward (An Interview with Nathaniel G. Moore)

Nathaniel G. Moore is an enigma to many. Including me, though I’ve known him since 1999. From evidence I have been stealthily gathering over the past decade-and-a-half, here are the three main conclusions I have drawn about him:

1) He is a bit wacky.

Social Awkwardness Dread: Part 2 of 2

(PHOTO by Derek Wuenschirs)

“What is or was your most dreaded awkward social situation?” continued...

Social Awkwardness Dread: Part 1 of 2

All right, here it is: I am break-into-a-sweat-all-over-and-roll-my-eyes-up-into-the-back-of-my-head neurotic about forgetting people’s names. The mere idea of the possibility of this horrible socially awkward situation happening can send me over the edge.

This is how it plays out: I’ll glimpse someone I recognize across the room at a party, and if their name doesn’t immediately pop into my brain, I’ll quickly escape from their line of sight and start muttering to myself, Jaclyn? No. Jadeen? Nope. Jardina? No, dammit! Jacinda? Bingo! Yesss. Then I’ll feel triumphant and confidently reassured, armed with a name at the ready whether or not I actually speak to the person in question.

Our Alaskan Cruise: A Fictional Photo Essay (Part 2 of 2)

(Photos by Derek Wuenschirs. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.)

The band played all of our favourite songs. We watched from afar, cheered them on silently, clapped for their performance in our minds. We did not sit close because we did not want to spook them. They were all going to get free bowls of clam chowder out of this, at the end.

Our Alaskan Cruise: A Fictional Photo Essay (Part 1 of 2)

(Photos by Derek Wuenschirs. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.)

On the first night, we ordered Baked Alaska for dessert. Our waiter served it, then stood by and waited for us to laugh. When we only smiled politely, he was angry that we did not get the joke.

Pivot Readings at The Press Club

When

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - 8:00pm

Where

The Press Club
850 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON
M6J 1V5

Details

Pivot is proud to present the writers breathing life into Canadian literary culture. Established and emerging, time-tested and fresh; we're what's happening in literature, right now.

Tonight, they welcome Jessica Westhead (Pulpy and Midge) Phoebe Tsang (Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse).

PWYC.

Location

The Press Club
850 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON M6J 1V5 43° 0' 0" N, 79° 0' 0" W

The Zines Are Back In Town…But They Never Actually Left!

This past Sunday afternoon, I attended a backyard barbeque. But this was no ordinary outdoor summer fête. In addition to the regulation burgers and dogs and potato salad (and grilled bacon and bowl of red Nibs), there was a keg of Steam Whistle, delicious complimentary mini donuts (!) from our hosts Wade and Karen, a live band…and something else.

Ardent Eavesdropping

Ardent Eavesdropping

When I first started jotting down notes for this post, I was on a plane to Calgary and couldn’t figure out how to turn off the seatback TV that was blaring in my face (to my relief, I learned eventually to dim the brightness all the way). I switched around trying to find the least distracting channel, and settled on a tennis match. I don’t know anything about tennis, so I had zero interest in the onscreen action. And all that back-and-forth running and swatting turned out to be a fitting backdrop for a post about other people’s conversations.

To the Death (Match)!

As an ode to Gastro-Porn Princess Natalie Zed, who stole the show, here is my review of last night's Literary Death Match in the form of a grocery-store-flyer collage:

Editor's note: Click on the collage for a better look. The image can be further enlarged by clicking on the icon with four arrows that will appear.

The Joy of Hating (Musicals)

I’m pretty sure that most people who know me would say I am a nice person. I have always been this way. And I’m generally pleased to have this reputation, but occasionally it dismays me.

Home at Last...to a Heatwave and a Blackout!

I returned home with Derek to Toronto last night from our trip out west and beyond.

I am not a fan (har!) of hot and humid weather, so I was a bit sorry to leave behind Victoria’s temperate climate and arrive in the middle of Sticky Town here. Then this morning, immediately after we installed the air conditioner, the power went out.

Your Very Own Pocket Cruise Ship Magician

During the Alaskan cruise I recently took with my family, I became fascinated by the onboard magician. I went to two of his performances, and was spellbound. Which I guess is the point.

In a more informal show where he revealed how some of his tricks worked, he told the audience, “People are skeptical, and I make them believe.”

I liked this cruise ship magician’s style. (Let’s call him Mystical Bill.) I wanted to magically shrink him down so I could carry him with me wherever I went. And then I realized that this was possible—as all magic is—because I already have my very own pocket cruise ship magician, AKA, my subconscious! (Let’s call it Little Mystical Bill.)

What I'm Working on Now

My nearly 96-year-old Grandma Marion Westhead recently said to me, “I love being old!” She had given me a call to thank me and Derek for mailing her a bunch of almost-expired McDonald’s coupons—“I used them all, ha!”

If McDonald’s were smart, they would make this woman their poster girl. She eats there every day, with her “gang” of fellow seniors. Though they are not very pleased at the moment with their local Micky D’s, which is closed for renovations—“They’re trying to make it look like a bar now! All dark wood and no more tables, just separate booths. We won’t be able to watch people anymore.” Then she said—and I could hear the grin, “We’ll show them. We’ll still make it our own.”

Risk-Taking Behaviour

In the risk-taking department, I’m a bit further ahead with my fiction than in my real life. About an hour and a half before I first sat down to write this post, I was sitting on a horse. Very uncomfortably. Chanting to myself between gritted teeth, I am having fun I am having fun I will not fall off and the horse will not rear up and toss me in the air and then stomp on my head and split it open with its heavy heavy hooves when I hit the ground.

Derek had signed us up for a “half-day trail ride” at a horse ranch outside Calgary. We were spending some time out west before embarking on an Alaskan cruise with my family, and thought we’d take in some local colour.

First Post(card) Ahoy!

Greetings from Vancouver!

I’m enjoying this far-away city after a weeklong Alaskan cruise with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, and my husband Derek. Before the cruise (which I’ll be posting a fictional photo essay about at some point), Derek and I cavorted in Calgary for a few days.

I did a bit of a book tour in both cities, and now I’m just concentrating on ingesting as much delicious sushi as humanly possible. We leave tomorrow for a few days in Victoria, then back to Toronto, which I’m starting to feel homesick for.

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.