Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Nathan Whitlock

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Nathan Whitlock’s award-winning fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, Toronto Life, Report on Business, Flare, Fashion, Geist, Maisonneuve, and Best Canadian Essays, and he has appeared on radio and television discussing books and culture. He is a contributing editor for Quill & Quire. He lives in Toronto with his wife and children.


You can write to Nathan throughout the month of July at writer@openbooktoronto.com

The Entitled Interview with Nathan Whitlock

We're excited to welcome Nathan Whitlock, author of Congratulations on Everything (ECW Press) as our July 2016 writer-in-residence! Nathan's fiction and non-fiction have appeared in most Canadian magazines, as well as being anthologized in Best Canadian Essays. He is a contributing editor for the publishing industry magazine Quill & Quire. Congratulations on Everything has been receiving praise since it was published, as a brilliant sophomore novel that "slyly masks immense depth of character and emotion behind wry humour and a simple story about seemingly uncomplicated people" (Publishers Weekly).

Congratulations on Everything

By Nathan Whitlock

From ECW Press:

A dark and comic novel, Congratulations On Everything tracks the struggles, frailties, and cruelly pyrrhic victories of the middle-aged owner of a bar-restaurant and a 30ish lunch-shift waitress.

Jeremy has bought into the teachings of an empowerment and success guru, hook, line, and sinker. A Toronto service industry lifer, he’s risen through the ranks until he finally takes the keys to his destiny and opens his own place, The Ice Shack.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Service Industry Hell (Part 6): Service Industry Heaven!

A lot of the inspiration for my new book, Congratulations On Everything, came from the things I saw while working in bars, restaurants, and hotels, and from the experiences of friends who did the same. Recently, I asked people* on Facebook and Twitter to send me their wildest stories of working in the service industry trenches - in part to show that, however cringey things get in the book, the reality is worse. But also because I find these inherently fun to read.

*to whom I promised anonymity, in order to protect the relatively innocent

 

The Problem With First Books

In an interview with New York magazine’s Vulture blog, comic book creator Brian K. Vaughan makes clear his feelings about his early work:

Do you go back and read many of your older books?
Oh, God, no. I now have enough distance from a lot of my work that, if I see someone bring up an X-Men issue [that I wrote] to sign, I can flip through it and it doesn’t completely feel like I’m drowning or being set on fire. But for the most part, no, I would much rather read other people’s writing than my own.

Service Industry Hell (Part 5): Sex in Cemeteries and a Dancing Monkey

A lot of the inspiration for my new book, Congratulations On Everything, came from the things I saw while working in bars, restaurants, and hotels, and from the experiences of friends who did the same. Recently, I asked people* on Facebook and Twitter to send me their wildest stories of working in the service industry trenches - in part to show that, however cringey things get in the book, the reality is worse. But also because I find these inherently fun to read.

*to whom I promised anonymity, in order to protect the relatively innocent

 

This tale comes from "DE":

Women's Covers and Male Privilege

The default look for works of literary fiction, especially those written by women, was once this: “A stock image of a woman with her back to the camera, gazing over a shoreline.”

(Or a tree. Or a field. Or a blurred-out countryside.)

That’s how designer Jennifer Heuer describes the covers she often gets asked to create, despite the fact that her strengths as a designer lie in creating striking, memorable images using type and illustration. In an essay for Literary Hub, Heuer writes about the fraught gender politics that surround cover design:

Service Industry Hell (Part 4): T-Shirts Wet and Dry

A lot of the inspiration for my new book, Congratulations On Everything, came from the things I saw while working in bars, restaurants, and hotels, and from the experiences of friends who did the same. Recently, I asked people* on Facebook and Twitter to send me their wildest stories of working in the service industry trenches - in part to show that, however cringey things get in the book, the reality is worse. But also because I find these inherently fun to read.

*to whom I promised anonymity, in order to protect the relatively innocent

A Defence of Plagiarism That I Totally Stole from Kenneth Goldsmith

Avant-garde poet and literary provocateur Kenneth Goldsmith has dedicated himself to what he calls “uncreative writing” – that is, creating art out of found texts he copies out whole. His book Day, for example, consists of every word printed in the September 1, 2000, edition of The New York Times, the classifieds and stock pages included.

Work Lit

Many of the reviews I’ve received for my books so far have made some reference to the idea that I tend to write about people who work for a living. I’m not complaining – honestly, I’m delighted that enough such reviews exist to be able to spot a trend, and complaining is verboten, anyway – but it does sometimes feel as though I am being singled out for having discovered an exotic tribe, a strange subculture of people whose life rhythms are dictated by work schedules and the arrival of paycheques.

Writers on Donald Trump

Some literary smarm and alarm to mark the occasion of the wildest, most Godwin's Law-baiting political nominating convention ever.

 

“Trump is a pugnacious idiot with no real understanding of how government works.” – Stephen King

 

“Just yesterday I was wondering if Trump studied Rob Ford as example of narcissistic clown getting away with stuff. But now the joke's over.” – Andrew Pyper

 

Art vs Writing, Writing vs Art

On the Ploughshares blog author Annie Weatherwax writes about the connections between visual art and literature, going so far as to say the former gave birth to the latter. Writing and art, she claims, are so inextricably linked in the human brain that there is very often a natural overlap in aptitudes – many writers like to paint, draw, or sculpt, just as many artists feel an urge to write. As examples, she offers Gunter Grass, John Updike, S.J. Perelman, Flannery O’Connor, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and more.

Service Industry Hell (Part 3): Rats in the kitchen and drunk girls on the floor

A lot of the inspiration for my new book, Congratulations On Everything, came from the things I saw while working in bars, restaurants, and hotels, and from the experiences of friends who did the same. Recently, I asked people* on Facebook and Twitter to send me their wildest stories of working in the service industry trenches - in part to show that, however cringey things get in the book, the reality is worse. But also because I find these inherently fun to read.

Love and poetry

Last year, Brick Books marked 40 years as Canada’s most influential poetry publisher by asking dozens of poets, novelists, booksellers, musicians and other folks to write short tributes to a favourite Canadian poet, whether they’ve been published by Brick or not. The response was big enough that Brick has kept the project into 2016 and beyond.

Kitty Lewis, Brick's indefatigable publisher, was kind enough to ask me to contribute, and didn’t even mind when I said the poet I wanted to write about happened to be one with whom I share a home.

Here’s a bit of my tribute:

How to respond to a bad review

Recently, the creator and star of a one-man show playing as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival posted a long response to the online review of his work – a review that was definitely unenthusiastic, but not particularly mean or snarky. After repeatedly misspelling the reviewer’s name (which may have been intended as a passive-aggressive counterstrike), he ends by declaring that the reviewer in question lacks “even the insight of a casual theatre goer.”

Service Industry Hell (Part 2): Sinatra's Wake and a Cup of Vomit

A lot of the inspiration for my new book, Congratulations On Everything, came from the things I saw while working in bars, restaurants, and hotels, and from the experiences of friends who did the same. Recently, I asked people* on Facebook and Twitter to send me their wildest stories of working in the service industry trenches - in part to show that, however cringey things get in the book, the reality is worse. But also because I find these inherently fun to read.

*to whom I promised anonymity, in order to protect the relatively innocent

 

These stories come from “S”:

To the moons, Alice

Earlier this week, on July 4, NASA announced that the spacecraft Juno had successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit. That it did so on Independence Day, and that NASA used the term “Mighty Jupiter” in the headline of its press release, sums up a lot that is corny, loveable, self-mythologizing, and impressive about the United States.

What is Literary Fiction? Ask a Romance Publisher

Year ago, I was the guest author at a summer camp for teen writers. The afternoon started well: I read a bit from my first novel, spoke in very general terms about how I became a writer, and outlined the long road a book takes from idea to printed object. The best part, for the kids, was when I admitted to having left out all the dirty words during my brief reading. That led to one kid borrowing my book and huddling with her friends to do a kind of scavenger hunt for mild literary filth.

Chasing Ghosts at Four in the Morning

I can only write fiction before dawn. Part of that is simple adaptive behaviour: most of the past two decades have been filled with children and day jobs that happen, by definition, during the day. The long slide begins around 7:30 and does not end until past 9, after which my brain no longer holds enough of a charge for anything creative beyond lying to those children and finding new ways to complain about the day jobs.

Service Industry Hell (Part 1): One Angry Writer and Two Warring Bosses

A lot of the inspiration for my new book, Congratulations On Everything, came from the things I saw while working in bars, restaurants, and hotels, and from the experiences of friends who did the same. Recently, I asked people* on Facebook and Twitter to send me their wildest stories of working in the service industry trenches - in part to show that, however cringey things get in the book, the reality is worse. But also because I find these inherently fun to read.

*to whom I promised anonymity, in order to protect the relatively innocent

These first tales all come from "C":

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