Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Robert Paul Weston

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Robert Paul Weston has been a trampolinist, a lifeguard, a script reader, a production coordinator, an English teacher, the editor of a small-press literary magazine and most recently, a dub-script writer for imported cartoons.

His fiction has appeared in magazines on both sides of the Atlantic and been nominated for The Journey Prize in Canada and The Fountain Award for Speculative Literature in the United States. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia and lives in Toronto.

His website is www.robertpaulweston.com

Ten Questions with Robert Paul Weston

Open Book: Toronto:

What was your first publication and where was it published?

Robert Paul Weston:

That would be a story from 2005, which appeared in On Spec #62. It was a story that took place in a world in which grief manifested itself physically, in the form of elephants.

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

Zorgamazoo

By Robert Paul Weston and illustrated by Victor Rivas

Are You a Believer in Fanciful Things? In Pirates and Dragons and Creatures and Kings?

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

The Mysteries of Radio

Back in fall, my book Dust City was nominated for the 2012 Red Maple Award, part of Ontario's Forest of Reading Program. A couple months later, one of the organizers contacted the nominees with an unexpected proposition.

"We would like to see if a few of you could be voice recorded," she wrote in an email, "for a commercial" to be played on an Ottawa radio station. I agreed, of course. (How often do you get to make a radio ad?)

A few days later, I drove up to a grey, anonymous, commercial park in the northern netherburbs of Toronto. There I met some of the folks at Sky Words, a recording studio that specializes in "aerial advertising."

The Mysteries of Radio

In October, Dust City was nominated for the 2012 Red Maple Award, part of Ontario's Forest of Reading Program; a couple weeks ago, one of the organizers contacted the nominees with an unexpected proposition.

"We would like to see if a few of you could be voice recorded," she wrote in an email, "for a commercial" to be played on an Ottawa radio station. I agreed, of course. (How often do you get to make a radio ad?)

A few days later, I drove up to a grey, anonymous, commercial park in the northern netherburbs of Toronto. There I met the lovely folks at Sky Words, a recording studio that specializes in "aerial advertising."

Rhyming Verse is the First-Person Shooter of Children's Lit

I'm not what you might called "a gamer." You could count the number of video games I've played in my lifetime on two hands. I'm talking about single games—like single plays. Maybe twelve at most. So I'm no expert. But I was doing some research about gaming recently and I came across several articles (like this one) making the case that video games are addictive. There's even talk—idle talk, thankfully—of making "video game addiction" a mental illness.

All Writers Are Mystery Writers

Back on July 10, 2011, the New York Times Book Review printed a great little essay by Roger Rosenblatt, called "The Writer as Detective." I liked it so much it's pinned up beside me at the writing desk.

Here's an abridgement of one eminently quotable paragraph:

"All writers are mystery writers...Like them, we muck about in a world studded with clues, neck-deep in motives. Like them, we falter in our investigations and follow wrong leads...Only when we have finished a piece of work do we know true shamus loneliness, realizing that the chase is over and that no one has been watching us but us."

Keep Toronto Reading Festival: Zorgamazoo!

When

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 1:30pm

Where

Highland Creek Library
3550 Ellesmere Road
Toronto, ON
M1C 3Z2

Details

Find time to rhyme with Robert Paul Weston, author of rhyming novel Zorgamazoo.

More info: http://www.torontopubliclibrar....

Location

Highland Creek Library
3550 Ellesmere Road
Toronto, ON M1C 3Z2 43° 47' 7.08" N, 79° 9' 12.96" W

James Frey Wants Your Ideas, $250 a Pop

This week, The Globe and Mail reported on James Frey's "Damien Hirst-inspired" young-adult novel factory. Apparently, Frey's latest gambit is to hire young (and presumably desperate) writers to pen novels for him, which he'll subsequently edit and in doing so stamp his name on them, presenting each book as a collaboration. He views this as an improvement on book packagers like Alloy who, in lieu of royalties, tend to pay a flat fee of around $10,000 per manuscript.

Cornelia Funke: Arch Enemy

Since when did Cornelia Funke, the so-called "German J.K. Rowling," become my nemesis? It appears to have happened on this week, on September 14, when she released her latest book.

Here’s how it breaks down: At the moment, my first book is up for the 2011 California Young Reader’s Medal. The shortlist is exactly that: short. Three books, that's it:

Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley
Zorgamazoo by me

Writing Young Adult Fantasy Course at U of T

If anyone out there is interested in learning the ins and out(there)s of writing fantasy aimed at the amorphous reader we sometimes call “the young adult,” then I’m your man!

Starting on Monday, I’ll be instructing a night-course at U of T appropriately called “Writing Young Adult Fantasy”. If anyone is interested, there’s still time to enroll. You can be certain I’ll be slavering everything I know all over the genre — structure, characterization, thematic drive, naturalism versus narrative in dialogue…the list goes on and on. I swear.

Alan Cumming to do Zorgamazoo Audio Book!

Got some very good news today: My editor contacted me out-of-the-blue to say Alan Cumming (Titus; X-Men; The Good Wife; um, best Cabaret MC ever) is going to do the Zorgamazoo audio book!

It feels odd (and wonderful) to know that one of my favourite actors will be reading my novel -- and aloud, no less, which is how it's meant to be! Needless to say, I'm pretty flabbergasted over here.

Toronto vs. Pueblo. Flagship Library, please.

Yesterday I returned from a week in Colorado, where I presented Zorgamazoo to the schools of Pueblo. Something that struck me about the city -- a relatively small one, with a population just over 100,000 -- was the rather stunning main branch of the library system.

Passenger pigeons

So yeah, apparently in the 19th century there were at least 2 billion passenger pigeons in North America. The birds' only natural defense was to congregate in sheer numbers. There are multiple accounts of flocks a mile wide and 300 miles long. That's like a single flock from here to Detroit. Witnesses said it took hours from the thing to pass overhead.

Then folks needed cheap meat to feed their slaves, so they started killing the pigeons and packing them on trains back to NYC and Boston. The majority of the birds were killed in just twenty years, between 1870 and 1890. People doused their grain with liquor and shot the birds after they were drunk.

Interview with "WriterGirl"

In case anyone's interested, I just did an interview with a blogger who goes by the succinct moniker, WriterGirl.

Swing by to find out how I crack writer's block, what obscure novel I think more people should read, and what four line rhyming poem best describes me. Er, can you say, "hastily scribbled limerick?"

Who is Canada's Children's Laureate?

Answer: Nobody. We don't have one. But I'll get to that in a moment.

A couple weeks ago, I was in London, England and saw the rather stunning stage production of Michael Morpurgo's The War Horse (formerly at the National and now at the New London Theatre). There was a wonderful moment when the titular horse made it's first appearance. A couple rows back, a kid nudged his brother and whispered: "Look, it's a real horse!"

Will Self Reads his Roald Dahl Aloud and I'm All For It

In a lovely review (why can't all film write-ups be this good?) of Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Will Self sounds off on his predilection for (nearly) all things Dahl.

At one point, he confesses to reading the author's works out loud, subsequently speculating that “it might be an idea for all literary critics to read the books they analyse aloud – it certainly helps to fix them in the mind, while providing a readymade seminar with your audience.”

A readymade seminar with your audience. It's true, yes? When you read aloud to someone -- a child, a friend, a lover -- it throws everything up for discussion, if only between chapters.

The Internet, 25% Off!

My inaugural blog on Open Book: A caveat.

Perhaps you've heard of the study conducted by Sun Microsystems in 1998 to throw light on the best ways of "Writing for the Web." According to the study, we humans read 25% slower off a screen than from a printed page. To compensate for this and other deficiencies with electronic information, the gurus at Sun recommend cutting down the words in your web content by a whopping 50%.

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.