Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Michael Januska's blog

WORK IT, WRITERS!

This past weekend I had the privilege and the pleasure of visiting my hometown, Windsor, on another trip to promote Riverside Drive. Here are some highlights:

There's No Hacky Sack Allowed in the Bookstore

This is my last blog entry as Writer-In-Residence for Open Book Toronto. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve gained a new appreciation for bloggers and daily newspaper columnists. It was also a good exercise and I learned a lot from it. Here in no particular order, are a few stray notes, thoughts and observations from my month at OBT:

- My handwriting, my own invention, ‘Caps In Cursive,’ is getting harder to read. I never thought that could be possible.

- Sometimes I miss using pencils. I think I might begin either alternating pencil days with uni-ball pen days, or maybe using only the pen at my desk and pencils in the kitchen. I might be over-thinking this.

- I should read more poetry.

Man or Myth?

Man or Myth?

I’ve fallen behind on my blogging – sorry about that. I’m up north with family and we have limited connectivity. And I don’t have enough stamps to send you each a postcard. Modern problems.

Marking Our Territory

Flipping through a copy of the Border Cities Star from 1923, I came across an article titled “Unique Literary Map.” The creation of George H. Locke, then Chief Librarian of Toronto, it’s described as a wall map marking the settings of Canadian books. “A study of the map shows that the great rivers, lakes and mountains of the Dominion seem to have been popular with many of the descriptive writers, but the fiction writers have flown everywhere…” There is no mention of any urban locales. Identified are romantic settings, wild and idyllic, stretching from the “Eden-like valleys of Nova Scotia” to the coastline of British Columbia and north to the rugged Yukon. This is CanLit circa 1923, and “Border tales do not appear as numerous as one would expect them to be.” Pity.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

Actor Dennis Farina died yesterday. He was a favourite of mine. You might remember him from crime movies such as Snatch, Thief (his first acting role; he was 37 at the time), Midnight Run, and two Elmore Leonard film adaptations: Out of Sight and Get Shorty. Leonard’s writing seemed perfectly suited for Farina. Farina also played a detective for a couple of seasons in television’s Law & Order. That seemed suited for him as well. He could be smooth, dead funny and a hard-ass all in one take. He must have been one of those actors that writers think of when they’re creating a character. I have to admit, when I’m developing a character, I often have a particular actor or personality in mind. It can help.

Lily Pads, Nostalgia, and Husking Corn

Speaking of swamp, my mind too often at 3:00 in the morning works like it’s hopping lily pads. Maybe it’s just my adult ADD putting in overtime. (Incidentally, I once knew someone who thought that ADD meant the individual was suffering from a lack of attention. She used to tell that to us over and over again.) In order to try and fall back asleep, I’ll focus on one particular problem, as a sort of exercise. But soon there are more and more lily pads, and they keep getting smaller.

Swamp

The Canadian Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word “swamp”:

n. 1 a tract of low-lying ground in which water collects; an area of water-logged ground; a bog or marsh.
After a torrential storm and flooding less than two weeks ago, followed now by days of 40C+ heat coupled with 110% humidity, that would be the basement. Or the soccer pitch in Riverdale Park. I’ve compared current conditions to the stories I’ve read about the filming of Apocalypse Now in the jungles of the Philippines. And we know what happened there: they all went mad.

2 a difficult or messy situation; a complication (a bureaucratic swamp).

Hotter Than a Steering Wheel In July

I hope you indulge me this one time and allow me to riff on cars and summer.

I grew up in the ‘70s in a town where if you could escape you escaped to the suburbs and bought a house with a double driveway. A double driveway means being able to park two vehicles side by side – the ultimate convenience, the prize. You never again have to jockey cars in order to make a run to the corner store.

Windsor may have been Canada’s Motor City but at our house, dad’s car was usually an import and mom’s car was the domestic, purposed for groceries and chauffeuring kids around the subdivision. I remember when she was handed the keys to a brand new AMC Hornet. It was a green two-door, and in the summer it smelled like hot plastic. I’m probably still carrying around the toxins in my body.

Notes From a Bookseller

No. 36: While dogs, and occasionally children, may be allowed in the store, please, no wagons. First off your wagon smells like sour milk, and second, you’re not settling the prairie.

No. 37: Please do not approach the counter and say, “I’m wondering if you have a book.” You’re just asking for it.

No. 38: After-dinner Crowd #1: Please refrain from setting your doggy bags and frappuccinos on the book tables. Elizabeth Ruth’s “Matadora” should not be confused with a placemat.

No. 39: No cellphone conversations are allowed. FYI, everyone in the store now knows that your tests came back positive.

No. 40: It’s with your best interests at heart that I refuse to tell you how to find the Self-help section.

A Few Thoughts On Writing Contests

Do you enter writing contests? How many have you entered? Do you enter the ones that carry a fee or do you avoid them? Have you ever given up on writing contests only to later step back in the ring?

What are you looking for when you enter a writing contest? The monetary prize? Free publicity? Validation?

Have you ever dusted off an older work if it fits the criteria, or do you try to stay limber by coming up with something fresh?

Who do you feel benefits the most from these contests, the writer or the organizer?

I’ll go first.

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