The art of bookbinding

These are the books I made in the workshop

These are the books I made in the workshop

I recently attended my first workshop on bookbinding. Today, I spent the afternoon picking up some supplies and tools to keep practising the art. One of the stores my instructor, Vanessa, recommended was The Paper Place. Located in downtown Toronto, it’s a great shop that carries a wide variety of decorative Japanese papers, as well as the book binding and paper crafting tools needed for any book project.

I learned to type on one of these!

I learned to type on one of these!

After, I ended up wandering into Type Books, an independent bookstore, which is next door. This old fashion typewriter was on display there. It reminded me of the old manual typewriter I learned to type on decades ago!

I was happy that the store had Chang Rae Lee’s new book On Such a Full Sea which I ended up getting.

Read more about bookbinding:

The Art of Bookbinding

Bookbinding 101: Five-hole Pamphlet Stitch

Coptic Stitch Binding Tutorial (on youtube)

 

 

 

Editors and Writers

With Allyson Latta

With Allyson Latta

I was finally able to thank Allyson Latta in person when I met up with her last month. She was a guest speaker at a Markham high school where she spoke to students about her work as a freelance editor.  I was fortunate enough to work with Allyson on my first book which will be released early next year.

Allyson has worked with many prominent Canadian writers including two of my favourites, Marina Nemat and Lawrence Hill. Her website, full of guest posts, interviews, and all things that might interest any writer, is definitely worth checking out. Allyson also teaches memoir writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.

sweetlandThanks to a quiet March Break, I was able to finish reading a couple of books. One novel I would highly recommend is Michael Crummey’s Sweetland. After visiting Newfoundland a few years ago and falling in love with that province, I couldn’t resist reading this book. Set in a remote island community, our protagonist Moses Sweetland, fakes his own death and stays behind after everyone else relocates.

For more information:

Michael Crummey’s Sweetland is like a song of mourning – a review by The Globe and Mail

Michael Crummey: How I wrote Sweetland – Canada Writes

 

Writers as readers

Writers love to read. It was my turn to post something on the 11th Floor Writers‘ blog so I asked the members what they were reading. They had a lot to share. Please click here to continue.

Two books

I have a tendency of reading more than one book at a time. Right now, Chang-Rae Lee’s A Gesture Life is sitting on my nightstand. It’s what I’m reading at home. Judy Fong Bates’ Midnight at the Dragon Café is in my bag. It gets read everywhere else, especially in my car as I wait for my daughter during her piano lessons and band practice.

A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee

A Gesture Life by Chang-Rae Lee

Lee, a Korean-American writer, immigrated to the States in 1965. A Gesture Life weaves some heavy issues into the storytelling, including the treatment of Korean comfort women by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II – something the protagonist witnessed during his years of military service. Needless to say, it has a profound effect on him that lasts a lifetime.

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates

Midnight at the Dragon Cafe by Judy Fong Bates

Fong-Bates is a Chinese-Canadian writer. I’m only a couple of chapters into Midnight at the Dragon Café, which was recommended to me by a friend. The book was the 2011 One Book Community Read for the city of Toronto.

The boy ate an apple

appleOne of my goals this year was to read books by writers of Asian heritage, or to read more stories with protagonists of diverse backgrounds. I regret that growing up and all through these years, I haven’t made it a priority to expose myself to stories told in multicultural voices.

Through high school, university, and college curriculums, I have been exposed to a wealth of brilliant writers, from Chaucer to Hemingway, and many Canadian writers in between. I didn’t even stop to consider that all the stories I read were told from a Western perspective. This has had an interesting impact on me as a reader and now as a writer. I assume every character I read about is white unless told otherwise. I’m not alone. When I wrote ‘The boy ate an apple’ on the chalkboard and asked a classroom full of students, “What ethnicity was that boy?” All of them, even the black and Asian students responded, “white”.

As Canadian educators, writers, and readers, we need to do a better job of promoting diverse voices and experiences. It is 2013, yet the reading lists for Independent Study Projects in senior English classes haven’t changed much since the 80s when I was in high school. To throw in the odd book by a black or Asian writer to “modernize and update” the list isn’t enough.

 

Recommended Read:

Requiem by Frances Itani

Requiem by Frances Itani

I recently finished Frances Itani’s Requiem, a story about Bin, a Japanese Canadian struggling with loss on many levels. Although set in 1997, the story takes readers back to 1942, a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Twenty-two thousand Japanese Canadians in British Columbia were interned, in what is one of Canada’s darkest periods in history.

My first e-reader (sigh)

koboWhen I was asked if I wanted an e-reader for Christmas, my answer was a flat out, “no”.  I love the texture of paper pages, the smell of new books and the worn-out feel of second-hand books. I also love walking into bookstores and being surrounded by books of all sizes, shapes, and colours.

But when the second book that I really wanted to read was only available in e-book format, I thought maybe it was time to at least be open to the possibility of an e-reader.

As soon as I walked into my local Chapters bookstore, I was greeted by a friendly Kobo salesperson who happily walked me through his display.

“This is the one I own,” he said, and passed me a Kobo Glo.

It didn’t feel so bad in my hands, especially when it was put into a case that looked like a book cover.  

I wasn’t entirely sure if it was a good or bad thing that the reader could customize the font size, justification, margins, and even the line spacing. I knew editors who laboured and agonized over such decisions. The fact that any reader could now arbitrarily change everything seemed somehow wrong.

I love the built-in dictionary though. By pressing any word, I instantly get its meaning. As well, the ability to highlight passages and make notes about them is very cool.

The Kobo Glo also has a built-in light which I’m thinking will be great for reading in my car when I’m waiting for my daughter in the parking lot of her music school.

Still not sure where I stand in the e-book vs traditional book debate. Will find out soon though. I’ve downloaded a few books including The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy which was recommended to me by Donleavy’s grandnephew, and hard to find in print version in Toronto.

Memorable characters 2

charactersI love books where I feel connected with the main character, or when the character is someone whom I admire and want to root for. I recently saw Les Miserables again. Jean Valjean is an example of a character I both admire and feel tremendous sympathy for – a character almost impossible for me to forget.

There are several books and online resources that offer great advice, tips, and suggestions on how to create complex and compelling characters. One book title I’d like to pass along is Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters. It’s definitely worth checking out.  Schmidt looks at several archetypes, both heroic and villainous, to explore character traits and behaviours. Her examples of memorable characters from books, movies, and T.V. are especially helpful in shaping our understanding of classic archetypes.

Also worth checking out: