Posted on May 10, 2015
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.
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!
Read more about bookbinding:
Coptic Stitch Binding Tutorial (on youtube)
Posted on March 20, 2015
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.
Thanks 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
Posted on January 22, 2014
Posted on May 28, 2013
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.
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.
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.
Posted on May 26, 2013
One 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.
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.
Posted on January 28, 2013
When 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.
“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.
Posted on January 21, 2013
I 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:
Posted on January 14, 2013
“It’s told from the point of view of a horse,” my daughter, Claire, told me when she started reading Black Beauty. “I don’t know if I want to read it.” She finished the book today, and concluded that it was a great read, and Black Beauty was a character she wouldn’t ever forget.
When Claire asked me to name some memorable characters from books I had read, the first few names that came to mind were:
Nomi Nickel, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (Canadian)
Sixteen-year old Nomi, who lives in a Mennonite community, is abandoned by both her mother and sister. She asks a question that continues to haunt me: “Is it wrong to trust in a beautiful lie if it helps you get through life?”
Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
As a kid, I had a crush on Atticus, and wondered how many fathers were like him in real life. He was so wise and had the right things to say about everything that mattered: “You never really know a man till you walk a mile in his shoes.”
Dunstan Ramsay, Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (Canadian)
I read this book in grade 12 English class. Dunstan’s involvement with Mary Dempster, a woman he spends his life trying to make a “saint,” is a result of his deep rooted childhood guilt: “I feared to go to sleep and prayed till I sweated that God would forgive me for my mountainous crime… I was alone with my guilt, and it tortured me.”
Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L.L. Montgomery (Canadian)
I remember wondering if I should add an “e” to the end of my name after reading Anne say, “A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished.”
Iago, Othello by William Shakespeare
I’m wowed by his evil brilliance as much as I fear it. I still get chills reading, “I am not who I am.”
Posted on December 31, 2012
One of the things I wanted to do during this holiday break was catch up on my reading. I have far more books than I could possibly get through in one calendar year. I keep buying them, intending to read them later. I also get a lot of books as gifts.
Of the books I did get to this year, Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negros, was my favourite. It was published in 2007, and I wish I had gotten to it sooner! Hill’s protagonist, Aminata Diallo, who was abducted as a child from her village in West Africa and sold into slavery, continues to haunt me. The story had such an effect on me that I couldn’t pick up another book for two weeks.
I also thought Ins Choi’s play, Kim’s Convenience, was brilliant. The story hit close to home. Both Ins and I, although we have never met, immigrated to Canada in1975, and had families that worked in variety stores in downtown Toronto. I wrote about this play in an earlier blog.
Now that it is 2013, there are several lists of ‘the best books of 2012’ published everywhere. Here are a few to check out.
Posted on December 29, 2012
“Don’t talk about it; write.” – Bradbury, 1976
I recently read a list of writers who passed away in 2012. Donald J. Sobol, writer of the Encyclopedia Brown series, passed away in July. Leroy, aka Encyclopedia Brown, is a boy detective who used his intelligence to solve neighbourhood mysteries. Some of my fondest childhood memories in Canada include going to the public library where I could escape into books – lots of them. Encyclopedia Brown was a favourite because solving whatever mystery that was thrown at both Encyclopedia and the reader, left me feeling both satisfied and smart.
Another children’s favourite, Maurice Sendak, who wrote Where the Wild Things Are, passed away in May.
I was first introduced to Ray Bradbury’s work in high school. Fahrenheit 451 continues to be on many English class reading lists. His short stories also remain popular. Surprisingly, I only found out recently that there’s a prequel or rather a companion to Fahrenheit entitled, A Pleasure to Burn. Bradbury passed away in June.
For a list of writers who passed away this past year, click here.
For more Ray Bradbury quotes, click here.