Posted on December 13, 2016
It’s kind of crazy that both my brother and I published our first books this year. Like me, John took Creative Writing classes at the University of Toronto’s School for Continuing Studies. We even studied with some of the same instructors like Dennis Bock. The networking opportunities that came with being in our classes eventually led us to get our books published.
According to the National Reading Campaign’s review of Dark Side, the Young Adult (YA) novel “grips readers with its intensity, packing each page with relatable teen issues.” Emerson, the protagonist in Dark Side, is overwhelmed with family pressures and parental expectations. John, who works at Nexus Youth Services, explores themes that include domestic violence and teen suicide.
I really enjoyed reading the book because it spoke to so many issues and concerns that today’s teens deal with. As a teacher, I can see how young readers would connect with the characters and the challenges they face. John ends the book with an author’s note encouraging readers to seek help if they are feeling in any way overwhelmed by school or issues related to family and friends. Dark Side is available in bookstores and on Amazon. It was released by Lorimer Books, a Canadian publishing company, in August 2016.
Posted on November 29, 2015
One of the most challenging and rewarding courses I’ve taken is on Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823). Regarded as the principal creator of the female Gothic genre, Radcliffe is credited as establishing a standard and new formula for Gothic fiction which earned it great respect and a larger readership. Patriarchal authority and institutions were challenged and examined in the Female Gothic. Unlike male writers such as Matthew Lewis who wove scenes of sexual assault into their work, Radcliffe’s terrors come from implied or possible physical assaults, and the “explained supernatural”. Her essay, “On the Supernatural in Poetry”, examines how she distinguishes between “terror” and “horror”.
We read four of her six novels in class: A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and The Italian (1797). The Mysteries of Udolpho, which most recently inspired Guillermo del Toro and his movie Crimson Peak, is 672 pages long and is considered Radcliffe’s masterpiece.
Radcliffe is a great storyteller with an incredible sense of adventure. I found myself captivated by her exotic settings and intriguing characters. Although few modern readers have heard of her, Radcliffe has influenced several writers including Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Jane Austen (1775-1817), Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), and more recently, Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) and Anne Rice (1941).
For more on Radcliffe:
Ann Radcliffe (biography)
Ann Radcliffe (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Ann Radcliffe – An Introduction
The Female Gothic – An Introduction
Davison, Carol M. History of the Gothic: Gothic Literature 1764-1824. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2009.
Ellis, Markman. The History of Gothic Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburg University Press, 2000.
Heiland, Donna. Gothic & Gender: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
Mulvey-Roberts, Marie. The Handbook of the Gothic. New York: New York University Press, 2009.
Wright, Angela. Gothic Fiction: A Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2007.
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!
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:
Bookbinding 101: Five-hole Pamphlet Stitch
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 March 19, 2015
Local farmers were out selling fresh maple syrup at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. The place was packed with people, mostly families out enjoying a sunny March Break day. Located 1.5 hours west of Toronto, this is the largest year-round farmers’ market in Canada.
Along with some wonderful ready-to-eat foods like perogies, souvlaki, and apple fritters, you can find everything from handmade quilts to used vinyl records. I spent quite a bit of time perusing used books, finally getting the following copies to take home:
The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom. I read the book years ago and loved it. It’s a fast read so I can re-read it again fairly quickly. For a novel summary, click here:
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s been on my list to read since 2010! For a summary, click here.
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. The cover image has always intrigued me. I’d like to finally get around to reading it. For a summary, click here.
Hope In The Desperate Hour by David Adams Richards. Another book I’ve wanted to read for a while now. For a summary, click here.
Posted on April 3, 2014
Jae Kim is currently a student at the University of Toronto. In September of 2013, he founded the University of Toronto Korean English Literature Society (KELS). His goal is to encourage thoughtful reflection of Korean contemporary culture. He shared that while Korean pop music, film, and cuisine have gained tremendous popularity within North American society, books and other literary works by writers of Korean heritage continue to pass under the radar. You can find out more about KELS by visiting its website.
I just started reading Three Generations by Yom Sang-seop. It’s the first Korean book I’m reading that has been translated into English. The story, set in Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1930s, chronicles the highs and lows of the Jo family. It is considered one of the most influential works of fiction in modern Korean literature. You can read more about Yom Sang-seop’s book here.
Posted on January 22, 2014
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.
Posted on October 27, 2013
I’ve had to read many interesting stories since enrolling in a fiction class as part of my MFA studies. I wanted to pass along some of the titles.
The following stories are housed in Joyce Carol Oates’ book entitled Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers. You can read them online by clicking on the story titles.
“Aren’t You Happy For Me?” by Richard Bausch
An excellent example of how a story can be constructed using mainly dialogue. How would you react if your 22-year-old daughter phoned one day and said that she was engaged to a 63-year-old man?
“That Evening Sun” by William Faulkner
Written in 1931, this is a dark and disturbing story about a white family’s reaction to the fears of their black servant, Nancy.
“In the American Society” by Gish Jen
Told from the point of view of a Chinese-American girl, this story looks at a family’s attempt to assimilate into American culture and sheds light on the immigrant experience.
“Father’s Last Escape” by Bruno Schulz
If you’re a fan of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, you’ll appreciate this story. In this story, the father turns into a crab which the mother later cooks for dinner.
“Borges and I” by Jorge Luis Borges
A short autobiographical work that looks at the private versus the personal self. It ends with the line, “I do not know which of us has written this page.”
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.