You’re Invited!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

7:00-8:30 p.m.
Stanley A. Milner Library, Edmonton Room
7 Churchill Square

I hope that you all can make it to this event. It is very exciting for me to be able to introduce some of the great people I had the chance to work with this year.It will also give me a chance to say thanks to you all for supporting my ideas and programs throughout the year and to the EPL for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I will miss this job dearly but I’m not done yet. There is still lots to do and there are a lot of people to help. I look forward to seeing you on the 11th to celebrate a busy and productive year and to help me welcome the next batch of lucky WIRs for 2015.


Great November Events at EPL

November is the time for paying attention. So pay attention to some of these great FREE events happening at Edmonton Public Libraries this month:

Wednesday, November 5: Slam Poetry at the Art Gallery.

Join your AGA for a night of rhymes, rhythms and rivalry! The night will feature a spoken-word open mic and poetry slam hosted by Edmonton poetry collective Breath In Poetry and me, Jason Lee Norman. Plus, they’ve got mad-libs stations, drink specials and more!

6-7 pm | Spoken word open mic

7-9 pm | Poetry Slam

Thursday, November 13: Women Talking About Women in Genre Fiction (Lois Hole Library) 6pm.

Please join Candas Jane DorseyKaren DudleyJanice MacDonaldSG Wong and Eileen Bell in an inaugural PreSpec panel as they discuss gender and diversity cliches, the blonde good/brunette bad syndrome, rape as a plot device, the “babe assassin” and other stubborn tropes that have outlived their best before date.

Sunday, November 23: An Afternoon with Zarq Nawaz. (Stanley Milner Library- Edmonton Room. 1:30 pm)

Zarqa is best known as the creator of the CBC television series “Little Mosque on the Prairie” and has recently released a collection of stories about her own life “Laughing All the Way to the Mosque.”

Born in Liverpool and raised in Toronto, had the Bachelor of Science degree from U of T in her hands when she realized that staying out of medical school would be her greatest contribution to Canada’s health care system. Unfazed, she coolly switched career plans and received a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism from Ryerson in 1992.

Nawaz worked as a freelance writer/broadcaster with CBC radio, and in various capacities with CBC Newsworld, CTV’s Canada AM, and CBC’s The National. She was an associate producer with a number of CBC radio programs including Morningside and her radio documentary The Changing Rituals of Death won first prize in the Radio Long Documentary category and the Chairman’s Award in Radio Production at the Ontario Telefest Awards.

Little Mosque on the Prairie brought Zarqa’s own laugh-out-loud take on her everyday culture clash to viewers around the world. And now, in ‘Laughing All the Way to the Mosque’, she tells the sometimes absurd, sometimes challenging, always funny stories of being Zarqa in a western society.

Join us at the EPL as Zarqa Nawaz shares some of her stories, answers your questions, and signs copies of her book, ‘Laughing All the Way to the Mosque’.

If you have any questions about any of these upcoming events please email the Writer-in-Residence at 


Summer Events and Housekeeping

I was away for the month of July but I’m back now and slowly catching up on things. One exciting (and heartbreaking) thing that happened last month was the World Cup of Soccer and Literature. It took a heroic goal in the final moments of extra time but Germany pulled it off. Much to the chagrin of Argentina (and Borges) fans like myself.

Congratulations to Germany and to Gunter Grass, author of The Tin Drum for winning this year’s World Cup of Literature. You can check out this classic book right now from the EPL. Right here.

Moving on to upcoming events, we have a special Writers’ Corner coming up on August 31st. This is special for 2 reasons: First, because we don’t usually have a Writers’ Corner in August. Second, because author Laurence Miall is going to be in town to promote the release of his first novel, Blind Spot. Laurence used to live in our fair city and Blind Spot is actually set in Edmonton. We are going to talk about these things with him and Laurence may even read a bit from his new book.

This event will be on August 31st at 1:30pm in the Strathcona EPL Branch so please join us for a lovely chat.

Speaking of Laurence Miall and Blind Spot- Michael Hingston of the Edmonton Journal has a 4 part column that maps out the lifespan of a novel and this column will all be centered on Miall and his novel Blind Spot. Check out Part One of the column here.

Read the column and then come to the Writers’ Corner on August 31st to welcome Laurence Miall back to Edmonton and help him celebrate the release of his first novel. Hooray for everyone!

Finally, there is something coming up over the Labour Day long weekend. It is called the  3 Day Novel contest. This is where people try to write a novel in 3 days. Should I do it? Will you do it with me? It sounds fun but also scary. Maybe I’ll give it a shot.

World Cup of Literature: Group H

Group H is the final group in the World Cup. It is comprised of Belgium, Algeria, Russia, and South Korea. Here are the books that will be representing them:

Belgium: Julio Cortazar, “Hopscotch

Algeria: Albert Camus, “Exile and the Kingdom

Russia: Vladimir Nabokov, “Lolita

South Korea: Matthew Salesses, “Our Island of Epidemics

This group is all about people that were born in one place and then moved to another. First up we have Belgium and Julio Cortazar. Argentines are so good at everything that they are even great at being Belgian. Cortazar was born in Belgium to Argentine parents who worked for some Argentine diplomacy group there. The Argentine governent has since denied that the Cortazars were working for them. Hopscotch is a wildly inventive novel. There are actually two different ways to read it. The first is from beginning to end like a normal book, and the second is to read the chapters in a sequence that is recommended by the author in the introduction, thus making the reader have to jump around and back and forth, like they were playing hopscotch. Excellent!

Albert Camus was born in Algeria but was French and lived in France mostly. Most known for his The Stranger novel, the collection of stories in ‘Exile and the Kingdom” show another side to Camus’ writing. The stories are set in north Africa, Paris, and even Brazil. Camus can do!

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is one of the great books of the last 100 years. Nabokov was born in Russia but later moved to Paris. An interesting note about this book is that it is written originally in English. Nabokov is a master of language and storytelling and even though the subject matter of Lolita is not for everyone, his writing powers should never be underestimated.

Finally we have South Korea and Matthew Salesses. Matthew was born in Korea and adopted by an American family when he was two years old. Our Island of Epidemics is an enormously entertaining collection of tiny tales. It’s got more imagination in one page than most novels have in the whole book. Matthew is a great writer and a great person. We are friends on Facebook but have never met.

My soccer picks: Belgium, South Korea

My literature picks: Russia, South Korea

World Cup of Literature: Group G

Group G for the World Cup is comprised of Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and the USA. Here are the books that will be representing these nations:

Germany: Gunter Grass, “The Tin Drum

Portugal: Jose Saramago, “Blindness

Ghana: Ayi Kwei Armah, “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born

USA: David Foster Wallace, “The Pale King

There is a good reason why this group was named this year’s Group of Death. It’s because all of these teams are powerhouse teams and all these books are powerhouse books. Anyone of these teams can go very deep into the tournament.

Gunter Grass’ The Tin Drum is about a dwarf named Oskar Matzerath who narrates the story himself from inside a mental hospital. This is the story of his survival through World War II Nazi occupied Poland.

Jose Saramago was Portugal’s best known writer. Blindness is a chilling novel of a mysterious epidemic and a society’s disintegration. Bleak? Yes. Boring? Never.

The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born was recommended to me by a library customer. This is a book that has still stayed with her many years after reading it. It’s about a man trying to reconcile himself with post-independence Ghana and the new challenges it brings. If you read Swahili you can check it out of the EPL. The original version was written in English.

Is there a book that better exemplifies the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) than David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King? Certainly not. A hulking 534 page, unfinished novel by an author who killed himself at the peak of his powers. A novel about the stifling bureaucracy and boredom of the IRS where the main protagonist is also named David Foster Wallace. The Pale King is just like the USMNT. They are both complete yet incomplete at the same time. The Pale King is an unfinished novel that was put in proper order posthumously by its editors. The USMNT has sent a full squad to Brazil but could their squad really ever be full if it doesn’t include Landon Donovan? Certainly not. If you ask American fans, the USMNT is favoured to go deep into the tournament but they will inevitably end up leaving the tournament earlier than expected. The Pale King was lauded by critics when it was released and, despite being unfinished, still managed to be shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize, ultimately losing out to NOBODY in 2012. That’s right, The Pale King was so good but also not good enough to win the Pulitzer in 2012. A year in which the jury decided to not award a prize to anyone that year. It would be like if the USMNT made the World Cup finals this year but right before the big game FIFA decides to cancel the game because neither team is really good enough or worthy of winning the World Cup trophy.

That would suck.

My Soccer picks: Germany, Portugal

My Literature picks: Ghana, USA

World Cup of Literature: Group F

Group F consists of Nigeria, Argentina, Iran, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Here is who will be representing these countries in the World Cup of Literature:

Nigeria: Chinua Achebe, “Things Fall Apart”

Argentina: Jorge Luis Borges, “Ficciones”

Iran: Marjane Satrapi, “Persepolis”

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ivo Andric, “The Bridge on the Drina”

Group F is another where the real battle is the battle for second place. Argentina is favored heavily in both the soccer and literature World Cups. Borges is the king of literature. His Ficciones collection is a seminal work that collects some of Borges’ most inventive and influential works. He’s the best. Argentina is the best.

Speaking of seminal works, Chinua Achebe is the author of one of the most important works of African literature, Things Fall Apart. It is required reading across Africa and in University English courses around the world.

Iran’s selection is another graphic novel. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is an autobiographical tale about her childhood during the Islamic Revolution.  A film adaptation was also made of the graphic novel and released in 2007.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s team is perhaps the most unknown but they are out to prove themselves as a contender. Ivo Andric was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 and his novel, The Bridge on the Drina is the most recognized of his works. It tells the story of the destinies and relations of the inhabitants of a small town on the Drina river over four centuries. It looks like a good one. This is my dark horse.

My soccer picks: Argentina, Nigeria

My literature picks: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina

World Cup of Literature: Group E

Group E is made up of Switzerland, France, Ecuador, and Honduras. Here are the books that will be representing them:

Switzerland: Hermann Hesse, “Steppenwolf

France: Victor Hugo, “Les Miserables

Ecuador: Jorge Enrique Adoum, “Between Marx and a Naked Woman”

Honduras: Eduardo Bahr, “The War Story”

What is the deal with this group? I have no idea. Did you know that before Les Miserables was a movie it was also a musical? And before that it was also a book, did you know that? It is the classic tale of heroism, betrayal and redemption at a turning point in France’s history. The book has very little singing though.

Hermann Hesse is a former German turned Swiss citizen. He was a novelist, poet, and philosopher. Steppenwolf is a blend of eastern mysticism and western culture. It is Hesse’s most celebrated book and it looks like a wild ride. Let me know if you’ve read this one before.

Did you know that Jorge Enrique Adoum was Pablo Neruda’s personal secretary for two years in Chile? I didn’t know that before I looked it up on Wikipedia. Adoum’s novel, translated as “Between Marx and the Naked Woman” won the top literary prize in Mexico, which was the first time it was ever awarded to a foreigner. The novel was also made into a film in 1996 and was nominated for several Spanish language film awards around the world.

Finally there is Honduras. Little is known about Eduardo Bahr’s novel “The War Story” except that it is about the conflict between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969. He seems like a cool guy but Honduras beat Canada in qualifying last year and I’m still upset about it so I won’t say anything more.

My soccer picks: France, Switzerland

My literature picks: France, Ecuador


World Cup of Literature: Group D

Group D play begins tomorrow. The group consists of Italy, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and England. Here are the books that will be representing these nations:

Italy: Italo Calvino: “If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler

Costa Rica: Fabian Dobles, “Years Like Brief Days

Urugay: Horacio Quiroga, “Cuentos Escogidos

England: MJ Hyland, “Carry Me Down

This group is WIDE OPEN. Italo Calvino’s “If On A Winter’s Night…” is a genre-bending meta novel that makes the reader feel like he/she is literally inside the book and alongside the action. It’s a fun and clever book and it celebrates that greatest of all things: books.

Costa Rica’s entry this year is almost a total unknown. Fabian Dobles’ novel is about an old man taking stock of his life and coming to terms with his past. It looks like a good book. Perhaps we should ask the EPL to order a copy for us?

Uruguay’s representative is just like its soccer team: unpredictable, dangerous, depressing, powerful. Horacio Quiroga is the epitome of the tortured artist. His father accidentally shot himself, then his step-father shot himself on purpose, his wife killed herself by ingesting Mercury (and it took 8 days for her to die) and then he himself, while dying of prostate cancer, took some cyanide to end his life at the age of 59, all alone in the jungles of Argentina. Pretty chipper, right? Wait until you read his fiction. Quiroga was like the Edgar Allen Poe of South America, but better. His short stories are all about love, death, and the jungle. Do yourself a favour and learn Spanish or find an English translation of his work and enjoy.

England’s selection is a very personal one. MJ Hyland was my professor at the University of Manchester and she is excellent at writing and at teaching. “Carry Me Down” is about a 12 year old boy in the body of a full grown man. He thinks himself a human lie-detector and is obsessed with the Guiness Book of World Records. Are you hooked yet? If not, you should know that this book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2006. MJ Hyland is so great. You should read some MJ Hyland.

My soccer picks: Uruguay, England

My literature picks: Italy, Uruguay

World Cup of Literature: Group C

The World Cup of Soccer officially begins today in Brazil. There is an opening ceremonies, which is weird, and then the first match of the day with Brazil playing Croatia.

Group C play begins later this week. The group consists of Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan. Here are the books that will be representing them this year:

Colombia- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “One Hundred Years of Solitude

Greece- Homer, “The Odyssey

Ivory Coast, Marguerite Abouet “Aya of Yop City

Japan, Haruki Murakami “Kafka on the Shore

This group is completely wide open. Both in the soccer group and the literature group. In the literature group, however, I would say that the conversation is really about who will be second place to Colombia. This year is all about the South American teams and Colombia is no different. They have put together a very strong team this year with one of the greatest books of the 20th century written by one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Marquez is God in Colombia. At least I assume he is, or should be.

Greece is a total wild card, you never know what they’re going to do. This year they are fielding a team that includes a 2500 year old epic that (fun fact!) you can find in the non-fiction section of the library. I don’t know why that is. The Odyssey is the classic there-and-back-again hero’s tale. There are monsters and giants and ghosts and sirens. Expect Greece to put up a good fight.

Who here likes graphic novels? Everyone, right? They’re all the rage right now. There is something about words + pictures that makes everyone excited these days. Ivory Coast’s representative is a very cool graphic novel series by Ivorian writer Marguerite Abouet. This series tells the story of West Africa’s working class and the best part is that you can check out these graphic novels from the Edmonton Public Library right now. Check them out.

Japan’s team this year is completely bonkers. Nobody really ever knows what Japan is going to do in the World Cup and this year is no different. Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the Shore’ has talking cats and fish falling from the sky and spirits that do nasty things. Some people might say that Murakami is Japan’s answer to Marquez. Would I go that far? I don’t want to speculate on speculation.

My soccer picks: Colombia, Ivory Coast

My literature picks: ColombiaJapan

World Cup of Literature: Group B

Group B in the World Cup of Soccer includes Spain, Netherlands, Chile, and Australia. Here are the books that will be representing these nations in the World Cup of Literature:

Spain- Miguel de Cervantes, “Don Quixote

Netherlands- Margriet de Moor, “The Storm

Chile- Pablo Neruda, “World’s End

Australia- JM Coetzee, “Disgrace

Now the obvious controversy here is with Australia. Coetzee is a well known South African writer but he now lives in Australia and has Australian citizenship. Australia is pulling out the big guns for this event. In a double-whammy move they are submitting a book that is about South Africa by a former South African. All controversy aside, Coetzee is one of the greatest living writers of any language right now. Read any of his books. They are powerfully good.

The next front runner in this group would be Chile. In the World Cup of Soccer it would seem that Chile may be in a dog fight to reach the round of 16 but in the World Cup of Literature they are a lock to advance with one of the greatest poets of all time, Pablo Neruda. It didn’t matter what book of his they chose, Neruda is king and expect Chile to advance and challenge to reach the Elite Eight.

Netherlands are a scrappy bunch. They could surprise everybody this year with their choice of Magriet de Moor’s harrowing story of two sisters separated by the great Dutch hurricane of 1953. If anyone has read this book please let me know. It’s available at the EPL right now.

Spain are reigning champions but even they may have gotten too cocky by choosing a book that is over 400 years old that nobody has ever finished. If anyone has claimed to have finished this book they are lying. This epic tome by journeyman Cervantes is a true classic and always deserves consideration in any discussion of great literature but this just might be the year that Spain takes a back seat to some younger whippersnappers.

My soccer picks: Spain, Chile

My literature picks: Australia, Chile

Another reminder that there is still room to register for my talk on self-publishing this evening at 7pm in the Riverbend branch. You can learn more about the talk and sign up here.

See you then.