The World Cup of Literature

June is finally here and the World Cup of Soccer (in Europe they call it Soccer Football) starts on Thursday in Brazil. Some people say that it’s impossible to mix reading with sports. I disagree. More on that later.

First of all, there has been a lot of talk and snobbery in the social media sphere lately about YA literature and who should or should not be reading those types of books. I wrote a little bit about this subject on my other blog (yes I do have a life outside the library). You can read it here.

Secondly, my talk about the trials and tribulations of self-publishing is tomorrow evening at 7pm at the Riverbend EPL branch. Online registration is free and recommended. There are still spots available. More info here.

Thirdly, there is a great writer who exists in the world right now. His name is Shane Jones. I think he lives in Buffalo, or maybe Albany maybe? He is the author of Light Boxes, and Daniel Fights a Hurricane. You can check out his books from the EPL RIGHT NOW. His newest book is out today and it is called Crystal Eaters and it looks amazing. You can put a hold on it right now from EPL. I think Mr. Jones is one of the best young writers out there today. Check him out.

Lastly, like I said earlier, the World Cup starts this week. This is an exciting time for sports fans but it can also be an exciting time for readers as well. I’ve put a little something together I like to call the World Cup of Literature (please don’t sue). The World Cup of Soccer is a great time to learn about players from other nations so why can’t it also be a time to learn about writers from other countries? Right? Great idea, I know!

Today we will look at the first group of the tournament, Group A. Group A consists of:

Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon. Here are the works of literature that will be representing these countries at the World Cup of Soccer:

Brazil: Clarice Lispector, “Agua Viva

Mexico- Juan Rulfo, “Pedro Paramo

Croatia- Slavenka Drakulic, “S: A Novel About the Balkans

Cameroon- Ferdinand Oyono, “Houseboy

The first three of these books you can check out from the EPL. Juan Rulfo’s book is only in Spanish though. Sorry.

My picks for the two countries to advance to the round of 16 in the World Cup of Soccer are Brazil and Croatia. Brazil is too good and Croatia has really funny shirts. I think they will upset Mexico in the tournament. In the World Cup of Literature, however, I choose Brazil and Mexico. I am biased because I have read works by these two authors and haven’t read anything by the other two. If you think I’m making a bad decision then write to me and tell me why the other books should be given a shot. Use the comments section for good, not evil. Personally, I think Clarice Lispector is a brilliant short story writer. She will always have a place in my heart. Juan Rulfo’s short novel “Pedro Paramo” is a completely bonkers story about dead people. It is crazy good and weird and sad. Check it out.

Slavenka Drakulic’s novel S is about crimes against women during the Bosnian war. She gets points because she is the only living author in this group.

Houseboy, by Ferdinand Oyono is a critique on colonialism. Originally written in French and later translated. Oyono died in 2010.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow we will talk about Group B and also, please come to my self-publishing workshop/seminar thingie.

Obrigado

June is almost here.

June is almost here. What does this mean? Well, it means that May will soon be over so you should hurry up and VOTE for your Alberta Readers’ Choice Award book and author. Thank you to everyone who joined us for the special Writers’ Corner event with Todd Babiak, Michael Hingston, Thersea Shea, and Diana Davidson. It was a fantastic afternoon of great insights into the writing process.

June also means that June 2nd is the deadline to submit a story, poem, or essay to volume 2 of the 40 Below Project. If you have a piece that is about or inspired by winter in Alberta then you should send something in. Send it right HERE.

June 11th is my seminar on self-publishing entitled The Self-Publishing Odyssey: Opportunities for Success and Heartbreak for the Self-Published Writer. In this talk I will take you all through my experiences with self-publishing. Tips, tricks, funny stories, sad stories, and all the different options that exist now for people interested in self-publishing. Please come to this. It is free to attend but you should register online here.

Finally, on June 29th I am excited to announce that the guest for Writers’ Corner will be former EPL Writer-in-Residence Chris Craddock. Chris Craddock is a champion of all things creative. He’s an actor/director/producer and he’s written for plays, television, film, you name it. A collection of his plays has just been published by NeWest entitled “Public Speaking and Other Plays”. Join us at the Strathcona Branch on June 29th at 1:30pm to hear Chris regale us with stories about being a success in EVERY SINGLE MEDIUM THAT EXISTS. Chris is great. Please come.

And then June will be over.

Another (Very) Special Writers’ Corner

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4 of the 5 shortlisted authors for this year’s Alberta Readers’ Choice Award are from the Edmonton area. We are thrilled to be welcoming all four of them to this very special Writers’ Corner in May to talk about their nominated works. Please join us for a great afternoon celebrating local literature.

Event: Writers’ (and Readers) Corner

When: Saturday, May 24th. 1:30 pm

Where: Jasper Place EPL Branch (9010 – 156 Street)

Join 4 of the 5 shortlisted authors for the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award as they come to talk about their nominated books. The writers will also be joined by local readers who enjoyed these books and they will be giving their takes on why each of these books is very special, from a reader’s perspective. Join us as we discuss and celebrate these great local books and authors.

Michael Hingston is the books columnist for the Edmonton Journal. Called “one of the sharpest young literary critics in this country” by 49th Shelf, his journalism has also appeared in the Globe and Mail, Salon, Eighteen Bridges magazine, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

His first novel, The Dilettantes (Freehand), was a #1 regional bestseller and received a starred review in Quill & Quire; the Winnipeg Free Press said it “may well be the Great Canadian Comic Novel.” Hingston’s fiction also appears in the anthology 40 Below (Wufniks).

Born and raised in North Vancouver, Hingston now lives in Edmonton with his partner and two children.

Diana Davidson lives in Edmonton, Alberta.  Davidson’s debut novel Pilgrimage was published by Brindle & Glass in September 2013.  Pilgrimage is a book about the violent intimacy of a small place and is set at around the Lac St. Anne Métis settlement, Edmonton, and St. Albert in the 1890s.  Pilgrimage has been heralded as a work of “frontier feminism” by The Edmonton Journal Books Columnist Michael Hingston.  Kim McCullough, for Prism, has said “Davidson has masterfully turned the tables on these historical ‘facts’ by using them to create a fictional world more real than the one found in any history book”. The novel has been on The Edmonton Journal bestseller list all but two weeks since its debut.

Davidson’s other writing has been long-listed for the Canada Writes CBC creative nonfiction prize (2012) and has won the Writers’ Guild of Alberta “Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Prize” (2010).  Her work has appeared in 40 Below, Alberta Views, Avenue Edmonton Magazine, Little Fiction, The Winnipeg Review, Women’s Words as well as the academic anthologies Analyzing Mad Men and Spectral America.  She has a Ph.D. in literature and has taught at the University of Alberta and the University of York, UK.  She was chosen as one of Edmonton’s “Top 40 Under 40” by Avenue Magazine in late-2011.

Theresa Shea has published poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and articles in a number of Canadian magazines and journals. Her novel The Unfinished Child dramatically explores society’s changing views of Down syndrome over the past sixty years. The story offers an unflinching and compassionate history of the treatment of people with Down syndrome and their struggle for basic human rights.

Born in Maryland and raised throughout the United States, she moved to Canada in 1977 and currently lives with her husband and three children in Edmonton, Alberta.

Todd Babiak grew up in a small house in an oil town, with a mother who read horror novels and a father who cut the lawn with his shirt off. He pursued politics and literature in university. He spent a good part of the 1990s in Montreal. These were almost-separation times. It was bracing.

His novel, Come Barbarians (Harper Collins) is a gripping novel of love and loss, murder, revenge and political conspiracy. Todd Babiak has created a complex, magnetic character forced to confront his bleakest hour and his darkest impulses.

Today he lives in Edmonton, a northern city of mystery and enterprise, with long writing trips to France. Sometimes a month, sometimes a year.

VOTE RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW FOR YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK OF THE YEAR

Voting ends May 31st.

May is Mill Woods Month!

 

May is Mill Woods Month for me as Writer-in-Residence. I will be spending a lot of time at the Mill Woods branch of the EPL in May. It’s time to branch out. Get it? Branch. Out. Get it? Ok then…

On May 5th is my very first writing workshop for the EPL. Since it’s my first one I thought that we would get together and do some basic writing exercises designed to help you find the voice of whatever it is you’re working on, whether it be a short story or novel or anything in between. Please come with whatever it is you use to write. Pens, pencil, laptop, whatever. Come prepared to write and share some of it with the group.

Monday, May 5th. 7pm. Mill Woods Branch (2331 66st NW)

No sign-in required but space is limited to 15 human people.

Now I usually have office hours here in the Stanley Milner Branch. They are Tuesdays through Thursdays from 11-5pm. For a week in May I will be taking my office hours in the Mill Woods branch. So in case you’ve been putting off paying me a visit because it’s a little out of your way then May is the month to come see me. Dropping in is ok but it’s best if you email me (writerinresidence@epl.ca) and set up an appointment and you can even send a sample of your work along for me to read first so we can talk about it.

May 13-15. 11am to 5pm. Mill Woods Branch Office Hours

Come and pay me a visit on the south side of the river.

And Finally, My second writer’s workshop

Tuesday, May 27th. 7pm Mill Woods Branch

Think of this as phase two of the workshop I do earlier in the month. You can come to both or either one. We will be exploring similar techniques as the first workshop but this will be the perfect opportunity to see if your writing has improved over the course of the month.

Once again, please bring your writing instruments and come prepared to write and share your work with others and also provide some helpful feedback to others.

See you on the south side!

April is Poetry Month!

April is poetry month here in Edmonton and across Canada. If you’re someone that says you’re not a fan of poetry then you’re probably a huge liar. Everyone loves poetry. You just may not have encountered any poetry that you’re passionate about yet. You’re in luck this week! The Edmonton Poetry Festival is in full swing. There are events all over the city all week long and many of them are free. Check out their website for more information. Speaking of poets and speaking of free, there is a free event on Saturday that my group Words with Friends (#yegwords) is organizing and it’s called Dead Poets Society. In honour of that great movie with Robin Williams and in honour of the great dead poets of this world we are hosting an open stage at the Ortona Armoury to anyone who wants to come and pay tribute to a poet that inspired them. We’ll be reading poetry, standing on chairs, and seizing the day! The event is on Saturday, April 26th at 3pm at the Ortona Armoury (9722 102 street) and it’s FREE! We’re going to have a lot of fun with poetry. Please join us. The Facebook event page is here.

In other news, our Writers’ Corner event last week was a huge success. We had more people in attendance than I ever could have expected. I want to thank everyone who came and were a great audience for the two writers from Bioware we had to speak to us. You were all great and patient and had good questions to ask. I’m sorry if any of you were turned away because we just had too many people there. I hope to have another event of this kind in the future and we will host it in a larger venue. Thank you again to all who attended. It was so much fun.

In future news, May is Mill Woods month in Edmonton. I just made that up. I will be spending quite a bit of time at the Mill Woods EPL branch in May. If you live in that neck of the woods (pun!) then you should come pay me a visit. I will be running two writing workshops there as well holding office hours there for a week starting May 13th. More information is on the EPL Programs site here.

If you have any questions about my Mill Woods visits then please shoot me an email or give me a call. I look forward to seeing you at some of the events coming up.

Happy April! Happy Poetry Month!

Here is a poem:

i carry your heart with me by E. E. Cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

A Very Special Writers’ Corner: Writing for Video Games

Video games have evolved so much since the days when Mario first had to rescue the Princess in Bowser’s Castle. Today, video games are like movies. Playable action films. In these new generations of games story is more important than ever before. Did you know that in our own backyard there is a company that creates some of these games? It’s true. They’re called Bioware and the Edmonton arm of Bioware is behind such brain meltingly good games as Mass Effect and Dragon Age. For our next Writers’ Corner event we are teaming up with Bioware and the amazing EPL Makerspace to explore the world of writing for video games.

When: April 13th, 1:30pm

Where: Stanley Milner Library- Makerspace

Why: Because video games.

Writing for video games is a fascinating section of the writing world that you hardly ever hear about. We’re going to talk with Bioware writers Sylvia Feketekuty and Luke Kristjanson about what it takes to write for some of the hottest video games out there right now. Perhaps you’re a gamer and want to know how to get your foot in the door of the video game industry. Maybe you’re just a writer and want to know about the set of skills that is needed in order to write for video games. Or maybe you just want to come and check out the fabulous EPL Makerspace and all its toys and learn a little something along the way too. Whatever the reason, I really hope you will join me for this very special edition of Writers’ Corner. Space is limited so get there early and come with lots of questions to ask our guests.

More information can be found on the EPL Makerspace page.

I’m very excited about this event. I hope to see you all there.

Writer-in-Residence: The First 85 Days.

Today is my 85th day as the Writer-in-Residence at the Edmonton Public Library. Although the EPL has been rather cake-happy as of late, I have not as of yet been presented with a large sheet cake in the shape of the number 85. Perhaps they’re waiting for a more even number, but I digress.

In those 85 days I have met with nearly 50 writers, ran a storytelling workshop at the Telus World of Science for a couple hundred (mostly) enthusiastic elementary school kids, talked about blogging in Sherwood Park, read poetry at City Hall for Freedom to Read week, and read a story on CTV Morning Live that I just wrote five minutes before about how Jesse Beyer likes styling his hair and that Kimberly Wynn may be a perky and energetic charm-bot that runs on electricity and smiles.

I did all these things as well as answer an immeasurable amount of emails that I said I always wanted to get but the amount that I got definitely made me ask some tough questions of myself, but I digress.

Many experts say that a Writer-in-Residence’s success is made or broken based upon his/her first 85 days. Other experts say that there is no such thing as a Writer-in-Residence expert. I personally think that it has been a pretty great 85 days but the time has come to look to the future: the next 85 days.

I am planning various workshops and talks for the next few months based on what I think I’m good at talking about, and also what I think you writers out there are interested in learning about. That being said, now is the perfect time to get in touch with me about workshops, talks, seminars, guests for Writers’ Corner that you would be interested in seeing or attending. My email address is JNorman@epl.ca – I’ve finally caught up on all my unanswered emails so now is a great time to get in touch with me for ideas of things you’d like to see in the coming months.

Speaking of events, here are some literature related events coming up in Edmonton in the next little while. You should go to these if you are interested in local writers and the Edmonton writing community.

Green Drinks #Yeg: Green Drinks Edmonton is is a simple, unstructured event that brings together environmentally-minded Edmontonians in a relaxed, agenda-free evening of networking and great conversation. The April 2nd event is all about Edmonton literature. You can buy tickets here.

Glass Buffalo Winter Issue Launch: Glass Buffalo just won the 2014 Best New Magazine award at the Alberta Magazine Awards. Join them as they celebrate their newest issue on April 3rd. More info here.

That’s all for now. Please keep visiting me in the Writer-in-Residence office, sending me your writing, and attending EPL events. Thanks for a great first 85 days.

A Lot of Things Have Happened (are happening).

It’s February already! My first month as WIR has come and gone. Here are some things that have happened:

Writers’ Corner- I hosted my first Writers’ Corner last week and it was excellent. Journalist and creator of Gig City Mike Ross came to talk about concert reviews, culture writing, and the difficulties of maintaining creative integrity in the age of Internet Listcicles and Click-Bait. It was a great talk. Mike is so great. You should come to February’s Writers’ Corner on February 23rd. We’ll have the author of the very popular Randy Craig mysteries Janice MacDonald in to talk about lots of things. I haven’t decided everything we’ll talk about yet but if you come then you can ask questions. If you raise your hand I will call on you first. I promise.

At the end of January I went to the Telus World of Science for their Tales to Tell festival. I was honoured to be asked to come to the TWOS and talk to groups of kids about storytelling while simultaneously ignoring the fact that the Harry Potter exhibit was in town. It was a tough tightrope to walk but I managed somehow. I was blown away by how many of the kids I met (mostly grades 5 and 6) were into reading and writing their own stories. I encouraged them as much as they could to keep writing and to keep on reading and I hope they enjoyed meeting with me and playing the fun little writing games we played. I had a great time and when it was over I was completely exhausted. Thanks! The main piece of advice that I gave the kids was simple: just keep writing. If they just keep doing things that they are enthused about, at that age, then the future generation of writers will be just fine. That and the bonus fact that all texts they end up sending will be grammatically correct. Bonus!

In more Things news: The EPL is doing so many great things and one of their most recent is the Staff Picks. EPL library staff are just about the most knowledgeable people that you can meet. They are also friendly and kind and generous too. They want to share with you the things that they think are great. Great things! It’s not even just books, obviously. There are music picks and movies and video games as well. One of my favourite picks is from Amanda who recommends the game Duck Tales for the XBox 360 and PS3, which is based on a great cartoon I used to watch. Remember that show that Mike Sobel used to host and he would introduce cartoons to us on Sunday afternoons? That was a great show. Thanks, Mike Sobel.

One last thing. One last great thing. 40 Below: Edmonton’s Winter Anthology, which was edited by yours truly, had a pretty great year. It might be one of the best books to ever have been written. Avenue Magazine talks about it in their latest issue. You can read it here. Another piece of big news about 40 Below is that I will be publishing a Volume 2 to this very popular book. This sequel will have one interesting difference and that is it will include stories, poems, and essays from all of Alberta. It will be Alberta’s Winter Anthology. I suggest you all submit something to it so you can be mega famous. Learn more about the submission process here.

Oh wait, one more thing! I finally finished reading my first book of the year! This one doesn’t count because I’ve been reading it on and off for the past year or so. But I finally finished it and now I can move on to more great books. The book was called Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. KV was one of the greatest writers of his or any generation. I’ve now read 3 books by him: Slaughterhouse 5, Cat’s Cradle, and Bluebeard. They are all great. Go read some Kurt Vonnegut.

Thanks for reading all these things. Thanks for a great first month at the EPL as your Writer-in-Residence.

JLN

First Writers’ Corner of the Year!

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One of my duties during my time as Writer-in-Residence is to host Writers’ Corner events each month. Writers’ Corner hosts a friendly and supportive gathering with a different guest author each month. The guest author will give an author talk that provides writers at all stages useful guidance and will then answer your questions and offer advice. You can come and talk about your writing in a friendly and supportive atmosphere and listen to the suggestions of professional writers in our community.

This month I’m very excited to announce that we will be talking to journalist Mike Ross (pictured above) at Writers’ Corner on Sunday, January 26th at the Stanley Milner Library at 1:30pm. Mike Ross is the Editor-in-Chief of the online news and entertainment magazine Gig City. Along with that, Mike also writes for the Edmonton Sun. Before being hired by as the music critic for the Edmonton Sun in 1993, Mike Ross was a professional musician who toured the continent during most of the ’80s with various ridiculously-named bands that went nowhere. The three-time Dunlop Award winner has covered the local and international entertainment scene for the Edmonton Sun during three different decades, and continues to write major concert reviews for the Sun. His articles have also appeared in magazines like Avenue, Alberta Venture and Chart magazine. He received his (musical) education at Grant MacEwan University and learned journalism from the School of Hard Knocks.

I’m very excited to talk to Mike Ross because, based on the few conversations I’ve had with him in the past, he has a lot to say. Mike Ross is somebody that anybody who wants to be a writer should listen to because he is someone who writes basically every single day. He has a whole website to fill up with his words each day. For those of you out there looking to break into journalism or arts and culture freelance writing I’m sure that Mike has plenty of advice and groovy wisdom to bestow on you.

This will be my first Writers’ Corner event so I’m hoping that there will be a good crowd on hand to meet Mike Ross and also to meet the new Writer-in-Residence (that’s me!). Once again, Writers’ Corner will be on Sunday, January 26th at 1:30pm in the Southeast corner on the main floor of the Stanley Milner Library. It’s free to attend.

See you there!

The Morning Show Circuit

This morning I was up early to go on the Edmonton morning news to tell people about the EPL and the Writer-in-Residence program. Hopefully some people saw me and now know a little bit more about me and might think about sending me an email or giving me a call to help out with their writing this year.

In a moment of extreme hubris I mentioned to the people at CTV Morning Live that I could write a short story about them during the time that I was waiting to go on air in the green room.

They accepted my challenge and I read the story in front of them on live television. A story I had just written minutes prior. I think it went over pretty well. See, that’s the thing about writing- it doesn’t always have to be such a serious endeavor. Sometimes you can just use your skills to get a rise out of people and to bring a smile to some faces.

Here’s what I came up with. Who knows, maybe CTV Morning Live Edmonton fan-fiction will become a big thing.

***

It was yet another frosty January morning in Edmonton and the people of the city were still in their warm beds and hitting their snooze buttons for the second, third, and maybe even fourth times. While the city was just starting to wake up, the members of the CTV Morning Live team had been at work for hours, preparing to inform and entertain their viewers.

Stacey Brotzel is staring into her dressing room mirror. She is calm and relaxed and her golden hair is as bright and vibrant as a prairie sunrise. She is preparing for the morning’s show. She looks into the mirror and practices saying the word “Chutney” over and over. “Chutney…Chutney…What exactly is Chutney?” Stacey Brotzel wonders. “Is it like marmalade? What exactly is marmalade? I think it’s made from oranges…”. Just then a producer knocks on the door.

“5 minutes Ms. Brotzel.”

“Thank you Chutney- I mean marmalade- I mean Mike.”

In another part of the CTV studios Jess Beyer is combing his hair. He is counting the strokes:

“997, 998, 999…”

“4 minutes Mr. Beyer.”

“4- Now I’ve lost count!”

Outside in the parking lot Rob Williams is sitting in his car, eating his birthday cupcakes and listening to Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. A producer waves to him from the window. 3 minutes.

Rob Williams wipes the red velvet from the corners of his mouth.

In a secluded corner of the CTV studios, a producer is unplugging Kimberly Wynn from her charging station. Her battery is at 100% charge. The producer sets Kimberly’s Smile setting up to 10. She sets her Charm setting to 10. She sets her Effervescent setting to 10.

2 minutes ‘til showtime.