Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Goodbye to Descant

Descant was one of the first literary journals I discovered when I was eighteen years old. I found it on the magazine rack in the old Yorkville Book Cellar and I marvelled at its handsome appearance and the exciting fiction and poetry inside. And when I was twenty it was the first journal to accept a story of mine; reading that acceptance letter was a thrilling experience. (My story was, not inappropriately, a satire on getting rejected, and I still remember the editor writing, "Yes, yes, yes, yes....") The journal has long been a great booster of new and young writers and it's a genuine loss to have its run end after 45 years. I'm going to drop in on the farewell celebration, tonight starting at 7 p.m. at Revival on College St. here in Toronto. I want to give editor Karen Mulhallen a hug and a thank-you. And a thanks to all the editors and staff who worked on the journal over the years.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Stories

When my collection, My Life Among the Apes, came out in 1212 I was pretty well tapped-out story-wise. So I sat down to begin some new stories and wrote a handful of first drafts one after another. I've been slowly revising them and the first story to appear, "Westfalia," has been published in the latest Taddle Creek. (You can read it online at: I have finished a couple of others and in the next months they will appear in Geist and in Numero Cinq, an online journal edited by Douglas Glover. These stories seem to me in keeping with the earlier work, a step forward rather than a radical change of direction.

Monday, February 2, 2015

A chapbook in the making

Don Domanski is a marvellous poet in the true sense of the word, his work full of natural marvels. Years ago the "Globe and Mail" asked me to review the finalists for the Governor General's Award for Poetry, including Don Domanski's book, "Wolf-Ladder." I still remember (more or less) a line I wrote then: "Giving the Governor General's Award to Domanski would be like giving first prize at a dog show to a wolf." (In fact, it would be a few more years before he won.) Espresso Books is a limited-edition chapbook series edited by Rebecca Comay, Bernard Kelly, and me. We all act as editors while Bernard does the design and typesetting, Rebecca and I choose the cover stock, and I sew the books and bind them in paper wrappers with pasted-on labels. I am in the middle of binding a series of poems by Don Domanski called "Fetishes of the Floating World." The cover paper is a heavy Japanese linen. In the first photo several copies are being glued into their covers. The second photo is our logo (from the previous chapbook) and the third is our series to date, which I keep out in my work room. They always sell out, although there are a few copies left of the previous one, Sandra Alland's "Naturally Speaking." You can read about (and order it) here:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Return to the Market

The Market Wedding (with art by Regolo Ricci) was my second picture book, an adaptation of Abraham Cahan's short story "The Ghetto Wedding." My version takes place in Toronto's Kensington Market and to celebrate the new edition from Groundwood Books we took a little walking tour of the market. Here you can see a photograph of the Kiever Synagogue, model for the one in the book. The tour can be found on Groundwood's blog at

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

'Show to End all Shows' on CTV News

Sean Wilson of the Ottawa Writer's Festival has named "The Show to End all Shows," book two of Master Melville's Medicine Show, as a Best Read of the Season. "Fantastic writing. His children's books are so engaging, so beautiful, so wonderful." *** You can watch it here:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vicky Metcalf Award

I was thrilled and honoured to be this year's recipient of the Vicky Metcalf Award for Young People. The event, at the Glenn Gould Theatre, was lovely and I had a chance to talk with some writers I hadn't before--especially Miriam Toews, Ken Babstock, and Tyler Keevel who came in all the way from Wales. Receiving the award is both a practical and an emotional lift and I am grateful to the Writers Trust, the Metcalf Foundation, the jurors, and everyone else involved. Pictured are (l to r) Joan Clark, Cary Fagan (also winner of the 'baggy pants award'), Miriam Toews, Ken Babstock, Susan Musgrave, and Tyler Keevel.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A new translation

I haven't posted a translation for some time, so here's "Mr. Zinger's Hat" in Korean. There's always something magical about seeing your words in another language.