Thursday, December 23, 2010


Merry Christmas to me! The Fledgling Nova Scotia Review, an annual print journal from out east, has picked up my story "Blindspots," a tragicomic tale of faulty testicles, driving instruction, and a dead octogenarian redhead.

Looks like it'll be out in early summer, 2011. Will keep you posted. Since this is the inaugural issue, there is no image of the magazine for me to use in this post. So I'm posting a picture of Nova Scotia. See? Good!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas / Bad Writing / Dan Tysdal

Merry Christmas, you people. Here is your present - a trailer from a movie I want to see. I think you might want to see it too.

What else? Oh! If you're thinking of buying a book for a loved one this Christmas, consider the following:


An unconventional and profound mixed-media poetry collection that blends traditional and avant garde forms to explore remembrance, grief, and mourning.

Daniel Scott Tysdal follows up his first award-winning collection of poetry with The Mourner’s Book of Albums, an emotionally striking and formally ambitious exploration of the elegiac tradition and the twenty-first-century attitude to remembrance and grief. Encountering a wide range of arresting events—from a best friend’s suicide to the war in Afghanistan, from improvised memorials to the plastinated corpses of Body Worlds—these innovative poems survey the forces and forms that shape what and how we mourn. The sonically lively lines, the vivid images, and the richly textured voices of the The Mourner’s Book of Albums are composed in a variety of traditional and unconventional forms—the lyric, the ballad, the graphic poem, and the fabricated document, to name a few—as a means of grappling with the many acts and practices that link the living and the dead. Tysdal compiles the albums, however fluid and fragile, that hold them together.

Dan is really good and funny and this collection is good and funny too. I know the title of this post suggests that Dan is a bad writer. This is not true. Just FYI.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Silky Smoove.

'Tis the season to be jolly. And I'm jolly. Why? Well, for starters I won signed copies of this year's Giller shortlist, including (drum roll?) an elusive first edition, first printing, of Giller-winner The Sentimentalists. Guys, only 800 of this suckers were printed. This one's signed. I'll probably put it up on eBay or Abebooks and auction it off, along with the other titles (I own most of them already). If you're interested in one or all of them, shoot me an email, message, homing pigeon, whatever.

Also. Also! Just got word that my story, "Something Comes Next," has been scooped up for publication by a journal south of the border called Silk Road. Which is pretty cool for reasons triplicate. One, anytime anyone who wants to read your work is cause for celebration. Number second, the story, lengthy demented bastard that it is, been trying to find a home for awhile. Plus it includes the following gem:

Q: Why did the girl fall of the swingset?
A: She had no arms!

(ha. . . ha . . . ?)

So it isn't really funny, but the line makes sense in-context. Trust me.

And reason C why this makes me happy: I've been having the crappiest week. Seriously. Too much negative stuff and one of my cats has suspicious marks on her belly. She'll be alright I think, but what kind of overprotective cat-dad would I be if I didn't have nightmares about it?

Anyway. Here is what the journal looks like:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


A story I wrote about a skinny person who's slowly disappearing will appear online at Scotland's The Waterhouse Review and in FCOL 2, a forthcoming print anthology from Ferno House Press.

It's funny, because the Ferno House logo is a house that's on fire, and the Waterhouse Review has an undeniable link to soaking wet buildings. You can almost see some kind of cosmic narrative at play here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Re: Giller

I came across this piece on the Biblioasis blog and found it really informative re: some of the things I was thinking about a few weeks back. Namely, what this year's Giller shortlist means. Since I'm by no means in the know about anything, really, it was nice having a lot of the tangible publishing and sales questions I had answered.

I recommend it with heartiness and good cheer.

Read the post.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

An aside.

Looking over my freelance assignments, I think I take on way too many extra-curricular stuff. But I love free books. And writing about free books. And about authors. And whatnot. The books don't even need to be free for me to write about them. For example, I'm reading Michelle Berry's newest novel, This Book Will Not Save Your Life, which I paid for and which I want to write about.

However, I'm already writing about too many books. And no editors have asked me to write about this book for them.


Bird Eat Bird by Katrina Best, etc.

Do you like funny things that are also secretly serious? And stories? And stories that are funny and secretly serious? I do. Which is why I gave Katrina Best's Bird Eat Bird such a positive review in the latest issue of Broken Pencil! Follow this link to read the review. It includes words like 'indelible' and 'panache.'

Speaking of Best, I'm also doing a profile on Katrina, which is very past deadline. I'll have it done eventually, and when I do I'll post some of it, all of it, or a summary of it on here. Katrina Best is a cool person. Trust me. And funny.

On the subject of funny books, I also reviewed two books that aren't really funny for past issues of Broken Pencil. The reviews are below.

You should still read those books, too. Not everything has to be funny.


Isobel and Emile

In the opening pages of Isobel and Emile, poet Alan Reed's debut novel, the eponymous characters wake up, get dressed and go to the train station. While Emile hops on a train, Isobel stays behind, assuming squatter's rights over her now ex-lover's apartment and the menial grocery store job he left behind. After arriving in Montreal Emile reconnects with Nicholas, an old friend who silently offers Emile a place to stay, and Agathe, a sultry scenester who arranges to have Emile's short documentary film about marionettes debuted at a local cinema.

Readers accustomed to narrative dynamism will be disappointed by what they find in Isobel and Emile, a short novel where something as simple as the unloading of cabbages can span several pages. Consider this, one of many scenes in which an aimless Isobel feels trapped in Emile's old apartment: "Her dress is on the floor by the bed. She walks over to where her dress is. She bends down. She picks it up. She puts it on the bed. She looks at her dress lying on the bed." Here, as elsewhere, Reed strives to make the subtle act grand, training his lens on the mundane in an effort to capture it from every angle. While Reed's militant commitment to the subject-verb-object sentence construction can get tiresome, Isobel and Emile manages to accomplish something quite impressive, pairing a story of two estranged lovers stuck in a rut with a strangely hypnotic, and ultimately complimentary, writing style. That combination means you'll either find Isobel and Emile tedious, repetitive and unimaginative, or the rarest of things: a thoughtful, poetic synchronicity between content and form.

Pitched as "a story of what happens after a love story," Reed's elegiac debut novel is for contemplative readers who don't mind walking in circles, provided the view is nice. (Andrew MacDonald)

by Alan Reed, $18.95, 165 pgs, Coach House Books,

[published in BP, issue 48]


Front Porch Mannequins

Rebekkah Adams' debut novel Front Porch Mannequins centers on the bleak, bruised lives of Nan, Alice and Lily, three women living in small town Ontario. The novel begins promisingly when Nan hatches a plan to improve Lily's marriage to her abusive husband by mowing him down with a car. The scene is grotesquely brilliant and, perhaps more impressive, utterly realistic -- a testament both to Adams' skillful world-building and her mastery of her characters. At the movies we'd call this kind of thing the inciting incident -- an event of such gravitas that it can't help but bring about epic narrative change. Instead of propelling the narrative forward, however, Nan's plan ends with a disappointing fizzle. Too often Adams takes extended dips into the uniformly troubled pasts of her characters: lengthy interludes that leave their present incarnations stuck, like Delane the mannequin, in the purgatory of Alice's front porch. I kept waiting for something to jolt the trio out of their communal stupor until finally, in the last 30 pages or so, the discovery of a severed hand precipitates the solving of a mystery I didn't even know existed.

A capable writer with an eye for finding hope in the places we least expect, Adams handles the novel's final pages effectively, serving up a credible, redemptive ending with grace and panache. Expanded, these moments would make for even finer narrative fodder. As it stands, they are too little, too late, making Front Porch Mannequins a commendable, though flawed, debut. (Andrew MacDonald)

by Rebekkah Adams, $16.95 176 pgs, Signature Editions PO Box 206, RPO Corydon, Winnipeg MB, R3M 3S7,

[published in BP, issue 47]

Friday, October 22, 2010


Rumor has it some creative non-fiction I wrote will appear in an upcoming issue of The Pinch. What is The Pinch? Glad you asked.

The Pinch, formerly called River City, is one of the oldest literary journals in the country. It publishes fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, art, and photography. Sponsored by the University of Memphis and The Hohenberg Foundation, The Pinch appears semi-annually and has published people like Robert Bly, Philip Levine, Mary Oliver, Robert Penn Warren, and Margaret Atwood.

Am, as the title of this post suggests, 'pinched.' Har har. The issue is due out in Canada around February 16th. So, you know, mark your calenders and stuff.

On Canadian Journals and US Journals

I guess this might be as good a time as any to meditate on the difference between Canadian journals and journals in the United States. Though recently I've set my sights on writing for, and about, my homeland, this isn't the first time I've published down south. And something happens every single time I publish work outside of Canada - I feel obligated to change my contributor bio, the 50-some-word description thingy that appears at the back of the book, magazine, etc. Part of me really wants to erase the selected list of places I've been published and say something like: ANDREW HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN CANADA, SURE. BUT ALSO IN THE STATES! IN YOUR COUNTRY! TRUST HIM, HE HAS!

Is that unpatriotic? I feel like it might be. Maybe it's only natural to feel like America's sad little brother when it comes to the international publishing scene. We don't have a long, star-spangled literary history; people from Britain make fun of us (see Glendenning, Victoria); most of the time we don't even know where 'here' is, ontologically, and spend way too much time prancing around trying to figure it out (thank you, Margaret Atwood, for establishing Canada as a nebulous blank bereft of identity).

I think there are real, tangible differences between the journal / magazine scenes here and in the US, and anyone who's written a story and wants to publish it and wonders if maybe they should expand their horizons beyond Canada's border will probably have to confront these differences eventually.

Many are the advantages to publishing locally, in your own country. It means that I can walk to the bookstore and find something I've written there. People I know can, and often will, read my stories, essays, or whatever. Plus it sort of builds a base for you in the place where you're most likely to seek publication for a book later on in your career. You're also eligible for Canadian awards, which is good (because there's a smaller pool of published writers to draw from, you have a better shot at getting an award nod) and bad (because, well, there aren't many awards in the first place).

On the other hand, we just don't have that many venues for writers, especially now that the Federal Government seems hell bent on snuffing out artist grants (which, I should probably mention, is another reason why I'm happy to be a writer living in Canada; where else can artists in the early stages of their careers get funding to help them develop?). It's a handful. Before sending a story out I pull out my handy dandy list of places in Canada I'd like to publish. Beside every name is a tally of how many times I've submitted to them in the past.

And I have submitted to each and every one, at least once.

Let's be honest: America has hundreds of journals. Aside from the biggies (New Yorker, here I come!), I can't keep track of them all. And again, this is good AND bad. It's good because it affords more opportunities to be seen by more editors; it's bad because a lot of great, great publications get lost in the mix simply because the mix is too, like, mixed. There are reasons why that's the case. Population size could be one; more people means more readers means more demand for reading material. Legacy could be another. And the number of academic institutions willing to foot the bill for a quality magazine or journal is exponentially higher in the US than in Canada.

For the record: I am happy, boundlessly so, to be a Canadian writer. Even though I like her biographies of other people, I really do think Glendinning is wrong about us. There are a wealth of Canadian writers producing exceptional, and exceptionally risky, work, and I think our smaller publications - our New Quarterlies and our Fiddleheads, our EVENTs and our Prisms and our Geists and our . . . - are every bit as good as journals published down south.

Is it harder for younger writers to get published here? I don't know. Canada has fewer journals to choose from, which makes competition stiff. But I think good writing is good writing and will, with some elbow grease, always find the home and readership it deserves.

Monday, October 18, 2010

JPS22 Review

Kerry Clare, the reader-reviewer-writer behind Pickle Me This, recently reviewed The Journey Prize Stories 22. Interested parties can amble on over and giver a read.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Final Fist.

Votes are in: "Eat Fist!" won the Western Magazine Award for Fiction. Hearty thanks to Rick, Ian, and Elizabeth at Event for support, faith, and overall greatness. It's flattering to even be nominated.


How am I going to celebrate?



Vintage Punch Out!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Can the Giller screw you?

So the shortlists for two of the three biggies in Canadian literature have been announced. Even though crowd favourite Michael Winter is nominated for the Writers' Trust Award, the Giller Prize shortlist is by the far the more interesting of the two. The Giller shortlist:

The Matter with Morris, David Bergen (HarperCollins)

Light Lifting, Alex MacLeod (Biblioasis)

This Cake is For the Party, Sarah Selecky (Thomas Allen)

The Sentimentalists, Johanna Skibsrud (Gaspereau)

Annabel, Kathleen Winter (Anansi)

Anyway, this year's selections have caused something of a minor bruhaha. For the first time in, like, ever, it's a battle of the little guys. That's right: no Random House, no M&S, no Penguin, Knopf, etc. etc. HarperCollins has a single title on the list - David Bergen's latest - and Anansi has a title, too, though I don't think you can fairly call them one of the big boys / girls.

Past titles shortlisted for the award have benefited the so-called 'Giller Effect,' a substantial boost in sales, media attention, etc. With few [quote / quote] names on this year's list, there's some speculation as to whether or not the GE will happen. Which kind points to the shady subject of practicality.

I don't know if you know this, but Gaspereau (to use the most glaring example) prints their own books. And apparently The Sentimentalists, their Giller-shortlisted title, is almost out of print. If you were a bigger press, that would mean putting in an order for a second print run, complete with nifty Giller stickers embossing the covers. But what if you print high quality books in low numbers? What if you manually print each and every book (with love) and in order to fill out requests for your Giller shortlisted title you have to push back your Fall publishing schedule to have another run printed? And, God forbid, what happens if the Giller Effect DOESN'T quite work with titles from smaller, less known presses without the marketing and PR budget to paint the town red for their titles?

I mean, seriously. What happens if a smaller publisher sells out its original print run but doesn't sell enough copies of print run two (2) to make it fiscally prudent? Having stacks of book at the front of bookstores costs money. So does having them displayed face out on the shelves. Snazzy promotional materials cost money, too. You bet your ass that David Bergen's book will benefit from such things, because HarperCollins has the infrastructure to take an award nomination and spin gold from it.

But where does that leave Gaspereau? Or Biblioasis, for that matter? For the former, in the worst case scenario, potentially delaying their catalogue to print a book that SHOULD sell but doesn't for all the wrong reasons - lack of promotional budget, high production costs, an infrastructure that can't handle the kind of demand that the Giller nod will probably get them.

To be clear: all of that is speculation. Maybe I'm underestimating the resources (and resourcefulness) of the presses nominated this year. In which case, I can stop talking. I really can. It's just, man. How screwy is it that getting shortlisted for the Giller might actually lose a publisher money?

All of which is not to say that I think we should be nominating the so-called 'major presses' and say peace out to the rest. I'm happy that smaller independent presses are getting their due. It seems like in recent years award nods have been the great equalizer that makes smaller publishers more attractive than they might have been in the past. And kudos to the (tellingly, mostly international) trio of judges for choosing the titles that appeal to them based on content, not some misguided notion of who SHOULD be on the list.

I'm just really, truly curious to see how it plays out this year. As for who I think will take it, I'd put my money on Kathleen Winter, and not just because I'm reviewing her novel Annabel for the next issue of Matrix Magazine in Montreal. It's a good book, plain and simple

Monday, October 4, 2010


This year's incarnation of the Journey Prize Stories is out and can be purchased here. Do imbibe - there are some fantastic stories in here. Recommended reading: the story by Krista Foss. Great stuff.

What follows is an interview thingy I did for the National Post. You can find the original here.


The Journey Prize is one of the country’s most prestigious awards for young and emerging authors. The prize, which was endowed by the American author James A. Michener, who donated the royalties from the Canadian edition of his 1989 novel Journey, honours the best short story published in a Canadian literary journal each year. The award has served as a launching pad: past winners include Yann Martel, Alissa York, and Timothy Taylor.

Each year, the finalists are collected in The Journey Prize Stories. This year’s anthology, #22, was chosen by judges Pasha Malla, Joan Thomas, and Alissa York. While the three finalists for the $10,000 Journey Prize will be named on Wednesday, when the nominees for the Writers’ Trust Awards are revealed, we asked all of this year’s authors to answer a few questions about their craft.

Here’s Andrew MacDonald, whose story Eat Fist! was first published in Event.

What’s your story called?

Eat Fist!

When did you write it? How long did it take?

I wrote the story in parts three years ago. With editing, the process took about five months.

What inspired it?

Eat Fist! grew out of three disparate, terribly flawed short stories. The first was a ten page narrative documenting my inability to master Ukrainian, the language of my forebears, and how incredibly depressing it feels to fall short of familial expectations. An old workout partner inspired the second story, which featured a lesbian bodybuilder and her attempts to whip a spindly-armed kid into shape. Finally, I always wanted to write something about comic books, so I worked on this whimsical story about a guy who falls in love with Wonder Woman and, predictably, has his heart broken.

While none of them were particularly good, they somehow joined forces to form the the story included in this year’s anthology.

Was it rejected by another literary journal before finding a home?

Event, the story’s eventual home, was the first (and only) literary journal I sent it to. I am grateful to Rick Maddocks and the Event team for their faith and guidance, and to Larry Garber for support.

What’s your favourite Journey Prize-winning story? Why?

My Husband’s Jump by Jessica Grant, a weird, wonderful account an Olympic skier who hits a jump and never lands. I’ve read the story a half-dozen times, trying to figure out how Grant takes an idea so ostensibly silly and transforms it into an affecting meditation on faith and the grandness of life’s mysteries. Saleema Nawaz’s My Three Girls is a close second.

The prize was made possible by James A. Michener; have you read his novel, Journey?

I have. Nothing beats a well-spun klondike yarn.

All of these stories were originally published in literary journals, most of which recently had their funding slashed. Why are these magazines vital to young writers?

Literary journals offer hope, professional editorial feedback, and – most importantly – a much audience for emerging writers. Moreover, I’d wager that the majority of Canada’s internationally-recognized literary writers cut their teeth by publishing in smaller magazines. For example, every single Canadian to win the Booker Prize published in literary journals before hitting it big, and early work by both of Canada’s Booker-nominees this year appeared in journals like The Fiddlehead and Event. More than half of the finalists for the Giller Prize have resumes that include publication in literary journals, too. Journals are, in short, a vital resource for writers, readers, and purveyors of Canadian culture.

William Faulkner prioritized writing forms thusly: “Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story, which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?

I hate to disagree with Big Bill, but I think elevating one form over another is silly. As someone who has tried, and failed, at all three, I can tell you that there’s nothing intrinsically more demanding about one than the other. You might enjoy working in a particular form, depending on temperament and taste, but each is, in my opinion, equally masochistic.

Give us an example of a perfect short story.

To me, it doesn’t get much better than Neil Smith’s Bang Crunch. The story follows Eepie Carpetrod, an eight year old girl with Fred Hoyle syndrome, as she ages a month daily until she’s so old she can barely walk. From there, the process reverses itself. I think the best stories contain the world in all its befuddling complexity, and Smith manages, in less than 12 pages, to say more about love, laughter, and loss than most novels.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Interview: National Post

To celebrate the upcoming relase of The Journey Prize Stories 22 (in stores Tuesday!), The National Post will be interviewing each of the finalists, three at a time, over the next week.

I have no idea when my interview will be printed, but I'll include a transcript of it here after it goes to print.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cloverfield Festival of Authors

Next month I'll be reading at the Cloverfield Festival of Authors. Details? Details . . .

Cloverfield Festival of Authors (CLFA) will be held on Tuesday 26 October 2010 at The Ossington in Toronto. It is sponsored by Broken Pencil Magazine, The Puritan, The Ossington, and an as yet unannounced fourth party.

Halloween costumes are very much encouraged.

Terrifying readers for the evening include:

Evie "Stone Cold" Christie
Christine "Eerie" Estima
Jessica "The Werewolf" Westhead
Lindsay "Traumatizing" Tipping
Spencer "Ghoulish" Gordon
David "Bubonic" Brock
Mat "The Viper" Laporte
Andrew "The Minotaur" MacDonald (that's me!)
Nathaniel "Gorgeous" G. Moore
Angela "Haunted" Hibbs
A.G. "The Poltergeist" Pasquella

... and more to be announced and added in suspenseful, pre-Halloween drama!

The Ossington
61 Ossington Avenue

Then a dj will play music
and we will dance and our
born / yet unborn
children will dance !

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Indie Death Match!

Look for the editors of The Puritan to have an alienating and mean-spirited role in dolling out criticism for this year's Indie Writers Deathmatch. More to come!

Broken Pencil Magazine Presents: Indie Writers Deathmatch IV

The world's only battle royale short story contest is coming. Enter your best story (1500-3000 words) by December 31, 2010. Be one of 8 finalists and prepare for battle as your story goes head-to-head with other contestants in an elimination "death match" tournament where the public's vote is cut throat and final! Grand prize includes publication in the Spring 2011 issue, $300 cash money, a BP prizepack worth $300, and, most importantly, bragging rights forever more. Two runners-up will also receive publication in Broken Pencil and paid standard publication rates. Entrace fee: 20 dollars (includes a 1 year subscription to Broken Pencil).

For a peak at last year's carnage, visit

Thursday, September 2, 2010

ReLit Awards

The shortlist for this year's ReLit Award crop is up!

A lot of familiar names there, but one in particular stands out: Nathaniel G. Moore's new novel Wrong Bar, out from Tightrope Books. I don't know if reader input means anything for the award. It probably doesn't. You can still buy the book, though. You should do that. For serious.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ondaatje overrated?

According to this ditty from the National Post, Michael Ondaatje, Joseph Boyden, and David Adams Richards are three of the most overrated authors in Canada.

Lynn Coady, Douglas Glover, and Caroline Adderson are three of the most underrated.

Q'uelle controversial!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Normally I'd only post stuff related to writing, but I feel compelled to share the following. Really, this article sums up pretty much everyone I know in their 20s.

The first paragraph:

This question pops up everywhere, underlying concerns about “failure to launch” and “boomerang kids.” Two new sitcoms feature grown children moving back in with their parents — “$#*! My Dad Says,” starring William Shatner as a divorced curmudgeon whose 20-something son can’t make it on his own as a blogger, and “Big Lake,” in which a financial whiz kid loses his Wall Street job and moves back home to rural Pennsylvania. A cover of The New Yorker last spring picked up on the zeitgeist: a young man hangs up his new Ph.D. in his boyhood bedroom, the cardboard box at his feet signaling his plans to move back home now that he’s officially overqualified for a job. In the doorway stand his parents, their expressions a mix of resignation, worry, annoyance and perplexity: how exactly did this happen?


Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: The Reinvention of the Human Hand

New review of Paul Vermeersch's The Reinvention of the Human Hand up at MTLS.

It features this MySpace-stylized author photo!

Also, my review of Arthur Reed's debut novel Isobel and Emil appears the latest issue of Broken Pencil.

Review Madness!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rejection Letters

Originally appeared on The New Quarterly's Literary Type blog.

The Tao of Form Rejection Letters

In his forward to The Workshop, an anthology of writing dedicated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Thomas Grimes argues that, popular perception aside, the creative writing workshop doesn’t really teach you what to do. He says, “[the workshop] has offered no prescription for ‘fixing’ stories, no formulas for creating characters . . . Everything it teaches, essentially, is a form of No.”

One could argue that the form rejection letter’s doing something similar. In twenty words or less, it forces us to contend with nothingness, the capital-N- No.

My first rejection letter was of such potent nothingness that it didn’t exist. I saw a call for submissions, raided my desk for the best story I had, sealed it in an envelope and bid the little fella godspeed. Four months later the next issue was out. No sign of my short story in the table of contents but, lo, a surprise on page six: a few lines of my cover letter, published verbatim, as a letter to the editor.


I’ve treasured rejection letters ever since, even the generic ones that spell my name wrong and appear in my mailbox a year late.

Not many people like form rejection letters. Feelings are hurt? The form letter doesn’t care. Thanks but no thanks, it says, with a brevity that would make Hemingway proud.

I would argue, however, that the form rejection letter’s worth rests not simply in its ability to make you mad. It’s what it doesn’t say ‘s important. Counterintuitive? Could be. After all, wouldn’t it be easier for editors to just tell us what the hell we’re doing wrong and save everyone the grief?

Easier, maybe, but not necessarily more effective. In an interview appended to his
latest collection of stories, Last Notes, Tamas Dobozy asks us to treasure our rejection letters, particularly the generic ones:

“There was something in that flat ‘No’ you received that was amazingly enlightening – because it told you your writing wasn’t working but didn’t tell you how to fix it. You were forced to improve only on the strength of your own resources, and so there was an organic process at play . . . It was that step into uncharted territory that forced me to develop my instincts.”

Dobozy’s right: you don’t know what you’re looking for, only that whatever it is exists and makes a manuscript once believed to be pristine ugly and flawed. Innocents may die as you question every sentence’s right to life. But somewhere amidst the carnage you find what you’re looking for. The form rejection letter’s boon won’t be the pitch-perfect ending your story needed or the hidden gun you just now figured out how to bring back into play. Its lessons are less transient, more universal.

When all is said and done, the form rejection letter hasn’t taught you where to look – the terrain’s going to change with every story you write – but how.

Friday, August 6, 2010

WMA Redux

My poor little blog. So neglected. Well, I'm here, and I have some good news for you. "Eat Fist!", previously nominated for a Western Magazine Award, has made the shortlist alongside four other deserving stories.

The list:

Andrew MacDonald, Eat Fist!, Event

Ben Lof, When in the Field with Her at His Back, The Malahat Review

Bill Gaston, Petterick, The Malahat Review

Stephen Gauer, Hold Me Now, Prairie Fire

Laura Boudreau, The Dead Dad Game, Prism International


Two of those names I'm familiar with - Bill Gaston, amazing author of (among other things) Gargoyles, and Laura Boudreau, who followed pretty much the same path I did, through Larry Garber's creative writing class at UWO, into the program at U of T, where she also worked with Michael Winter. Only she did it before me, so technically I'm following in her footsteps.

Either way, good company to be in. The winner will be announced in October. Will keep you informed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New Puritan

The 1010 Issue has launched!

Go to and check out Issue 10, Spring 2010, featuring ...

fiction by Marko Fong and Brian Allen Carr ...

poetry by Zachariah Wells, Carey Toane, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Leigh Nash, Robert Swereda, Catherine Graham, and Dave Margoshes ...

and a review of Dionne Brand's Ossuaries by E Martin Nolan.

We're now looking for submissions of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, interviews, and reviews for Issue 11, Summer 2010.

Send all questions and submissions to

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Western Magazine Award for Fiction

A pleasant surprise in the old inbox today. In addition to previously nominating my story, "Eat Fist!" for the Journey Prize, the kind folks at Event have also nominated me for a Western Magazine Award in the Fiction category. Previous finalists (and winners) include Annabel Lyon, Bill Gaston, Lee Henderson, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Elizabeth Hay, Craig Davidson, and Bronwen Wallace. All of which is super and unexpected. If I'm named a finalist I'll find out in July.

Oh, my little story that could. Keep on trucking.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Kinkiest Characters in Literature


5. Satan (Paradise Lost, Milton): Nobody can out-charm Milton’s Lord of Darkness. Much-lauded for his ability to transform himself into a giant slithering phallus.

4. Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller): A brothel-hopping whirling dervish of libertine jouissance and syphilis, Henry’s never met a sexual encounter (or an STI) he didn’t like.

3. O (The Story of O, Pauline Reage): Submissive and sexy, playful O enjoys slow, painful degradation at the hands of faceless men who strip her of any sense of selfhood.

2. Patrick Batemen (American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis): When he’s not doing pushups to keep his bodyfat under four percent or scoping out the latest fashions, Patrick can be found slaughtering hookers with chainsaws and trying to stuff cats into bank machines.

1. Simone (Story of the Eye, Georges Bataille): From bloodletting to golden showers, necrophilia to eye socket sex, Simone’s interests are sure to please even the most demanding lover. Especially fond of the rodeo – where else can you find riper bull testicles for vaginal insertion?


6. Madame de St. Ainge (Philosophy of the Bedroom, Marquis de Sade)

7. Lolita (Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov)

8. Bear (Bear, by Marian Engel)
"If I had a tumor, I'd name it Marla"

"If I had a tumor, I'd name it Marla"

9. Marla Singer (Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk)

10. Alex (A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess)

11. Vaughan (Crash, JG Ballard)

12. Lord Byron

13. Sarah (Sarah, JT LeRoy)

14. Fevvers (Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter)

15. Humbert Humbert (Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov)

16. Anaïs Nin (Diaries of Anaïs Nin)

17. Q_ (Zombie, Joyce Carol Oates)

18. The Dog Woman (Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson)

19.Belle de Jour (Belle de Jour, Joseph Kessel)

20. Nan Astley (Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters)


Ipy and Ella (Geek Love, Katherine Dunn)

Orlando (Orlando, Virgina Woolf)

The Wife of Bath (The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer)

Molly Bloom (Ulysses, James Joyce)

The Dark Lady (Sonnets, Shakespeare)

Randle McMurphy (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey)

Philip Marlowe (The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler)

Portnoy (Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth)

Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë)

[Originally appeared in Blackheart Magazine ]

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mordecai Gives Back

Mordecai Richler: Improving literacy, one cat at a time.

The Grono

The other day I was sitting on my partner's bed with her computer on my lap. The bed is pressed up against the corner, underneath a nifty little window ledge about six feet off the ground. Atop the window ledge are an assortment of things: a wooden artist doll with a name I don't remember anymore; a black and white photograph my partner took; and this:

According to the IKEA website, the Grono is made of mouth-blown glass and as such each Grono is unique. The Grono provides soft mood lighting. It also tries to kill me.

Somehow the Grono's power cord got caught on my arm, so when I sat up off the bed I pulled the Grono off the ledge and onto my head. Then the Grono shattered.

There's no real reason for me to be sharing this story. Maybe to warn you about Gronos. But then I had to go buy a new Grono and I liked it so much I bought one for myself, so maybe that's not the case either.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Excerpt: MSN conversation.

shmu: i just want to get into my pjs and be comfortable and cozy. tantrumlegs.
me: tantrumlegs!
shmu: 'tarantrum-legs'!!!!!!
me: thats so amazing, because i can picture you doing this motion you do, like youre swimming or massaging the asses of a thousand communist women

30 Second Review: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

I like Elizabeth McCracken. I like her novel, Giant's House, and I really like her collection, Here's Your Hat What's Your Hurry?. Not surprisingly, I also like her new Oprah-endorsed - and wonderfully titled - memoir, An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination. Or maybe surprisingly. The memoir is all about McCracken's first ill-fated pregnancy, and about its more successful sequel. There isn't much of a story here, in any traditional sense. McCracken and her husband temporarily christen their baby-in-waiting Pudding. Late in the pregnancy Pudding dies, so late that McCracken still needs to give birth. A year later she's pregnant again. It's not the kind of thing I'm usually interested in. Somehow, though, I fell in love - as I always do - with McCracken's wisdom. Did I say wisdom? I did. Know that I furrow my brows whenever someone describes an author or a piece of writing as 'wise.' But I can say without any kind of doubt that this book is wise. And funny. And sad. It seems to breathe life. I like that kind of thing. Here's a passage that eviscerated my cockles:

I put my hand on top of my stomach and felt what I thought of as Pudding's rolling-over-in-bed move. 'God, I feel better," I said. I exhaled. "All right. Well done, Pudding."

Later I found out that this was a Braxton Hicks contraction, my uterus puttering around, maybe getting ready for labor, maybe not. I found out, you see, because I continued to have them even after he was irrefutably dead.


More McCracken:

Gaea Girls: Caught w/ String does the movies!

It seems to me that I should start making posts about something other than what I'm up to writing-wise, so here goes. Yesterday I went with Ms. Brooke, whose postcard story "Dogs Fall in Love at First Sight, You Know", is a finalist for the Geist postcard fiction contest, to my first Hot Docs movie ever (which makes me a terrible terrible Torontonian for not taking advantage of the city's abundance of cultural events). Brooke rightly intuited my interest in all things off-beat and athletic and took me out to see Gaea Girls, a documentary about female Japanese pro-wrestlers.

It was fantastic - I shit you not. The training these women go through blows my mind. It was interesting to see how different pro-wrestling is in Japan than in America. It seems to be less scripted there, more overtly violent. The fans are just as rabid, though, and the events just as spectacular (as the entrance music for the Gaea wrestlers puts it, 'WE ARE FREAK-OUT!'). The director did a little G&A afterwards and the things she said changed how I viewed the film - little details that I missed about the dynamics between wrestlers, and what happened after.

Here's a clip:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Review

Speaking of Broken Pencil, my review of Rebekkah Adams' debut novel, Front Porch Mannequins, is out in the current issue. Indubitably.

I also encourage you to pick up a copy of Darwin's Bastards, a collection of apocalyptic mostly-Canadian fiction. You should especially read Neil Smith's excerpt from his novel-in-progress and Anosh Irani's bizarre fetus story. George the Cat says you should, so you should.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Review: Playing Basra

Book review:

Playing Basra

With its sparse, brutal prose and trashy cast of latchkey kids, Playing Basra, Ed­ward Brown's debut collection of short stories, almost lives up to its billing as the booze-soaked love child of Hemingway and The Trailer Park Boys. And like the lovable losers who call Sunnyvale Trailer Park home, Brown's characters can break your heart. In "Radio Dispatched," Mike, the collection's adolescent narrator, re­lates his father's unexpected death and the family's subsequent spiral into destitu­tion, while the Journey Prize-nominated "Beer Bottles and Bowling Balls" grimly covers everything from molestation to abandoned babies.

To its credit, the collection isn't uniformly bleak. In "Quiet as India," Mike completes his sexual awakening by ten­derly locking lips with his crush in the womb-like depths of the neighbourhood swimming pool. When they finally sur­face, Mike boldly declares, in parlance fa­miliar to young lovers everywhere, "We'd never come apart." It's a touchingly hu­mane, and welcome, reprieve; unfortu­nately, it's the only chance Brown gives us to catch our breath.

Indeed, there are times when the gritty, beer-drenched territory Brown charts is both too much and too familiar. In "Chip Dip," for example, Donny finds the no­tion of Mike's brother Ray marrying a nursing student absurd: "girls like her don't marry people like us. Now shut your mouth, I'm tryin' to eat." The sen­timent recalls S.E. Hinton's classic novel The Outsiders, where a band of greasers wage war with the sons and daughters of the town's privileged elite. While Hinton urges disaffected youth to "stay gold" in the face of the traumas of adolescence, Brown offers precious little in the way of hope. For better or worse, in the world according to Playing Basra, those who are gold don't stay that way for long. (An­drew MacDonald)

by Edward Brown $21.95, 194 pgs. Exile Editions 134 Eastbourne Ave Toronto, ON, M5P 2G6

Review published in Broken Pencil 46.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Journey Prize

Good news came via email today. My story, "Eat Fist!" has been named a finalist for the Journey Prize and will be included in this year's anthology. Getting into the anthology has been a dream of mine since I started writing. The number of writers I respect and love and sometimes stalk lovingly over the internets who have appeared in past anthologies is mind blowing.

I snagged this from the McClelland & Stewart website:

The $10,000 Journey Prize, now known as The Writers' Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, is awarded annually to an emerging and developing writer of distinction for a short story published in a Canadian literary publication. This award is made possible by James A. Michener's generous donation of his Canadian royalties earnings from his novel Journey, published by McClelland & Stewart in 1988. The Journey Prize itself is the most significant monetary award given in Canada to a developing writer for a short story or excerpt from a fiction work-in-progress.

The winner of the Journey Prize is selected from among the stories that appear in the current volume of The Journey Prize Stories, published annually in the fall by McClelland & Stewart.

For over a decade The Journey Prize Stories has established itself as one of the most prestigious anthologies in the country, introducing readers to the finest emerging Canadian writers from coast to coast. It has become a who's who of up-and-coming writers, and many of the authors whose early work has appeared in the anthology have gone on to distinguish themselves with acclaimed collections of stories or novels, and have won many of Canada's most prestigious literary awards, including the Governor General's Award, the Trillium Award, the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and The Giller Prize.

The anthology sets itself apart from others in that it comprises a selection of stories that editors of literary publications from across the country have chosen as what, in their view, is the most exciting writing in English that they have published in the previous year. In recognition of the vital role literary publications play in discovering and promoting new writers, McClelland & Stewart gives its own award of $2,000 to the literary publication that originally published and submitted the winning entry.

McClelland & Stewart acknowledges the continuing enthusiastic support of writers, literary publication editors, and the public in the common celebration of the emergence of new voices in Canadian fiction.

So yeah. Anything now is just gravy.

In addition to finding that out, I also scored a copy of John Birmingham's cult classic (and book made into film recently) He Died with a Felafel in His Hand for a scant fifty cents at the local book pusher. I've spent years looking for it. Now I have it. Good day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Strong Words Reading

I'm reading again somehow. Details below.

- - -

Strong Words No. 59

Featuring Catriona Wright, Andrew MacDonald and
Simon Patrick Rogers

Thursday, 8 April 2010 at 8:00 PM
The Free Times Cafe
320 College Street, Toronto
PWYC - 19+

Our fifty-ninth reading, and our fourth at our new home, will also be the second reading brought to you by our new curators Gillian Savigny and Malcolm Sutton. Join us for appearances by Catriona Wright, Andrew MacDonald and Simon Patrick Rogers. The reading will be "pay what you can" as always, and donations of new and used books in resale condition will be collected on behalf of the Book Ends program at the Toronto Public Library. Don't miss it!

April Reader Bios

Catriona Wright is completing an MA in the field of Creative Writing at the University of Toronto. Her writing has appeared in various publications, such as the Puritan, Contemporary Verse 2, echolocation, and For Crying Out Loud (chapbook, Ferno House Press). Currently, she is working on a collection of short stories under the mentorship of Barbara Gowdy.

Andrew MacDonald is from Edmonton and lives in Toronto, where he's a graduate student in the University of Toronto's Creative Writing program. His fiction and nonfiction have been published in places like Event, The Fiddlehead, Broken Pencil, Existere, Qwerty, Feathertale, and some others. He's also nominated for the Journey Prize. He likes his tuxedo cats and is working on a novel.

Simon Patrick Rogers is a Toronto-based wordworker with his hand in a little bit of everything from leprechauns to institutional archival records. His word creations have appeared in a variety of tangible printed publications and elsewhere in more ephemeral electric spaces. He is currently writing a series of linked reverse fables that begin with a moral and end in a story. He remains cautiously optimistic of their fruition.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hart House Review

I co-won this year's Hart House Review literary contest, so if you're free and able and willing, come to the launch, because this year's issue of the journal is also free and able and willing and available gratis that night. My story "Vanishing Point," about a skinny guy who gets laid, is in it, and so is a brilliant(ine) novel excerpt from the exceptional Alex Grigorescu, whose magnum opus might very well be gracing the shelves of a megastore book peddler near you. Go get her autograph, before someone makes you pay for it.

I won't be reading, because I'm a hoser, but Jim Johnstone and Sheila Heti will be. Cha!


2010 Hart House Review Launch

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Doors open at 7:30
Address & Readings 8pm

2010 Features:
Sheila Heti
Jim Johnstone
Lee Henderson
Jesse Harris

Sheila Heti
Jim Johnstone
Featured Contributors

Art Exhibition:
Jesse Harris

HART HOUSE, Library, Music and Board Room
7 Hart House Circle, 2nd floor
University of Toronto

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Taste of Penny

I think you should read this book. It's really good. And PW liked it (see review below).

The Taste of Penny: Stories Jeff Parker. Dzanc (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-9825204-4-4

Ten dark, suspenseful, and tightly wound stories teeter on the edge of catastrophe and the surreal piecing-back-together of life afterwards. Parker (Ovenman) tosses his characters into some form of peril, whether physical—like the narrator of “Our Cause,” who loses the tip of his tongue—or emotional, like the jingoistic American in “The Boy and the Colgante,” who erects a giant illuminated American flag in front of his house in the heart of “French redneck” Quebec. Parker's characters are disfigured or pitiable—one weathers guilt and emotional torture while paralyzed in a wheelchair, one gnaws at his fingers and attempts to excrete a swallowed penny, one stands in line outside the house where his ex-girlfriend is interviewing potential new boyfriends. Parker's prose is concise and quirky, packed with unexpected turns (“It's like yak butter or meat jelly,” says one character. “You don't know exactly what it is but you know it's there”), and aside from the few moments when Parker gets too clever for his own good (as with the unnecessarily obscure “The Briefcase of the Pregnant Spylady”), these stories are haunting and constantly surprising. (Apr.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

High Five.

I've only started doing readings. They make me feel awkward. The reading last night didn't make me feel awkward. I think that's because there were so many great, nice, snazzy people there. If you were one of those said great, nice, snazzy people, accept my thanks and gratitude. Some of that also goes out to the friends and family of Adam Penn Gilders, who made the night possible and were kind enough to bestow upon me an award in Adam's honour.

So, here again: thanks everyone who came. I hope my reading on April 8th, at Free Times Cafe, is populated by a similarly amazing crowd of peoples.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reading: Thursday, March 4, 2010

Event date: Thursday, March 04, 2010, from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Location: Where: Room 100, Jackman Humanities Building, 170 St. George Street

The Graduate Studies Creative Writing Mentorship Program and the Department of English presents the Annual University of Toronto Creative Writing Showcase.

An evening of readings and discussion with our Graduate students from the Creative Writing Program and their Program Mentors. Free and open to the public. There will be refreshments and a cash bar.

Readers include program alumni Brooke Lockyer and her mentor Catherine Bush and this year's Adam Penn Gilders Scholarship Winner Andrew MacDonald and his mentor Michael Winter.

Please RSVP Camilla Eckbo at or the Department of English offices at . You may leave a message at 416-978-6039 or 416-946-3026.

More information on the readers:

Catherine Bush is the author of three novels. Claire's Head (M&S, 2004), shortlisted for the Trillium Award, and chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the Globe and Mail. The Rules of Engagement (HarperCollins, 2000), a national bestseller, was published internationally, shortlisted for the City of Toronto Book Award, and chosen as a New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by the LA Times and the Globe and Mail. Minus Time (HarperCollins,1993), her first novel, was also published in the U.S. and the U.K., and shortlisted for the SmithBooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the City of Toronto Book Award. Bush has a degree in Comparative Literature from Yale University, has taught Creative Writing at universities including Concordia, the University of Florida, and the University of Guelph. She is Coordinator of the Creative Writing MFA at the University of Guelph, and is an adjunct professor in University of British Columbia's on-line MFA programme. A native of Toronto, she has been Writer-in-Residence at McMaster University, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Alberta, and the University of Guelph. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications including the Globe and Mail and The New York Times Magazine. She is working on a new novel, The Thief.

Brooke Lockyer won the Hart House Review Literary Contest, the Peter S. Prescott Prize, and the Lenore Marshall Barnard Prize while pursuing degrees in literature and creative writing at Columbia University and U of T. Her short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in various magazines, including the Hart House Review, Helicon, Toronto Life, Toro, and Spacing. She graduated from the MA in English in the Field of Creative Writing Program at the U of T in 2009.

Andrew MacDonald was born in Edmonton and lives in Toronto. His fiction and non-fiction have been published in places like The Fiddlehead, Event, Existere, and Broken Pencil. He is currently a student in the MA in English in the Field of Creative Writing Program at the U of T and the winner of this year's Adam Penn Gilders Scholarship selected by Michael Redhill.

Michael Winter has published five works of fiction. The Big Why won the Drummer General's Award and was nominated for Ontario's Trillium Book Award and the Atlantic Book Awards Thomas Head Raddall Fiction Prize. This All Happened won the Winterset Award and was nominated for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. He was named the first winner of the Writers' Trust of Canada's new Notable Author Award in 2008. His most recent novel is The Architects Are Here. His line drawings illustrate Noah Richler's This is My Country, What's Yours? A Literary Atlas of Canada, and he divides his time between Toronto and Newfoundland.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Puritan Sighting


Our new issue has arrived!

Go to and check out Issue 9, Winter 2010, featuring ...

fiction by Matthew Barbehenn, Emily Schultz, and Christopher McIlroy ...

poetry by Jim Smith, Marcus McCann, Jenn Blair, Sachiko Murakami, Ben Nardolilli, Jenny Sampirisi, Sean Moreland, Jamie Bradley, Kathryn Mockler, and Robin Richardson ...

and a review of Black Bile Press' One-Off Chapbook Series #3, featuring the authors Tony O'Neill, Julie McArthur, and Nathaniel G. Moore!

With the launch of our Winter issue, we're now looking for submissions of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, interviews, and reviews for Issue X: Spring 2010 (it's only taken us three years to get to the X issue ...).

Send all questions and submissions to (but be sure to read the guidelines on our site before ya do).

Ohhhhhh yeeeeaaaahhhhh .....

Spencer Gordon
Andrew MacDonald (that's me!)
Tyler Willis

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dating Novelists

According to this, novelists make the cut as one of the top professions to date into. According to the article, the novelist is a

creative, expressive and passionate man, he's also sensitive and curious and typically makes his own hours, which leaves plenty of time for you.

I think someone's been snorting the pixie dust again. Other top professionals include psychiatrists, teachers, engineers and dentists. Dentists? Aren't they known for high suicide rates? Worst professions: musicians, lawyers, bankers, police officers, pediatricians, bartenders.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: Coming Attractions 08 (Oberon)

Coming Attractions 08, Oberon Press (2009)

Edited by Mark Anthony Jarman
Featuring: Rebecca Rosenblum, Daniel Griffin, Alice Petersen
Reviewed by Andrew MacDonald

Publishing early work by the likes of Rohinton Mistry and France Itani, the Coming Attractions series from Oberon Press has a barometer's knack for predicting the soon-to-be hot in Canada's literary climate. This year's edition, selected by short story mogul Mark Anthony Jarman, promises to be no different, featuring nine stories by three young writers on the up and up.

With deceptively simple prose, Rebecca Rosenblum does the impossible, crafting characters in flux who are in one way or another stuck in life's amber. From a lowly tech support jobber secretly in love with a bisexual co-worker to an improvised urban family of university students who listen to domestic abuse next door, Rosenblum's motley crew of aimless young adults teeter on the precipice of personal growth. Frustratingly, they too often refuse to take the plunge.

While Rosenblum's stories focus on missed connections and bungled opportunities, Daniel Griffin's narratives explore what happens when the bonds that bind pull at the seams. In "X," a young father-to-be's shaky personal life and the raccoon terrorizing his mother's garden are deftly twined, while "Promise" features two brothers at odds and culminates in an explosive seven word sentence that hits you straight in the gut. Griffin's at his best between the lines, in the unutterable language of his troubled men as they butt heads.

In my mind, Alice Petersen's evocative stories are the anthology's strongest. Her best, "Among the Trees," opens with the death of an artist whose passion and pansexuality enlivened and frustrated the woman who loved him most. Like all of Petersen's work, it's a sensory delight, the makeshift artist colony the couple creates so real and spongy you can taste the mossy dew. Petersen's characters wear their hearts on their sleeves, a gambit that pays off and makes for affective reading.

Like a fine martini, Coming Attractions 08 is what all good anthologies should be: a potent libation concocted from disparate parts.

[Originally published in Broken Pencil]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Beaker, posing to the right with her maladjusted pet human, spends Sunday afternoons sitting back with the latest issue of Event.

Meanwhile, George, left, is functionally illiterate and wishes he could read like his sister.

[Read "Eat Fist!," a story I wrote, in the latest issue of Event]

Monday, February 8, 2010

Old Interview

This little number appeared on a Xenith last year. I was really flattered, since I'm not really all that published whatsoever, but the thought was nice and the questions fun and so here it is, in all its . . . whatever it has.


Given the numerous magazines in which this particular gentleman has been published, Xenith readers may have already stumbled across Andrew MacDonald’s short fiction. At 24, Andrew is working on his masters in creative writing and has been published in The Fiddlehead, Blackheart Magazine, Existere, qwerty, Feathertale, echolocation, and many other magazines. He also maintains a blog at In this interview, he touches on the writing and revision process as well as his experience with publishing in the small press.

Interview by Patrick Nathan

As someone who has primarily published fiction, you’ve developed an undeniable skill for it. When you contrast your writing now versus your writing from when you first started out, what is the most marked difference? What, if anything, has remained the same?

That’s a good question. When I first started out, I didn’t pay much attention to plot logistics. I focused a lot more on style, mostly of the high fallutin’ kind. Lots of big words, lengthy descriptions, tons of exposition. Nowadays I’m more interested in crafting stories, not sentences. An old mentor once told me that writers tend to be stylists or storytellers. I used to classify myself as the former; now, not so much.

The more I write, the more I realize that language will always service the idea. That sounds complicated, but it’s not. Your goal is to entertain, or otherwise engage, your reader. An alienating text is rarely successful. Or at least I avoid them like the plague. Everyone denigrates the Dan Browns, the JK Rowlings, the Grishams. Not me. I admire their mastery of storytelling craft. We like to think that writing is all about beautiful words. Maybe that’s part of it, and certainly it’s one of the first things I worked on when I started. But the art of crafting a plot is a huge part of writing fiction, and lately that’s the part of the game I’ve been focusing on. Someone like John Irving is a good example of a, quote, literary writer, who pays attention to plot, makes things happen, and doesn’t have a really graceful style. I think of Dickens too, or Graham Greene (though some people might disagree about him).

Other than that, developing discipline and shedding the title of weekend writer. You have to take your writing seriously if you want other people to.

Almost everyone has some definable method of organizing thoughts and ideas in preparation for writing. What is the typical series of events that takes place between the initial spark of your short story and writing the first sentence?

I like to have a vague idea of where I’m going, but I’m open to change. Usually something hits me, a sentence, an idea, some weird event, and I’ll try to work through the possibilities. Once I have something, anything, I’ll write a few sentences. Most of the time they’re not in any kind of coherent order, at least on the page, but in my brain they fit like jigsaw pieces in a bigger picture. The less time I spend being anal and planning the better. The less restraint, the better. The less time I spend analyzing what goes into that first draft, the better.

So when you tell someone that you’re working on a story, and they ask you what it’s about, it’s pretty safe to assume that you aren’t sure yet? In that vein, when someone asks the same question on a finished story, are you able to answer?

Sure. For me, the summary is really about isolating the story’s conflict. You hear agents throw around this piece of advice all the time for novels, and I think it applies to fiction of all flavors: if you can’t summarize your story in a sentence or less, you might need to do some thinking. Going into a story I’ll probably have a good idea about what it’s going to be a about. At least generally. It could change as circumstance dictates.

How would you describe your revision process? What do your first drafts generally look like in comparison to the copy that goes to the publisher?

Revision’s more fun that writing the first draft. Still painful, though. Sometimes my first drafts are pretty solid, but mostly they’re awful, putrid, stenchy.

Let’s throw in a quote by Charles de Gaulle: “Don’t ask me who’s influenced me. A lion is made up of the lambs he’s digested, and I’ve been reading all my life.” What lambs have you digested? Who shows up in what way?

That was eloquently phrased. Well done, Chuck. Immediate influences? Salman Rushdie, Mordecai Richler, John Irving, Zadie Smith. Recent digestifs include Shalom Auslander’s Foreskin’s Lament, Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, Bechdel’s amazing graphic novel Fun Home, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.

Conversely, what lambs have given you indigestion?

This will get me chirps from both ends of the litgeek spectrum, but Chuck Palahniuk and Jane Austen. I think Chuck’s got a good marketing team and a bagful of gimmicks he employs every book. I enjoyed Fight Club. Anything after that . . . he just gets worse and worse. Sigh. Plain Jane’s got skills I respect, she’s just not my thing.

There’s no getting around the fact that you have an impressive list of publication credits. What is your usual process for submitting a piece of writing? Do you let it sit for a few months, awaiting revisions, or do you submit immediately after finishing? Do you submit to several magazines at once or just pick what you think would be a good fit? Do you write pieces and think, “Hey this would be a good fit for Fred’s Magazine” or do you come to that decision much later?

I used to be impatient, sending everything out the second I lifted my fingers off the keyboard. Which meant I’d have ten pieces floating in submission land, and ten rejections coming a few months later. While that didn’t yield particularly stunning results, it was an important step: send your stuff out there. Be too big for your britches. Grow thick skin and get used to the process.

Getting work out there, published in journals, is rough: the pay is crap, the wait is long, and most people don’t care. On the other hand, it’s a good way to build your CV and your confidence. And who knows who might be reading? An agent caught the story a friend of mine wrote in a nationally distributed literary journal and asked if he had representation yet. I don’t send stories out anymore unless I’m confident in them, and even then I expect a rejection letter. What used to be a week of editing a story has turned into months. Having one really sharp story is probably worth more than a handful of clunky ones. I’ve done some small-time journal editing and know from experience that editors are looking for reasons to trash your stuff.

I tend to avoid writing for specific markets, partly because I get caught up in writing what I want to, for better or for worse, and partly because I just plain suck when I try. Most of the places I submit to frown upon simultaneous submissions, so it makes for long waits. Duotrope is a fantastic resource and I use it every time I submit to a publication.

What would you say is cardinal advice for authors looking to start submitting their work?

Cardinal advice? Just do it. Follow the guidelines and get work out there.

If you could boil it down to something specific, what is the most important lesson you have learned in the years you’ve spent improving your craft?

Keep going when everyone else quits.


New Review

Pick up the latest ish of Broken Pencil and peep my review of Playing Basra, Edward Brown's collection of interwoven short stories about people and things pertaining to the lower middle class. I compare it to Trailer Park Boys! Gazooks!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Discerning readers would be well advised to read the latest from the Heartbreak Kid, Spencer Gordon, up at Joyland this week. It's a short story about Miley Cyrus and should be read in a Southern accent for maximum a/effect.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Journey Prize

Just got the good word that my story, "Eat Fist!," due out in Event next month or so, has been nominated for the Journey Prize. Time for celebratory something or other.

If something comes of this, I'll let you know.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dinosaur Porn Launch

Attend on Facebook!

Thursday January 28th, 2010
7:30 - 10:30 PM
The Supermarket (268 Augusta Avenue, Toronto, ON)
No Cover


Well, more like six months, but hey - thanks for your patience.

DINOSAUR PORN has been lovingly edited and designed by the DIY dream team combination of Ferno House and The Emergency Response Unit. This is a limited-edition, lovingly handcrafted, and perfect bound collection of poetry and fiction.

DINOSAUR PORN features the prehistoric poetry and/or fleshy fiction of Louise Bak, Gary Barwin, David Brock, Andrew Faulkner, Warren Dean Fulton, Spencer Gordon, Corrigan Hammond, Joe Hickey, Penn Kemp, Henry Lee, Christine McNair, Dave Miller, Nathaniel G. Moore, James Nadel, Leigh Nash, Kenneth Pobo, Shannon Rayne, Carey Toane, Jordan Trethewey, and Sarah Wilson.

So join us for a night of merryment, and come pick up this weighty tome for a mere $15. Other chapbooks released by Ferno House and The Emergency Response Unit will be availble for sale, as well.

To help us hatch this behemoth, we've invited some contributors to come and read their work. Come see readings by:Louise Bak, Gary Barwin, David Brock, David Miller, Nathaniel G. Moore, Christine McNair, and Carey Toane.

Louise Bak is the author of Tulpa, Gingko Kitchen and emeighty. She’s gained widespread attention as the co-host of Sex City, Toronto's only radio show focused on intersections between sexuality and culture on ciut 89.5 fm. She is a sexual, cultural columnist with toro. Her performance work has appeared in numerous galleries, festivals and video collaborations, including Broadcast, Partial Selves, and Crimes of the Heart. She also hosts a salon series called The Box, which encourages communication across creative borders. She wrote a feature called The Ache, which is currently in development. She is also working on another collection of poems.

Gary Barwin is responsible for such body part innovations as fur, feathers, claws, differentiated teeth, water-impervious skin, water-impervious eggs, and the penis. Stress fractures in some of Barwin’s vertebrae may have been caused by the weight load of copulation. Barwin once was reconstructed so that his head was placed at the end of his tail instead of its rightful place on his neck. The largest of Barwin’s eggs ever discovered had a liquid capacity of almost 6 litres. He has the longest skull of any land-living poet—it is 9 feet long. Barwin’s vertebrae suggest that he may be 120 feet long. Gary Barwin always walks on his toes (for more see

David Brock is a playwright with a zoology degree. Recent work has appeared in Event, Eye Weekly, Poetry is Dead, and Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine. He is currently writing a Spring/Summer line of fashion poetry for a literary collaboration with Vancouver-writer Sean Horlor, libretti for two new operas, and a collection of Saved by the Bell essays. A chapbook of poetry is forthcoming from The Emergency Response Unit in the fall of 2009.

Christine McNair has been published in The Antigonish Review, Misunderstandings, fireweed, Prairie Fire, ottawater, the Bywords Quarterly Journal and a few other places. She's akin to wives-in-watercolours and badlands field jackets. She works as a book doctor in Ottawa.

Dave Miller has had work published in several places including The Malahat Review and The Fiddlehead. He's gone to a few universities including the University of Guelph where he's finishing his MFA. He's lived here and there and a few places in between, and is currently enjoying Toronto. He previously had very little experience with either porn or dinosaurs.

Nathaniel G. Moore is the author of Pastels Are Pretty Much The Polar Opposite of Chalk and other books like Bowlbrawl. He is an editor at Broken Pencil and a fan of Bam-Bam.

Carey Toane is a Toronto-based journalist, poet and host of the reading series Pivot at the Press Club. In 2009 she was grants coordinator of the Scream Literary Festival. Her poems have been published in CV2, This Magazine and Peter O' Toole, while her chapbook Ministry of the Environment was released in 2008 on Bench Press. Current projects include editing her grandmother's journals and investigating the social histories of domesticated plants and animals. Her favourite apple is the Westfield Seek-No-Further.

Hosted by the editors, Spencer Gordon, Leigh Nash, Andrew Faulkner, and Arnaud Brassard. Hope to see you there! No cover! 7:30 PM!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Puritan Returns.

Back by marginal demand! The Puritan returns!

After sixteen months of dormancy, The Puritan is back with a brand-spanking new, twenty-first century online format, now publishing poetry, reviews, interviews, recipes, as well as prose.

Thank you to all our friends and supporters for sticking with us throughout our prolonged hiatus. Even if you haven’t been thinking of us in sixteen months, we’ve certainly been thinking of you.

Our new online issue – #8, Fall 2009 – features work by Angela Hibbs, Nathaniel G. Moore, Andrew Faulkner, Catriona Wright, Mike Spry, Pearl Pirie, Monty Reid, John Goldbach, Eva Moran, Michael Bryson, John Lavery, Sarah Dearing, Michael Blouin, Rebecca Rosenblum, and never-before-seen interviews with Sheila Heti and Jan Zwicky.

In typical fashion, we plan to release our next issue at the end of the season it claims to represent. So, we’re opening our pod-bay doors to submissions of fiction, poetry, reviews, recipes, and interviews. Check out our website’s submission guidelines for more information. The address is the same as it ever was –

Also, we’re open to the idea of considering your artwork for upcoming covers. Potential covers should reflect the general visual theme of our current issue’s cover and our wonderful website.

To help us pay down our monstrous debt, we’re opening our archives to you. That’s right – we’re selling our back issues at rock bottom prices. E-mail us for more details at Veteran and senior discounts available.

We won’t bore you any longer. Our new site hopefully says it all. Please visit often, as changes will be frequent and intriguing.

With love,

The Editors
Spencer Gordon
Tyler Willis

Andrew MacDonald

Web Crew
Derek McCrone
Jamie Weir