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.