Monday, 1 July 2013

Up-and-Comers...a whole year later!

Happy Canada Day, folks! Many hugs and joy to all of you -- whether you happen to find yourself in this merry land on occasion of our 146th year as a country, or not.

As some of you fellow bookish people will know by now, CBC Books released its annual list of Writers To Watch a few days ago. As usual it's a great list, filled with writers who are funny, wise, and true. There's a poet on that list, and the latest winner of the Leacock Medal, as well as the author of a really great, really original collection that came out late last year. It's even a list that contains Bare It For Books' Ms. July and Ms. November, in the flesh! (Heh. No pun intended. At all.)

And, you know, not to cement my status as a visionary or anything, but the lovely Ayelet Tsabari is on there too. And whose up-and-comer list was she on last year, a whole (almost) 365 days ago?

That's right. Mine. This blog. Right here. A whole year ago, folks.

NBD, or anything.

Anyway. In light of another excellent list, I thought it only fair to revisit a few of the writers from my lists of a year or so ago, and see what some of the Waiting For An Echo up-and-comers have been up to in the intervening twelve months. How, I wonder, have they been occupying themselves?

1) Braydon Beaulieu
On the heels of his illustrious spot on Waiting For an Echo, Braydon won the 2012 LitPop contest, sponsored by Matrix Magazine. (Again. The writer of this blog is a visionary. Now if only I could envision lottery numbers, or some other, equally lucrative future.) His most recent story was published in Five Quarterly, and he's now pursuing a PhD in English Lit at the U of Calgary. He also works as the Nonfiction Editor over at filling Station, which is an all-round fantastic publication.

2) Kris Bertin
Canada's literary Dutch Uncle (his moniker of choice, not mine. I keep wanting to say Drunk Uncle, but that's probably just because he works in a bar. Unfair characterization on my part. Whoops) continues to sweep up All The Prizes and make the rest of us (AKA me) ragingly jealous. Whatever. In the past twelve months, Canada's favourite literary bad boy has: seen his work included in the Journey Prize anthology; been solicited for sex publication by the fine folks at The Walrus; published seven new stories*; and gotten well on his way to finishing a novel, his short story collection, and a graphic novel as well.

Oh, and apparently he also won the Jack Hodgins' Founders Award for Fiction. Again. Because you know, once isn't enough.

Agents! He's still looking for representation. Please inquire within. I'm sure he'd love to speak with you. Especially if you have a forked tail and enjoy hawking pitchforks and brimstone in addition to bartering book deals. His soul's still up for grabs, from what I can tell. Act fast.

*Bastard. That is all.

3) Marjorie Celona
Marjorie's novel, Y, came out to great fanfare in Canada last year. It was longlisted for the Giller Prize, shortlisted for the First Novel Award, spent weeks on the Canadian bestseller lists, and was published in both the US and the UK early in 2013. International rights to the book have been scooped up by publishers in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and the Czech Republic. (The fanfare continues! Yay Marjorie!) Word has it, via the little birds in my spy/friend network, that she's already hard at work on a new novel. Can't wait to see what this next one's all about!

4) Trevor Corkum

Canada's most fearless writer is now back on home turf after a few months of the nomadic lifestyle in Berlin and other such romantic places. He now has his own blog up and running, Currently Living, where he's hosting a series of informative, in-depth interviews with a number of Canadian writers, editors, and other folks involved in the country's book industry. He's also in the process of curating a great section called "Story Mechanics", wherein he deconstructs a chosen short story and points out the techniques used by a particular author in question.

Trevor is also, as most people who are lucky enough to know him can also attest, pretty much the greatest CanLit cheerleader out there. He's insightful, gracious, and unfailing in his support and encouragement of his fellow writing peeps. I feel blessed and proud to know him, and should your paths also ever cross, you'll no doubt count yourself lucky as well.

5) Erin Frances Fisher
In the intervening twelve months, Erin's stories have appeared in The Malahat Review, Riddle Fence, Little Fiction, and PRISM International "Last Concert -- Luzon, Philippines", her PRISM International story, won First Runner Up in their 2013 Short Fiction Contest and will be published in their upcoming issue. She's also hard at work on a novel, which will no doubt get scooped up with much fanfare (see Example Author #3, above) when it ventures out into the world. I, for one, can't wait to see what kind of book Erin brings to the world. Two thumbs up, indeed.

6) Will Johnson
Everyone's favourite literary fanboy packed up his life in Halifax and moved back to the West Coast with his lady love, Ms. Darby Jack, earlier this year so as to start a zoo.

No seriously.

As of right now, the Jack/Johnson--SEE WHAT I DID THERE? SEE?--Menagerie includes the following: a budgie named Hemingway; a budgie named Miriam Toews, and a lionhead rabbit named Christopher.

(A moment of silence, please, for Mordecai, formerly of The Menagerie, Dear Budgie Who Went Before.)

In addition to his new duties as zookeeper, Will is also hard at work on a short fiction collection and a novel. In the past year he's published stories in Little Fiction, This Magazine, and Prairie Fire, and he's got another publication forthcoming with Little Fiction. Still more stories, I expect, will crop up in the literary sphere soon enough.

7) Cody Klippenstein

After her stint on Waiting For An Echo (yes, I'm once more putting this blog on the same vernacular standing as a TV show, so sue me), Ms. Cody "I-Am-Twelve-Years-Old" Klippenstein went ahead and won the 2012 Zoetrope Fiction Contest. Yes, that Zoetrope. The contest was judged by Karen Russell, which means I am now two degrees of separation removed from one of my biggest literary crushes. How exciting.

Cody, meanwhile, continues to gather steam. In the last year, another one of her stories was shortlisted for The Malahat Review's 2013 Open Season Awards, while still other stories have been published in Joyland and Cloud Rodeo. She'll (sniff) be leaving the fine shores of Canada for the slightly-less-fine--this is a Canada Day post, after all--streets of Ithaca, NY, later this summer to embark on an MFA in Writing. Can't wait to see what comes of that, Cody! Send postcards! *heart*

8) Alex Leslie

One of Vancouver's favourite storytellers and essayists, Alex continues to wow new and old audiences alike with her work. She continues to write and read in that most lovely of seaside cities, and she also hosts numerous workshops and classes that you can read more about over here. She's also a dedicated volunteer with Canadian Women in the Literary Arts -- it's to the hard work of volunteers like Alex that CWILA owes much of its rise and success over the past year. As usual, you can find out more about what Alex has been up to (as well as plans for future workshops!) via her website.

9) Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet's book of short stories, The Best Place On Earth, was published in March of this year by Harpercollins. It immediately garnered excellent and thoughtful reviews both in Canada and elsewhere, with reviewers calling it "compassionate and compelling" and speaking of her characters as "almost flawlessly fashioned". The collection was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor Short Story Award, and as already noted above, has caught the eye of CBC Books! As if that weren't enough, Ayelet has also been riding high in the area of personal journalism this summer, as her piece of creative nonfiction, "Yemeni Soup and Other Stories", grabbed a Silver at this year's National Magazine Awards and a Gold at the Western Magazine Awards. Happy dance!

Imma go out on another limb right now and say that you should all expect to see Ayelet's name and The Best Place On Earth come the fall awards season. Watch this space!

(Well, I mean the awards space. Those other websites. You know the ones I mean.)

10) Deborah Willis

I have such talented, famous friends. I really do. The lovely Deborah Willis spent the past year as the Writer-in-Residence at the U of Calgary's Distinguished Writers Program, and then followed that up with a book tour in Italy. How's that for a memorable year? Debbie is also hard at work on her next collection of short fiction, which will no doubt make the splashiest of splashes when it comes out.

11) Jessica Kluthe

Jessica's book, ROSINA: The Midwife, was released in March of this year by the Victoria-based Brindle & Glass. It came with glowing blurbs from no less than Lorna Crozier, that most wonderful of Canadian poets. And having now read ROSINA myself, I can agree -- it's a beautiful book, and Jessica is definitely one of those writers on the rise in this country. She's also hard at work on a novel, and in addition to all of her writing, teaching, and editing work, is the founder of a super-cool Instagram CanLit project called Snap Scene, where writers photograph scenes from their books and post them online as a way of intriguing readers. Check it out!

12) Eliza Robertson

If you haven't heard Eliza's name by now, it's probably because you've been living in some strange, scary place without access to news or books. Eliza has continued to sweep up her own share of prizes and accolades (here's a thought: let's throw her in the ring with Kris Bertin and see who emerges victorious). This year alone she was shortlisted for the CBC Canada Writes Short Fiction Prize, WON the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and had her story published in Granta. Eliza is now home from her stint at the University of East Anglia and working on a novel (soon to be swooped up by all manner of publishers, etc. etc.) and a short story collection.

13) Mike Spry

Mr. Mike Spry, folks--erstwhile voice at The Barnstormer, poet, short story man, and shy decliner of participation in Bare It For Books (no guilt trip, Mike, or anything) now has a radio show. And if that's not a match made in heaven, I honestly don't know what is. You can catch previous episodes of Kaufman & Spry via the link above. Go to it, fellow humans. I guarantee you'll be impressed.

Of course, in the ensuing year of Twitterdom and reading and writing and the awesomeness of Little Fiction, as well as the madness that is Bare It For Books, I've discovered a whole other host of writers who are making their way in the Canadian (and elsewhere) literary world. Writers like Théodora Armstrong, Kevin Hardcastle, Naben Ruthnum, Rebecca Silver Slayter (also on the CBC Books list!) Suzanne Sutherland, Andrew F. Sullivan, Teri Vlassopoulos, and Liz Windhorst-Harmer.

And there are, still, so many others. Alice Munro's recent speech on the occasion of her Trillium Award win, I think, sums it up best (text of her speech via the website of Emily Schultz):

There are so many good writers in this country. When I began, there were fewer of us, and, well, there was some doubt as to could [there] be such thing as many? We got together, and we proved that that was wrong. There could indeed be Canadian writers, and this room fills that to such perfection. I’m so proud of you all.

It's a great time to be a Canadian writer, I think. Happy Canada Day once again to all of my fellow scribes, and here's a cheers to each and every one of you. Thanks for all of the wonderful reading!

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