I’m delighted to share that The New Quarterly included my short story “Condolence” (published in the spring 2023 issue) in its Pride Month Reads online collection last month. Also included in this collection is “Homebodies,” a creative non-fiction essay by my partner, who writes under the name J.P. Letkemann.
In addition, the journal recently published a blog post I wrote as a contribution to its “writing spaces” series.
The Pride Month Reads collection will be freely available on the The New Quarterly’s website until August.
He considered himself agnostic, which in his case meant he had zero interest in religion and figured that the realities of the afterlife should remain a fun surprise. Even so, he listened respectfully to the eulogy, opened his heart to the family tributes, went along with the kneeling and the sitting and the standing and the crossing, and responded to every part of the liturgy automatically in spite of the fact that he hadn’t set foot inside a church in years.
This story, about two friends who carpool to the funeral for the father of their shared ex, has lived in my imagination for quite a number of years, so it’s quite a treat to see it in print, especially in the pages of a prestigious journal that is published here in Kitchener-Waterloo and that I’m so proud to be part of.
This issue will be out in stores soon and can be also be purchased from the journal’s website. For updates about this short story and about the rest of my work, please subscribe to my blog (which simply means you receive future blog posts over email) and follow me on Facebook and on Instagram!
I’m thrilled to announce that La musica di Dale, an Italian edition of In the Key of Dale translated by Silvia Mercurio, is now available from Gallucci. I’m including the delightfully Heartstopperish cover here, and you can read a sample from Gallucci’s Issuu account.
Here’s the back cover copy as it appears in Italian:
Dale Cardigan ha sedici anni ed è un genio della musica. È orfano di padre e da un po’ ha capito di essere gay, ma il problema principale della sua vita non è tanto questo, quanto la timidezza e l’incapacità di stringere vere amicizie. Gli unici momenti in cui non ha paura di farsi vedere dagli altri per com’è veramente sono quando suona o canta, ed è proprio in una di queste occasioni che Rusty si accorge di lui. È l’inizio di un’amicizia o di qualcosa di più? A Dale in realtà non importa. L’unica cosa che conta sono le sensazioni che prova quando è insieme a Rusty, quelle che pensava solo la musica potesse regalargli: leggerezza, appagamento, felicità. E più di ogni altra cosa: libertà.
I was curious about how the Italian translator had summarized the plot of the novel, and thanks to Google Translate, the fact that I don’t understand Italian turned out to be a minimal problem:
Dale Cardigan is sixteen years old and a musical genius. He is an orphan of a father and for some years he has realized that he is gay, but the main problem of his life is not so much his sexual orientation, but his shyness and inability to make true friendships. The only moments in which he isn’t afraid to be seen by others as he really is are when he plays or sings, and it is on one of these occasions that Rusty notices him. Is it the beginning of a friendship or something more? Dale doesn’t really care. The only thing that matters to him are the feelings he feels when he’s with Rusty, the ones he thought only music could give him: lightness, contentment, happiness. And most of all: freedom.
I had a wonderful time last week at the Vancouver Writers Fest, where I participated on a discussion panel with Malinda Lo (moderated by Tanya Boteju), met three groups of Grade 10 students at a North Vancouver high school (the earthquake drill halfway through my visit will make that experience unforgettable!), and got acquainted with fellow writers of all ages.
Thanks so much to Book Warehouse on Granville Island for asking me to sign copies of In the Key of Dale (Arsenal Pulp Press), for taking this photo of me, and for everything it does to support writers, especially those participating at this festival.
Judging by the amount of books I bought and lugged home, all I can say is I’m grateful that the festival tote bag is made of reinforced material!
I’ll also be visiting a tenth-grade composition class at a high school in North Vancouver, which should be a lot of fun.
I’ve been to Vancouver only a few times before, so I’m hoping to spend some time getting acquainted with it. And although it wasn’t so long ago that I was complaining about the heat wave here in southern Ontario, I’m looking forward to some warmer weather than what’s being forecast here!
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, there will be two launches for In the Key of Dale this weekend that are open to the public. An in-person event will be held on Saturday, October 15, at 2:00 p.m. in the fellowship hall at Trillium Church (22 Willow St. in Waterloo, Ontario), and a virtual event will be held on Sunday, October 16, at 2:00 p.m. (EDT) over Zoom. (Meeting ID: 840 7192 8925. Passcode: 117790.) These events are free, open to the public, and suitable to people of all ages.
Both events will consist of me reading short excerpts the book, offering a behind-the-scenes look at my writing process, and answering questions from the audience. Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the Saturday event from Words Worth Books in uptown Waterloo.
“When It’s Over” is about academia, although I hadn’t planned to write about academia when I began writing it. This story started as an exercise for the Story Course offered by the Sarah Selecky Writing School, which I undertook in the fall of 2020 and which I cannot recommend enough to anyone interested in jumpstarting their approach to creative writing. (It certainly did the trick for me!)
One exercise required us to write a scene that included one of two phrases—“What I’ve never understood is…” or “What I’ve always wanted to know is…”—and a later sentence that started with the word “Now” to mark a return to the story’s action. A few weeks later, after receiving great feedback by my fellow group members and by the group facilitator, I had the chance to expand that scene into a full story, uncovering the remaining elements as I wrote. Then, after the course ended, I revised and revised and revised and started sending it out, and eventually I received an acceptance from Plenitude!
I should mention, too, that while the story is about academia, it doesn’t reflect at all my own experience as a Ph.D. student. My doctoral supervisor was and remains an amazingly supportive person, and one I still feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with.
“When It’s Over” is one of several short stories I’ve been working on about queer characters facing the ends of relationships (professional and personal). Two more stories will appear in literary journals in the next few months and more are in progress, so stay tuned!
Today is October 1. Most years this day is significant to me because it’s the day that all the Anne of Green Gables “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers” memes come crawling out of the woodwork. (They seem to peter out the rest of the month, almost as though what Anne really said was “I’m so glad I live in a world where there’s an October 1st.”) This year, though, today is significant for another reason, which is that my debut novel, In the Key of Dale, will be released ten days from now, on October 11 (at least in Canada; the official publication date in the rest of the world is November 1). It also means that a lot has been happening lately behind the scenes!
Second, I can now share the details for some events, including a launch that will occur the weekend following the official Canadian release in two formats: an in-person event on Saturday, October 15, at 2:00 p.m. in the fellowship hall at Trillium Church (22 Willow St. in Waterloo, Ontario) and a virtual event on Sunday, October 16, at 2:00 p.m. (EDT) over Zoom. (Meeting ID: 840 7192 8925. Passcode: 117790.) Both events are open to the public and are suitable to people of all ages. And on Thursday, October 20, I’ll be appearing, alongside Malinda Lo, at the Vancouver Writers Fest on a panel called YA Stars: Coming of Ages, moderated by Tanya Boteju. To say I’m looking forward to being part of a conversation with these well-respected fellow authors is certainly an understatement!
I’ll have more news to share in the coming weeks—behind-the-scenes materials (including deleted scenes and a Spotify playlist if I can ever figure out how to set that up), information about more events and media, as well as other publishing news—so to ensure you stay in the loop, please subscribe to my blog and/or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram. (I’m afraid I’m not on TikTok! I just can’t.)
And even though the book’s official publication date is still ten days away, my local independent bookstore, Words Worth Books (which will have copies of the book for sale at the Saturday launch), is already selling copies it has in stock. So one day this week I stopped by on my way home from work to sign some copies and take some photos!
Another clear milestone for this book involved correcting the page proofs, which involves reading a PDF of the novel the way the text will be laid out on the page in the printed book and marking up final corrections and adjustments. Because I tend to change my mind a lot when it comes to my own writing, my work typically goes through an unusual amount of revising and tinkering before (and sometimes even after) I’m ready to show it to anyone else. That’s both a blessing and a curse, because after a while this focus on small details can get in the way of me being able to see the big picture—or to work on something else. So when my editor emailed me the proofs as an attachment, I approached the task of reading them with some trepidation. What would I do if the temptation to keep revising proved irresistible, knowing that at this stage the only changes that should be made involve correcting typos, other errors, and formatting problems?
I read through the whole novel twice, and I was relieved to discover that for the most part, I was happy with my writing the way it was. I’m taking that as a sign that I’m finally ready to let go of this project, both in the sense of putting down my proverbial red pen and in the sense of releasing it to the world and seeing what happens. And what I’m discovering is that the best part of letting go of one writing project is that it frees your mind to start thinking of new ones—including, possibly, a follow-up to this one at some point in the future. And that’s definitely something to look forward to.