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!
The discussion panel I participated can now be viewed on YouTube.
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.
This week has been really exciting—and distracting—because In the Key of Dale has started to appear online in advance of its release next fall from Arsenal Pulp Press. So this seems like the perfect time to reveal the cover and the synopsis!
Part comedy, part grief narrative, In the Key of Dale is a disarming coming-of-age novel about a queer teen music prodigy who discovers pieces of himself in places he never thought to look.
Sixteen-year-old Dale Cardigan is a loner who’s managed to make himself completely invisible at his all-boys high school. He doesn’t fit with his classmates (whom he mentally renames), his stepbrother (whom nobody at school knows he’s related to), or even his mother (who never quite sees how gifted a musician Dale he might be), but they don’t fit with him, either. And he’s fine with that. To him, high school and home life are stages to endure until his real life can finally begin.
Somewhat against his will, he befriends his classmate Rusty, who gets a rare look at Dale’s complex life outside school—but their friendship is made awkward when it seems his growing attraction to Rusty is doomed to remain one-sided. Still, it’s to Rusty that Dale turns when he stumbles upon a family secret.
An epistolary novel written in the form of letters to his late father, In the Key of Dale is a beguiling, pitch-perfect book about growing up, fitting in, and finding a way out of grief and loneliness toward the melodic light of adulthood.
So looking forward to introducing Dale and Rusty to the world next fall! The book is already available to pre-order from several online bookstores (including your local independent bookstore) and is listed on Goodreads, and if you’d like to receive more information about this book in the months ahead, please subscribe to this blog to receive blog posts by email.
I’m thrilled to announce that my first novel—entitled In the Key of Dale and telling the story of a queer sixteen-year-old music prodigy who starts writing letters to his late father—will be published by Arsenal Pulp Press in fall 2022! The deal was arranged by my agent, Chris Casuccio of Westwood Creative Artists, with whom I signed as a client this past February. News of this deal appeared on the Publishers Marketplace website yesterday.
This book has been in the works for a number of years now, and I wrote it as part of a long writing apprenticeship. As I write this blog post today, I can’t help but feel grateful to all the friends, family members, colleagues, writers in residence, editors, and instructors who encouraged me and who gave me supportive and challenging feedback on my writing. I think of the many authors of queer teen novels in Canada and elsewhere who preceded me with their amazing work. And I also recall the boy I was long ago, who started writing fiction as a way to make sense of everything around him and who wasn’t able to find much affirmation in the fiction he had access to.
I’m so looking forward to begin collaborating with my new colleagues at Arsenal Pulp Press, whose list is one I’ve admired for a long time because of their commitment to publishing innovative work by authors in under-represented communities, including LGBTQ2SIA+ authors and BIPOC authors. I feel incredibly proud and humbled that my novel will be part of their list.
In the months ahead, I plan to blog more regularly about my book as it moves through the production process, so please subscribe to my blog if you’d like to receive updates in your inbox. I intend to start being more active on social media as a fiction writer rather than simply as a Montgomery specialist, but for now, you can follow me on Twitter.
I’m thrilled to announce the forthcoming publication of my next book, Becoming L.M. Montgomery, by University of Toronto Press in September 2018! This book has been several years in the making and has involved extensive research in archives and rare periodicals, including three trips to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. It is the first of several volumes to gather Montgomery’s extensive periodical publications and make them available to twenty-first-century readers. So looking forward to sharing this new material with L.M. Montgomery’s readers!
Years before she published her internationally celebrated first novel, Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery started contributing short works to periodicals across North America. While these works consisted primarily of poems and short stories, she also experimented with a wider range of forms, particularly during the early years of her career, at which point she experimented with several authorial identities before settling on the professional moniker “L.M. Montgomery.”
In Becoming L.M. Montgomery, leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre collects the majority of these so-called “miscellaneous” pieces and discusses them in relation to the English-speaking women writers who preceded her and the strategies they used to succeed, including the decision to publish under a gender-neutral signature. Among the highlights of the volume are Montgomery’s contributions to student periodicals, a weekly newspaper column entitled “Around the Table,” a long-lost story narrated first by a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage and then by the man she wishes she had married instead, as well as a new edition of her 1917 celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path.” Drawing fascinating links to Montgomery’s life writing, career, and fiction, this volume will offer scholars and readers alike an intriguing new look at the work of Canada’s most enduringly popular author.