The Amateurs by Liz Harmer

World rights to Liz Harmer’s debut novel THE AMATEURS, a post-apocalyptic examination of nostalgia, loss and the possibility of starting over in a future where one-way time-travel ports have become as common as TVs, resulting in the disappearance of the majority of the world’s population—reminiscent of Margaret Atwood and Karen Thompson Walker, to Amanda Lewis of Knopf Canada in a two-book deal, arranged without an agent.

I am very happy to (finally!) announce this deal. I’ve been working with Liz on her first novel for about a year, and it’s mind-blowingly good, one of the best novels I have read in recent years. After I spoke about it at spring 2017 launch two weeks ago, sales reps came up to me demanding to see a manuscript. It will be one of our New Face of Fiction titles for 2017.


Startle and Illuminate

I love writing guides. Even if I don’t accept all the advice, I love how they offer us insights into the creative process, techniques for approaching an idea or text, and biographical details. Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird are two of my favourites. I think I was set on this path when my medieval studies professor in undergrad recommended a book on writing creative non-fiction, “to help us with our essays.” Continue reading “Startle and Illuminate”

“A scene with Jewish pirates”

Whew! I cannot believe April is almost over. I’ve been working away on books for fall 2016, spring 2017, and spring 2018 (today I wrote the year 2026, and paused to reflect on its utter impossibility). I’ve also been preparing a large veggie plot and herb patch in the backyard…there’s nothing quite like weeding and tending to the soil for clearing the mind. On a related note, seasonal allergies are rearing their scratchy, snotty head, and I learned that sniffing peppermint oil can help relieve the symptoms…naturally, I lost my little bottle of essential oil while biking to the Danforth for a piratical book launch. Continue reading ““A scene with Jewish pirates””

Peaceful crossing, Ellen

Today Ellen Seligman, storied editor and publisher of McClelland & Stewart, passed away. Ellen worked with some of the most celebrated writers in Canadian literature, including Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, Anne Michaels, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, and Jane Urquhart.

Ellen was truly one of the greats. I never had the experience of working directly with her (we were in different divisions and imprints), and for years was intimidated by her formidable presence. But when I finally worked up the nerve to make eye contact, I found she was smiling at me. From that point, Ellen usually had a smile or a kind word for me. I also appreciated those moments when we could commiserate over bureaucracy or a broken printer. When I was promoted to editor at Penguin Random House Canada, she sent me a lovely note of congratulations, which was an unexpected mark of encouragement that I treasure. I admired her poise and the way she commanded a room, whether making an editorial presentation at launch or asking a question that perhaps others in the crowded boardroom were thinking but were hesitant to raise. And she had impeccable style.

Thank you, Ellen, for encouraging us to fully inhabit books, as writers, readers, and editors.

I think that as an editor—to be a really good editor—you first of all have to be a really good listener. I don’t mean to the person. I mean to what you’re reading. You have to listen to what you’re reading…. You have to listen to what the book is telling you, and not impose your own ideas on it. And I think what makes a good relationship is that you’re able to have that dialogue with the author. That you’re able to say something about the manuscript that actually strikes a chord with them and [shows] that you’re both speaking the same language. In the world, it doesn’t always happen. But I think it can happen, if you listen carefully enough, and if you’re a penetrating enough reader.


Publisher Ellen Seligman
Ellen Seligman. Source: Open Book Toronto.

Up Ghost River wins the Speaker’s Book Award

Monday evening was devoted to Up Ghost River, Edmund Metatawabin’s memoir of surviving St. Anne’s Residential School, coping with alcoholism and PTSD, and becoming Chief of Fort Albany First Nation.

Up Ghost River won the Ontario Legislative Assembly Speaker’s Book Award. The ceremony was held at Queen’s Park, the Ontario Legislature. Edmund and his wife, Joan, were able to attend the ceremony—no small feat, as they came about 1200 km. They travelled for two days from Fort Albany to Toronto, driving on an ice road to Timmins and flying the rest of the way. Continue reading “Up Ghost River wins the Speaker’s Book Award”