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Mad Richard Audiobook Out Today

Here it is Valentine’s Day, and we’re celebrating with the release of an audiobook of my novel, Mad Richard. Read by Pascal Langdale, the book is available starting today on all major audiobook sites, including Audible, audiobooks.com, Recorded Books, Libro.fm and probably others I don’t know about. Check your favourites and see if it’s there. It should also be available soon through Hoopla for library users. Last year, I had the pleasure of working with…

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What’s Your Story?

This week’s news: a commission to write a short story set in east-end Toronto. Imagine being asked to write a short story instead of flinging one out into the void. Delightful. The story was commissioned by What’s Your Story?, an initiative run by the Ontario Book Publisher’s Organization. Once a year for three years now, the OBPO has brought out stories and poems from four writers in each of four Toronto neighbourhoods: the east end,…

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Paralipo-what?

I learned a new word the other day: paralipomena. It means things left out, usually from a piece of writing, which are used in something later on. Recycled outtakes, more or less. Playwright Alan Bennett introduced me to the word in one of the essays collected in Writing Home, a miscellaneous book that includes The Lady in the Van, his memoir about the woman who lived in a series of vans parked in his London…

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Out-Takes from a Novel

Researching a novel means reading and travelling, amassing material and then cutting, cutting, cutting for focus and flow. This leaves outtakes, like the cloth left over after you’ve cut out the pieces of a garment. Not that I’ve done any sewing for years. One piece of cloth left over after writing Mad Richard is the story of William Price of Llantrisant, a Victorian proto-hippie I first saw pictured in the Wellcome Trust collection in London…

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Writing for the Public, Writing for the Self

“Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once, and they require separate techniques.” I’m still on about the long-gone British critic Cyril Connolly, having started to read him when I remembered his famous quote about the pram in the hall being the enemy of art. The one about journalism and literature is far smarter, and tied to another of his famous aphorisms: “Better to…

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Aphorisms and Where to Find Them

Speaking of Cyril Connolly. Even though he isn’t much read anymore, we still remember more than his “pram in the hall” aphorism. But are any of them true? “Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first call promising.” I was recently in the supermarket when a kid of maybe eight or nine asked her father why she couldn’t have a bag of delicious non-food — BBQ chips, I think — and it was a genuine…

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The Pram in the Hall

There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall. – Cyril Connolly My son Gabe and his wonderful partner Anna got married this summer. It was a joyous wedding, a moving ceremony they wrote themselves performed by a good-humoured officiant. Afterwards came a reception hosted by Anna’s brother. Good choice, to marry the sister of a professional comedian. Then to dance away the night. A few months later, here…

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Check it Out: Audio Book Program for Indie Writers

Once upon a time, audio books were recorded (somewhat mysteriously to a writer) by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. There was always a clause in your publishing contract giving the CNIB the right to record. After you signed off, that was the last you heard of it, except if someone randomly remarked, Hey, my cousin’s been listening to your novel. She’s blind? Disclosure: although I was happy to grant them the rights, like…

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How to Record an Audio Book

So there I was in the studio, listening to actor Pascal Langdale tape the narration of my novel Mad Richard for an audio book. Born in England, educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Pascal has a jaw-dropping range of accents and tones ready to deploy. Here was the soft voice of Charlotte Brontë, the hesitancy of artist Richard Dadd—the Mad Richard of the title—already locked up in Bedlam. Ahead was the…

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Hockey Stalking

I’m a big advocate of writers carrying notebooks. You can jot down thoughts, overheard conversations—I’m a terrible eavesdropper—sights you want to call up later. Recently, a father was trying to coax his daughter out of a car parked on our street. “If you could move at any speed beyond painfully slow, that would be very helpful, honey.” That’s just a funny to share on social media, but there are also the sorts of incidents I…

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