Journey Prize Longlist!

I am pleased (shocked might be a better choice of words) to announce that a short story of mine, originally published by Taddle Creek magazine, has been longlisted for the Writers' Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize!

All the longlisted titles will be published in the prestigious Journey Prize Stories anthology, due to hit shelves September 26th. Huge thanks to Taddle Creek for submitting my work, and to the judges for picking me. And congratulations and good luck to all the nominated writers!

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Reading at Inspire!

Saturday November 15th, I'll be reading from Keep it Beautiful at the inaugural Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair. 4:00 on The Hub stage. Come check it out!

I'll also be generally hanging out at the Tightrope Books booth, chatting about cool books and signing some as well. We'll be at Booth #307.

Who Do You Love?: Nadia Bozak

I've been meaning to write this post for, apparently more than four months now. When I finally sat down to write about an article that I thought I'd read a few weeks ago, it turned out that said article was actually from the June 2014 issue of Quill and Quire. Once I considered and rejected the possibility that I had contracted some sort of neurological virus that caused me to lose months of  memory at a time, I concluded that I am simply rather lazy and need to post more often. 

So, many months ago, supposedly, I came across this fantastic column by the incredibly talented Nadia Bozak.

I do not know Bozak personally, but I have been somewhat obsessed with her debut novel, Orphan Love, since it was first published in 2007. This is one of a handful of books that I would consider trajectory changing for me, in terms of my writing life. It feels simultaneously experimental and digestible. The story revolves around the romantic relationship, and attendant social struggles, of a pair of misfits, and yet is able to employ elements of mystery and thriller as well. It's a kick-ass book. Rough, and fun, and interesting. Reading it, I kept thinking, "This feeling, this one that I'm getting right now, I wish I got this feeling from every book." It was a feeling of being emotionally engaged in the characters and their relationship, tempered by a healthy does of surprise, and perhaps shock. I understood the story and the people in it, but I was constantly reminded that I didn't know them, that they were unknowable, at least until I had reached the last page.

 It is the same feeling I got reading Whispers the Missing Child by D.O. Dodd, The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, and, perhaps unexpectedly, A Complicated Kindness and Summer of My Amazing Luck by Miriam Toews.   

What I did not get from Orphan Love, taken completely on its own and judging it on the prose alone, is how much of a "McCarthy-head" Bozak is. That fact becomes much more clear in her sophomore novel, El Nino, but I am still devouring that one, so perhaps more on that topic at a later date. 

Bozak's love of the McCarthy canon is something that hits very close to home for me as well. The simultaneous affection for and feeling of alienation from his work is incredibly familiar. To see Orphan Love as an intuitive response to Blood Meridian opens up a million mental doors for me in forming a deeper understanding of the novel.

I think many writers struggle with an inability to write intuitively, to simply immerse ourselves in a story and tell it in the best way we can, with feeling and relatability as the cornerstones, rather than "big ideas" or "point to prove." I would say this is particularly challenging in the early stages of a piece, before the story has fully formed in our minds, before we ourselves really know the characters. 

Read Orphan Love, if you have not already. It's available in e-book format on Kobo and Kindle


The Evolution of Process

Happy almost-holidays!

Last week I did a guest-speaking gig in a creative writing class at the University of Toronto, the topic of which was the writing process.


A couple of weeks ago, 49th Shelf asked the country's top reviewers (from The Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire, The National Post, and CBC Books) to pick their "Surprise Books of the Year." Shockingly, amazingly, unbelievably, miraculously, one of them picked Keep it Beautiful. The lovely Steven Beattie, editor of Quill and Quire and National Post columnist had this to say about the book:

"Ward’s story 'The Night Shift' won the Lush Triumphant Award for Fiction; her debut collection is a suite of stories about outsiders and loners trying to negotiate ambivalent relationships with an antagonistic world. The author’s deft facility with character and her willingness to trust her readers by infusing her stories with just the right degree of contingency mark her as an author to watch."

September Stuff!

September 22nd catch me signing at the Tightrope Books booth at Word on the Street Toronto! Deals on books usually abound at WOTS, so bring your wallets.

September 28th from 3-5 I'll be trekking to Barrie to read with a bunch of fantastic Tightrope talent at the Carnegie Days festival. Details on the event are here!

Removing the tenterhooks for now

Keep it Beautiful's first real review has arrived in the form of a better-than-I-could-have-imagined write up in Steven Beattie's National Post Shortcuts column. I admit that this was the part of the publishing process that I was most nervous about (well, after the idea of my mom reading the book). But to have a positive review in a national newspaper---written by a respected critic to boot---be my first review ever? That is something I never really thought was a possibility.