Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Welcome to the Non-Literal World

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Welcome to the Non-Literal World

Recently, when I was in the park with my son, he found me a stone (as he often does). He presented it to me. We’re in the finding and naming stuff stage, so I told him, “stone.” He said, “No. Star.” I teared up and blamed allergies (as I often do). His favourite book is How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. We read it easily twenty times a day. He knew that what he’d found was a stone because we often find and name stones, but he was pretending to be the Boy Who Loved Stars.

I just spent a year exploring the physicality of things with my infant son. He touched, studied, licked, smashed, manipulated everything he could find, and except for the terror of grabbing it all out of his mouth before he could swallow it, I had fun. Everything became new again as I was looking at it with a baby. And everything became slightly ridiculous when I tried to explain it. (Try explaining a fork to a three month old. I dare you.) But now he’s not an infant anymore.

Now my son is a year and a half, and everything is changing. He’s nailed the looking and tasting phase, and he’s playing with possibilities. A building block is just as likely to be a phone as a hammer. I want in. Sometimes, it’s clear what’s happening (Mama, please try this soup that I made from my veggie toys and a ball and smashing). Sometimes, it’s less clear what he has in mind. Even though he has more and more words every day, he doesn’t have enough language yet to explain everything what’s going on in his play, and it’s sad, because I strongly suspect that once he does have the language, he won’t particularly want to explain it to me. I hope he will though. I like to play.

Writing is like this kind of play, isn’t it? It’s creating a world, making a space for other people, and inviting them in. When I write, I don’t know that I’m as conscientious as my son is about asking others inside. It’s something that I’m going to work on. Because I love it.

I don’t know what this mechanism is, but it’s almost the opposite of empathy. It’s invitation, making space, imagining what others could add to our imaginings. It’s a deciding of relationships (this stick equals a spoon now, words equal world), and a sharing of ideas and images, and it’s wonderful, and this, maybe, is why I seek publication, and I don’t just write for myself and by myself.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Alexis von Konigslow

Alexis von Konigslow has degrees in mathematics from Queen's and creative writing from Guelph. Her debut novel, The Capacity for Infinite Happiness, was recently called Arcadia for the connected age. She lives in Toronto.

You can contact Alexis throughout the month of September at

Go to Alexis von Konigslow’s Author Page