Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Questionless Books Interview: Author and Ontario Arts Council Literature Officer John Degen

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John Degen

In The Questionless Books Interview, I get a whole bunch of books people (from authors to editors to publishers to sales / publicity / production people, booksellers, designers, librarians, readers, etc) to "answer" a series of unspoken "questions". The results highlight a delightful mix of the opportunities and challenges facing our sector: from doom and gloom to sunshine and rainbows, and every irony in between.

John Degen is a poet and novelist whose work has won a number of national awards and short-list nominations. His debut novel, The Uninvited Guest, was short-listed for the First Novel Award in 2006. John is the Literature Officer for the Ontario Arts Council, administering grant programs for the province’s professional writers, publishers and literary presenters. From 2003 to 2008 he was Executive Director of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), overseeing the organization’s growth in budget, membership and profile. Before that he was head of communications for Magazines Canada. From 1993 to 2000 he was the publisher and editor of ink magazine.

John's Links:

The Book Room Podcast
Author Blog
OAC Literature

I am ... the 2011 champion of Ben McNally's NCAA basketball pool.

I am known to ... talk a lot about writing and publishing in small closed rooms.

I do this in order to ... keep the other voices from taking over.

I do this because ... I'm not a major league baseball player and never will be - god, it feels good to come to terms with that, finally.

I do this when I ... breathe.

The way I do this is ... by luring distracted, impressionable writers away from their work with promises of snacks and recognition.

At his/her core, a Writer is ... equal parts brave and foolish; egomaniacal and afraid of crowds.

As opposed to an Author, who is ... slightly better medicated.

A Writer is responsible for ... formatting the manuscript sample properly - really people, how hard is it to double space in a 12 point font?

As opposed to an Author, who is responsible for ... not forgetting a nice thank you card.

At its core, Publishing is about ... knowing you can sell something everyone keeps telling you won't sell.

As opposed to Editing, which is about ... tricking writers into being better.

A publisher should always ... tell each writer s/he's your favorite.

As opposed to an editor, who should always ... laugh mysteriously.

A Manuscript that’s ready to be read by others is ... properly formatted, dammit! See Question #9

As opposed to a Book that’s ready to be read by others, which is ... perfectly perfect in every way.

A manuscript should always ... start with a suggestion of violence. Readers love that stuff, even when they say they don't.

As opposed to a Book, which should always ... foster world peace.

At its core, Bookselling is ... harder on the back than you originally thought it would be.

As opposed to Book Marketing, which is ... one endless party.

The smallest unit of narrative is .... my last royalty statement - can I get an amen, people?

The biggest reason to anticipate the future is ... the Blue Jays have a real shot this year.

The biggest reason to be scared of the future is ... the sun exploding.

In the future we will all ... admit that I was right about this whole Free Culture con-game.

At his/her core, a Reader is ... dangerous and unpredictable, like a puma.

However, the ideal Reader is ... a puma.

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.

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George Murray

George Murray’s six books of poetry include The Rush to Here and The Hunter. His most recent books, Whiteout and Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms, are published by ECW Press. He is the editor of the popular literary website

Go to George Murray’s Author Page