Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Nathan Whitlock

Share |
Nathan Whitlock was the winner of the inaugural Emerging Artist in Creative Writing Award and the Short Prose for Developing Writers Award, as well as runner-up for the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award. He is the Books for Young People editor of Quill & Quire magazine. His writing and reviews have appeared in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Maisonneuve, Toro, Geist, Saturday Night and elsewhere. He grew up in the Ottawa Valley and currently lives in Toronto. Nathan blogs at His website is

Ten Questions with Nathan Whitlock


What was your first publication and where was it published?


Fairly sure the first thing I ever had published was a movie review of Oliver Stone’s J.F.K. in the Ottawa Citizen when I was around 18. The review was in the form of a final address to the jury, which is one of the more lazy review conceits around. Pretty sure I still stand by the ultimate judgement, though, which is that the movie was essentially The Untouchables with trickier editing and a lot of wasted cameos from good actors. Which just goes to show that I was up on my high horse making sweeping review judgments from a tender age.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Open and Close

And so ends my reign as Open Book's Writer in Residence.

Many thanks to Amy Logan Holmes and Clelia Scala and the whole OB:T empire for allowing me to hang around here for the month.

Small press success

I’m a small press author – and a grateful one at that – but I’ve never been a small press fundamentalist. Though I think it goes without saying that small presses are more willing to publish daring and unconventional work, an interesting side effect of their relative success in Canada is the extent to which a lot of the stuff that comes out with a small press could just have easily been published by a large, mainstream multinational. There’s a lot of aesthetic overlap, and occasionally some small presses are guilty of putting out work just as dull and conventional as the latest Giller-scented doorstop novel.

Alice Munro's gone and back again

Alice Munro is to retirement what David Bowie is to, well, retirement. Munro hinted and teased and suggested that her previous collection, The View From Castle Rock, was her final bow.

And yet, a new collection is apparently coming in 2009, and a new story appears in the latest issue of The New Yorker. Munro’s “Going I Must Be, Hello”* routine got noticed by Papercuts, The New York Times’ book blog.

By sheer coincidence, I just read Munro’s interview in the The Paris Review Interviews, II, in which she – way back in 1994 – talked about the possibility of giving it all up:

Why I hate books

To truly love something, you must be able to truly hate it, as well. And that counts for books, too, which are all too often offered a kind of blanket amnesty in the form of "appreciation."

On that note, Rod Liddle goes off on a tear about his most-hated books in the Times Online.

Talk show host says boys' books are "emasculating"

Glenn Beck, a babyfaced right-wing pundit with his own show on CNN, is one of the dimmer bulbs in the neoconservative cheerleading squad.

Recently, before an interview with YA author Ted Ball, Beck had this to say about the state of boys' fiction:

“I have three daughters and a son, and I have to tell you, it’s easy to find books for girls, it’s very hard to find books [for boys]... you know, they used to be, they used to be manuals for growing up and being a good, strong, honest man, right? Today, try to find one that’s aimed at young, male readers – they are emasculating.”

(Watch the segment here.)

Too much swearing? WTF?

I mentioned in my post about literary envy that I have been doing my best to be zen-like in my reaction to reviews of my novel, to see positive and negative reviews as merely two different expression of the same idea – namely, that my book was worth reviewing in the first place.

Granted, I've done some grumbling up my sleeve – and up the sleeves of others – but I think I've done a decent job of accentuating the positive. (Booze and a boundless ego help.)

One thing that does have my puzzled, however, and which has been a near-constant feature of both the positive and negative reviews, is repeated references to the amount of swearing done by the characters in the book.

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Time, more than anything else, is a writer's most needed resource. You simply can't write anything without a long stretch of time to do it in. Though they sometimes get mistaken for income supplements or even bonuses for simply being the kind of person who gets off on putting words on paper, the real purpose of writing grants are to help writers freeze time for a while.

Which is why jobs are often seen as anathema to the writing life. (Well, that's one of the reasons, anyway...) And it's true that, for a lot of imaginative writing, a demanding day job can act as a frustrating road block to creation.

There are writers, however, who are reluctant to sever that link with the non-literary world. Including, apparently, Egypt's bestselling author...

Andrew Pyper and literary envy

I’m right in the middle of reading Andrew Pyper’s newest novel, The Killing Circle, about a shadowy serial killer stalking a wannabe writer. (I will be interviewing Pyper onstage at the Toronto launch of the book in August, as part of This is Not A Reading Series)

One of the themes running through the book is that of literary envy, and I have to admit, I had my own pang of painful self-recognition when I read this bit, in which the narrator confesses why he had to stop reading The New York Times Book Review:

Rawi Hage and the IMPAC, plus some Giller things

As you've probably heard, Montrealer Rawi Hage won the Dublin IMPAC for his first novel, De Niro's Game (House of Anansi Press).

It's an astonishing and deserved win. Congratulations, Rawi.

Read a profile of Hage from the new issue of Quill & Quire (shameless day-job plug) here.

For more Hage-related reading, feel free to go waaayy back to 2006 for a discussion of the Giller Prize that year. (Hage was nominated, but lost out to Vincent Lam.)

And if that whets your appetite for lengthy Giller diatribes, then read this essay by Alex Good.

Interview with Zachariah Wells on Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets

Tonight (Wednesday, June 11), The IV Lounge Reading Series will be hosting the launch of Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets (Biblioasis Press). The anthology includes poems by Milton Acorn, Margaret Avison, Ken Babstock, George Elliott Clarke, Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, Malcolm Lowry, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Don McKay, Eric Ormsby, Pino Collucio, Bookninja's George Murray, Stuart Ross, Goran Simić, Karen Solie, and dozens of others.

The launch will be held at the IV Lounge at 326 Dundas St W, across from the AGO. It starts at around 8pm.

I interviewed poet and anthology editor Zachariah Wells by e-mail as he was running around getting ready to fly from his home in Vanvouver to Toronto...

soccer and books, books and soccer

The area of town I live in – Lansdowne and Bloor – is heavily Portuguese, so Portugal's win over Turkey at the Euro Cup on Saturday did not go unnoticed. Every nearby sports bar was spilling over with fans in red, gold, and green, and when the game was over, those same fans quickly hopped into their flag-draped cars and spent the next few hours riding around honking their horns. Even as late as one in the morning you could hear the odd lonely superfan honking at darkened houses and empty parking lots.

YouTube: an author's fairweather friend

From the Wall Street Journal:

"In a book industry flooded with titles and facing sluggish sales, a growing number of authors are going to dramatic lengths to attract attention. The latest tactic: producing and starring in zany videos aimed at the YouTube audience.

Publishing houses strongly encourage the practice, though some authors find the videos undignified. Thriller writer Vince Flynn says he felt 'like a dork" when he recently recorded a book trailer in Central Park. 'I know a lot of old-school writers resent it,' says Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. 'But it might help sell books.'"

It's a long story

Years ago I used to send off pretty much everything I wrote to various literary magazines and quarterlies, but at some point I gave up. Writing fiction (and, to a greater extent I suppose, poetry) is a process of delayed (or permanently deferred) gratification, as it is. In most cases, the real joy – which comes mixed in with a lot of anguish, teeth-gnashing, doubt, envy, frustration, fear, resentment, hopelessness, and lethargy – is in the process of writing itself. The joy of having something published and, better yet, read, is an important one, but has to be waited on. By the time it comes, you are usually (hopefully) working on something else, so it feels less direct. It’s a pat on the back, sometimes literally.

Nattering Naipauls of Negativity

From The Independent:

"The novelist V S Naipaul has damned the achievements of his literary contemporaries by declaring that there are 'no more great writers.'

Naipaul, 75, who won the Booker in 1971 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, is said to have called this year's Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival 'unimportant and meaningless'."

Naipaul went on to say that Iron Man is totally overrated, Daniel Day-Lewis can’t act, and there hasn’t been anything remotely funny on YouTube since 2006...

What We Blog About When We Blog About Books

I recently got sent an advance copy of an upcoming book called Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About. The title pretty much says it all – marketing is easier when what you are marketing is something people want to talk about. “The consumer does the marketing for you!” explains the press release that comes with the book. What could be simpler than getting someone else to do the work?

Things get a little more creepy and cultish inside the book, where various “engines” are identified that build conversation capital – things like Rituals, Myths, Relevant Sensorial Oddity, Icons, and Tribalism. It’s as if you hired Joseph Campbell to head up your marketing team.

Checking in and warming up

Hello all.

I’ll be hanging around here for the next few weeks, like an older sibling you quickly regret inviting to the party (think Frank Jr. in Saturday Night Fever), offering up ham-fisted jokes, conventional wisdom, useless advice, pointless complaints, warmed-over clichés, and generous helpings of self-promotion.

Blogging, in other words.

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.