Eva Stachniak provides a much-needed writer recharge

Alright already, I know it’s been awhile…

In fact, I’m acutely aware of it. With the monumental elephant-in-the-room distraction of school, it’s been a slim couple of months in terms of my personal writing and author mental health.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

When I don’t carve out a space for myself to be detached and just write, I get a sensation of bugs crawling beneath my skin, as if the cold,  sharp edges of little serif crawlers were poking me and prompting me to knock off whatever I think I’m doing that’s so important and just write dammit!

With this in mind, yesterday I made my way to CBC studios in downtown Vancouver to participate in CBC Radio One’s Book Club , featuring author Eva Stachniak . From the get-go, Stachniak’s talk promised to be a good’er. She opened with a reading from her new novel The Winter Palace , which was rich in the texture of the Russian Court and the towering historical figure of Catherine the Great. The narrator of the story is a servant, who will later become a wily spy. Hearing Stachniak discuss the character of Catherine was inspiring to say the least. Catherine is an outsider in every sense of the word: culture, language, and class, haunting themes to probe.

Stachniak had a tendency to talk in lovely and captivating ways about the craft of writing, so much so that I had to stop halfway through the talk to work out the cramp in my hand from scribbling down the nuggets of advice. Here are a couple of my favourites, which I have continued to dwell on today and hope to apply to my own writing:

  • In response to a question re: how does she distinguish between fact and fiction in a work of historical fiction?

“How do we know history? It’s a collection of stories. What we hold as truth/facts are in themselves just stories.” Stachniak jokingly referred to her line of historical fiction as “archival fantasy.”

  • Stachniak described the white nights of St. Petersburg, in which the sun remains visible for twenty-four hours due to latitudinal position of the region. She referred to the emotional and physical ramifications of a person in such a circumstance, and the impact of temporal space on the sensations.

I was fascinated by this—often there is a tendency to describe the weather (“It was sunny,” “It was rainy”) in straightforward no-nonsense tones. But how does the weather affect the psyche? How does space, and one’s relation to that physical space, impact a person’s actions? They are questions that we are so immune to as a result of simply getting up and breathing everyday that taking a concentrated look reveals some truly interesting things.

Writing muscles recharged, I’m off to put them to good use!

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak (CA)

Published: Jan 03, 2012 by Doubleday Canada
ISBN: 9780385666565
Price: $24.95

Posted under Events , Publishing Bits and Pieces , Waxing Poetic on Writing

Sugar Hangover: A Diabetic Post-Halloween [COMIC]

Now that I’ve emerged from Halloween alive and healthy, I feel this holiday deserves some reflection on strategy (hey, every year it’s kind of a toss up as to the survival of sugar binge. I’m pretty sure the Keebler elves are out to get me). Like clockwork, every Halloween since I was six years old has been met with an onslaught of pity from the regular sugary folk out there.

“Poor dear, you can’t enjoy Halloween like a normal kid.” (Aka: you can’t gorge yourself silly on sugar mini choco bars of heaven and wake up the next morning in a pile of empty wrappers and your own drool while stray raccoons poke you).

My initial urge was always to jump up and down and shriek like a demented leprechaun: I am too a normal kid! I eat candy for Halloween! My dad will beat you up if you don’t give me candy! [NOTE: while my dad was never one for candy-related fisticuffs, I feel confident that he would have totally thrown a few punches for a mini-O'Henry.]

This policy shifted subtly as I grew older. It became apparent that when a trick-or-treat stash dwindled overnight, or (let’s be honest) flat-out disappeared into ooey-gooey yumness in my belly, the last person accused was the sad little Diabetic girl in the corner making puppy dog eyes at her box of raisins. Before you chase me with pitchforks for this “alleged” choco-cide, let me just say that this evil stage of adolescence did not last long. It only takes one time getting caught before you become the go-to suspect for chocolate disappearances.

I shifted to my current model of Halloween celebration. It starts with good intentions, trying to look down my nose at the people around me partaking in an all-around sugar orgy as I try to valiantly convince myself as I eat my salad that yes, I am a fun person. Then comes the roller coaster ride of the sugar high, the sugar crash, and, as I mentioned before, the raccoons. FYI: they are not as cuddly and cute as they seem.

Continue reading

Posted under InsulinChick

YA Book Talks: Lessons from Scott Westerfeld and James Dashner

Kidsbooks , where have you been all my life? When I recently discovered this amazing little bookstore on Vancouver’s West Broadway, it was akin to learning for the first time at 26 that Santa Claus really does exist. A giddy, self-righteous, “holy crap really? This is AWESOME!” kind of feeling.

Within a week I had purchased two tickets to readings hosted by Kidsbooks, one for Scott Westerfeld (author of the Uglies and Leviathan series), and James Dashner, author of the Maze Runner series. Both authors had recently released the final books in these trilogies, and were bringing the YA love to Canada.

Continue reading

Posted under Events , Publishing Bits and Pieces

Author Groupie: A Frenzied Encounter with the Creator of the Oatmeal

Allow me to preface this with a note: I do not get starstruck.

If I met Justin Bieber at the malt shoppe, or wherever it is these whippersnappers hang out these days, I would quite possibly cut through the hordes of screaming teen girls and tell him to get a haircut. Same with just about any celebrity: haircut.

But when I set out to meet Matthew Inman, the writer/comic behind the Oatmeal , there was a percolating feeling of groupie craziness coursing through my veins—the bookish equivalent of that urge to toss one’s panties onstage at a rock concert (SIGN MY TITLES!). After all, this was the awesome factor 10 creative cybernerd behind some of my favourite comics:

  • the Bobcats
  • How to tell if your velociraptor is having premarital sex
  • What they should have taught you in high school
  • What it’s like to own an Apple product

Continue reading

Posted under Book Reviews , Events , Publishing Bits and Pieces

Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory for Book Nerds

On Saturday, me and Count Chocula (my sugar-loving graphic designer boyfriend) headed to the Alcuin Wayzgoose print fair. In case you think I’ve started drinking in the mornings (as the only explanation for going to an event with goose in the title that didn’t involve barbeque sauce), allow me to clarify. For a number of reasons, this event was a must-see for this starry eyed publishing newbie:

  • I am a book nerd: the smell of linen paper and hot type is akin to crack. It’s what sends shivers up my neck to my librarian’s bob.
  • Hello? FREE.
  • What the hell is a Wayzgoose? This mystery just could not be left alone.

Continue reading

Posted under Events , Publishing Bits and Pieces , Uncategorized