Carl Hiaasen talks Bad Monkey and gator trouble with Andrew Pyper

Our 39th season of weekly readings ended with lots of laughs. At Thursday night’s well-attended event, acclaimed author and columnist Carl Hiaasen was interviewed by bestselling novelist Andrew Pyper. Hiaasen read from and discussed his latest novel, Bad Monkey, and regaled the audience with hilarious stories of his golfing misadventures in Miami, which happened to involve some feisty alligators.  See below for images from the event.

September marks the start of the 40th season of our weekly readings! We’ll be kicking things off with Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden. Stay tuned this summer for further information and other exciting event updates.

Beep! Why you need to edit

By Brian Francis

(c) Paula Wilson

(c) Paula Wilson

There’s a car commercial running on TV right now. It shows a man about to make some stupid mistakes. Every time he goes to make one, a beeping sound pulls him back. My god, I thought. What I wouldn’t give to have a “beep” in my own life.

In many ways, fiction editing isn’t unlike that beep. As writers, we’re too often absorbed in the creative process of writing to take a hard look at some of the common mistakes we’re making. And that’s why learning to edit yourself is so important. It forces you to ask the questions that need answering. Can my dialogue be better? Am I engaging my readers enough? Does the structure of my story serve or hinder? Bottom line? The better you’re equipped to deal with problems in your manuscript, the better your chances of success.

Editing 101, a one-day workshop on February 23 and presented in partnership with IFOA, is unique in that it gives participants the chance to learn about the editing process from the perspective of a published writer (that would be me) and of an editor (Nita Pronovost, senior editor at Doubleday Canada). The goal of the workshop is to introduce tips and tools to emerging and self-published writers to help take their manuscripts to the next level.

On March 16, we’ll be following up this workshop with Publicity 101, featuring a published writer (er, me again) and Adria Iwasutiak, publicity manager at Random House of Canada.

I hope you’ll consider joining us for Editing 101. While I can’t guarantee you a bestseller by the end of it, I can guarantee that you’ll walk away with new insights, new ideas and, hopefully, a “beep” to call your own.

For more information or to register, visit Courses and Workshops.

More authors on their way!

Here’s a little background info, friends: the International Festival of Authors is part of Authors at Harbourfront Centre programming, which includes the fabulous weekly reading series that continues February 1! We’ve been busy reading books and inviting incredible authors including Colin McAdam, Taiye Selasi, Ruth Ozeki, Linwood Barclay and many more. Over the coming weeks we’ll roll out our event schedule and share special features with you here on the blog, including interviews with the authors.

First up is a free event with the spoken word artist and entrepreneur Dwayne Morgan on February 1, then we have a night celebrating Toronto with Edward Keenan and Ivor Tossell on February 20 and an evening with the Charles Taylor Prize finalists on February 27. Our events range from readings to onstage interviews, and are followed by an opportunity to meet the authors. Excited? We know we are.

Check back here or visit for updates.

A year in reading

It should come as no surprise that staff here at Authors at Harbourfront Centre love a good read. So we’ve put together a list of our favourite books from 2012 for your holiday reading pleasure—or for the bookworm on your shopping list. Many were written by authors we had the pleasure of meeting during the International Festival of Authors this October, but others are books we just happened to read this year, including a sci-fi throwback from 1971.

Thornell, Night StreetKristel Thornell’s Night Street

Who would have thought a story about an Australian woman painter (Clarice Beckett) at the turn of the last century could be a page-turner? It was wonderfully written and I had trouble putting it down each evening to go to bed. I’ve never been to Australia, knew nothing about this painter, but found myself completely immersed in the story while walking in Clarice’s shoes.
—  Gwen Hoover

Lee, BobcatRebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories

This collection changed my sense of what a short story can do. By presenting believable characters in slightly surreal scenarios and settings, her language sparkling with ethereal metaphors involving starfish, spacemen and jewellery, Lee reminds us that fiction can be a lot like a dream. I’ve recommended this book to several people, and they’ve all loved it.
— Nicole Baute

Liam CarCard, Exit Papers From Paradised’s Exit Papers from Paradise

Every once in a while you read a book that you can’t put down. A book with a character so well developed, one with whom you sympathize and cheer for. A book that makes you feel, that makes you laugh out loud on a busy subway and even tear up a little. A book that makes you think, that makes you reflect on your own life and that warms your heart. A book that you would recommend to everyone, because we’ve all found ourselves in a rut at some point. This is that book.
— Tina Kessler

Goldstein, I'll Seize the Day TomorrowJonathan Goldstein’s I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow

If you want to read something witty and extremely funny without necessarily following a chronological order of chapters, just pick any page from I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow. I once laughed frenetically out loud on my seat and while I was looking for a tissue to dry my tears, finally realizing that I was in a bus with people looking at me.
— David Gressot

Rachel Dewoskin’s Big Girl Smallbig girl small

You’re pulled into the world of the narrator, 16-year-old Judy, with whom you want to cry when she gets led astray by her high school crush and laugh when she’s at her most sarcastic—but ultimately who you remember being when you were a teenage girl trying to figure it all out yourself. This was a book I read early in the year but it stayed with me for its realistic twist and for the story of friendship embedded throughout the novel—plus, I always like a good underdog story.
— Jennifer Asselin

Philip José Farmer‘s To Your Scattered Bodies Go To Your Scattered Bodies Go

The story begins with every human in history being brought back to life in youthful bodies, scattered along the banks of a mysterious river world. I found myself engrossed in the tale and almost read the entire book in an evening.
— Eric Mannell

And from our Artistic Associate Jen Tindall, who can’t choose just one:

The book that impressed me most this year was Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat and Other Stories. Her stories took me from this place to her places without me realizing until after I finished. Other notables: Embassytown by China Miéville squeezed my brain waves as I read it, sometimes painfully, but it was a wonderfully weird experience. Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station was a poetic and funny book about art and coming of age in Spain, and with This is How You Lose Her Junot Díaz was on top of his game, so honest and brutal that it made me never want to date again.
— Jen Tindall

Happy holiday reading from all of us!

The many faces of IFOA

How quiet the office seems now, a few weeks post-IFOA—such a contrast from the blur of famous faces and inspiring conversations. The Festival was a huge success thanks to the authors and their publishers, the hardworking staff and volunteers, our partners and sponsors and, of course, all of the book lovers who came down to the Harbourfront Centre to soak it all in.

We’re still sifting through the photos taken during the Festival, but in the meantime here are a few.

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Thanks also to our fabulous bloggers and everyone who followed the Festival from afar! We’re on to planning IFOA 2013…

– Nicole

Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference

This past August, authors gathered at the Edinburgh to discuss five topics that almost brought writers to blows during the infamous Writers’ Conference of 1962.These five topics will be discussed at IFOA as part of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference, in partnership with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the British Council.  Authors and audience members are encouraged to join the discussion and tweet from their seats using the hashtag #worldwritersconf. The topics are:

Should Literature be Political?
Style vs. Content
National Literature
Censorship Today
The Future of the Novel

We’re lucky to have a blogger assigned to covering these special events. Vikki VanSickle is the author of the children’s novels Words That Start with a B, Love is a Four-Letter Word, and the upcoming Days That End in Y (February 2013).

© Mischa Bartkow

A former award-winning bookseller and manager of Toronto’s beloved independent bookstore The Flying Dragon Bookshop, she now works in marketing at HarperCollins Canada. VanSickle is also a former reviewer for Canadian Children’s Book News, CM Magazine, and kid’s book panelist for CBC’s Fresh Air, and now blogs about children’s literature on her popular blog, pipedreaming. Follow her on Twitter @vikkivansickle.

For the full list of Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference events, visit

IFOA buzz!

The Festival starts tomorrow and everyone’s talking about it! In case you’ve missed the buzz (but how could you have?) here are some recent highlights:

Quill & Quire staff put together a thoughtful list of event recommendations. These people know what they’re talking about.

On Saturday the Toronto Star had a great spread on science, speculative fiction and fantasy at IFOA, including some event highlights.

Becky Toyne shared her IFOA lessons learned in a how-to over at Open Book: Toronto (plus staff picks!).

And CBC Books brings us the low-down on IFOA authors’ book picks, including what Miriam Toews is reading.

And that’s just a sampling! For more information about the Festival, visit

One more sleep!