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The Proust Questionnaire: Barbara Lambert

The Proust Questionnaire is believed to reveal an individual’s true nature. We have asked 2013 Incite authors 17 questions inspired by the questionnaire in an attempt to uncover who they are...

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Sitting at a long table with family and friends while talk swooshes around on a current of Okanagan wine (and everyone is in love with everyone else).

What does your ideal day look like?
At four in the morning the moon slips through the branches of the Ponderosa pine outside my study window. I have three hours before the world wakes, or so I tell myself. I turn on my laptop—turn off my wireless connection—and, before even I am quite awake, sink effortlessly into the stream of words where I left off the day before ... If even part of that works out, the rest of the day can do what it likes.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Books.

What possession would you be heartbroken if you lost?
Our orchard home, built during a time of hard-scrabble poverty by my artist parents, where (thanks to my life partner) I now have the great gift of being able to live and write.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d be braver.

What childhood fear has followed you into adulthood?
It is more a sense of diffuseness, of never knowing quite who I am. As a writer, this probably helps. But it took me a long time to figure that out.

Do you take comfort in darkness or light?
I love the liminal hours. Winter dusk. The glassy sky before dawn.

Do you remember your dreams?
Yes.

How do you collect snippets of observations and ideas that come to you unexpectedly?
File cards in my hip pocket when out walking. Pulling to the side of the road when driving and scribbling on grocery lists or any other handy scrap of paper.

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Writers on Reading: Bradley Somer

What book is currently on your bedside table?
I have an ever-growing and ever-changing pile of books on the nightstand. I am currently reading Cormac McCarthy's The Crossing and Mark Dery's I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-By Essays on American Dread, American Dreams. There are five others in the bedside bullpen including George Orwell's essays Why I Write, Craig Nova's Incandescence, Cormac McCarthy's Cities of the Plains, Janna Levin's How the Universe Got Its Spots and Communion Town by Sam Thompson.

When and where do you like to read?
I enjoy any moment I can grab to read. One of my two favorite places is in my big green chair in the living room. I usually have a morning read there with a cup of coffee. My other favorite is reading in bed in the evening. My parents enforced a strict 'read before going to sleep' policy when I was growing up and that has thankfully stuck.

What was the last great book you read?
I recently reread The Geek by Craig Nova and that would definitely be up there. It's the kind of book where, from the first page, you know the author will take good care of you. I love that feeling because it comes with such anticipation... if the first page is that good, I can't wait to see what's to come.

What’s your favourite literary genre?
The downbeat has appealed to me lately. As a reader, I wind up getting really emotionally invested in stories where the protagonist is fighting so hard for so little.  It speaks a lot to the power of hope, to what really matters in a character's struggle and it can be strangely up lifting. Books like Willy Vlautin's Lean on Pete and Stuart O'Nan's Last Night at the Lobster remained with me long after I closed the book.

Any guilty pleasures?
I don't think there is guilt in reading. If Fifty Shades gets someone reading, more power to them. Outside of that, my guilty pleasure is chicken wings.

Was there a book that changed your life? How old were you and what changed? Is there one book in particular that made you want to write?
The book that changed my life and the one that made me want to write was Rupert Thomson's The Five Gates of Hell. I was around sixteen years old or so when I read it. I was absolutely mesmerized by the story and affected by the tone of the book. In my mind, it was such an amazing spell to be transported so wholly into a fictional world that I knew it was something I wanted to do.

Have you ever written to an author? What is the best letter you’ve received from another writer?
I have written to an author but only once. As a gangly teen, I wrote to Rupert Thomson thanking him for The Five Gates of Hell. It is one of the few books I have read more than twice and the only book I read consecutively. I thought he would like to know. I haven't heard back but I'm sure he's a busy guy. It's never too late Mr. Thomson...

Shortly after Imperfections came out, I attended the Surrey International Writer's Conference. It was a great experience and there was a writer I met there who picked up a copy of the book. Within days of the conference ending, I received email with her thoughts on it. It was a great "stream of consciousness" email that went on for pages. I was thrilled and fascinated by it as it was an amazing look into how she interacted with the book. In the end, she demanded I come read in Montreal, which I look forward to doing at some point. I have received several reader's emails since and really value them. It helps me see if I got my points across and what resonates with a reader as well.

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The Proust Questionnaire: Tim Bowling

The Proust Questionnaire is believed to reveal an individual’s true nature. We have asked 2013 Incite authors 17 questions inspired by the questionnaire in an attempt to uncover who they are...

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Playing shinny hockey or a game of Clue with my kids. Writing full-time.

What does your ideal day look like?
Writing, visiting antique malls and used bookstores, sitting at an oak rolltop desk with a cup of coffee to answer all of my fan mail personally.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Rare and antiquarian books.  It’s my only extravagance.

What possession would you be heartbroken if you lost?
My correspondence with older writers.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d be less of a worrier.

What childhood fear has followed you into adulthood?
I had a lovely childhood, not a lot of fear. Fear of the Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup might be the biggest one.

Do you take comfort in darkness or light?
Both. I take comfort in being outside under any conditions.

Do you remember your dreams?
Sometimes. But probably no more than anyone else.

How do you collect snippets of observations and ideas that come to you unexpectedly?
Usually in poems. And only if the snippets haunt me for a while.

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The Proust Questionnaire: Tamas Dobozy

The Proust Questionnaire is believed to reveal an individual’s true nature. We have asked 2013 Incite authors 17 questions inspired by the questionnaire in an attempt to uncover who they are...

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Hearing my name announced as the winner of the 2012 Rogers Writers' Trust of Canada Fiction Prize. An unreal hallucinatory happiness.

What does your ideal day look like?
A five-hour uninterrupted stretch of reading and writing, followed by hanging out with my kids, followed by friends arriving with a pile of liquor and food.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying more books and music than anyone should have a right to.

What possession would you be heartbroken if you lost?
My laptop.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My panic and paranoia. No, actually, I'd change my inability to think quick on my feet.

What childhood fear has followed you into adulthood?
The fear of the dark. Even today, at the ripe age of 43, there are moments in hotels and other places where I need to turn on a light in order to fall asleep.

Do you take comfort in darkness or light?
Light, for sure. I love light. But by that I mean lights of all kinds: the light of a summer morning, the light of a fall day in Vancouver, the last bit of light before sunfall.

Do you remember your dreams?
No. Thank God. But I have a feeling that they remember me.

How do you collect snippets of observations and ideas that come to you unexpectedly?
I carry a notebook at all times. Seriously. The unexpected is the place where all the best writing gets done, and if I don't note it down it's lost forever.

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All-Canadian, All Crime

All Canadian CrimeIn 2009 and 2011, I had the pleasure of volunteering for the Vancouver Writers Fest. This year I made the transition from Festival volunteer to Festival author, and yes, it was just as fabulous as it sounds. I appeared in the All-Canadian Crime event last Saturday, October 20, with Robert Rotenberg and crime fiction superstar Louise Penny

Here are a few things I learned:

 Authors wander

One of my favourite volunteer jobs was to “Walk-A-Writer” to their festival events. Sometimes I’d just walk them as far as next door, but near or far, festival authors are always assigned a walker. Now I know why.

We wander. We really do. We see shiny things. We want coffee, fruit, handi-wipes. We start talking. Robert, Louise and I were so busy chatting on our way to the venue that left to our own devices we might have ended up at Jericho Beach and never made it to the event at all. Our walker, Katie, kept us on task.

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What if?

First, a disclaimer: I have never been big into genre, those shifting delineations that mark where one style of writing ends, and a new one begins. I love the work of authors like Iain M. Banks, Ursula Le Guin, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood  and others. But ask me to place their work into distinct genres and my eyes glaze over. It feels arbitrary and beside the point, like sorting my hat collection by gauge of tin foil or length of antenna. That's just me though.

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A biographer's tricky task

Writing a biography of long-lived, intensely creative Patricia Kathleen Page was no walk in the park for Sandra Djwa. It took her fourteen years to research, write and publish Journey With No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page.

The book’s glossy cover is filled to the margins with a detail from an arresting portrait of Page when she was young. You see her trademark red lipstick, thickly applied, and the gaze of her large, transfixing eyes.

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Orange People

Orange PeopleWhat would you say if in any given year, in a small but populous island state, orange people wrote 65% of the novels published, while green people wrote 35%, and orange people bought 83% of the novels, while green people preferred books about real things, big things, like climbing mountains, and wars, and yet when it came to handing out an annual major prize for ‘the best’ among these novels, green people received the prize twice as often as orange people? In other words, green people wrote one third of the published novels, but received two thirds of the prizes. On further inspection, it appeared that over time green people somewhat outnumbered orange people on the judging panels for this annual prize, and in the event that the four judges were deadlocked 2-2 regarding which novel should be the winner, a deciding vote would be cast by the chair of the panel — 82% of the time (as of 2012), a green person. If you were an orange person, expected to smile nicely and put up with this sort of inequity year after year, you might eventually exclaim, “Bugger this! If the green people aren’t going to give us a fair share of the prizes, we’ll just create our own prize. We’ll call it the Orange Prize!”

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Stars Aligned

"The Victorian times are endlessly fascinating. Anybody could invent anything and become famous for it," says Arthur Slade. Above:"Improved Burial-Case", US Patent No. 81,437 Issued: August 25, 1868 Inventor: Franz Vester, Newark NJOn Thursday, prominent Canadian YA authors Kenneth Oppel, Arthur Slade, and Richard Scrimger were greeted by a packed house of local school kids and field trip chaperones for the event Stars Aligned. Each read from their latest works before answering questions from an enthusiastic audience.

Richard Scrimger expertly played the dual role of moderator and panelist. He read from his latest novel, Ink Me, part of the recently released Seven series featuring seven works by seven different authors. Arthur Slade read from his recent novel, Island of Doom, the fourth book in the Hunchback Assignments series. 

Kenneth Oppel read from his most recent book, Such Wicked Intent, second in the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series. The book was inspired by Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, a favourite book of Oppel's, with its search for the elixir of life and raising ghosts and demons. "I love writing period settings and period characters," said Oppel. "I actually like the way people talk in the past – there was an eloquence and a richness of vocabulary."

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The Survival of CanLit

How’s our writing doing, forty years after the publication of Margaret Atwood’s seminal book, Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature?

That was the question put to a Saturday-morning panel made up of Atwood, her partner Graeme Gibson and a clutch of other opinionated, high-level writers and publishers from out of town. The Granville Island Stage was packed.

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