Monday, December 10, 2007

Insight at its best

I'm really pleased by how authors are taking to the Insight concept here at AuthorsAloud. As you know, the "insight" is that second, more casual recording that most new contributors are doing now, in addition to their readings, which takes listeners behind the scenes and gives them a bit of inside knowledge as to the genesis of a particular piece of writing, or the process involved in creating it. The latest comes from author Mary Novik, recently long-listed for the Giller prize for her novel Conceit. Just back from her book tour in support of Conceit, Mary clearly put a good deal of thought and time into her Insight recording, which has just been added to her page. She gives a thorough account of how the idea of a book centred on Pegge Donne, daughter of the poet John Donne, came to her, and I recommend it as five minutes very well spent.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The poet as performer

We're all about reading the work to ready ears, and if there's a pro at it in Canada, it must be Harold Rhenisch. He's been doing it a long time. As the poet says in the Insight recording he has bestowed to AuthorsAloud, he's probably given over 300 public readings. You can tell that he's comfortable in front of a microphone; in his reading of three poems his voice lifts and falls with the stagecraft of someone used to getting a rise out of an audience.

I have to say that Insight is worth a listen too. Harold discusses the influences of translation and public readings on his work, and in the course of a few minutes he captures a lot of the magic that's conjured by giving voice to words. I encourage you to check it out.

And, just a reminder, don't forget to subscribe to the AuthorsAloud podcast on iTunes. Why? Because the more subscribers, the more likely that iTunes will feature the podcast, and that will bring more attention to the authors and poets featured on this site. The button is over there to your right. It's free. What are you waiting for? (Remember you'll need to have iTunes installed on your computer.)


Sunday, October 7, 2007

We're on iTunes !

I'm proud to say the AuthorsAloud Podcast is on the air, and you can find it on iTunes. The podcast is one more way we're trying to help promote Canada's literary writers, and so every week, we'll be producing a new AuthorsAloud podcast episode featuring one of the fiction or poetry readings from the AuthorsAloud collection.

We want to open this opportunity up to as many authors as we can, so every reading recorded primarily for this site (as opposed to cuts from CDs or readings originally done for radio, etc) will be eligible for inclusion in the AuthorsAloud podcast. Beyond that basic eligibility, factors such as the audio quality of the recording will help determine which readings get featured. The podcast will try to keep a balance between fiction and poetry, as well as old and new. In other words, the earliest contributors to AuthorsAloud won't be forgotten. In fact, the first reading featured on the AuthorsAloud podcast was from one of the first contributors — Merilyn Simonds.

You can help make the AuthorsAloud Podcast a success by subscribing to it on iTunes. If you have iTunes installed (yes, it's available for Windows too), just click on the podcasting image above and that will take you to the AuthorsAloud podcast page on iTunes. (You can also find the podcast by searching for it within iTunes.) Click on "subscribe" and you'll receive each new episode as it becomes available, whenever you launch iTunes. Please do subscribe: Remember, it costs nothing, and the more subscriptions the podcast gets, the more likely iTunes will be to feature the podcast and bring more attention to the authors featured on this site and to Canadian literature in general.

If you don't have and aren't likely to get iTunes, you can still subscribe to the podcast at Podcast Alley. To do that, go to the AuthorsAloud page by clicking here.
And once you've had a listen to the podcast episodes, let us know what you think.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hill Climbs High

The day the world found out that Lawrence Hill was on the long-list for the Giller Prize, he was sitting in my office, recording readings for AuthorsAloud. One thing didn't naturally lead to the other — the recording session had been planned for a while — but it's a good indication that this site strives to represent the best of Canadian literature, and to remain current always.

Hill grew up in the predominantly white suburb of Don Mills, Ontario, in the sixties, and in his writing he has been greatly influenced by his parents' work in the human rights movement. He's been dedicated to his art for a long time and it's nice (not only because I consider him a friend) to see him getting his due with his latest marvelous novel. Take the time to listen to Lawrence Hill's reading from The Book of Negroes, and to the insight he gives into the challenges of taking on what for him is a dramatically new style and voice, here.


Monday, September 10, 2007

The richness of language

The latest addition to AuthorsAloud is a reading by accomplished poet Richard Harrison, who has given us something special. At the launch for TransLit 7, the most recent edition of the annual collection published by the Literary Translator's Society in Calgary, he read his moving poem "September 11, 2001, 6pm". Then, in the TransLit tradition, the poem was presented in two other languages — in Arabic by Antoine Sassine, and in French by Gilles Mossière.

AuthorsAloud has the pleasure of offering you, its visitors, all three readings. Each is a wonderful performance, and listening to all three, one after the other, creates the effect of drawing a bridge of shared appreciation and understanding between cultures. It's a very fine way to spend about 8 minutes and I encourage you to do so.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Three Cheers

There are lots of reasons to celebrate here at AuthorsAloud. The big news, of course, is that author Michael Redhill has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize for his novel, Consolation. In the past, the Booker long-list has been, well, pretty long, up to 75 names. But this year it's a tight baker's dozen, which puts Redhill in very select company. It's a huge achievement, and we couldn't be happier for him. Go listen to Redhill's reading from Consolation here.

We'd also like to belatedly applaud Heather Birrell for winning the $10,000 Journey prize (the announcement came in the Spring) for her short story "BriannaSusannaAlana." Again, we couldn't be prouder of Heather and, again, we happen to have a reading from that prize winning story right here. (So, are we prescient ... or influential?) Go check it out!

Third, it's always worth a fist-pump when AuthorsAloud brings promising new authors to the attention of our loyal visitors, so take a moment to enjoy the offerings of poet Alex Boyd, who reads from his collection Making Bones Walk, and novelist B. Glen Rotchin, who reads from his debut novel, The Rent Collector, short listed for the in Canada First Novel Award. Both authors also provide Insights for your edification and enjoyment.

Lots to listen to, lots to celebrate. Go revel in the bounty.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

The otherworldly energy of Wendy Morton

At first I didn't know what to make of Wendy Morton. The grandmotherly form really didn't jibe with the private eye alter ego, or the self-marketeer who seeks out corporate sponsorships for her poetry. Then I met her in person and realized Morton is equipped with a whole extra gear that most of us never engage, and it takes her places few would think to go. You might get a sense of that from the title of her memoir, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, or when you listen to the insight she recorded for AuthorsAloud, which dips into the dark and slightly X-rated world of her job as a private investigator. But it all comes down to the poetry, and what you'll take from her reading, I believe, is that she's a committed artist who deserves to be taken very seriously. Go listen.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The hidden How and Why of Elvis

This week Robert Priest, the poet and performer whose verse the Toronto Star called "passionate, cocky, alternately adoring and insulting" gives us a speculative elegy, a terrific prose poem about Elvis that he calls "The Presley Twins." For four lovely minutes Robert proves himself as adept at the mic as at the keyboard. Give it a listen.

I also want to draw your attention, in case you missed it, to a gorgeous ode to the power of literature penned by the wonderfully literate film reviewer Rick Groen and published July 14 in the Globe and Mail. That this eloquent defense of fiction is written by a movie guy doesn't make its truth more true, but it does make it more satisfying.


Update (July 23): Robert Priest has added an Insight to his reading page, with thoughts on the importance of keeping busy as a writer, and on the genesis of "The Presley Twins." It's very much worth a listen. And for anyone who tried to listen to Robert's poem the first few days it was up and encountered an error message, that was due to a brain glitch on my part; it's fixed now.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Good news on the reading front

Every once in a while I find myself worrying about the future of book reading. What seems so vital to you and me (feeding mind and soul with narratives from the printed page) often seems an afterthought or less for people caught like flies in the digital web.

For solace I look to my soon-to-be 14-year-old daughter, who cannot get enough thick novels to feed her appetite. If she's a sample of the developing readership out there, I think, we'll be okay.

And today the terrific British website The Literary Saloon brought my attention to a piece the BBC ran, which offers more good news. It seems the frantic, fragmented pace of our modern lives is actually good for reading.

Who'd have thought?


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

More popular than ever

I thought you might be interested to know that visits to AuthorsAloud have been increasing on an almost daily basis, as more and more people become aware of the existence of the site, and what it offers. Last month the number of visits was more than 50% higher than the month before. And recently total visits to AuthorsAloud surpassed the 30,000 mark.

Given that the site is not yet a year old, and that it offers a highly specialized form of content, which attracts a literary-oriented audience, I think that's remarkable.


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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The colours of Garnett

It was sunny and hot on the leafy grounds of Green College, arguably the prettiest spot on Vancouver's UBC campus, when Gale Zoë Garnett read for AuthorsAloud from her novella, Room Tone. Garnett's throaty voice is as rich as her prose, and she gives us two scenes from a work that director Sky Gilbert has called "a chocolate truffle with a heart of gold." Garnett also gives us a lovely Insight into the genesis of her novella. I promise you'll enjoy it. Go have a listen.

And speaking of insights, poet Zach Wells has added one to give us new perspective on his poetry of the far north in Unsettled. It's worth a revisit to Wells' page to hear how he approaches his work.


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Added Insight

Today marks the launch of a new feature at AuthorsAloud: Insight. In addition to readings from their works of literary fiction and poetry, which is the mainstay of this site, many new contributors to AuthorsAloud will now offer a second recording, providing a moment of unscripted comment about their writing. So while the "reading" on each author's page will let you hear the prose or poetry that constitutes the writer's art, read the way the writer intended, in the "insight" recording, you'll also hear something of the thought or struggle that went into creating that work.

And these recorded insights aren't restricted to new contributors. Writers who have already provided AuthorsAloud with readings of their work will have the opportunity to add insights as well, giving readers a new reason to go back, listen to the work again and perhaps discover something new.

How will you know that an author has added an "insight"? That's easy. Just go to the At A Glance pages. Each of the authors who have contributed a recorded comment about their work will have their pictures marked with an identifying symbol, as in this example:

It's no coincidence that I've used Jennifer McCartney's image here. She's the first new author to contribute an insight recording, in which she talks about the genesis of her debut novel, Afloat. As more insights are added, I'll let you know.


June 17 Update: Claire Cameron has contributed a Reading and a revealing Insight for her new novel The Line Painter. Go have a listen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Windley, MacPherson and the AGM

Two new submissions take AuthorsAloud to 60 readings, a significant milestone for a literary project that was merely an idea less than a year ago. In these latest arrivals, Andrea MacPherson offers a scene from her second novel, Beyond the Blue, set in First World War Scotland, and Carol Windley reads from her Giller Prize nominated story collection, Home Schooling. Thanks to writer (and friend of AuthorsAloud) Holley Rubinsky of Kootenay Coop Radio, for the recordings.

The first weekend in June I'll be attending the annual general meeting of the Writers' Union of Canada, being held this year in Vancouver. It's my plan to come back loaded with new readings, which you'll be able to enjoy in the coming weeks. And don't forget that, coming very soon, AuthorsAloud will be offering a new feature in its readings sections. More on that later.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Beauchemin and Preston

The two latest readings on AuthorsAloud come from very different writers, although they happen to focus on a similar subject: womanly passion.

Racheal Preston, a Hamilton writer (soon to be moving to the west coast, lucky Racheal) sat down in her dining room and served up a rather steamy passage from her second novel, The Wind Seller.

Quebec's hugely popular Yves Beauchemin, meanwhile, offers a reading from The Years of Fire that features a young woman in the throes of a more chaste kind of desire. (Thanks to Susan Johnston from CKCU for the recording.)

And stay tuned for more interesting developments from AuthorsAloud — a new feature I think you'll enjoy.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our recent additions

In case you've missed the last stream of recordings into AuthorsAloud, this will catch you up:

Anne Stone gave us a rather eerie reading from her novel, Delible.

Kristen den Hartog read a delicate scene from her acclaimed novel, Origin of Haloes.

Dani Couture gave us poems from her debut, Good Meat, as well as a moving tribute to a recently passed friend.

Matthew Tierney read from his collection of poems, Full Speed Through the Morning Dark.

And most recently, Steve McOrmond offered up a reading of poems recorded during that favorite literary landmark of ours, the Winnipeg International Authors Festival.

Enjoy, and of course ... stay tuned for more.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Trouble reaching us?

If you've recently sent a query to through the contact page and heard nothing back, there's a reason. Our contact page went kerpleewy, but failed to notify us of the fact. So, if you've been waiting and wondering what's up, my apologies.

I am told by the good people at Webserve, the Vancouver company that hosts this site, that the problem has been rectified. But in the immediate future I'm not going to take any chances with contact forms. Now, clicking on "contact us" in the menu will now take you to a page with an old-fashioned email link. You can use that to reach AuthorsAloud any time.


Friday, May 4, 2007

More readings on the way

You wanted more readings? You got it. After a brief lull in the proceedings, while we beat the big hairy deadline gorilla off our back, we now have a whole new spate of authors coming up.

First is poet Matthew Tierney with a very confident reading from his 2004 collection, Full Speed Through the Morning Dark, which takes us along on Tierney's journey aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express.

In the days following, we'll post new readings from Kristen den Hartog, Anne Stone, Racheal Preston, Jennifer McCartney and more.

So keep coming back...


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Barbara Gowdy in the house

Novelist Barbara Gowdy certainly isn't known for writing "domestic" dramas, but you can hear the kitchen sink in her reading for AuthorsAloud. Well, that's not entirely accurate. It's closer to say you can hear the kitchen tiles in their echo, and the dogs in the background, and, at a certain point, the hum of a nearby refrigerator. Barbara graciously invited us into her home a few days ago to record a reading for AuthorsAloud from her newest novel, Helpless. And she handled the various distractions and challenges of a home recording session with the élan and humor of a seasoned pro.

It's an exquisite reading, from a wonderful novel. Go to it now, hang out in Barbara's kitchen, and eat it up.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A plethora of poetry

If the written arts are sisters, poetry is the beautiful, mysterious and intimidating one standing at the window. Hard to know whether to approach her — she's damn sexy, but that could be a knife in her hand. Still, you want more of those mysterious sisters around; they make life far more interesting. So I'm happy to say that in the last couple of weeks, AuthorsAloud has increased its array of poetry substantially.

Whether they're brief or long, wry or wrenching, each of Ron Charach's poems seem rich with humanity, a caring for the human condition. And if you're a writer, you'll appreciate the final, sardonic poem among Ron's offering — "The Review that Kills." As well, one of the busiest and lowercasiest poets around, ron mclennan, has taken a moment away from running things in Ottawa to provide a reading of poems that embrace that city like few have before him. (Thanks to Susan Johnston CKCU-FM for the recording). And most recently, with a reading from his latest collection, Harry Thurston takes us to the Dakhleh oasis in the Western Desert with a voice that resonates with thousands of miles of hard and glorious travel.

There are readings by many more poets coming, and also a treat in a very few days, a reading by (speaking of beautiful and mysterious) ... Barbara Gowdy.
So keep coming back.

Friday, March 23, 2007

All change, all the time

As you may have noticed, AuthorsAloud has a new look. Aside from what I hope you'll agree are aesthetic improvements — a cleaner, more modern design — the changes are intended to have three benefits:
1. Easier navigation.
There should never be confusion about where you are in AuthorsAloud, or how to find what you want. Every page now features the same sitemap-style navigation menu on the right, including the name of every author to be found in the site, so you can always find your way quickly to the reading or the section you're looking for.
2. Quick links to fiction and poetry.
The Welcome page's "at a glance" area offers three buttons that will give you fast access to groups of authors where you'll be able to see ... at a glance ... who is reading, and what work they're reading from, and then link directly to that reading.
3. More recognition for authors.
The featured readings area at the top of the page shows six faces. The top three will show the latest three readings to be added to AuthorsAloud. The bottom three will rotate through the AuthorsAloud library on a regular basis to remind visitors of readings they may have missed.

As always, if you have any thoughts or suggestions for AuthorsAloud, use the contact page to let us know. We're all in this together.

Monday, March 19, 2007

First look

One of the chief challenges of any website is finding a way to help visitors move through the site
to find the things they're looking for. With that in mind, here's an early peek at one of the elements of the new AuthorsAloud design, coming soon:

Stay tuned for more...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A poetic debut

Listen to Micheline Maylor read and you can tell from the skill of her expression that she's a born poet who knows exactly what she's doing. Of course, the fact that Micheline has just published her debut, Full Depth: The Raymond Knister Poems, belies the fact that she's been a poetry fixture for some time. Her decision to devote her first collection to the life and tragic death of another poet suggests a dedication to the art that's as easy to admire as her talent.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Good things coming

Here's a heads-up to stay tuned to AuthorsAloud because in the coming weeks, we'll be introducing a new look with some new interface enhancements. How that's going to happen with all the other deadlines closing in at the home office, I'm not sure, but we'll manage it.

Meanwhile, when you've heard everything you want to hear for the time being on AuthorsAloud and you have some extra lit-listening time on your hands, be sure to head over to Bookninja to hear Donna Bailey Nurse's interview with Hamilton writer Lawrence Hill, brother of singer-songwriter Dan Hill, who has a new novel out, The Book of Negros. It's fascinating stuff.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A few challenges

The spam monster whacked AuthorsAloud today, so until a solution can be found we have shut down the contact page. With any luck we'll get it back up and working soon, but until then, life goes on and the readings keep coming. So if you're a writer or publisher who would like to have a reading featured on AuthorsAloud, please send an email to Trevor Cole

By the way, we're testing out a new presentation style for the readings pages. If you're curious, just click on the images for Trevor Cole or Catherine Bush below, or Mark Lavorato to your right, and see what pops up. There may be more refinements to this coming soon, but for now, use the comments link to let us know what you think.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Congratulations to one of the AuthorsAloud family, Caroline Adderson, for winning the Marian Engel Award last week. It's an enormous achievement — Adderson joins an illustrious group of winners, including Barbara Gowdy, Carol Shields and Anita Rau Badami — and she's done the west coast proud.

And speaking of joining illustrious groups, Mark Lavorato adds his name to the AuthorsAloud ranks this week with a reading from his just-published novel, Veracity. It's a disturbing scene that Mark gives us, all the more so because — and here is the value of hearing an author read his own work — Mark presents it in a calm, matter-of-fact style that belies the horror of what's happening. If you're an animal lover, brace yourself.

Sunday, March 4, 2007


History links us to places and people we rarely expect. I've never met David Elias except through email conversation, but he comes from Winkler, Manitoba, near the area he set his novel Sunday Afternoon, and for that reason I feel a connection to him than I wouldn't had he come from, say, Plum Coulee, 13 km east of there. Why? Because when I lived in Winnipeg for a time with my wife and daughter, we got our dog from a bison farm in Winkler. As my daughter and I drove down toward the U.S./Canada border, two recent émigrés from Toronto, we watched a field fire burning off stubble and filling the horizon with smoke, and wondered in our big-city innocence what kind of disaster had struck. Meeting our puppy pushed all that from our minds, of course, and now that he's five, all 70 fluffy black pounds of him act as our daily reminder of that place. Winkler, Manitoba. And now this writer, David Elias.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Publishers on my mind

We're all about numbers these days it seems, but when they come in nice round forms, it's hard for a word guy to resist. So I'm happy to say that with our 41st reading — from Vancouver's Heather Burt — AuthorsAloud also welcomes its 20th publisher: The Dundurn Group.

Now, I have to admit I know little about the Dundurn Group, but it so happens that I live half a block from Dundurn Street. Around here the word "Dundurn" is cropping up in conversations all the time. I feel as though I should know something, something beyond the fact that the Dundurn Group is wise enough to publish Heather Burt. What I'd like to know is whether the Dundurn Group and Dundurn Street have a common antecedent. I have to assume they do, because the twin-spired Dundurn Group logo looks remarkably like twin-spired Dundurn Castle, just down the road a ways (which I assume is where Dundurn Street got its name, though nothing's certain.) But the fact is, "dundurn" also means "strong fort" in Gaelic, so the whole thing could be coincidence. There's no way of knowing anything for sure, because neither the Dundurn Group website, nor any of the sites dedicated to Dundurn Castle, give any real indication as to why they're called "Dundurn." There certainly was no "Lord Dundurn" — the castle (which is as much a castle as Hamilton Mountain is a mountain) was built for Sir Allan Napier MacNab. And it's equally clear that The Dundurn Group has nothing to do with Hamilton; they're located on Church Street in Toronto. So there's a whole lot of Dundurn going on, and precious little reasoning for it.

This is the sort of vexing issue that keeps me from my work.

(PS. Stay tuned in the next few days for a terrific reading from Giller-nominated author Michael Helm)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Nearing another milestone

Growth is usually a slow and steady thing, but there are times when you experience lulls and spurts. Things have been pretty calm here for a couple of weeks, but that's about to change with three new readings taking AuthorsAloud to a significant new level. Reading number 38 comes February 9th from Catherine Graham, a charming, talented and dedicated poet who teaches creative writing at several institutions, including the University of Toronto. Catherine spent a number of years in Northern Ireland, which I mention in passing because it seems an easy segue to reading number 39, which comes on Feb 11th from Peter Behrens, winner of the 2006 Governor General's Award for Fiction for his novel The Law of Dreams. Yes it was Peter whose book, set during the Irish Famine, beat mine for the GG, but he's a very nice guy, his book is great, and I hold no grudges. I particularly admire and appreciate the way Peter overcame his technology curse, while he was in Los Angeles, in order to record a reading for AuthorsAloud.

And taking us to number 40 — quadruple the amount we started with just six months ago — is a reading by Vincent Lam (actually two, but we'll count them as one), from his Giller Prize-winning story collection Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. Vincent's reading was recorded by Susan Johnston, who does thoughtful interviews with authors for the show Special Blend on Ottawa's CKCU-FM. I met Susan during my own book tour last fall, and when Vincent recorded a reading for her, she thought AuthorsAloud listeners would enjoy hearing it. We gratefully agreed, and with Vincent's permission, we're adding it to the AuthorsAloud library on February 14.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

You never forget your first time

AuthorsAloud will be featuring three talented first-timers from disparate parts of the map over the next couple of weeks. All of these writers have been widely published, but there's something about getting your first novel or short-story collection on the bookshelves that says, Yeah, I'm legit. First up is Montreal's Neil Smith, whose debut collection, Bang Crunch, has received wide praise and a couple of international publishing deals. In his AuthorsAloud reading, he takes on the persona of a severed right foot. You won't forget it.

Next is Betty Jane Hegerat, a mother of three and a social worker from Calgary. She describes her first novel, Running Toward Home, as a love story featuring the unusual triangle of two women and a twelve-year-old boy.

Last of these is Megan K. Williams, a Pulitzer-fellowship winner based in Rome who contributes frequently to magazines as well as broadcasting outlets o'er the world, including the CBC, NPR and the BBC. You can tell by Megan's reading not only that she is used to being in front of a microphone, but that she's used to taking care of herself in foreign locales.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Learning Humility

Maybe it comes from being the son of an actor, but I truly enjoy getting up in front of an audience and reading from my work. I frequently encounter some very good readers at these events, but there was one time, while sitting and waiting for my turn, when I found myself, as they say, gob-smacked at another author's performing talent. That was at Toronto's Harbourfront Reading Series, when Adam Lewis Schroeder got up and read from Empress of Asia. Not only is the book terrific, but Adam truly brought it to life. He was every bit the actor up on stage, and the audience ate him up. I was, I don't mind admitting, pretty envious of his ease on stage.

So it's a pleasure to be able to include a short reading by Adam, recorded by Holley Rubinsky, in AuthorsAloud. Enjoy.