Tag Archives: Writing

The Next Small Thing


My friend Jonah Campbell, who is much smarter than I am, tagged me in this Next Big Thing writer-chain-letter that’s making the rounds. I decided to participate even though I have very little to say.

What is the working title of your book?

I’m not writing a book.

What genre does your book fall under?

Haven’t you read the internet? “The book” is dead.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

You’re not a very active listener.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie adaptation?

Great question. Patty and Walter Berglund will be both be played by Eddie Murphy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Okay, look. Here are some things I’m actually working on. I’m really more of an editor than a writer; my strength is working with other people’s text and shaping it into what it fully wants to be. So most of my time is devoted to editing Maisonneuve. Other than that, I’m currently finalizing an essay I wrote last summer at the Banff Centre’s Literary Journalism program. It’s a part-memoir part-profile about my closest friend, Dan, who was paralyzed in an accident as a teenager. It will be published by a large Canadian magazine in a few months. The same magazine just commissioned me to write a feature on sport and disability to coincide with the 2014 Paralympics in Scochi, so I’m starting to research that.

For the past year or so I’ve been trying to write more fiction. I’m currently tinkering with this particular short story. The last story I published was very austere “speculative fiction,” whereas this next one is semi-autobiographical and realist and emotional—my attempt at what lazy reviewers have taken to calling “big-hearted” or “life-affirming” fiction. It’s set in Montreal, features characters in their twenties, etc. I’m still figuring out the kind of fiction I want to write, so I’ve been a little all-over-the-map. I’ve got one that depicts a killer-whale attack in a mythical quasi-Edenic village and becomes a Just So Story about the birth of violence and the creation of the first prison. (I’m sort of obsessed with animals and the law.) It’s bizarre and I don’t know what to do with it. And I’m currently writing a first-person story loosely about depression and technophobia.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

You know, in most good interviews, questions follow logically from the preceding answers.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m very slow at writing fiction. I write a few hundred words at a time, leave it for weeks or months, come back, edit the hell out of it, write a little more, repeat. I’d like to become one of those people who gets up at the crack of dawn and writes all morning before work, but I’m not one of those people.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

At various points: boredom with the kind of fiction I was reading; excitement about the kind of fiction I was reading.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Very little.

Why are you so effortlessly charming and good-looking?

Genes, exercise, a cache of bon mots, a recent fashionable haircut.

The five writers I’m tagging:

Deni Y. Béchard

Emma Healey

Alexandra Molotkow

Saleema Nawaz

Jacob Wren


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Rise of the Robots


I’ve written my first-ever magazine cover story. It’s in the March issue of Reader’s Digest Canada, and it’s about the rise of socially assistive robots. Read it here. Apparently the cover also does something cool if you have a smartphone.

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The Quebec student strike

I’ve been writing about the Quebec student strike here and there. Here’s a piece about Quebec, Occupy, elections and social movements, posted today on the new online magazine Hazlitt, to which I’ll be contributing regularly. I also wrote this dispatch for n+1 a while back, and this short post for Maisonneuve.

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Montreal Is Burning

From the Walrus:

On February 13 of this year, the Montreal rock band Arcade Fire, known for their spirited live shows and ragged emotionalism, arrived at the Grammy Awards with low expectations. Their third LP, The Suburbs, released on the independent label Merge, was inexplicably nominated for album of the year, up against efforts from four of the biggest acts on the planet: Lady Gaga, Eminem, Lady Antebellum, and Katy Perry. The past decade has been hard on the music industry, but the Grammys have generally been content to go down with the ship, doling out prizes in accordance with establishment tastes. Few expected a bunch of shabbily dressed Canadians to beat out the luminaries who brought us “Poker Face” and “I Kissed a Girl.”

Read the rest. From the December 2011 issue.

Also, I’ve been having trouble sleeping.

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Some things I’ve written in the several months since I last posted

An interview with Cadence Weapon

An obituary for Jack Layton

Why Occupy Wall Street has already succeeded

Arcade Fire, Tune-Yards and growing up

The Corner Store at Pop Montreal

Fireworks in the age of digital isolation

Bon Iver, irony and the return of soft rock

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Why I Love Bad Hospital Food

From Maisonneuve:

Why I Love Bad Hospital Food

By Drew Nelles

I have spent more time in hospitals than someone who is young and healthy ought to. When I was seventeen, my best friend was paralyzed in an athletic accident and a close family member was diagnosed with cancer. (My father died many years ago, though I was too young to remember those hospital visits.) Because I was a pretentious teenager I even recorded a concept album about hospitals for a high-school English project. And when I think about hospitals, I always think about hospital food.

Read the rest.

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Pop Montreal 2010

From Maisonneuve:

Pop Montreal 2010: Music Made With Machines

John Cage once said, “I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the aid of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard.” We reached that point a long while ago—we can now record and manipulate any noise on earth—but Western music still sounds largely as it did at the height of Cage’s weirdo powers. Even when it isn’t straightforward pop, or when it uses found sounds, or when it’s outright noise music, it still has elements that strike us as familiar: tones and semitones that please our European-influenced ears. Music still sounds like music. The difference is that we have many more of Cage’s “electrical instruments”—we have many more machines with which to make sounds.

Read the rest.

Pop Montreal 2010: Palimpsest Loves Print

Palimpsest magazine is part publication and part time capsule, a search engine in a shoebox. In the age of the beginning of the end of print it worships the physical relentlessly, far beyond the charge of mere Ludditism; Palimpsest loves the internet too, for all it has done to mould us. For this year’s edition of Pop Montreal, the brains behind Palimpsest will produce a daily newspaper documenting the festival’s goings-on, but don’t expect a mere newsletter. Here, collective member Danielle St-Amour talks Pop, print and personal music journalism.

Read the rest.

Pop Montreal is the best, just so you know.

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