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AS YOU WERE, MUSIC LATE AND SOON, HOUSEHOLDERS, DANTE’S INDIANA, ON THE ORIGIN, THINGS ARE AGAINST US: Media Hits!

IN THE NEWS!

AS YOU WERE

Elaine Feeney, author of As You Were (October 5, 2021), was interviewed on an episode of the podcast Across the Pond! Elaine was interviewed by the two hosts, Lori Feathers and Sam Jordison. The episode aired on October 5. You can listen to it here.

Elaine Feeney wrote a feature article for Lit Hub! The piece “Writing Through Trauma, Past and Present: On the Legacies of Catholic Ireland” was published on Wednesday, October 20. You can read it here.

As You Were was listed by Book Marks as a small press favourite! The three judges of the North American Republic of Consciousness Prize put together a list of seven recent favourite indie titles in 2021. The list was published on October 20. You can check it out here.

Lori Feathers praised:

“A not-to-be-missed debut novel—smart, witty, and very engaging … Two things set this extraordinary novel apart: the amazing writing—lyrical, natural, often very funny, and always affecting; and Sinéad, a woman with whom Feeney captures the pain of self-reflection and the stubborn resilience of hope.”

As You Were was also listed by All Lit Up as a weekly recommended All Queued Up title! The list was published on October 20. Check it out here.

All Queued Up offers keywords to engage readers in the book, similar to how Netflix does for shows. For As You Were, they praised:

“Dark comedy. Riveting. Award-winner.”

Order your copy of As You Were here!Things Are Against Us

 

THINGS ARE AGAINST US

An excerpt from Lucy Ellmann’s Things Are Against Us (September 28, 2021), was published in The Walrus! The excerpt “Kill the Travel Bug: The Case for Staying Put” was published on October 4. You can read it out on their website here.

Order your copy of Things Are Against Us here!

 

coverMUSIC, LATE AND SOON

Music, Late and Soon (August 24, 2021) by Robyn Sarah was announced as a finalist for The Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction, presented by the Quebec Writers’ Foundation! The winner will be announced during a live-streamed gala event on November 24 at 7PM.

An interview with Sarah was also recently published in the Montreal Gazette. Ian McGillis writes,

“So let’s be clear: you don’t need to be a musician, nor do you need to have aspired to be a musician, to appreciate Music, Late and Soon. Anyone who has ever felt a vocation for something, pursued it, misplaced it, then tried to summon it again is apt to identify with Sarah’s story.”

The piece was published online on October 8. Read the full interview here.

Order your copy of Music, Late and Soon here!

 

HOUSEHOLDERSHouseholders cover

Kate Cayley’s Householders (September 14, 2021) received a starred review in Quill & Quire! The review was published on October 6, and it will appear in the November 2021 print issue. You can read the review on the website here.

Reviewer Steven W. Beattie wrote,

“A book that so assiduously interrogates notions of identity and belonging … Cayley’s language is precise and evocative … Each of the collection’s stories—from ‘Pilgrims,’ about a woman who impersonates a nun online to find sympathy for her difficult domestic situation, to the stunning opener, ‘The Crooked Man’—contains writing that impresses with its barbed acidity as much as its clear-eyed observation … The lambent prose frequently belies the emotional heft of the stories, which creep up on a reader.”

Householders was listed by 49th Shelf as an Editors’ Pick! The list was posted on October 4. You can check it out here.

49th Shelf also published a great review of Householders in their list “8 Books That Explore Memory and Space”! The list was published on October 4. You can read it here.

Reviewer Fawn Parker wrote,

“The stories in Householders are haunting and enigmatic, with a clarity of emotion that cuts through the dreamlike atmosphere Cayley has crafted … With incredible attention to the nuance of interpersonal relationships—whether familial, romantic, situational, dysfunctional—each story in Householders is a window into an eerie but wonderful world.”

Order your copy of Householders here!

 

ON THE ORIGIN OF THE DEADLIEST PANDEMIC IN 100 YEARS

Elaine Dewar, author of On the Origin of the Deadliest Pandemic in 100 Years: An Investigation (August 31, 2021) was featured in an article published in the National Post by Jesse Snyder titled, ‘Exit of top public health agency official leaves questions on Chinese military involvement with high-security disease lab.’ The article was published online on October 18. You can read it here.

An interview with Elaine Dewar for the Ottawa Writers’ Festival was also published online on October 15. You can listen to Elaine’s interview with Neil Wilson here.

Order your copy of On the Origin here!

 

DANTE’S INDIANA

Randy Boyagoda’s Dante’s Indiana (September 7, 2021) received an excellent review in the Wall Street Journal! The review was published on Friday, October 8. You can read it on their website here.

Reviewer Sam Sacks praised:

“[Dante’s Indiana] mixes the outrageous social satire of George Saunders or Salman Rushdie with Prin’s more solemn and inward religious searching. The unique result juxtaposes the ridiculous and the sublime—fitting as both an homage to Dante and a portrayal of America.”

Dante’s Indiana also received a positive review in ZYZZYVA! The review was published on Monday, October 18. You can read it on their website here.

Reviewer Shelby Hinte wrote:

“Boyagoda shows how the political is always personal and the personal is always spiritual. The last ninety pages of the novel move at break-neck speed … The effect is a bit dizzying, but maybe that’s the point—in an age where the internet connects us across oceans and time zones, no one exists in isolation and every occurrence is connected.”

Order your copy of Dante’s Indiana here!

 

MUSIC, LATE AND SOON a finalist for THE MAVIS GALLANT PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION

coverWe’re thrilled to share that on Friday, October 15, Music, Late and Soon (August 24, 2021) by Robyn Sarah was announced as a finalist for the Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-fiction, presented by the Quebec Writers’ Foundation! The winner will be announced during a live-streamed gala event hosted by Giller prize-winning author Sean Michaels on November 24 at 7PM.

Since 1988, the QWF Literary Awards have celebrated the best books and plays published or performed by English-language writers and translators in Quebec, as well as those translating English works from Quebec into French. Each award comes with a purse of $3,000.

The other finalists for the Mavis Gallant Prize include: Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt’s Peacekeeper’s Daughter: A Middle-East Memoir (Thistledown Press), Karen Messing’s Bent Out of Shape (Between the Lines), André Picard’s Neglected No More: The Urgent Need to Improve the Lives of Canada’s Elders in the Wake of a Pandemic (Random House Canada), and Samir Shaheen-Hussain’s Fighting for a Hand to Hold: Confronting Medical Colonialism Against Indigenous Children in Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press).

The winner will be announced during a live-streamed gala event hosted by Giller prize-winning author Sean Michaels on November 24 at 7PM.

 

ABOUT MUSIC, LATE AND SOON

A poet rediscovers the artistic passion of her youth—and pays tribute to the teacher she thought she’d lost.

After thirty-five years as an “on-again, off-again, uncoached closet pianist,” poet and writer Robyn Sarah picked up the phone one day and called her old piano teacher, whom she had last seen in her early twenties. Music, Late and Soon is the story of her return to studying piano with the mentor of her youth. In tandem, she reflects on a previously unexamined musical past: a decade spent at Quebec’s Conservatoire de Musique, studying clarinet—ostensibly headed for a career as an orchestral musician, but already a writer at heart. A meditation on creative process in both music and literary art, this two-tiered musical autobiography interweaves past and present as it tracks the author’s long-ago defection from a musical career path and her late re-embrace of serious practice. At its core is a portrait of an extraordinary piano teacher and of a relationship remembered and renewed.

ABOUT ROBYN SARAH

Robyn Sarah is the author of eleven collections of poems, two collections of short stories, and a book of essays on poetry. Her tenth poetry collection, My Shoes Are Killing Me, won the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 2015.  In 2017 Biblioasis published a forty-year retrospective, Wherever We Mean to Be: Selected Poems, 1975-2015. Sarah’s writing has appeared widely in Canada, the United States, and the U.K.  Her poems have been anthologized in Best Canadian Poetry, 15 Canadian Poets x 2 and x 3, The Bedford Anthology of Literature, and The Norton Anthology of Poetry, and a dozen of them were broadcast by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac. From 2011 until 2020 she served as poetry editor for Cormorant Books. She has lived for most of her life in Montréal.

 

Get your copy of Music, Late and Soon here!

 

A Biblioasis Interview with Robyn Sarah

A decade and a lifetime in the making, Robyn Sarah’s Music, Late and Soon will be available to readers August 24, 2021. A memoir of a young woman’s career in music, which she leaves (for a variety of reasons) for writing, and returns to much later in life. An enticing ‘what-if’ story for the many people who abandon music in their youth and contemplate a return, but feel it’s too late. Sarah has spent the past decade with her first love, the piano, and has spent much of this time re-connecting and learning through celebrated teacher Phil Cohen. As a well regarded and award-winning poet, Sarah explores the relationship between the verbal and non-verbal arts, and verbal and non-verbal learning. A memoir of artistic vocation, it will be intriguing to music and poetry readers alike.

Q1: Can you provide a brief introduction to those readers who are not familiar with your work?

A1: Writing has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. I had it in my head from the age of six or seven that I was going to be a writer when I grew up, and that remained a lodestar for me through a lot of digressions – notably ten years in music school, when I thought I was headed for a career as an orchestral musician. I graduated from the Quebec Conservatory in the early 70s with a diploma in performance on clarinet, but abandoned music as a career path soon after, and eventually became the writer I always meant to be. Like many of my fellow writers in Montreal, I taught English in Quebec’s junior college system for many years, but since the mid-1990s I’ve worked as a freelance writer and literary editor, most recently serving ten years as poetry editor for Cormorant Books. Poetry is my primary genre. Though I’ve also published essays and stories, I think my poet’s perspective leaves its stamp on everything I write.

Q2: Music, Late and Soon chronicles another decade-long – to use your word – digression, a return to the serious study of music after more than three decades. “I was late for my piano lesson,” your memoir begins. “Thirty-five years late, to be exact.” Can you tell us a bit about why, at such a stage in your life, you returned to music, and perhaps a bit about the genesis of this book?

A2: Who can say with certainty why we do anything we do, and why at a particular moment? Human motivation is so layered. We have conscious motives, we have unconscious motives, we have intentions and impulses. We have game-changing encounters with chance. When we say, “It was just something I had to do at that moment”, we may not even know what tipped the balance. But when we make such a statement, we’re on our way to telling ourselves a story. This book is the story I told myself to explain why, at nearly sixty, I had to take piano lessons again – something I had thought about doing many times before without acting on it.

Robyn Sarah, age 8

– Which leads to your question about the genesis of the book. On this particular occasion, the thought came simultaneously with the idea of writing a book about it. And somehow, it was the book – the untold, unlived story I sensed there – that made it possible for me to do what I hadn’t been able to do before. I felt propelled into simultaneously living the story and writing it. At first I thought it would be a much shorter book – a story about a year of late-life piano lessons, leading to a small recital. I didn’t know it would take me back to my years in music school. I didn’t know it would demand that I finally make some sense of my abandoning a career as a clarinetist just as it was getting off the ground. It was only in the bringing together of both processes – my literary process and a return to serious musical practice on my first instrument – that the living and the writing overflowed those initial parameters.

Q3: You’ve explained how writing about your return to music took you back to your musical past. Can you say a little about where that return has taken you as you’ve moved forward?

A3: Well, it wasn’t very long before I realized this was no caprice. It wasn’t even a “project” – not in the sense of something I could finish and walk away from. I realized I was back at the piano for the long haul. I had dropped any expectations; I was open to wherever it wanted to take me. The second part of the book describes some of the places it initially took me – among them, playing piano in local cafes and a retirement home; playing a small private recital beset with unexpected challenges; attending a three-week summer piano intensive where I was the oldest participant by – you guessed it – thirty-five years. It also brought me new friends, new repertoire, new perspectives, and a sense of ongoing adventure as I entered my sixties.

Q4: Your memoir chronicles more than a return to and relationship with an instrument (or many instruments, several pianos and clarinets both!); it also tells the story of a special relationship with a very special teacher. Can you tell us a little about this?

A4: Philip Cohen’s legacy – very much his own, but at only one remove from celebrated pianist Alfred Cortot, who taught his teacher – lives on in the teaching of his students in Montreal, New York, Chicago, L.A. and overseas, all of whom acknowledge his extraordinary qualities. I began studying with Phil at eleven, stopped at seventeen, and returned briefly in my early twenties. When I came back to him at 59, I never imagined I would end up studying with him again for nearly nine years – the same length of time as I did earlier in life. My adult years as mother, teacher, and writer were book-ended by those two periods of intense musical mentorship. This “late and soon” aspect of our relationship was one thing that made it special. But everyone who studied with Phil Cohen had a special relationship with him, and everyone’s was different. His approach to teaching was based entirely on his appreciation of the individual human being: you felt he understood you better than you understood yourself, that you had his full attention, and that he cared. Not only were his musical insights endlessly inspiring, but regardless of age, background, or personality, he was able to reach people on a soul level.

coverQ5: The initial goal of this project was to return to piano for a year, to ready yourself for the possibility of performance, and to write a short book about the experience. Both book and the experience it chronicles became much more than this, and I think Music, Late and Soon is, among other things, one of the best books on artistic dedication and vocation I’ve read. Can you highlight a few of the things you learned along the way?

A5: When I first approached my teacher with the project of spending a year working to prepare a modest recital program, his response was, “Why would you not just start working again and see where it leads? Playing the piano is like any art form, any creative process – it doesn’t work by deadline.” I think the primary thing I learned as we worked together anew was to respect creative process – to trust it and to recognize the patience it requires. Not just at the piano, and not just in my writing, but in living life. The book became as much a meditation on creative process as it is a personal story. Many of the things I learned were actually things I had learned before but found myself relearning on a deeper level. This itself was one of them: that serious learning is a process of coming back again and again to deepen acquaintance with something we think we know.

You can order a copy of Music, Late and Soon here.