Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Devil Comes to Town

A Devil Comes to Town 

by Paolo Maurensig
Translated by Anne Milano Appel

Excerpt read to you by Katherine Krige
Reading from pages 21-23 

World Editions is hosting a page-a-day Read Along of Paolo Maurensig's newest novel A Devil Comes to Town. I was asked to contribute a reading of his book as well.

Listen along, as illustrious readers, including Paolo himself, spin the tale of a devil who arrives in a town full of writers, intent on shaking up the Swiss village's harmony. I join other authors, publishers, booksellers, and more, as we work through Paolo's literary thriller page by page.

It's a beautiful day for a dark tale of narcissism, vainglory, and our inextinguishable thirst for stories. Care for a listen?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Award for Best Supporting Actor Goes To...

The bell rang signalling the end of first period. I walked out of Mr Warne's class with a new textbook, my class list, and a dull fear of how I was going to maneuver the rest of the school day minus the one thing that everyone else seemed to have—a locker. Somehow, I fell short in the locker lottery and would now be forced to carry all my possessions for the rest of the day. Scratch that, for the rest of the school year. Not so bad now with only one textbook in my backpack, but there were seven more classes to go, and sure to be many more books added to the load before the day was through. The office suggested sharing a locker with a friend, but that was something I had in short supply. I had squeaked through primary school with one and she now went to a different high school.

By my first spare, I had picked up a couple more textbooks, but no more friends. Always painfully shy, this would be far harder than solving a math equation or analyzing an English paragraph. I slipped towards the gymnasium looking for a corner to hide out in and ease my backpack off my shoulder. And that is when Nikki smiled in my direction.

"Hi," she said. "I think you were in my homeroom with Mr Warne. What did you think of him?"

"Um. He's alright I guess," I mumbled.

No one ever typically sought me out for conversation. I felt out of my depth, but somehow buoyed by her friendliness. She had mousy brown hair, an English Beat tee-shirt, and big, beige glasses that took over half her face. Just like mine did. And apparently she wasn't put off by my Bi-way cords or equally mousy haircut in a slightly light shade.

We chatted for a few minutes, and then she commented that my bag looked heavy.

"Yeah," I replied. "I didn't get a locker. I guess I'll have to get used to it."

"Do you want to share mine?" she asked.

And with that, I gained a best friend who would fade in and out of my life for years, but would always be there to share the load when I needed a friend the most.


Today's 30-Day Writing Challenge though is two parts. The above is part one. The second half of the challenge is to imagine what life would have looked like if my supporting actor had not stepped into my world. 

How did they change you and how have they influenced your life? Try to imagine who you would be without them. Write that scene again but without them


I walked out of Mr Warne's class. Barbie and Kelly pushed by me laughing at some inside joke I wasn't privy to. Kelly looked over her shoulder, as they got to their locker.

"Nice glasses," she muttered to Barbie with a nod in my direction. Both girls snickered cruelly, as they jammed their heavy backpacks into the shared space.

"Oh, look," Barbie added.

"Twinsies," she cried as another girl slunk out of the now empty classroom. "It's the nerd squad!"

I put my head down and quickly walked away from them. The weight of my backpack was nothing compared to the embarrassment that weighed me down by being centred out by the 'cool' girls. I might not ever had been overly popular, but being singled out to be picked on was more than I could stomach on my first day of school. My only friend from primary school went to another high school, leaving me alone in a sea of strangers. Anxiety swelled inside me as I fled away from their taunts. I was too scared to stand up to their cruelty and too shy to seek out the other poor girl who was sadly lumped into my geek domain. She didn't need that kind of stigma.

At the end of the hall, I escaped into the girls bathroom. Older girls stared at me, as I stumbled in. This wasn't the refuge I imagined. Those weren't friendly eyes boring holes into my cheap Bi-way outfit. I wouldn't fit in here either. Maybe I wouldn't fit in anywhere...


Would it have gone down like that? I don't want to know. With a new friend at my side, I gained confidence to find my voice, to find my tribe, to find my path. I am blesses that she walks on my path still and has influenced my life for the better every step of the way. She is a positive role model and amazing cheerleader for anyone who needs the boost. She might have experienced her own ebbs and flows in life, but she sure isn't afraid to fight for what's right for the downtrodden, little guys, or marginalized. And her soul makes mine stronger to fight for the same rights for those in need in my neck of the woods. She is definitely one of the best supporting actors in my life. 💕

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Roll the Dice: Amazing Inventions


Character: A child
Conflict: Invents something amazing

I have 15 minutes to create. Where will the story go?


"Mom! Dad! Check this out," Ginny yells excitedly, as she stands in front of her hand-crafted workbench.

Calling it a workbench is generous. Old nails stick out of scavenged plywood and pilfered two-by-fours. A scrap of Ginny's shirt snared in a rusted peg not quite flush with the uneven surface. She is infinitely proud of the bench though, having made it when she was nine. Still standing, but barely...

"Will you go and look?" Lizelle begs, hands covered in flour as she pounds chicken for schnitzel.

When no movement arises from the living room, she adds, "It's your turn. I got to see the marvels of the marble run last week!"

"mmmrhh... Fine. But these taxes won't finish themselves!" John shoots back, as he clumps out to the back room that they have designated for Ginny's workshop.

"What do we have today?" John asks. "Something to help me find more money on our taxes? Maybe a meat tenderizer for your Mom?"

Ginny rolls her eyes.

"Meat tenderizers have already been invented Dad," she exclaims. "And I don't know why you still do your taxes yourself. That nice lady in the mall said she could do them for you and was sure to find
you oodles of rebates."

"Anyway," Ginny continued as John rolled his eyes. "This is something WAY cooler! It's amazing! Check it out!"

Scraps of lumber littered the floor. As did a good pile of sawdust and Lizelle's new hammer. John nimbly avoided the spill of nails and overturned yoghurt container lying in the midst of the mess. It was a good thing that he came for this invention unveiling, as Lizelle would lose her mind at the chaos.

"It's... umm," John started. He cocked his head and looked at it from one side, then the other. "It looks interesting Ginny. But uh... What is it?"

Sawdust, Saw, Wood, Woodworks, Timber, Logging


That's it! My 15 minutes is up. We'll never get to find out what Ginny invented and whether Lizelle or John would be as amazed as she was by its invention. Did I set the scene? Did I build any tension? Would you keep reading if there was more to the story or should there have been more depth, intrigue, or character development? 

Day 3 of my 30-Day Writing Challenge!

Monday, April 1, 2019

DAY 1: Stream of Consciousness

words educate injustice questioning my place here
white skin hurts
mirrors on history show us
water be damned fingers broken heart of stone drop
hear the name

prayers aren't enough social divide to remember
face the chant
bleed into past present future
forget remember at the table more than hand wringing
money puke mouth

dance mother earth lecture tells the story
listen for you
place babies label guilt own
tears added to sky aunties uncle arrows claw truth
more stories told

tomorrow strength together cedar smudge own it
see the totem
equal parts grief reconciliation stand
leaves touch bodies bend dance beat drum house pain
change turn amend


Words. A collection of them. Random, but somehow formed into a stream of consciousness based upon listening to this year's Massey Lectures. Punctuation isn't part of the game, as I tackle Day 1 of April's 30 Days of Writing Challenge

7 words
3 words
5 words
9 words
3 words
1 word

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Boekenweek Part 2: You Have Me to Love

You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben, Translated by David Doherty, © 2014, World Editions

Grief is a familiar topic for me. So when I read the description of 'You Have Me to Love' by Jaap Robben, the theme spoke to me.

"On a remote island somewhere in the North Atlantic, a nine-year-old boy looks on helplessly as his father is swept out to sea. Consumed by guilt and paralyzed by his mother's frantic grief, Mikael cannot bring himself to tell the truth about what happened. As the pair struggle to restore the fragile balance of their isolated lives, the young widow starts to demand the impossible of her only son."

A woman distraught over the loss of her husband is relatable. Hearing the story from her son's perspective is intriguing. Delving into her complicated and prolonged grief is disturbing, but worth exploring with the help of Robben's powerful prose. How does anyone handle someone stuck in their bereavement, especially when you have your own loss to process and understand? That is Mikael's challenge, and he is only 9 years old when his father drowns. Plus, he lives on an isolated island with no other support at his disposal to help either himself or his grieving mother. It sounds like a recipe for disaster.

While the subject matter is challenging, Robben tackles the novel with an unexpected beauty. Guilt is a familiar emotion in grief and Mikael struggles with it, especially as he is the only witness to his father's death. As the years pass, he tries to embrace love and acceptance once more, only to be confronted by his mother's inability to process her own grief. Add to that the spectre of loneliness—another component of bereavement—and compound it with their remote island home. How is one to find hope? Readers can only pray that Mikael can find the strength and maturity to combat his mother's impossible demands. To say anything more, would spoil the plot for readers eager to dive into Robben's highly-acclaimed novel.

The book is currently being adapted into an English-language film.


Jaap Robben

'You Have Me to Love' is the second novel I had the pleasure of reading for Boekenweek. What a week to celebrate; a festival of literature for 10 days! I choose to read Thirty Days and You Have Me to Love to explore both a Belgian (Verbeke) and Dutch (Robben) author—Belgium and the Netherlands being the two main host countries of Boekenweek.

While Verbeke's novel was excellent, Robben's perfectly touched on this year's theme—The Mother The Woman. The blurred lines between those roles are a stark part of Robben's engaging narrative. As a woman, where do the lines start and end in motherhood? You might want to check out more books from this year's Boekenweek theme to help figure that out.

World Editions also provides more information about Boekenweek and the many tours, readings, and festivals going on in North America from March 23-31, 2019. They are proud supporters of high-quality English literature on a world scale, with an affinity for their European and, more specifically, their Dutch roots. Care to read more of their books? World Editions can help.


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