Bookish & Filmish
Live book launches, digital talks, amazing book club discussions, a lot of editorial writing and a trip to London. . .it’s been an eventful month since Pull Focus launched.
More below about London, and other news. But, coming right up this week are two events, both free with registration. I hope you will join me for one, or both!
Monday, October 18th, 4:30-6:00pm EDT (aka TODAY) – Massey College Book Salon. This is a hybrid event, meaning you are very welcome to come be with us in person at 4 Devonshire Pl, Toronto (Register HERE; requires proof of vaccination at the door). Or please join us via the livestream HERE. I’ll be in conversation with Nalini Stewart moderated by Doug Gibson.
Friday, October 22nd, 3:30-4:30pm EDT – Toronto International Festival of Authors. Tune in to an engaging talk with authors Lola Akinmade Åkerström and Helen Walsh about their powerful debut novels, exploring important social issues, from racism, classism and fetishization; to contemporary feminism and toxic masculinity in the #MeToo age. Register HERE.
In Nigerian-American writer and photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström’s In Every Mirror She’s Black, three Black women are linked in unexpected ways to the same influential white man in Stockholm as they build new lives in the most open society run by the most private people. Walsh’s suspenseful, propulsive mystery Pull Focus follows a woman whose partner suddenly goes missing under threatening circumstances, just as she is thrust into the role of director for a major film festival when her boss is removed for sexual harassment.
“Pull Focus is a tense thriller set in the international film festival circuit. The novel dives headfirst into issues foregrounded by the #MeToo movement and crafts delightful characters who illuminate struggles in the film world. Whether you love exploring big ideas or just want to be swept up in an exciting thriller, Pull Focus is a read you won’t want to miss.”
Leaving on a jet plane. . .
It was thrilling and scary to get on a plane again for the first time in eighteen months.
Bit of a shock for a Torontonian to land in a city that has neither mask nor vaccine mandate in place. I continued to wear mine inside buildings, and outside if the streets were busy. And London seemed to be its normal bustling, partying self, with throngs of people shopping and eating up a storm, and young drunk women in pedicabs singing their heart out on Charring Cross Road.
As you know from a previous Letterbox, London is one of my favourite places, so I set down my case at The Bloomsbury Hotel as soon as I arrived, then went walking. First through the neighbourhood to say hello to old friends – LRB Bookshop, Russell Square, Jarndyce Books, Soho.
Then, a wider circle down to Covent Garden, across Trafalgar Square past the Maple Leaf flags of Canada House and along Haymarket, through St James Park, past Westminster Abbey and Buck House, along the Strand and back up to my hotel. I collapsed exhausted but exhilarated on the restaurant terrace, forced to have Afternoon Tea in order to regain my energy.
The highlight of my trip was an event at Canada House (the Canadian High Commission to the UK) to celebrate the UK publication of Pull Focus.
During that evening, I was enormously privileged to be interviewed by Lennie Goodings, a Canadian who emigrated to London 40+ years ago and helped build the powerhouse publishing firm Virago Books, serving in multiple roles including Editorial Director, Publisher and now as Chair.
I very much enjoyed our wide-ranging telephone call before the event, and then the interview itself. When she said she really loved Pull Focus, I assumed she was being Canadian polite. But it seemed she did, and she’d read with great attention. Her questions were probing and thoughtful, and she drew parallels to other writers and books, and to moments in feminism.
It was such a great evening, and I floated back across Trafalgar Square to have dinner with friends, elated and grateful to be back in what feels like a second home.
Lennie is intense, focussed and extremely bright. Her memoir, A Life in Books, was published in December 2020. It’s a remarkable book – a university level course on women writers and feminism. She’s had a starring role both as publisher and editor, including to Margaret Atwood and Maya Angelou, among many others. The writing is lively and compelling; I’d highly recommend it.
Recent Pull Focus Buzz
Chatelaine Magazine – Pull Focus named as one of fall’s best books. (It’s in the November print issue, and not yet available online but here’s a screenshot of the Apple News version of the article.)
Film Daily – Dive Into The World of Film with Helen Walsh’s Pull Focus. We were lucky enough to talk to Helen Walsh about her work, the novel, and what’s next for her.
It’s fun to scroll through Instagram and see photos of Pull Focus included by book bloggers, book clubbers and others, including @roseandelight in London, who was part of a book club I visited while in the UK.
I love chatting with book clubs about Pull Focus. Such passionate and careful readers; I inevitably come away with greater insights into the book I wrote!
News & Gossips
The program for Toronto International Festival of Authors is excellent this year. So in addition to joining my event (!), I encourage you to browse the whole programme HERE.
Currently shooting in Toronto: the film adaptation of David Chariandy’s excellent award-winning novel, Brother. Clement Virgo (Greenleaf) is writing and directing.
McNally Robinson in Winnipeg is celebrating their 40th anniversary (quite a feat in indie bookselling) with new initiatives and celebratory videos by authors.
Meanwhile, Ben McNally Books in Toronto has settled into their new home on King Street East and has a host of events and other activities going on.
Watch the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize on Monday, November 8 at 9 p.m. (11:30 p.m. AT, 12 midnight NT) on CBC TV and the free CBC Gem streaming service, with a livestream also available on cbcbooks.ca/gillerprize. Listeners can tune into a broadcast special on CBC Radio One and CBC Listen. More about the books on the shortlist HERE. I’m delighted to see my former Diaspora Dialogues colleague Jordan Tannahill on the list.
Meanwhile, the Governor General Literary Awards finalists were announced last week.
It’s terrific there are no crossovers between the Gillers and the GG adult fiction list. A huge number of books are published every year, and this fall the most ever. Many are excellent, and it’s far healthier for the industry to see a divergence of titles highlighted across media, bookselling, book promotion and prizes rather than the same titles over and over again.
Bye for now. Thank you for joining me for this eleventh issue of Letterbox. Please remember to: