Junction Reads

A Prose Reading Series.

February Fiction!

We’ve got another three readings lined up for February and they promise to brighten up what some consider the dreariest month of the year. We have a collection of short stories that is hot hot hot, a Young Adult novel with important mental health themes and a bit of poetry and new fiction from one of Canada’s best essayists.

February 7: Jess Taylor joins us with her fantastic collection of stories, Just Pervs from Book*hug Press. This book was the highlight of my summer reads and I can’t wait to sit with Jess to chat about her open and honest approach to relationships, sex and sexuality. A 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Bisexual Fiction, I am so happy JUST PERVS will be shared with you all.

“Jess Taylor’s second short-story collection is a bold examination of the contemporary underbelly of women’s desires. The stories centre on nuances of longing that are much more interesting than those found in many mainstream narratives: the gross bits; fleeting, horrible Tinder-era flings; and even a refreshing take on queer polyamory (in “A Story About Our Friends Lana and Tia”). Taylor writes about women’s desires across life stages very well, particularly in “So Raw You Can’t Sit,” which follows a septuagenarian protagonist taking up with a new partner in the face of judgment and chronic pain.” Quill and Quire.

February 21: Brent van Staalduinen returns to Junction Reads with his debut YA novel, Nothing But Life, that has a traumatized protagonist at its centre. An award-winning writer, I cannot wait to sit and talk to Brent about his latest novel.

From Dundurn: “Dills and his mom have returned to Hamilton, her hometown, hoping to leave the horrors of Windsor behind. But it’s impossible to escape the echoes of tragedy, and trouble always follows trouble. When Dills hurts a new classmate, it comes out in court that he was in the Windsor High library when the shooter came in. But he won’t talk about what he saw, what he still sees whenever he closes his eyes. He can’t. He definitely can’t tell anyone that the Windsor Shooter is his stepfather, Jesse, that Jesse can speak into his mind from hundreds of kilometres away, and that Dills still loves him even though he committed an unspeakable crime.”

February 28: When I learned Alicia Elliott was working on some poetry while at the same time completing her first novel, I was so excited she agreed to come to Junction Reads to talk about writing in a genre so unlike her popular and inspiring essays.

If you haven’t read Mind Spread Out On The Ground, you should. It is a collection of personal and provocative essays, like no other. A #1 National Bestseller, Shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize and named one of the best books of 2019 by many newspapers and magazines, it is the best non-fiction book I have read.

I hope you can join us for any or all of our upcoming events. Check out the Junction Reads EventBrite page to RSVP to our February Fiction Events.

Proof I Was Here: Becky Blake

I hope you can join us on Sunday January 17 at 5:00pm. Get your tickets on EventBrite today. Tickets are Pay What You Can with proceeds going to the author.

Finishing Proof I Was Here by Becky Blake, I had mixed feelings. While I was happy Niki was growing and moving, I was sad to leave the streets of Barcelona and all the cool people we’d met along the way.

Becky Blake’s debut novel is an immersion in street life, particularly into the world of creative people living off their art and their talent at getting things for free. Whether it’s dumpster diving or pocket diving, Blake’s characters have a value system that make each and every one of them watchable, and likeable.

If you cannot join us, we will have a video of the event uploaded to our YouTube channel. Purchase your copy of the book directly from Buckrider Books, or from your local independent bookstore. (Toronto stores that will deliver).


January Reads!

In Toronto, the snow is falling and the fall leaves are dancing in the wind down my street. I am sitting here finishing Becky Blake’s Proof I Was Here with Hannah Brown’s debut novel and Faye Guenther’s short story collection beside me. It’s pretty damn cozy.

We are coming up on our 6th anniversary and for the first time in Junction Reads history, I will have time to read all the books ahead of our author readings. I am glad for my dogs because without them, I might never leave the house.

We will be hosting almost weekly events in the new year and each will be a quick chat about one book with one author. Many of us have been locked to our screens with all-day zoom meetings and want nothing more than to read a book. We will pack each event with a quick chat, a reading and Q and A that you can enjoy while sipping a single cup of tea.

January Reads:

January 17 at 5:00pm: Join me as I welcome Becky Blake and her novel, Proof I Was Here. I have so enjoyed walking through the streets of Barcelona with Niki and Manu as they travel through pain and trauma. You can purchase it directly from Wolsak and Wynn. Get your tickets here.

January 24 at 5:00pm: Hannah Brown will chat about her debut novel, Look After Her. Published by Inanna Publications last year, it is a novel about secrets, sex, love and art, set in Europe during the rise of fascism. Get your tickets here.

January 31 at 5:00pm: Faye Guenther will join us to read and talk about her beautiful short stories, Swimmers in Winter. You can purchase directly from Invisible Publishing. Get your tickets here.

Our season has a book for everyone. Check out the full schedule here.

End of an Era: an interview with author Brit Griffin

Since author Brit Griffin began her Wintermen trilogy five years ago, it seemed the author had her finger on the pulse of what was to come to the world we live in. Setting her story on an earth devastated by climate change, mixed with the page-turning captivation of those old-time spaghetti westerns. Read an interview with Brit here.

Let Them In

A review from Alishya Weiland

I’ve always wondered why we don’t see many females in politics. Even before I started looking into it myself, I found it puzzling that often when it was time to vote I was stuck deciding between this man or that man. I was hopeful it wasn’t as bad as I thought, but when I picked up Elect Her written by Fred Groves, I was surely disappointed.

Out of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories only one of them has a female premier.

One out of 13. In total, there have only been twelve female premiers and one female prime minister. Out of 338 seats in the House of Commons only 98 are held by women. That’s not even 30 per cent. The numbers look just as grim for many municipalities around the country.

This means that whether women like it or not, often decisions about female reproductive rights, equality rights and more are decided by men. Only men.

Read the full review here.

As Real As It Gets: An interview with Dustin Cole

Dustin Cole’s debut novel Notice puts the Vancouver housing crisis front and centre within the framework of the story. Set during the summer of 2017 in Vancouver, BC,  economic imperatives are making space less and less accessible to low-income residents. The rental crisis is intensifying, ravenous real-estate development is thriving and there is a province-wide forest fire emergency blanketing the city in smoke.

Notice is the Kafkaesque story of a man under threat of renoviction, caught in the gears of bureaucracy in a city where economic inequality runs rampant; displacement and petty frustration abound. Dustin Cole writes with a documentarian sensibility from the unique perspective of Dylan Levett—a cynical dishwasher from Alberta whose greatest fantasy is a post-car world. With the spotlight turned to the down-and-out and the working-class, Notice seemingly holds a funhouse mirror up to the city of Vancouver—but the image reflected there might be as real as it gets.

Read the full Interview here.

To Reflect the Fullness of Life: An interview with Farzana Doctor

Farzana Doctor is the author of Stealing Nasreen, All Inclusive, Six Metres of Pavement,  and most recently, Seven. She has won the Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. She lives in Toronto. This interview was conducted in conjunction with the Farzana’s upcoming reading on December 6th at 5:00pm. RSVP today.

Your involvement in Canadian literature and social issues is well-documented and varied, from curating reading series to working with the Writers Union of Canada, mentoring emerging and established writers with Citadel,  Diaspora Dialogues, Mentorly, The Writers Union of Canada, and working with WeSpeakOut, a group that works towards the banning of female genital cutting, as well as a career as a social worker. The common thread here is humanity; you are involved with humanity. As a writer, this must impact your creative side (when you find the time!). Could you imagine it any other way, say if you were a dentist or a parking lot attendant, an architect or a crossing guard? 

Musician Ani DiFranco is known for her quote, “Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” I think most humans have a desire to improve our planet, and I do it through writing and social work and activism. But if I were a dentist or something else, I think I would do it through that labour. My parents modelled this. After I was called “Paki” in the playground, my mother complained to (then MP) Ed Broadbent. My father encouraged critical thinking about religious and state tyranny.

Writers often talk about style and voice, influence and storytelling, but for you, what is the one thing you find yourself comforted by with your writing – that makes it feel like it’s yours?

Every so often, I find myself in a state of flow in my writing, where the words just come, who knows from where (my subconscious, my higher self, spiritual guides?). In those moments, I am outside of my worries–about performance, the publishing industry–and just inside the writing. That’s very comforting.

Your first novel Stealing Nasreen came out in 2007 – how have you seen the Canadian small press publishing world evolve over the last 13 years? 

There have been a couple of changes. Social media has helped authors to have a public voice, to find readers, and to make connections with other writers. I also have seen more BIPOC writers get published and win awards, and this feels like the beginning of change.

You likely finished Seven before the world changed forever a year ago with COVID-19. As the news spread, beyond your concern for the world around you, those you love, etc., how did you feel this would impact the release of your novel – I know a lot of authors panicked about releasing their books this past fall.  

Yes, I panicked for about a day or so! There was uncertainty about the release date, and I’d already started working on my publicity plans and ARCS had already been sent out to reviewers and influencers. My publicist was laid off for a few months!  In the end, the novel came out only one month later, and  I’m grateful for that.

Junction Reads, along with a handful of other great reading series in Toronto are adapting to the new format in which Canadians must take in their live readings. Beyond the learning curve, Zoom, mute, barking dogs and children cameos, how has this changed altered your style of reading – has the pandemic made any major changes in the performance side of promoting?

In the spring I “attended” lots of readings, festivals and launches, hoping to pick up tips for my fall launch. By July, I’d accepted that all my events had to be virtual, and planned a variety of events. I still do readings, but generally organizers are limiting events to under an hour and asking authors to limit readings to under five minutes. So everything is shorter. I’ve been participating in more podcast interviews–which is different for me. In those podcasts the focus tends to be 30% on the book and 70% on the issues in the book, which is also different. I’m talking less about craft and more about political issues.

Seven touches on issues that are close to home for you – obviously drawn from your own interest. Was it a challenge to infuse humour into this story – or was that more organic, a necessity or something completely different?

It was pretty organic because humans are funny! My community and family are funny. So it wasn’t hard to find the jokes. But there was some intentionality. I prefer novels about serious subjects to reflect the fullness of life, and that includes the lighter bits.

Family is an endless theme in creativity. From film to television, poetry, memoir and fiction. The fourteen dollar question (this is publishing after all) is what does your family think of your fiction – do they ask you if this is supposed to be so and so, is this really how you see me? How do you deal with those queries – I’m sure aspiring writers would love to know.

My immediate family is supportive of my writing. They attend events, buy books, repost my stuff on Instagram. I think because this is my fourth novel, I no longer get those kinds of questions (with the first novel I did, a bit). I answered those questions in the same way I now answer “is this autobiographical?”–a question that comes way too frequently, given that all my books are fiction. I let people know that all my characters are composites of all the people I’ve ever met or eavesdropped on! 

You are an expert of social media and community building. What do you think the best advice to an author struggling with self-promotion burnout?

I actually don’t think that most authors get to burn-out. Rather, they’re too shy to self-promote or too afraid to pitch their ideas to media. I learned a long time ago that authors have to be as or more active than their publicists if they’d like people to take notice of their books. I’ve done over 45 interviews or events in the last 2.5 months–two-thirds of which I pitched myself. I’ve learned to keep asking for help and to take breaks periodically.

Seven is a novel about how the world is changing and how it can also remain stagnant. Early in the story, the narrator explains: “I wouldn’t have imagined I’d marry someone from our community; I’d heard too many stories from my Bohra girlfriends about men who started out as good boyfriends and transformed into fifties husbands after the wedding. Dinner on the table when I get home, keep the baby quiet, all that nonsense.”
Unlike gun, traffic, health and taxes, the inner-workings of a marriage (non-criminal) are not regulated by law (I could be totally wrong here). In your experience, both as a social worker and as a human being on earth, to what degrees are women afraid of marrying the wrong partner?  

You know, a few readers have told me that they find Sharifa’s husband, Murtuza, to be “too good to be true”. I intentionally wrote him as a good (and flawed) partner and father. He’s attentive, sometimes anxious and overbearing, but he’s meant to be a counterpoint to Sharifa’s most closed up and avoidant style. I also wanted to point the way to how cis male partners can be allies in sexual trauma healing. I know these kinds of cis male partners exist, and I’d like more cis men to emulate Murtuza.

This reading happens during key Holiday book shopping season. You’re in line at a fantastic indie bookstore like Another Story, Queen Books or Type and a customer points you out to their friend and holds up your new novel. The friend says, “You wrote this? Cool. What’s it about? I have a few people on my list soon.” Her friend turns to their friend and says, “She could sign it for you too!” In the frenzy that is December (social distancing frenzy), how do you explain what your book is about and why it would be perfect for two people you’ve never met in your life?

This book is about women’s relationships. How we move through personal disagreements and conflicts and change. It’s also about how we move those larger societal issues connected to patriarchy, those disagreements and conflict and change. Most people have told me it’s a page-turner, that they read it in two days, and can’t get the story out of their head.

You know that the issues you uncover in Seven are important. Why do you think that readers who are completely in the dark about the treatment of women in India should learn about these inhumane injustices?

Khatna is a form of female genital mutilation/cutting that happens in India. But it also happens in 92 countries (and counting) across the  globe. In recent years we’ve heard reports from women in Russia, Colombia, and white Christian women in the USA who are speaking out. FGM/C survivors are having our #MeToo moment. We estimate that over 100,000 women in Canada are survivors. So it’s our issue too, and we need to break the culture of silence that allows it to continue.

For more information on Farzana Doctor and her books, please visit her website.  

Interview with Nathaniel Moore. Photo by Tanja Tiziana

Promotion, promotion, promotion!

Most Canadian writers wear many hats. In addition to being authors, they are their own researchers, editors, publicists, marketers and salespeople. Getting their books into your hands is hard work, usually for little pay. Reading series like Junction Reads are important, which is why we try our very best to bring you the best of new prose from Canadian writers, most of hum represent the small presses we love so much, and promote the heck out of them!!

That’s where you come in. We don’t expect followers and friends to attend every reading. We’re all busy balancing our own creative lives with the other strange life we’re trying to live right now.

Share our events on Facebook. We have our event for December 6 up. Although we hope you can come, if you could show you’re interested, friends and family will see it on your newsfeed.

Our Events have been added to EventBrite, which can all be accessed at the top of our Upcoming Schedule page.

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter! We love following writers and publishers and we always share your work and upcoming events.

Junction Reads and moorehype publicity have joined forces to bring irregular but exciting content featuring members of Canada’s impressive literary community. While moorehype’s client base will be featured from time to time, other authors, publishers and literary factions will also make their way into these pages over the coming months as this experiment in literary enthusiasm continues to grow. So follow this blog for updates and links to new work!

More importantly, check out the small presses and the independent bookstores in your community! This season’s authors represent only a smattering of the great independent publishers in Canada. Dundurn Press, Douglas & McIntyre, Book*hug Press, Inanna Publications, Simon and Schuster, Orca Books, Buckrider Books, New Star Books and Invisible Publishing.

Getting back to writing. Getting back to reading.

This has been a year! While we all have our personal challenges to deal with and the hurdles (sometimes self-placed) to writing and finding time to read, this pandemic has piled on an emotional layer to our every-days that I am sure we can all agree was totally, um, unnecessary!

I have, like many, the usual problems with procrastination: the built-in ‘busyness’ of life; the avoidance causes (housework, sunshine, rain, ‘why are those two squirrels fighting?’); self-doubt, and your basic, yet regularly debilitating, bouts of depression and insomnia.

COVID made things better for some. I am in awe of the tweets and posts I’ve read about people just getting’ shit done! The problem for me is that I can’t say COVID made things worse or better. What it’s highlighted, more than anything, is I have no process. I didn’t have a writing or reading schedule to be interrupted. So, I’m just here. Unable to whine or wheeeee about the alternative life presented to me.

What I do know, and this is why I started Junction Reads in 2014 and why I made it a prose reading series, is that reading makes my writing better.

I was reading the STILL series by Amy Stuart this summer and her prose style and her character Clare’s voice inspired me to change perspectives of the narrative voice. While I’m not sure it will stay this way, I got a few thousand words down that day.

Jess Taylor’s JUST PERVS was a thrilling collection of stories that got me thinking about how inauthentic my writing can sound. Trying too hard is a big problem for me and it feels like Jess just so easily found a way to arouse the senses with each and every one of the stories in this collection.

Then GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER by Bernardine Evaristo punched me in the gut with its structure, personality and its powerful feminine voices.

There are more summer reads, but I don’t want to turn this into a review. I am also terrible at reviewing books. I’ve tried it so many times, and I can never evoke accurately all that a book makes me feel or think, or what you should feel or think when you read it. I also appreciate, even when a book doesn’t work for me, the heart and hard work that went into just finishing it, so honesty would also be a big challenge.

I am now reading all the Giller shortlist. Not because I think awards make books worthier, but because this year, the jury really killed it with the nominations.

But the book I think everyone needs to read right now is Farzana Doctor’s SEVEN. It is a powerful book and I am going to do my very best to review it in my next post. But hold the date for the relaunch of Junction Reads’ 2020 season. Farzana will join us on December 6 at 5:00pm!

We will be streaming on YouTube (hopefully) with a live chat. You can purchase SEVEN now at Another Story Bookshop, TYPE Books, Book City, your favourite indie bookseller, and also at Indigo and Amazon.

Follow us and share some must-reads for 2020-21.

Upcoming authors: Becky Blake, Sharon Kirsch, Brent van Staalduinen, Hannah Brown, Marissa Stapley, Faye Guenther, Aparna Kaji Shah and MORE!!

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