This week I joined forces with fellow Biblioasis writers Anakana Schofield (Malarky, Giller Prize Nom – Martin John), Samuel Archibald (Giller Prize Nom – Arvida), Larry Tremblay (The Orange Grove, etc), and, in Windsor, A.J. Somerset (Combat Camera, Arms), to promote our new books on the fall list. We began in Montreal on Monday night, had the expected crazy showing in Toronto the following night, and wrapped it up on Wednesday in Windsor, Biblioasis’ home base.
Though the main touring posse was to be me and the first three writers I mention, Archibald had to stay in Montreal and let us keep on without him, and Mr. Somerset graciously jumped in for the last stop. So, me, Anakana, and Larry, spent a lot of hours on trains and in hotels and in taxis, much of it together, and I was very grateful to discuss and argue and ramble on with them about all kinds of things I’m learning about having an actual book done. As Debris is my first published work, I was pretty green compared to all of these experienced and goddamn excellent writers, but I did my best to read well and learn something and drink a bunch of whiskey and swear a lot.
I think I at least had success in three of those things. It was one hell of an experience.
The Toronto launch was the big one for me, and I’ve been harassing people for weeks and months to get them out for all the writers and for Biblioasis. We did what we could to make sure we didn’t double up with any of the other press launches, for incredible and very popular houses like Coach House Books and BookThug and Wolsak & Wynn. People like Alana Wilcox and Paul Vermeersch and Hazel & Jay Millar were very kind in speaking with us and working it out so that we could each get the chance to support all of these fall launches, and see our friends and favourite authors throwdown. The community in Toronto is pretty tight, and almost bafflingly supportive at times, and I felt that through this whole deal.
It was also an important night for me in that so many of my friends that I’ve known for as far back as twenty years, from Midland and University of Toronto and from the writing community, came down from all over and hollered when they got a chance. And bought up all the copies of my book, as well as many copies of the other books on sale. I know that all of that enthusiasm left an impression on the folks at Biblioasis and on Anakana and Larry, and we were all very grateful for the crowd. Of course, many fancy people in the Toronto scene that I don’t know came for the more established authors on the list, and I’m sure some were real confused by why Debris got so much attention. But, I knew that it would be my one event where it would get a little rowdy for me, and I didn’t think anyone would give much of a damn about mine at the others. Turns out it was received, and the reading was received, welcomely in Montreal and especially Windsor. I was not really prepared for that, but I am thankful for it and for everyone who put up with me there.
People also got to meet my brother and my mum and my uncle, who came from a few hours away to celebrate with me. I was most nervous about reading in Toronto, mostly just because I very much wanted to deliver for them and to give them a reason to be proud of this. Of course, they’ve always had a hand in my stories, as far as I’m concerned, and I’d not be a writer or a proper human being without the work they’ve done. Those closest to me also know that my father passed away about two months ago, after a long fight with depression, and it weighed on us all heavy that he didn’t make it through to see this book published. All of the stories in there were influenced by my father and mother, and often my brother. Some of the most difficult passages in the work are not truly fiction at all, and my folks and family have never tried to stop me writing them down or really digging deep into our lives to write stories that matter. If there is any heart in my writing, this is where it comes from. Doing a decent job of this, and seeing my family in that room, speaking to other friends and those I’ve talked with over and over about my family, that did us all good. Especially after this hard summer and these past few years and what we’ve endured together. My mum and brother got to hear that they’d done a good job keeping me in line, and my uncle bought John Irving a beer. That’s not too bad for a Tuesday night…
With all that said and done, I had the one last event in Windsor where I got to see the Bibliomanse, where the sausage is made, and met the staff who I have been emailing all day everyday for months. They were good people and we had some whiskeys after and I left all of my shit all over the place. I may or may not have drank all the rye at a post-launch bar visit and may or may not have drank down a bottle back at Biblioasis HQ after while yelling nonsense to my publisher, Dan Wells, and generally making sweeping statements about my writing and writing in general and the operations of the universe as I saw them. Probably a lot of that was crazy talk and the whiskey helped, but that is also when I got the chance to get to know some Biblioasis fans and colleagues and especially my other cohorts on the Tour, Larry and Anakana, and Somerset. By the end all things were drank and I wandered the streets in Windsor awhile until about two hours before I had to get on a train. Seems like that was the only way it would ever end up. I regret nothing. Good times all around…
So, thanks again to everyone at Biblioasis who put this together, and especially Dan Wells and John Metcalf (my brave editor) and Grant Munroe. Thanks to my new friends and colleagues Anakana Schofield and Larry Tremblay and Samuel Archibald and A.J. Somerset, for learning me things about writing and books and life in general. The level of talent there is frankly terrifying, and I know that all of these writers have much success to come. If I can carve out anything alike to what they have, I will be a happy man.
I got a reading on the 21st at the Common Reading Series in Toronto, and some more Ontario tour dates and readings coming up in mid-late October, and the Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo in November. Until then, I thought I’d decompress and catch up on work and little things I’ve been doing to promote Debris. I’ll keep everyone posted. But, I wanted to write something here about the past few days, while it was fresh, and to thank you all for reading my work over the years and supporting this book. I appreciate you all, and I hope you enjoy Debris, as well as new stories and the novel that I have on the way later on.
For those who missed these, I’ll be around Toronto, and you can also buy the book from Biblioasis here. It is in all bookstores for the most part, all over the country from those who’ve reported their findings to me, even though the official wide release is the 29th of September. With a little luck, you’ll be hearing more about it after that and in the weeks to come…
All best to everyone. You are heroes.
(PS – All photo credits to Katrina Afonso. Champion.)