Local Authors

An interview with local author (and NVCL staff member) Michael Kerr

MK-InternetPhoto CroppedTell us about your book, The Nervous Prince and Other Stories.

Well, my book is a collection of short stories, each of which is a modern retelling of a classic fairy tale. I’ve played with point of view – Rapunzel becomes the hairdresser’s story for example – and give lots of allusions to modern considerations such as having Hansel and Gretel search out carbohydrate treats in the forest because their caregiver has put them on a Paleo diet. You might think these kind of twists would go over children’s heads, but that’s partly the point; parents often have to read stories to their children over and over, and I thought the adults should get some amusement out of the deal as well. Besides, children are surprisingly sophisticated in some ways, and often understand more than we adults give them credit for. So they are children’s stories, but geared to an adult audience as well. I think you can tell when you read my book, that I had a great deal of fun writing the stories.

41Q+Z8fVfsLWhy do you write?

There’s something really satisfying about working on a story and having it come together. It’s time-consuming, of course, and I don’t have a lot of time… But as I said, it I get a lot of pleasure out of it. I also really enjoy being part of a writing community and sharing things I’ve been working on. It’s great to see other writers’ works in-progress too and see how they have solved issues and dilemmas with the craft. Plus (at least if people read my work) I get to be part of the cultural conversation we’re all having as we march through life.

hardyDescribe your first ever piece of writing.

I wrote some poems when I was very young, and then in primary school I decided to write a mystery. I think it was grade 2 or 3. I had been reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, and was certain I could pull off something exciting like that. I wrote in one of those saddle-stitched scribblers. I don’t remember the plot, but the bad guys were caught in the end.

boyindressI’ve read your book. What should I read next?

That’s a tough one. If you’re a younger reader (or parent who wants something with a bit of depth to the fun) I’d suggest David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress, or Mr. Stink. Another ‘children’s’ book I read recently – one that I just loved – is The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. I don’t think I can say enough about how great the Bradley book is. If you’re looking for an adult book that is light and amusing (but with a real human touch) you might like something by Alexander McCall Smith –  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, or The 44 Scotland Street books.

couplandWhat local authors do you love?\

Douglas Coupland is pretty great. And at the North Shore Writers’ Festival, I discovered a new local writer, Alexander Boldizar, who has a rare talent. I haven’t finished his book, The Ugly, yet, but he has a real gift.

suitableWhat is the best book you’ve read so far this year?

Hands down, it’s A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I reread it this year and it is just so amazing. When I finished, I carried around those characters for days. It’s a 1,500 page novel, and I found myself thinking it was just too short. Thankfully, Seth has written a sequel of sorts, A Suitable Girl, which is supposed to be released next year. I can’t wait.

Where can fans find you?

I’m a Goodreads author, so I have an author page there. I’m also on LinkedIn. But I’m afraid I’m not terribly active in the social media sphere (I don’t think I could market my way out of a wet paper bag). Twitter would work, I suppose – I’m @NVCLMichael

Thanks, Michael!

If you are a published local author who would like to be interviewed for The Top Shelf, please be in touch!  Email me at plesku@cnv.org



Mikale’s Fall Picks 2016


Short, crisp rainy days. Slow-cooked root vegetables spiced with nutmeg and coriander. Crispy home-made bread. Wool sweaters. Tea. Thick books.After a whirlwind summer, there are not enough cliched nouns to describe how much I love and relish the fall season.

This is the time of year where I typically pull-back from my social calendar, take a break from weekend adventuring and settle in for some serious nesting. It also happens to be one of the greatest seasons for literary fiction as publisher’s unleash many of their heavy-hitters for awards season and early Christmas shopping. The only issue I had choosing this fall’s picks was limiting the list to a reasonable number because so many of my favourite authors are releasing new titles, and each book looks so, so good.

And thus begins a new season of glorious hibernation….at least until ski season.


The Course of Love by Alain de Bottoncourse-of-love

If we have crossed paths in the past couple of weeks then you’ve probably already heard me raving about this book. It is essentially a cross between a novel and literary essay, as we follow Kristen and Rabih through the ebbs and flows of their long-term monogamous relationship. The story is told in two parallel voices: one follows the two central characters as they navigate “happily every after” and the challenges which blossom after love’s original conception– raising children, adultery, laundry etc.. The other voice  objectively analyzes each of the character’s thought patterns and actions with remarkable clarity and psychoanalytic prowess.  I truly loved this book, and look forward to reading it again–albeit next time on my own copy so that I can scribble in the margins and underline my favorite passages.

wenjack.jpgWenjack by Joseph Boyden

Nearly 50 years after his tragic death, 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack’s story may finally be getting the attention it deserves.  As noted in this recent Maclean’s article,  this year three Canadian artists are using each of their respective mediums to shed light on the Residential School experience using Chanie as their voice and focus. Boyden, alongside Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie and graphic novelist Jerry Lemire,  mobilize the incredible power of narrative and one boy’s tragic story to illuminate this horrific chapter in the history of Canada’s First Nations peoples.  In Wenjack, Boyden has created an imagined re-telling of Chanie’s last hours alive as he runs away from a North Ontario Residential School realizing too late just how far away home is.  Like all of Boyden’s novels, Wenjack is already being touted as a literary masterpiece full of haunting landscapes, imagery and characters.

By Gaslight by Steven Price bygaslight

Back in 2014 Victoria, BC authorSteven Price made literary headlines when his latest novel, By Gaslight caused a highly competitive auction at the Frankfurt Book Fair before being sold for a rumored record-breaking advance. Since then, anticipation has been building among readers everywhere to get a chance to dive into this Victorian period piece and see what all the fuss is about. At nearly 800 pages, it is a spellbinding thriller embedded with dark, poetic imagery and detailed descriptions.

 spawninggroundsThe Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I have been a fan of Anderson-Dargatz since picking up her brilliant debut novel Cure for Death by Lightning many moons ago. Since then, the author has written numerous other beautiful novels which each with a distinct sense of place rooted in our beautiful province and the struggles which erupt as nature and man intertwine and collide. Her latest novel weaves multiple-generational stories of settlement along a fictional river in south-central B.C., not far from Kamloops. The Spawning Grounds has been receiving excellent reviews as an instant BC classic with a supernatural twist.

Nutshell by  Ian McEwan nutshell

Aside from the fact that Ian McEwan is undoubtedly one of our country’s strongest writers, his new novel sounds so fantastically bizarre that it’s hard to resist. Set within a mother’s womb, the story is told from the perspective of what McEwan describes as “a rather old fetus nostalgic about the times when he was small enough to float freely around in the womb” in this Globe and Mail interview, who bares witness to murder, deceit and all other matters of thriller intrigue. Again, impossible to resist.

Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon

moonglowReading Chabon is to read magic. Ever since The Adventures of Kavalier and ClayI have been a loyal Chabon-ist, and felt that his novels sparkle with an electric sense of playful history. In his latest book, Chabon blurs the lines between fiction, memoir and biography as he tells the story of his grandfather, whose life as an engineer, veteran, and felon offers an entree into themes of heroism and imagination.  Although the author tends to obsess over detailed side plots, such as the craft of comic making in the 1940’s in Adventures, and has at times been accused of losing track of the central story, I find these tangents  fascinating.


Happy nesting!


Celebrating British Columbia Books!

quadraIn honor of Monday’s upcoming BC day, we thought it was high time to highlight a few of our province’s literary treasures.  British Columbia is blessed to have a plethora of literary talent, many of whom root their stories in the places and regions they know best: the vast and varied British Columbia landscape. Below is a collection of both contemporary and classic BC-saturated books to keep you company while enjoying the beautiful long weekend ahead!

Happy reading!

New Arrivals

A Taste of Haida Gwaii: Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World by Susan Musgrave  tastehaida

This is a beaaaaautiful, hilarious, and fascinating collection of photographs, stories, and recipes that reflect BC’s wild West Coast. The first time I picked this book up at the library I knew that one round of check-outs was not going to be enough so I immediately purchased my own copy.

As proprietor of Copper Beech House, an infamous Haida Gwaii bed and breakfast,  writer and poet Susan Musgrave unveils her first cookbook which balances humour and wit to illuminate cooking and living on Haida Gwaii to life with stories gathered over decades.


The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz spawninggrounds

Best known for her gorgeous bestselling novel, The Cure for Death by Lightning and , A Recipe for Bees, Salmon Arm’s very own Gail Anderson-Dargatz has a new novel coming out this fall examines the cultural, and physical geography of the central B.C.’s Thompson-Shuswap region.



Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien 

As mentioned by Patricia in her last post, Vancouver born Madeline Thein’s newest book is already generating quite a bit of critical attention and was recently nominated for the Man Booker Prize Longlist is an international saga which stretches from 1940’s China to present-day Vancouver.


 Bit Rot by Douglas Coupland bitrot

From Coal Harbour’s “Digital Orca”, to City of Glassa literary and visual ode to our fair city, Douglas Coupland is an undeniable Vancouver icon. In his newest book, Bit Rot Coupland mixes short fiction  with essays to explore the ways humanity tries to make sense of our shifting consciousness.  (From the publisher)

Classic Reads

curveoftimeThe Curve of Time by Wylie Blanchet

Wylie Blanchet is a legend, and The Curve of Time is a testament to her bravery and independent spirit. Following the death of her husband, she explored BC’s often rugged a central coast alone with her five children summer after summer in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Her stories are incredible, albeit at times a little problematic when read from the perspective of a modern reader. That being said, if you haven’t already done so, I really can’t recommend this book enough. Did I mention that she literally died at her type writer? This woman, I tell ya.


Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson  monkeybeach

A true BC classic, since it’s orginal publication, Monkey Beach has become a fortified piece of the BC literary cannon. “Set in the Kitimaat area, Monkey Beach is a truly beautiful novel filled with details of Haisla culture and wildlife surrounding Kitimaat. It “combines both joy and tragedy in a harrowing yet restrained story of grief and survival, and of a family on the edge of heartbreak” (from the publisher).


goldenspruceThe Golden Spruce by John Valliant

What started as a feature article for The New Yorker soon evolved into this epic examination of the tragic loss of one of British Columbia’s most infamous natural wonders, the mysterious disappearance of the man who destroyed it, and a look into life on Haida Gwaii and the global forces which shape it. If you haven’t read this book, do it. Valliant is a master storyteller. He successfully lures readers in with compelling storytelling and pushes them to consider their own complicity in a modern world that often depends on the destruction of nature for survival.


Enjoy yourself out there this weekend!


Steven Galloway and Maggie Bolitho Reading on June 11

Steven Galloway photo credit Frances RaudSteven Galloway people.

The celebrated author of The Cellist of Sarajevo will be here on Wed., June 11th at 7pm to read from and discuss his new book, The Confabulist, which uses the life and sudden death of Harry Houdini to weave a tale of intrigue, love and illusion.

Galloway is the author of three novels, most recently The Cellist of Sarajevo, an international bestseller, called “the work of an expert” by The Guardian.

Here is what critics are saying about The Confabulist:

Confabulist“Vancouver author Steven Galloway created literary magic with The Cellist of Sarajevo, the international bestseller recently chosen for community reads in Toronto and elsewhere. Now in his new novel, The Confabulist, Galloway makes magic again, this time of the literal, stage-show variety.” Marcia Kaye, The Toronto Star

“With his new novel The Confabulist, Vancouver writer Steven Galloway effortlessly blends history and fiction into a thrilling narrative that is as irresistible as it is subtly complex…Like the best illusionists, Galloway engages in significant prestidigitation in the telling of The Confabulist. While the novel thrills on a strictly narrative level, pushing the reader through as they wonder what will happen next, its construction is deceptively complex.”Robert J. Wiersema, The Vancouver Sun

“I almost didn’t accept the assignment. But this is Steven Galloway we’re talking about — a brilliant Vancouver novelist, and the author of the The Cellist of Sarajevo — and I believe that, no matter the setting or conceit, a good novelist can make anything worth your while. And Galloway is nothing if not a good novelist. I’m happy to report that The Confabulist, his fourth novel, is a stunning achievement.” – Zoe Whittall, The National Post
MaggieJoining Galloway is local author Maggie Bolitho, whose young adult novel Lockdown will be published this June by Great Plains Press.  Lockdown follows fifteen-year-old Rowan Morgan as she hikes through a suburban forest after a great earthquake rocks the Pacific Northwest.
Maggie has been a soccer player, a horsewoman, a martial artist, a scuba diver (volunteer diver for the Vancouver Aquarium) and a cyclist over the years. Before making her home in British Columbia, she lived in Australia. In Sydney, her home was in a red-zone, the highest bushfire risk possible and it was there, when she trained as a member of the CFU (Community Fire Unit) as a firefighter, that her interest in disaster scenarios came to life.

The reading is free and starts at 7pm on the third floor of the library. Doors open at 6:30 for wine and snacks. You can register online via our Events Calendar.

Hope to see you all there!




Mothers’ Day Storytelling at NVCL – May 7th

Marilyn NorryI was feeling a bit lost last week with no more Writers Festival business on the horizon, but then I remembered how many amazing events are happening here at NVCL this Spring. Seriously amazing events!

The first I’d like to tell you about is an edition of North Shore Stories — our community storytelling series — featuring participants from the My Mother’s Story project, on May 7th.

My Mother’s Story is a really cool project that helps women write and share stories of their mothers’ lives. It was started in 2004 by Marilyn Norry, (pictured at right) a Jessie-award winning actress, writer, director, dramaturg, and teacher who has had roles in CBC’s Life and Times, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Little Women, and Battlestar Galactica.

Each story tells the facts of a woman’s life from beginning to end in less than 2000 words, where the writer is just a footnote. As well as workshops, Mothership Stories Society has published two books of stories and nine different stage shows that have told 48 mother stories.

Our event on Wed., May 7th, will feature five of the participants from the most recent My Mother’s Story Workshop. Doors will open at 6:30pm for wine and cheese, and the stories begin at 7pm. This will be a great Mothers’ Day event, so bring your moms and kids! It’s free, but please register by clicking on the “sign up” button on this page.

Here are the storytellers:

Yasaman (Yas) Azarpajouh is a Vancouver-based multi-platform media research analyst, a published writer and the principal radio host and producer of Vancouver Co-operative Radio’s award-winning radio documentary on the life of the Italian poet Fabrizio De Andre. Passionate about melodic storytelling and poetic imagery, Yas is deeply interested in challenging traditional mediums and creating new models through which stories are told. An enthusiastic traveler, she is fluent in Italian, French and Farsi, and dreams of one day directing her first short film

Linzi Martin is happiest when doing something creative, and writing “keeps creeping back into my life,” she says. Living in North Vancouver with her long-time husband Mark and being child-and car-free, Linzi enjoys European style cycling, no lycra in sight, and growing veggies in the balcony garden. She’s a Bach Flower therapist supporting people’s emotional well being. Linzi writes articles on living a simpler, greener lifestyle for Spiritual Lounge magazine and her own blog FeelGoodZone. Way back yonder she published her own magazine. “Researching my own mum’s story was a deeply moving experience. I hadn’t acknowledged till now how full of life she was as a mother and entrepreneur,” she said.

Rhonda Perry was born in Vancouver, BC, grew up in North Burnaby and has lived in North Vancouver with her husband, Randy, for 22 years. She studied and graduated from Douglas College while raising  two daughters and now has two delightful granddaughters that keep her busy singing, dancing and creating.  She has written some poetry, enjoys dabbling in mixed media and  loves inventing stories for her grandchildren.  In September 2011, she attended a workshop at the North Vancouver District Library on ‘How to write My Mother’s Story.’  Her story is one of 41 short stories published from these workshops in the book, My Mother’s Story: North Vancouver.

Sharon Quirke is North Shore artist and teacher who loves walking the seawall, snowshoeing on Cypress and sipping a cup of tea at local shops. She and her husband have raised three boys in the community. Her work is represented in galleries nationwide and her paintings are found in corporate, commercial and residential installations across the country. She retired from 33 years of teaching in the school system in 2010, and now runs a neighborhood tutoring business. Researching her mother’s story has been a pilgrimage of discovery for Sharon. She is excited to share her findings with you, and to pass on some family history to her sons.

Heidi Tadey came to Vancouver from Germany in 1957 as a 12-year-old.  She spent her high school years at John Oliver, Canada’s largest secondary school at that time and recalls how fortunate she was to have had Margaret Atwood as her English prof during her first year at UBC, although, of course, no one knew at that time how famous she would become.  Her plans of becoming an interpreter did not come to pass but she did use her knowledge of German and French in her first secretarial positions after school.  Her passion for the sport of tennis led to an association with the Vancouver Rowing Club (Vancouver’s oldest amateur sports club) initially as a member of the Tennis section and then as manager of the club and marina for seven exciting years.  Never being one to let grass grow under her feet,  for the next seven years  she tried her hand at being an entrepreneur operating a tanning studio/boutique/hair salon at the entrance to Granville Island.  Her last 20  years have been spent  pursuing a career in Vancouver’s hectic real estate market.  She now lives in Deep Cove on the North Shore.

Sounds like an interesting bunch, eh? See you all on May 7th!





JJ Lee and Karen Dodd on Feb. 5th

I am so excited for our next author reading on February 5th! JJ Lee, the sartorial superstar memoirist behind The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit, will be joining us, as will Karen Dodd, one of our most delightful North Shore Writers’ Association members.

JJLeeSmJJ’s book was shortlisted for the 2011 Governor-General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction, the 2012 BC Book Prizes Hubert Evans Prize for Non-Fiction, and the 2012 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize. Whew. Our NVCL Book Club read The Measure of  Man this past Fall and loved it.

KarenDoddKaren is a first-time novelist, who has recently published Deadly Switch: A Stone Suspense. She has also published hundreds of articles, and teaches new and emerging fiction authors how to build their author platform while writing their books. She calls it “building the plane while flying it.”

I hope to see you all there!


Date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Time: 7pm, doors open at 6:30 for wine and refreshments

Location: Singh Room, NVCL, 120 W. 14th St.

Free. Register online through our Programs and Events page by clicking on “Sign up.”

Can I See Your Poetic License Please?

Can I See Your Poetic License Please?      © Joan Boxall         November 2013.

…recalls my last car chase, in hot pursuit of an errant poet.

(officer)  You’re writing erratically

Like a wild Haiku

Tripping and looping, all over the page.

I’m gonna pull you over and throw the hardcover at you…(siren and flashers on)

Heh, you didn’t signal…pull over…(on radio)…Constable Cutterdown here, I’m not reading her.  Licence plate, RUB41ZEE; driving an Alice-in-mun-ro-land Hybrid, 10-4…


To hear the rest of the poem, join Joan here at North Vancouver City Library on November 27th for An Evening of Poetry where she’ll be reading along with Dina Del Bucchia.  The event is free, but please register.