The Best Books on Writing That You Won’t Want to Miss

April 12, 2017

Serious writers are also serious readers. They learn by reading how other talented writers craft a sentence or an argument, how they handle pacing and character development, and the various other elements that must be considered when writing a book.

Most writers also have some favourite, go-to books for wisdom and inspiration about writing. We polled some of our writer friends, and some of our colleagues, about their favourite books on writing. Their answers were sometimes surprising, and always eloquent. These are the books they mentioned:


Karr_The Art of the Memoir“Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir came out just as I was finishing Red Star Tattoo but reading it would have saved me months, maybe even years, of rewriting. There’s so much good advice about how to tell a story in ways that are honest and compelling. But I’m very glad I started with Listen to Me: Writing Your Life Into Meaning by Lynn Lauber. I read this book less as a how-to and more as a why-to.  Because the first thing you need is to have faith that it’s okay to have a voice, to tell your truth. I think I struggled with that for a long time.”

Sonja Larsen, author of Red Star Tattoo: My Life As a Girl Revolutionary


Marquez_News of a Kidnapping“Gabriel García Márquez and News of a Kidnapping. Here’s why: Though Márquez is known for the magical realism of his novels, News of a Kidnapping is the work of a master reporter. The book recounts, in stunning detail, a string of high-profile kidnappings ordered by Pablo Escobar in Colombia. Márquez, who counterintuitively advised aspiring writers to first learn to “say it straight,” got his own start as a newspaperman; tapping into those roots for News of a Kidnapping, Marquez reveals how permeable the membrane is between fiction and nonfiction.”

Arno Kopecky, author of The Oil Man and the Sea and The Devil’s Curve


Boyton_New New Journalism“My pick would be The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft by Robert Boynton. Reminiscent of the Paris Review interviews, you feel like you’re getting a privileged peek behind the curtain at some top-notch writers’ processes. As I remember it, one writer would tack hard copies of his drafts on the wall, then look at them from across the room through a set of binoculars turned backward, in order to give himself a sense of detachment while editing his own copy. Never tried it myself.

 “Had a discussion about this book with some officemates. One of them pointed out that I appeared to be searching for a magic bullet, but there is no such process for writing. It’s all just hard work, flailing, etc. Another also liked the book but felt like it was just another alluring form of procrastination from actual writing. There it is. Apparently I should be doing more writing rather than reading.”

Masa Takei, freelance writer


Gutkind_You Can't Make This Stuff Up“Non-fiction: Lee Gutkind’s You Can’t Make This Stuff Up. This is the first book I read when I decided to spend more time and effort on creative non-fiction. It’s packed with practical advice (and examples) from Gutkind and his students, on everything from structure to scene reconstruction. Good, solid, helpful advice and observations.

  “Fiction: Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream. I’ve given away several copies of this book to aspiring writers, because, as a Butler_From Where You Dreamseasoned writing instructor, Butler knows all about the things beginning writers forget to address in their work. He’s refreshingly humble too. Most of the examples of “failed” attempts at stories come from Butler himself, demonstrating why his early drafts failed. A lot of craft books end up giving you the same advice most of the time. Much of the advice I found here is unique to this book.”

Phil Dwyer, author of Conversations on Dying: A Palliative Care Pioneer Faces His Own Death


Heminway_Moveable Feast“In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway writes about his early attempts to craft a unique literary voice while struggling to support his young family in 1920’s Paris. Tender, spiteful, and always deeply vulnerable, it provides an intimate look at all the emotional tools a determined writer employs to get through the day.  A little envy, a lot of discipline, and the courage to listen to your heart when your mind tells you otherwise.”

John Lekich, freelance journalist, film reviewer, and novelist


 startle_194w“Startle and Illuminate: Carol Shields on Writing is a wonderful collection of Carol’s writing tips, developed over decades of honing her craft. Carol’s daughter and grandson gathered the material from Carol’s published works, including her novels, as well as letters, course notes, and speeches kept in the Shields archive in Ottawa. I love that Carol outlines how to ‘find time’ to write within a very busy schedule, including raising five children! My favourite tip? ‘Write as if you were spilling your story into the ear of a perfect listen, and in as direct and unmediated a way as possible.’

Lamont_Bird by Bird“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott is about (among other things) the joys and frustrations of approaching life as a writer, the dangers of perfectionism, and the inspiration to be found in daily moments. The book also contains some useful tips for not feeling overwhelmed by tasks—you simply have to take them ‘bird by bird,’ which is now my time management mantra.”

Amanda Lewis, Page Two Project and Development Manager


Welty_The Eye of the Story“Eudora Welty’s The Eye of the Story, because she knows when writing rules should be bent and broken. And because she recommends the ‘elimination of waste’ in writing but also warns against being too tidy.

 “And I know this is not a book, but I love a great podcast, and listening to Eleanor Wachtel draw great stories out of great storytellers in Writers & Company is both instructive and inspirational.”

Jesse Finkelstein, Page Two Principal

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This is That takes gold in humor at the 2017 IPPYs

April 11, 2017

thisisthat_194w We’re very happy to share that This is That: Travel Guide to Canada is a 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards National Medalist, taking the gold medal for humor! From publisher Ron Tite:

“On the cover of “This is That Travel Guide to Canada,” you’ll see “Winner Bookshelf Award of Canada”. Well, that’s part of the joke. It’s a fake award. This, however, is not fake… With over 6000 entries, I’m proud that this hilarious work of art was recognized for its brilliance. Take a bow, Pat, Peter, Chris, and Dave.”

We couldn’t agree more! Take a bow, This is That team. And, enjoy the award ceremony in New York at the end of May!

For more about the awards and this year’s IPPY winners have a look here.


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Announcing new publishing client Leslie Gavel

April 4, 2017

Dropout_Gavel_coverWe’re thrilled to welcome our new client, Leslie Gavel! Leslie is a former social worker and a Calgary-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, More, Today’s Parent, Avenue and several North American newspapers, and has been produced for CBC national radio. Leslie’s new book, Dropout: How School Is Failing Our Kids (And What We Can Do About It), is her memoir of coping after her teenage daughter drops out of school, and an examination of the public school system itself.

 In the fall of 2000, while in Grade 7, Leslie’s daughter began what would be a four-year disengagement from school. At first Leslie felt fear and anxiety, which manifested as blaming her daughter and herself. Then Leslie shifted from a place of blame to investigation, and began to analyze the school system itself. Did school—its history, structure, practice—play any role in underachievement? Did dropping out—an ultimate taboo for teenagers, along with pregnancy and drug abuse—really have to mean the end of the world for child and parent?

 Told from the deeply personal perspective of a concerned parent, Dropout is a memoir about one family’s experience in the public school system. It also considers the latest research in alternative approaches to school, and offers suggestions for students who may not fit society’s definition of “success.”

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Announcing new publishing client Meg Salter

March 30, 2017

Meg Salter mindfulness coach

Photo: Kathryn Hollinrake

We’re thrilled to welcome our new client, Meg Salter! Meg is a meditation teacher and an accredited coach, with thirty years’ experience as a senior business manager and change management consultant. Her new book, Mind Your Life, is a practical guide to incorporating mindfulness into your daily life, customizing a path to suit your style and schedule.

The benefits of mindfulness are clear: improved attention, reduced stress, enhanced well-being, empathy, and resilience. Unfortunately, many people don’t get past the first stage and soon give up, or resist moving past trends to find a practice that works for them and their busy lives.


Combining coaching techniques with Shinzen Young’s Unified Mindfulness, Mind Your Life offers essential tips for inviting more attention into your day, from the boardroom to your commute and at the dinner table. Interwoven with the strategies and theory are inspiring stories of ordinary heroes who found that simple changes sustained over the years led to remarkable lives, improved relationships, and career success.

Whether you have only a few minutes a day to start or have been meditating for years, this book is for you.

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Zazie Todd’s Wag acquired by Greystone Books

March 30, 2017

Zazie ToddWe’re delighted to report that we’ve sold World English rights to Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, by dog trainer and popular Companion Animal Psychology blogger Zazie Todd, to Greystone Books.

Wag is an essential book for any dog owner concerned about her dog’s happiness, for the readers of Inside of a Dog and The Other End of the Leash. It’s an evidence-based guide to what makes dogs happy in all aspects of their lives, from exercise to grooming to training, veterinary visits, playing and sleeping through to difficult decisions in end of life care. In it, Zazie Todd unpacks cutting-edge research from around the world to help dog owners understand how to improve their animals’ lives. Readers will learn the science behind how to motivate their dog; how to make their dog enjoy being handled and be less stressed at the vet; and how to provide socialization and enrichment for their dog. Most importantly of all, they will learn to better recognize when their dog is happy – and when they are not.

Todd has a PhD in Psychology (Nottingham) and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. She is an honours graduate of The Academy for Dog Trainers (known as “the Harvard of Dog Training”), gives talks and workshops on scientific dog training, and is a volunteer at the BC SPCA. Companion Animal Psychology has been mentioned by The Daily Mail,, Scientific American blogs, the Smithsonian magazine, Victoria Stilwell’s, and The New Inquiry, and Zazie also writes Fellow Creatures, a blog at Psychology Today.

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