Thursday, March 26, 2009


Shaun Smith for DESK SPACE

DESK SPACE Who (a witty one-liner or a bio)?

Shaun Smith YA novelist & journalist.

DS When did you start writing, publish your first book (or when are you publishing your next)?

SS I’ve been writing since high school, almost 30 years now, but professionally only since 1996. My first novel—Snakes & Ladders—was published in January 2009.

DS Where do you write (at your desk/outside/in bed)?

SS On occasion I scribble by hand in a notebook, but only when I am working out story ideas. That usually takes place in a big comfy chair or in bed. It’s not really “writing” per se, but more like sketching, and takes up about 4% of my writing time. I do all my “real” writing at my desk, on a Mac. I wrote Snakes & Ladders at the desk in the photo here but in three different apartments. The first draft was written in a tiny bachelor apartment in North Toronto looking out a huge window into a wall of trees. I revised and finished the MS in a basement one-bedroom in Little Portugal facing a wall of red-brick. I finalized the edit and proofs (just today!) in the top story of a big old house in Parkdale looking out into a massive horse chestnut and jack pine. I like being back up in the trees with the birds and squirrels.

DS Why do you work where you do (at your desk because it is a quiet space/outside b/c it helps you think/in the park b/c you can smoke, etc)?

SS Simply put, I write at my desk because that is where the writing happens. I’m certainly not the first to say it, but I believe a writer has to have a place of his/her own to write. Some people say they can work anywhere but I don’t believe them. I feel as though my desk is as important to me as a taxi is to a cab driver. When I was a teenager, I knew I would one day become a fulltime writer, but I didn’t know how to do that because I came from an environment that did not value the written word. I had to find a way to carve that out on my own, and a desk, I eventually discovered, was essential to that. In the photo, up above my desk, to the left, you can just make out black-and-white photos of two of my favourite writers sitting at their desks. One is John Cheever and the other is P.G. Wodehouse. I cut those photos from Jill Krementz’s amazing book The Writer’s Desk, which was a very important book for me when it was published in 1996 because it provided a window into a world I wanted to enter. Sadly, it’s now out of print.

DS What are you working on now?

SS Assuming “now” is a flexible term, I’m working on a second YA novel, called The Slow Machine. It’s a road-trip story about a boy, his father and (escaped con) grandfather. That’s about all I can divulge on that at the moment. I’m also working on the outline (ie: scribbling in notebooks) for a five-book fantasy series.

As a journalist I seem to be talking to at least one different chef every day now, so of late I have been tacking the modifier “food” onto my journalist handle. I used to be a chef myself, so when I broke with that career in the 1990s to focus on writing, it became logical that I start writing about food, start looking at the kitchen from the outside in. Right now I have a bunch of food articles on the go—a piece about cookbooks by Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal, another about squab, another about four young Canadian chefs.

Coming up

This week on DESK SPACE: Shaun Smith

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Jennifer LoveGrove for DESK SPACE

DESK SPACE Who (a one-liner or a bio)?

JENNIFER LOVEGROVE Jennifer LoveGrove is the author of two books of poetry: I Should Never Have Fired the Sentinel (ECW Press, 2005) and The Dagger Between Her Teeth (ECW Press, 2002). She produces and hosts the literary radio program "In Other Words" once a month on CKLN 88.1FM. For over ten years, she has edited and published dig. Visit her at

DS When did you start writing, publish your first book (or when are you publishing your next)?

JL I started writing stories from a very young age. I remember hanging out in my closet, sitting on the floor with a standard typewriter, writing a story called "The Macaws' Triumph." It was the first thing I ever submitted to a publisher, and I was shocked and devastated when it was rejected. I think I was in the fourth grade.

DS Where do you write (at your desk/outside/in bed)?

JL I no longer write by flashlight in a closet. Mostly I am really normal and sit at my desk and type. I do sit on a pilates ball instead of a chair because it feels better and is good for the lower back, which I am also hoping improves my hockey-playing skills. Sometimes I write at the Rhino or at my friend Julia's when we have Writing Marathon Day (which usually involves prosecco and gossip). I carry a notebook and write bits of stuff that come to mind on the subway or when I'm half asleep, but that doesn't really count.

DS Why do you work where you do (at your desk because it is a quiet space/outside b/c it helps you think/in the park b/c you can smoke, etc)?

JL I write at my desk because it is near all the tools of procrastination that I employ: kitchen, bath, laundry, music, etc. Also because I have a large, numbered and colour-coded chart to help me organize the weird chronology and points of view in my current manuscript, and I refer to it often. It's too big to carry around with me.

DS What are you working on now?

JL I am working on the next draft of my novel, Watch How We Walk. I look forward to finishing it, for the love of god.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coming up

This week on DESK SPACE: Jennifer LoveGrove

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Jim Johnstone for DESK SPACE


JIM JOHNSTONE Jim Johnstone (born 1978) – reproductive physiologist, publisher of Misunderstandings Magazine, poetry editor for Cactus Press. Decaffeinated coffee only.

DS When?

JJ It’s difficult to pin down the origins of any behavior. Plotting Choose Your Own Adventure story arcs on hour-long commutes to elementary school (age 8) was a literal beginning. My first published poem appeared in Acta Victoriana in 1998, my first scientific article in Reproductive Sciences in 2005. The release of my first full-length book of poetry, The Velocity of Escape (Guernica Editions, 2008), was the culmination of years of juvenilia.

DS Where?

JJ Everywhere. Each summer I retreat to my family cottage in Apsley, Ontario where I write, sleep and fish on a little island with my partner Sandy Pool. Sandy’s a writer as well, and as an editor is much more important than place to my work. Back in Toronto, I generally write on my MacBook in bed or at my lab in the Medical Sciences Building at the University of Toronto.

DS Why?

JJ A cold apartment and general space/time constraints generally rule my writing habits. This spring, my creative bursts have been limited to time between antibody applications during Western Blots.

DS What?

JJ Two books of poetry, the first of which includes a suite of poems that won a 2008 CBC Literary Award. The second is a hybrid-media long poem that includes illustrations by a wonderful artist and friend, Julienne Lottering. I’m also in the process of editing chapbooks by Mark Laliberte (Suture Variations) and Edward Nixon (Free Translation) for Cactus Press, and vetting the 12th issue of Misunderstandings Magazine.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Coming up

This week on DESK SPACE: Jim Johnstone

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Michael Bryson for DESK SPACE


MICHAEL BRYSON Trapeze artist and Pokemon apprentice. [My qualifications for being a step-father.]

DS When did you start writing, publish your first book (or when are you publishing your next)?

When I was in public school, maybe grade three, I made a couple of issues of a family magazine. I only remembered that years later, after I had been the publisher of The Danforth Review for some time. My first book was published in 1999: Thirteen Shades of Black and White (Turnstone Press). I think they managed to sell a couple dozen copies.

DS Where do you write (at your desk/outside/in bed)?

MB Now that I have a laptop (which I like a lot better than I thought I would), I can move around. I don't have a special place, but I do have a desk. Really, I write wherever I am. Sometimes I'm better with pen and paper.

DS Why do you work where you do (at you desk because it is a quiet space/outside b/c it helps you think, in the park b/c you can smoke, etc)?

MB Barbara Gowdy once said in a course I took that it was good to re-read your work in different settings, like in bed, on the toilet, in the morning, etc. So that you could get different insights into it. Moving around helped to refresh your thoughts. I did that already, so of course I thought it was brilliant advice.

DS What are you working on now?

MB I'm trying to get into a novel about an infamous recent murder in Toronto, though it seems it's really a book about fathers and daughters. I've still got a long way to go!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Coming up

This week on DESK SPACE: Michael Bryson