Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Carleton Wilson for DESK SPACE: I recorded the following poems while at St. Michael's Hospital for IV antibiotics to help a lung infection. Please forgive the quality of voice on the recording.

Carleton Wilson reads Ligature:


Carleton Wilson reads Rumi:


Carleton Wilson reads Coughing Blood:


Saturday, December 18, 2010


Various things completely unrelated to writing that somehow end up on my desk, such as my passport, jewellery polishing cloth, blank birthday cards that I never got around to sending. Also a whole bunch of history books.

The cat hogging my chair as usual.

Rachel Lebowitz for DESK SPACE

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

RACHEL LEBOWITZ Mother, writer. First book, Hannus, was shortlisted for a BC book prize and the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Second book, Anything but Hank! (co-written by Zach Wells and illustrated by Eric Orchard) is apparently “the best book ever!” according to a kid who heard us read from it last year. Third book is in progress.

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

RL In grade 1 maybe? By the age of 8, I had ditched my early dreams of owning a bakery in favour of being a writer. And I wrote lots of poems then. Apparently, love is good to everyone, even if you weigh a tonne. Who knew?

I published my first book, Hannus, with Pedlar Press in 2006. Hoping to publish the next book in 2012 or so but I have to finish it first.

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

RL My writing process is two-fold. Because the work I do (especially for my latest project) is so research-based, I tend to just get comfortable and do a lot of research in the livingroom. I read lots and use lots of sticky notes. Then eventually I wander over to my desk (in the corner of the dining room) and type up those notes and do more research online and write.

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)?

RL I work at home, alone, a couple days a week while my son is at daycare. I can't focus on my writing in public spaces. Also, I always read my writing out loud while I'm working and feel self-conscious if anyone else is around. Rhythm is very important to me and that's the best way for me to hear it (or lack thereof).

I used to write on paper but I can't do it anymore. For one thing, I do so much research that I need the internet to do quick searches on something – often right in the middle of writing. It could be an image search or the line from some poet that I need to check, or a map of England or facts about cockroaches or coral reefs. I can't imagine writing without google. For another, I'm a really slow and picky writer. It's picking up now, but it's not unusual for me to write one poem a year. However, those pieces do tend to come out fairly finished – I edit as I go along. I can't write another sentence if I know there are problems with the first one – and seeing all those scratched out lines on paper just depresses me and makes me feel like I'm not going anywhere. So the delete and enter keys are my friends!

DS What is the last book you read (or what are you reading)?

RL Orlando! I just started a book club and we're focusing on various classic works we've never got around to reading. It's pretty exciting. Sometimes I feel like all Canadian writers do is read each other's work or the next big thing. I want to get away from that for awhile. Also, these days I'm reading lots of nursery rhymes to my son and I'm finding them pretty inspiring for my own work.

DS What are you working on now?

RL Cottonopolis – a book of prose poems about the Industrial Revolution, specifically the cotton industry, mostly focusing on Manchester. Slavery, empire, child labour, Luddites, American civil war, etc. It's pretty huge and terrifying and exhilarating.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010


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

ROSALYNN TYO Rosalynn Tyo, Managing Editor of The New Quarterly: Canadian Writers & Writing, Blogger-in-chief for the literary type, writer (some day) of magazine articles and personal essays.

DS When did you become interested in literature and the publishing industry?

RT I can't really remember a time when I didn't love books. My mother is a great reader; she taught me to read before I went to kindergarten, which meant, on the first day anyway, I was the smartest kid in class. I think my fate was sealed sometime in between recess and snack. But my memories of this period are pretty vague.

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

RT Most of my day time hours are in The New Quarterly office, but I like to blog and work on my own projects, such as they are, in my living room, on the couch. When I have the option, I like to layout issues of TNQ here in my living room too, because here I'm not distracted by other things on my desk: the piles of paper, sticky notes, messages, etc that are equally urgent. From an ergonomics standpoint, this couch is a nightmare, but that just gives me all the justification I need to fidget, stretch, walk to the coffee maker and back. This room gets lots of natural light, and the window faces the street. I always sit facing the window. In fact, this photo just reminded to rotate my couch cushions; if you look closely, you can actually see the indentation left from my last session.

DS Why do you work where you do?

RT I like sitting here because I find that when I write, I spend about as much time idly staring as I do typing, and my street is just busy enough to accommodate this habit. There's never enough going on to actually distract me, but there's always something to look at when I happen to look up. My neighbour's tree. My crazy neighbour's cat. Rollerbladers. Kids going to school. You know, suburbia. And if I'm not looking out the window, I'm staring at the bookshelf in the other picture. That bookshelf was made for my grandmother, was an important fixture in my childhood bedrooms (we moved a lot), and the top shelf houses my 'current all-time favorites'; I find it both comforting and inspiring to look at.

DS What is the last book you read (or what are you reading)?

RT I signed up for the Great Canadian Book Challenge for the first time this year, and the way I chose to personalize it was to limit my thirteen books to ones that have been given or lent to me by friends, family or complete strangers. Book number eight was Galore by Michael Crummey, lent to me by my mom (we both loved it); I'm now in the middle of February by Lisa Moore. It's breaking my heart. A friend cautioned me that it would ruin future books for me because it's so good; I think he might be right.

DS What are you working on now?

RT Trying to actually finish one of the many essays I've started so that I may send it out and thus finally understand how the many submitters to TNQ really feel!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coming up

on DESK SPACE: Rosalynn Tyo

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Christopher Morris for DESK SPACE


CHRISTOPHER MORRIS I am an actor, director and playwright living in Toronto and am the artistic director of the theatre company Human Cargo.

DS When did you start becoming interested in acting or get your first role?

CM My first official play was playing some kind of grave digging person in grade three in a version of A Christmas Carol at my elementary school in Markham, Ontario called Kateri Tekakwitha. My first "real" play was in grade nine in a collective abouhigh school called The Highschool Zone, I played a nerd and a tough guy.

DS Where do you come up with ideas for your characters?

CM I always get ideas about my character from the script. Sometimes I feel like I get too "outer" and looking for effect if I look outside the script.

DS Why do you work where you do?

CM On a smaller scale, I work in my small farm house in Toronto. It's a perfect kind of oasis from the city, at times I feel like I don't live in a city because it's tucked away off the street, but great because I can get right into the middle of the city whenever I want. Over the last few years I have been creating work with my company in places outside Toronto (some of them being - Nunavut, Iceland, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, Republic of Georgia, Petawawa, Yellowknife). Working in places outside my culture help keep me off-balance in a way and make me try to find new ways in, or new ways to create things.

DS What was the last play or film you watched?

CM The last film I watched was Polytechnique, the last play I watched was Cloud Nine.

DS What are you working on now?

CM I am working as an actor on an extremely dirty adaptation of Racine's Andromache, and organising upcoming workshops for Human Cargo. One is called The Runner and is about ZAKA (I'm writing and acting in this), the other is called Petawawa and is about how the war in Afghanistan affects the families of Canadian, Pakistani, Afghan and Taliban soldiers (I'm directing this one).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Coming up

on DESK SPACE: Christopher Morris

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Adrienne Weiss for DESK SPACE


ADRIENNE WEISS Adrienne Weiss lives in Parkdale, teaches college students how to write, and then tries to write stuff herself.

DS When did you start writing, publish your first book?

AW First attempt at writing a story—a murder mystery—was in 1983. First attempt to get published—in OWL Magazine—was in 1985. First book: 2001. Last published poem: 2008.

DS Where do you write?

AW In bed while Coast to Coast is on the radio, at the desk in the picture, while students write exams, whenever I am held up in a waiting room waiting to do my taxes….

DS Why do you work where you do?

AW That desk in the picture is in a small room surrounded by paper and pictures and funny paraphernalia that somehow or other creates a comfortable yet disturbing space. That helps with the writing.

DS What are you working on now?

AW Still working on a manuscript of poetry now eight or nine years old. Dreaming of writing a lengthy essay that outlines the brilliance of Stevie Nicks’ Bella Donna.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Coming up

on DESK SPACE: Adrienne Weiss

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Richard Crouse for DESK SPACE

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

RICHARD CROUSE I’m a purveyor of opinions, some wanted, some not.

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

RC From the time I was quite young I always wanted to look at the book shelf and see my name on the spine of a book. I just had no clue how to make that happen. I wrote (an unpublished) book about my favorite band, The Rolling Stones, when I was fourteen or so. But I had to wait twenty more years to actually write one that went to the printers. My best advice for anyone who has their first book coming out is: remember everything about the process because it’s never the same or as fun, again. I recall when the author’s copies of my first book arrived by courier. Twenty-five copies of the book in a big brown cardboard box with the title and my name on the side. I was excited but let the box sit unopened for several hours because I knew when I opened it, although it was going to be cool to see the book, that part of my dream would be over.

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

RC I write in my home office, a sun drenched room cluttered with books, DVDs, nic nacs, and things to keep my brain active. It’s close to the kitchen so there is a never ending supply of caffeine at arm’s reach and it has a big couch for, as the Friendly Giant would say, “two to curl up in,” although most of the time it is just me, sitting, avoiding writing.

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)?

RC Virtually everything I’ve ever written that has been published has been written on the desk you see in the photo. Or, I should say, what’s left of the desk in the photo. The only part that remains of the original desk is the top—the rest of it slowly disintegrated over the years of being moved here and there, but I refuse to let go of the top. It has been the support for my original Underwood typewriter, a series of electric typewriters and now a series of computers and lap tops. It is pock marked and scarred, has had drinks spilled on it and was once treated as a chew toy by a Doberman but is always there for me… and for that reason as long as I write, wherever the desk is will be my favorite place to be.

DS What was the last film you watched/ book you read?

RC I see anywhere from 5 to 10 movies a week, so by the time you post this I’ll have seen 20 more movies, so I’ll pass on that question, but I have been reading a lot lately. I don’t read a lot of fiction but Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem is pretty fabulous and a book called Sway: A Novel by Zachary Lazar has been highly recommended to me.

DS What are you working on now?

RC I always have a number of projects brewing simultaneously. There’s a new TV show that is close to getting funded, a half finished novel about a singer who kills his drummer to get publicity for his band’s new record, the syndicated radio show and a dozen or so writing gigs. Other than that I’m just trying to make sense of all the words in my head by putting them in the right order.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coming up

Next week on DESK SPACE: Richard Crouse

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Jonathan Ball for DESK SPACE


JONATHAN BALL Jonathan Ball: writer, teacher, and wannabe polymath.

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

JB I always wrote but got serious about it in 1999. Ten years passed, and I published my first book of poetry, Ex Machina (BookThug, 2009). Ex Machina is a long poem written according the conceit that the book is hijacking the neural machinery of the reader to produce poems, and it meditates on the interconnectedness of poetry, books, machines, and humans. My next book (also poetry) will be Clockfire (Coach House, 2010). Clockfire consists of prose poems which describe plays that would be impossible to produce: a play in which you destroy the sun, plays in which you murder the audience, a play which requires magical powers or absurd physics, and so forth.

DS Where do you write?

JB I write at the desk pictured here. I took the picture in the middle of a writing session (on my coffee break). Twice a week, I write in my office at the University of Winnipeg --- my University of Manitoba office has no computer (I am a sessional instructor at both universities). I may make notes elsewhere, but I try not to write unless I am at the desk.

DS Why do you work where you do?

JB My handwriting is too messy to read so I never work longhand, and I don't have a laptop. Also, I need to confine my writing to a particular small area that I can walk away from --- if I can't physically walk away from the work, then I go crazy feeling compelled/obligated to work constantly. There are also tax reasons to have a specific area of the apartment isolated as a home office. I listen to music while I write, heavy metal for the most part, and my computer doubles as my stereo (you can see the subwoofer on the floor).

DS What are you working on now?

JB The third draft of The Crow Murders, a novel. Not wanting to say too much about a book still in progress, I will reproduce my standard line: "The Crow Murders draws on magic realism and postmodernism to tell a story steeped in gothicism, where the book itself is a monster that seeks the death of its characters." Always working on other things, but this novel is my top writing priority.

Monday, January 4, 2010