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Books to Inspire Writers in the Thick of It

You're looking at what you've written, and it's ... not very good. You can't figure out the voice. You can't make a city come alive. Your dialogue is flat. Your magic realism is way too woo-woo. It's all feeling grim.

Maybe it's time to stop the clicking for a few hours, and go outside. Yes outside (be careful, it might be bright), en route to a bookstore or library near you for inspiration. You might find just the book to untangle your thoughts and give you a whole new idea for how to approach a writing block.

In that spirit, we've compiled a few lists from over the years from generous author-contributors that might be helpful to you (the writer!) on your way to pushing through to something great.

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Great Kid Narrators (a list from Aga Maksimowksa): Aga writes: "These eight [narrators] have made me spurt soda in fits of giggles, cry until I gave myself the hiccups, and highlight their books until the pages turned parking-ticket yellow and tacky with fluorescent ink." To her list we would add narrators from Cordelia Strube's Lemon and On the Shores of Darkness There Is Light, Nancy Lee's The Age, Susan Juby's The Truth Commission, Alan Bradley's Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Teresa Toten's The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b, Susin Nielsen's The Reluctant Journal o …

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The Recommend: November 2014

Most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of author and magazine editor Gary Stephen Ross (Stung); YA author and Penguin Canada marketing and publicity manager, Vikki VanSickle (Summer Days, Starry Nights); 2014 Governor General's Poetry Award finalist Garth Martens (Prologue for the Age of Consequence); playwright, novelist, and actor Sean Dixon (A God in Need of Help); and author and former president of Canada's national association of science fiction and fantasy authors, Steve Stanton (The Bloodlight Chronicles).

Gary Stephen Ross picks David Macfarlane’s The Danger Tree

“A quarter-century ago, I was lucky to be the editor of David Macfarlane’s The Danger Tree, a book that was one of the first our company* published. As I worked on it, I wondered whether that fact was warping my judgment; whether, because I so hoped it would be brilliant, I was seeing brilliance in the merely competent. But how to explain the tears that welled up as I made my way through the manuscript?—tea …

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Garth Martens, 2010 Bronwen Wallace Award Winner: Readings and Readings

Garth Martens

Garth Martens is a construction labourer for an Edmonton-based commercial construction company and a recent graduate of the University of Victoria's MFA program. Garth was the winner of the 2010 Bronwen Wallace Award for most promising Canadian writer under 35. He is a former member of The Malahat Review's poetry editorial board and The Open Space Arts Society's Board of Directors. He lives in Argentina.

1) Garth Martens reads poems "Tonic Clonic" and "Collarbone:"

2) Tired Masculinity: Recommended Reading List by Garth Martens

The books I've chosen contribute to a conversation about masculinity. They don't offer new visions of masculinity, but they complicate the stereotype, the archetype, of the ordinary heterosexual man, whoever that is. They refuse the blinkered, reductive view. I've worked seven years off and on construction sites in Western Canada where there were seldom any women. The men I've known shared standards by which they measured themselves men. Eager to fit this role, each man nevertheless veered from it in astonishing ways. By shared understanding the crew moderated itself. And if each man was regulated by the tribe, he was also judged at a cross-cut by the public. So often I felt myself summed up at a glance merely because I wore steel-toed boot …

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