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The Chat with GG's Literature Award Winner Kim Senklip Harvey


We continue our Governor General’s Literature Awards coverage in conversation with Kim Senklip Harvey, whose work Kamloopa: An Indigenous Matriarch Story (Talonbooks) won in the category of drama.

According to the Peer Assessment Committee, “The brilliance, the irreverence, the fire of Kamloopa sweeps us into the world of three Indigenous women on a mind-bending quest. The audience is seduced by the love, humour and depth of these matriarchs as they embrace and celebrate who they are in the world and with each other. A play that will encourage you to re-evaluate your relationship with Canada.”

Kim Senklip Harvey is a proud Syilx and Tsilhqot’in and an Indigenous theorist, a cultural evolutionist and an award-winning writer and director whose work focuses on igniting Indigenous power by creating comedic and joy-centred narratives that nourish her people’s spirits. She is currently working on the development of two television series: her Salish love story, On the Plateau, and the adaptation of her play, Kamloopa. She is also completing her first prose and poetry book, Interiors: A Collection of NDN Dirtbag Love Stories, and is in pre-production to film a musical feature of her next artistic ceremony, Break Horizons: A Rocking Indigenous Justice Ceremony. S …

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The Keepers on My Bookshelf

LS Stone's debut novel is the middle grade novel What's in It for Me?, which is up for giveaway on our site this week.


I have several  favourite Canadian middle-grade/YA novels that have inspired my own writing—these four are superbly written novels with interesting/likeable characters and believable dialogue, and contain a common thread of humour:

We Are All Made of Molecules, and No Fixed Address, by Susin Nielsen

Getting the Girl, by Susan Juby

Saying Goodbye to London, by Julie Burtinshaw

No one writes humour for kids/teens quite like Susan Juby and Susin Nielsen, while at the same time tackling tough topics like bullying in high school (Getting the Girl), homelessness (No Fixed Address), a parent coming out and the relatable tribulations of blended families (We Are All Made of Molecules).

Book Cover Saying Good-bye to London

Along with Juby and Nielsen, Julie Burtins …

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5 New Books with Intriguing Premises

Well, look at the first paragraph of how Gary Barwin's new book is described (below) and tell us you're not a little bit curious. Motl needs his balls back and it's hard not to wonder how he's going to find them given that they were "lost to him in a glacier in the Swiss Alps in the previous war." If ever there was a quest! Along with Barwin's upcoming adventure, here are four other books that you might find as tempting as we do. Mark your calendars for when they're released – soon!


Gary Barwin's Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted (March)

From the book description:

"Motl is middle-aged, poor, nerdy, Jewish and in desperate need of a shave. Since having his balls shot cleanly off as a youth in WWI, he's lived a quiet life at home in Vilnius with his shrewd and shrewish mom, Gitl, losing himself in the masculine fantasy world of cowboy novels by writers like Karl May—novels equally loved by Hitler, whose troops have just invaded Lithuania and are out to exterminate people like Motl. In his dreams, Motl is a fast-talking, rugged, expert gunslinger capable of dealing with the Nazi threat. But only in his dreams."


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Patriarchy Lies: Women Are Funny

Book Cover Better Luck Next Time

Kate Hilton's latest novel is Better Luck Next Time, a story that puts the comedy in "divorce comedy" and of which Marissa Stapley writes, "Kate Hilton’s writing reminds me of Nora Ephron‘s work: it’s laugh-out-loud funny, with startling observations about life, love, family and reinvention at any age."


Patriarchy tells so many lies that it’s hardly a sport to single one of them out for special attention. Let me do it anyway: Women are funny. And when they set their minds to writing comedy—especially about the intricate web of relationships that we call a family—they do it very well. (Perhaps it is the feminist undercurrent in women’s comedy that the patriarchy finds unfunny? Just a thought.) Today we celebrate the women of Canadian humour writing, and their perfectly dysfunctional families.


Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin

Dysfunctional Family: Ayesha Shamsi is an aspiring poet and substitute teacher who lives with her widowed mother, her brother, and her grandparents—unmarried and seen by many in her conservative Muslim community a …

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Launchpad: Show Me the Honey, by Dave Doroghy

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launching the memoir Show Me the Honey, by Dave Doroghy, a lighthearted, self-deprecating account of one fledgling beekeeper’s misadventures.


The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

It’s a humorous self-deprecating book about the challenges of raising bees; and how the real rewards of the hobby are derived from simply studying these fascinating bugs, and not from the meagre honey yields.

Describe your ideal reader.

People interested in our ecology, folks interested in t …

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Lesley Crewe: Books for Difficult Times and Ordinary Moments

Lesley Crewe is one of Atlantic Canada's best-loved and bestselling writers, author of ten novels including Mary, Mary, Amazing Grace, Chloe Sparrow, Kin , and Relative Happiness, which has been adapted into a feature film. Her latest is Beholden—and here she shares a list of other books about people finding their way.


All of these books are about making your way in the world. The beauty and horror of relationships, expectations, dreams and sorrows. How do any of us walk on, when life pushes you endlessly back and forth like the tide? We don’t want to be alone. Hearing stories about how others cope with their existence is reassuring, like having a lamp in the window. 


A Good House, by Bonnie Burnard

About the book: I loved the bits of ordinary small-town life revealed through the story of Bill and Sylvia Chambers. They were exactly like the people I grew up with. Not exciting or extraordinary, but their lives were important, regardless. It made me want to look at small things—the moments that make up our everyday lives, the ones we tend to i …

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Anne T. Donahue Doesn't Think of You At All

Nobody Cares is Anne T. Donahue's first book, a collection of essays about growing up, getting it together, and reconciling what it means to be a work in progress. 


49th Shelf: In your book you espouse some pretty controversial views—you hate cheese AND show a disregard for Muriel's Wedding. Do you worry at all about alienating cheese-loving Toni Collette fans?

Muriel's Wedding Poster

Anne T. Donahue: Absolutely not. First, because I have every line spoken by Toni Collette in The Sixth Sense memorized and aspire to be more like that character on a daily basis, so I recognize her as both a Queen and God. Second, because my hatred of cheese is no secret. I've tweeted about it, mentioned it on podcasts, and ordered cheese-less pizza for years. As a result, the dairy lobby's been after me for years. And while that is an absolute lie, I'm ready for when they finally declare me their enemy.

49th Shelf: At the moment, the market is saturated with self-help books pushing women to be "more" and "better." You take a different approach, and write about owning your failures, and ev …

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The Chat with Patrick DeWitt



This week we’re in conversation with Patrick DeWitt. His latest novel, French Exit, tells the story of Frances Price, widower and “Upper East Side force of nature,” her layabout son Malcolm, and their ageing cat Small Frank, who Frances believes houses the spirit of her late husband.

Quill & Quire says “DeWitt’s absolute mastery over this approach is a thing of beauty: every nuance, scene, character, and snippet of dialogue is pitch perfect.” The New Yorker, meanwhile, calls DeWitt “a stealth absurdist, with a flair for dressing up rhyme as reason.” 

Patrick DeWitt was born on Vancouver Island in 1975. He is the author of three critically acclaimed novelsUndermajordomo Minor, Ablutions, and The Sisters Brothers, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and the Stephen Leacock Medal. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He lives in Portland, Oregon.



Trevor Corkum: French Exit is called a “tragedy …

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The Chat With Jessica Westhead



Jessica Westhead has an uncanny ability to combine humour and despair in her writing. In her latest collection, Things Not to Do, we meet folks at the end of their rope who still manage to unearth wry and gorgeous moments in their day-to-day lives.

The Toronto Star agrees, stating, “Westhead brings empathy and humour to everyday absurdities with believable and recognizable characters.” Steven Beattie, writing for the Globe and Mail, says her writing “is infused with a generosity that is infectious: It draws a reader in and demands an emotional accounting.”

It’s a pleasure to speak to Jessica about her new work.

Jessica Westhead’s fiction has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, selected for the Journey Prize anthology, and nominated for a National Magazine Award. She is the author of the novel Pulpy & Midge and the critically acclaimed short story collection And Also Sharks, which was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book and a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Short Fiction Prize.



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16 Seriously Funny Poets

Poetry just isn't that funny.

This is the kind of outlandish and generalized subjective-disguised-as-objective statement critics make about poetry all the time, donning their authority as one might don a hat. Critics do the same thing with humour—as though funny can be definitive, as though it wasn't kind of weird that one guy gets to be the definer.

So now I'm going to do that too, and pretend the following list is scientific and totally not subjective and not at all compromised by the list being limited to books I happen to have on my bookshelf. I'm going to put on the hat and OWN my authority: Behold, sixteen seriously funny poets.

Thanks to Dina Del Bucchia for the inspiration. And in the spirit of conversation (and expanding the limits of science) please tweet us YOUR favourite funny Canadian poems and poets @49thShelf


Fake Paul, by Kimmy Beach

What's so funny: he asks if anyone is called Michelle

I could fucking be Michelle

a frumpy woman with grease

in her hair calls, I'm Michelle!


she's not even looking at him

she's talking to her friends while he sings

                       to her!

he doesn't even look at me the whole song

I'll tell him I broke the wineglass accidentally 

cut myself a bit but I'm all right

leave my blood on the table


I can see the vei …

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Elizabeth Renzetti on SHREWED

Shrewed is the book we've all been waiting for, a brilliant collection of essays about the lives of girls and women that is as hilarious and heart-wrenching as it is heart-warming, a book that will make you first want to call your mother, and then go out and organize a feminist parade down the middle of your street. Elizabeth Renzetti is best known for her much-loved columns in the Globe and Mail, and she's also author of the bestselling novel Based on a True Story. Here, she talks to 49th Shelf about humour, swearing, and the pleasures of reading.


49th Shelf: You write about the genesis of your book, how the idea for an essay collection came about in the aftermath of the 2016 American election. How is the finished product different from your initial vision for the collection? What parts about the process surprised you?

Elizabeth Renzetti: I hope it’s funnier than I thought it would be! Those were dark days at the end of 2016. A poisonously misogynistic man had been elected to the most powerful position in the world, over a woman who had vastly more experience and intellectual ability, but who didn’t smile enough, apparently. Or possibly she smiled too much—I’ve lost track. As I wrote the essays, I realized that making myself laugh also lifted my spiri …

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Fabulous, Funny Picture Books: A List by Naseem Hrab

Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend is the debut picture book by Naseem Hrab, illustrated by Josh Holinaty. And amidst all the great reviews the book has been receiving, consensus seems to be this: the book is funny. And the only thing we like better than a funny picture is...five picture books? In this list, Naseem Hrab recommends some of her favourites. 


I love funny. Funny people, funny shows, funny movies. And I especially love funny picture books. Funny picture books can be the most rewarding type of book to read aloud because it can only take a handful of words and a single expressive illustration to make a child laugh hysterically. I’m not a fan of pandering to kids—I’m a fan of sharing more sophisticated forms of humour with kids. And what’s better than sharing a laugh? Lots of things! Like sharing your cheesy sandwich with your old friend Naseem. What do you mean you already ate the whole thing? Sigh. It’s not like I was about to share a whole list of my favorite funny picture books with you or anything … It’s not like I’m really hungry. No, don’t worry about me … I’ll just eat one of these books.  


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