Friday, 1 November 2013

Spooky readings at Drawn & Quarterly – Launching Not your ordinary wolf girl

Mile End's Drawn in Quarterly bookstore was all prepped for Halloween last Wednesday with an impressive roster of guests ready to make the crowd shiver and tremble.  Each scarier than the previous, they prepared the avid listener for the piece de resistance of the evening, Emily Pohl-Weary's new teen novel.

From left to rigth: Mike Spry, Marianne Ackerman, Adam Leith Gollner and Mary Soderstom
Mike Spry opened the event with a short story called Small Crosses. Although it was cleverly peppered with humor, it also had a darker, scarier side.  It told of life lost through normality.  It spoke of society's power to kill people's dreams and originality.  A beautiful story.  

Marianne Ackerman followed with the frightening story of a bad haircut.  The anecdote was told without any written support, another proof – as if we needed convincing! – of Ackerman's great storytelling abilities. For a change of pace, author Adam Leith Gollner read a condensed version of Hans Christian Anderson's Auntie Toothache.  According to Gollner, he chose to do so because he feels he's never written something scary.

The gathered crowd was lucky to get an avant-goût of Mary Soderstrom upcoming short story collection called Desire Lines.  She spun an eerie tale of God and the Devil that left the audience wanting more.  Patience, patience.  The book launch is on November 6th, at Drawn & Quarterly!

From left to right: Suzanne Sutherland and Emily Pohl-Weary
Susan Sutherland, with her first novel When we were good and Emily Pohl-Weary with he latest novel, Not your ordinary wolf girl, read from their books before taking part in a nice Q&A chat.  The content of the reading and the chat are condensed in what follows.

Suzanne Sutherland's monsters are not ghouls or vampire; from the outside, they look entirely normal.  Her monsters are high school girls.  In her novel, Sutherland addresses the question of teenage girls mistreating their peers, but especially themselves.  She speaks of this constant feeling of not being enough.  The author says that the first draft of the book was the result of a sudden idea.  Six weeks and a wrist brace later, the – terrible – first draft was born.  It took her about a year to edit it into something good.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, only Sutherland may say), that meant sacrificing a talking fifty dollar bill as main character.

Sutherland said that setting is very important in her novel.  Inspired by In the Skin of a Lion, which uses a bridge as a central element, she decided that she may well use a venue she used to call home as a focal point for her novel.  Music is also omnipresent in her novel.  She mentioned that band practice probably is what helped her survive  high school.  And thank God she did, for her lively presence on stage was much appreciated.

Emily Pohl-Weary finally got on stage, her soft-spokeness contrasting with Sutherland's vibrant energy.  As soon as she started reading, it didn't take long to realize that she is a master of her craft.  Her descriptions were rich, her prose mellifluous. It was easy to picture the whole scene in one's head. The author said that the idea for her wolf girl was born after reading a famous vampire series in which the protagonist was an empty vessel, a helpless girl with no strength (Guessed what series she meant?).She felt that teenage girls needed a strong model, a fierce and powerful monster girl.

When ask if being a teen is like being a monster, Pohl-Weary replied that the werewolf form was a metaphor, an outside manifestation of teen girls' pent up rage.  She continued by saying her favourite scenes to write included one where her protagonist wants to eat (literally) her boyfriend and one, which was unfortunately toned down, where she devoured her neighbor's chihuahua.  Many a listener would have liked to hear her read out that original scene.

Pohl-Weary confessed that the most difficult thing in writing for her is plotting.  She explained that she easily gets side-tracked with details and characters, which means that she constantly needs to outline over and over as her characters take her in different directions.  When asked what monster she would be herself, she laughed and said that she felt she had turned into a werewolf herself.  She joke that although she's not a dog person, the number of cheeseburger she had had in the previous week didn't lie.

The evening ended with casual talk between the guests and the crowd and, of course, many a book signed.  Many thanks to all the authors who contributed to this wonderful night of monsters.


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