Books on Writing

We’ve got a great selection of books all about writing and the writing life. If you’re looking to shift from reader to writer, here’s where to start.

All Books in this Collection

Showing 1–16 of 19 results

  • Attack of the Copula Spiders

    Attack of the Copula Spiders


    Who among us is brave enough to challenge the mind of Alice Munro? To duel with Leon Rooke’s dreams? Or—more daunting yet—to joust with sloppy student grammar? Douglas Glover is the knight-in-arms of contemporary fiction, and Attack of the Copula Spiders a stalwart defense of the literary arts—in an age where too few care for its craft.

  • Austin Clarke

    Austin Clarke


    Culminating with the international success of The Polished Hoe in 2002, Austin Clarke has published 11 novels, six short-story collections, four memoirs, and two non-fiction pieces. His latest work, a long-form poem titled Where the Sun Shines Best (Guernica Editions), was published in 2013. Storm of Fortune, the second novel in his Toronto Trilogy about the lives of Barbadian immigrants, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award in 1973. The Origin of Waves won the Rogers Communications Writers’ Development Trust Prize for Fiction in 1997. In 1999 his ninth novel, The Question, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. In 2003 he had a private audience with Queen Elisabeth in honour of his Commonwealth Prize for his novel, The Polished Hoe, which also won the Giller Prize in 2002. Clarke has also received a Toronto Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature (1992) and in 1998 he was invested with the Order of Canada. In 1999 he received the Martin Luther King Junior Award for Excellence in Writing. In 2012, he was the recipient of the $10,000 Harbourfront Award. This collection includes essays by Michael Buchnor, George Elliott Clarke, Daniel Coleman, Camille Isaacs, Smaro Kamboureli, Linda MacKinley-Hay, Brinda J. Mehta, Sarah Phillips Casteel, Maggie Quirt, Victor J. Ramraj, Marquita R. Smith, and Batia Boe Stolar.

  • Biting the Error

    Biting the Error


    What is the best way to tell a story?

    In this anthology, the first-ever collection of essays by innovative, cutting-edge writers on the theme of narration, forty of the continent’s top experimental writers describe their engagement with language, storytelling and the world. The anthology includes renowned writers like Kathy Acker, Dennis Cooper, Nicole Brossard, Daphne Marlatt, Lydia Davis and Kevin Killian, writers who have spent years pondering the meaning of storytelling and how storytelling functions in our culture, as well as presenting a new generation of brilliant thinkers and writers, like Christian Bök, Corey Frost, Derek McCormack and Lisa Robertson.

    Contemporizing the friendly anecdotal style of Montaigne and written by daring writers of different ages, of different origins, from many different regions of the continent, from Mexico to Montreal, these essays run the gamut of mirth, prose poetry, tall tales and playful explorations of reader/writer dynamics. They discuss aesthetics founded on new explorations in the field of narrative, the mystery that is the body, questions of how representation may be torqued to deal with gender and sexuality, the experience of marginalized people, the negotiation between different orders of time, the ‘performance’ of outlaw subject matter.

    Brave, energetic and fresh, Biting the Error tells a whole new story about narrative.

    With writing from Kathy Acker, D. L. Alvarez, Betsy Andrews, Dodie Bellamy, ChristianBök, Bruce Boone, Taylor Brady, Lawrence Ytzhak Braithwaite, Nicole Brossard, Mary Burger, Lydia Davis, Jeff Derksen, Aja Couchois Duncan, Michael du Plessis, kari edwards, Corey Frost, Renee Gladman, Robert Glück, Rob Halpern, Carla Harryman, Laird Hunt, Kevin Killian, Chris Kraus, Pamela Lu, Nicole Markotic, Daphne Marlatt, Douglas A. Martin, Steve McCaffery, Derek McCormack, Robin Tremblay-McGaw, Laura Moriarty, Eileen Myles, Doug Rice, Lisa Robertson, Camille Roy, Leslie Scalapino, Kathy Lou Schultz, Gail Scott, X. I. Selene, Aaron Shurin, Nathalie Stephens, Anne Stone, Lynne Tillman, Paul VanDeCarr, heriberto yepez, Magdalena Zurawski.

    Biting the Error is edited by Mary Burger, Robert Glück, Camille Roy and Gail Scott, the co-founders of the Narrativity Website Magazine, based at the Poetry Center, San Francisco State University.

  • Book Ends

    Book Ends


    Everyone’s favourite “old biddy from Gabriola Island,” Naomi Beth Wakan, captures a year of her obsessive reading in her new collection Book Ends: A year between the covers. This lively conversation covers almost every genre?fiction, essays, poetry, biography, science and the arts?and Naomi’s tart observations on both books and authors frees readers to consider what they actually enjoy reading, rather than what they have been told is good. Naomi’s compulsive reading rubs off on the reader, as they are encouraged to become more aware and involved in their own reading selection. Book Ends is a must for any book club member or bibliophile.

  • Can I Have a Word with You?

    Can I Have a Word with You?


    In his fifth book about language, Howard Richler moves through the alphabet from A to Z singling out words that may look innocuous but contain treasures of hidden meanings. Especially intriguing for Richler is how words change their meanings and develop layered connotations, involving us in a complex and often involuntary language game. Witter and erudite, Richler invites readers into the intimacy of language and allows us to delight in the ever-shifting glories of English.

  • Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer

    Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer


    ‘Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer’ is equal parts literary memoir, advice for the emerging writer, and reckless tirade. Ross has been active in the Canadian literary underground for a quarter of a century: he’s sold thousands of his books in the streets, published and edited magazines, trained insurgents in his Poetry Boot Camps, and started Canada’s first Small Press Book Fair. Where the media focusses only on the glamorous literary lives of its few superstars, Ross gives us a glimpse into How Writers Really Live. In ‘Confessions’, he declares himself the King of Poetry, explores his floundering Jewish identity, wanders into the best bookstore in Canada, offers a crash course in avoiding writing, pisses off his publishers, runs a renegade Canada booth at the International Book Fair in Managua, and begs egomaniacal young writers to stop bugging the hell out of him. Many of these essays are culled from Ross’s bimonthly “Hunkamooga” column in ‘Word: Toronto’s Literary Calendar’. Others are written specifically for this collection.

    ” ‘Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer’ is a wonderful book – funny, outrageous, and acute. I’ll even say it’s the best short-essay collection aout writing life that I’ve read in ages.” – Canadian Literature

  • Grammar Matters

    Grammar Matters


    It is hard to find someone who doesn’t have a pet peeve about language. The act of bemoaning the decline of language has become something of a cottage industry. High profile, self-appointed language police worry that new forms of popular media are contributing to sloppiness, imprecision, and a general disregard for the rules of grammar and speech.

    Within linguistics the term “prescriptivism” is used to refer to the judgements that people make about language based on the idea that some forms and uses of language are correct and others incorrect. This book argues that prescriptivism is unfounded at its very core, and explores why it is, nevertheless, such a popular position. In doing so it addresses the politics of language: what prescriptivist positions about language use reveal about power, authority, and various social prejudices.

  • How I wrote certain of my books

    How I wrote certain of my books


    How I Wrote Certain of My Books takes its name from a volume of the same title by French Surrealist Raymond Roussel. George Bowering borrows Roussel’s conceit and expands it into a non-chronological memoirÑa colourful, illuminating, occasionally scandalous journey through the writing of nearly 30 of his books. This lively, conversational work, taking us into both the methods and the circumstances behind some of Bowering’s most famous and most notorious works of poetry and fiction, is as exciting as a novel. How I Wrote Certain of My Books will appeal to Bowering fans, CanLit scholars, and those learning how to be poets and novelists themselves.

  • Imagining Toronto

    Imagining Toronto


    In Imagining Toronto, Amy Lavender Harris ventures deep into the imagined city Ñ the Toronto of fiction, poetry, and essays Ñ where she dowses for meaning in the literature of the city on the lake as its inhabitants understand, remember, and dream it. By tracing Toronto’s literary genealogies from their origins in First Nations stories to today’s graphic novels, Harris delineates a great city’s portrayal in its literature, where the place of dwelling is coloured by the joy and the suffering, the love and the sorrows, of the people who have played out their lives on the written page. Through tales of the city’s neighbourhoods and towers, its ravines and wild places, its role as a multicultural city, as a place of work and leisure, Harris reminds us that the reality of Toronto has been captured by its writers with a depth and complexity that go far beyond the reductive clichŽs of Toronto as either a provincial ‘Hogtown’ or a pretentious ‘world class’ city. Michael Ondaatje once noted that ‘before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined.’ Imagining Toronto shows just how richly and completely it has been, if only we would look.

  • John Donne and the Line of Wit

    John Donne and the Line of Wit


    John Donne and the Line of Wit: From Metaphysical to Modernist is a study of influence, adaptation, historical imitation and invention. In his own time, Donne was celebrated for his distinctive style, especially for what his contemporaries recognized as “strong lines,” that is, witty conceits or unusual, often unexpected and surprising comparisons. Donne’s “metaphysical wit” fell out of fashion in the later seventeenth century, not to be significantly explored and revived until the early twentieth century, and then notably by the modernist movement in the years that followed Eliot’s Waste Land (1922).

    Among the most important – and earliest – of poets and critics to respond to this movement are the self-styled Fugitives of the southern United States. As “fugitives” they stood against what seemed old and shop-worn language, and they gave their name and talent to the literary journal published at Vanderbilt University from 1922–25: The Fugitive provided an outlet for the work of John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, and others, who discovered a “new” modernism that might be shaped out of the “old” metaphysical mode of Donne. Their poetry is characteristically concerned with verbal or “metaphysical” invention, usually composed with metrical formality, and from an objective, detached point of view.

  • Living Language and Dead Reckoning

    Living Language and Dead Reckoning


    In this highly personal essay, Ted Chamberlin asks some old, old questions such as “why do we need stories and songs?” Turning frequently to First Nations people, he looks at their culture and asks what it means to listen. In response, he notes that we take great pleasure in the comforts of narration, of finding our way within a story, a kind of “dead reckoning” out at sea when the fog rolls in and we experience “being almost lost.”

    Much of the essay focuses on people from around the world who have often been described as pre-literate. Chamberlin takes issue with this view and argues that such people “read” a whole host of signs and stories, and that in understanding how this reading takes place we can understand something of our own habits of reading and listening. Whereas scholars such as McLuhan and Ong have claimed that such cultures are “imprisoned in the present,” Chamberlin points out that this is demonstrable nonsense. All cultures are both oral and written, he argues, and knowledge comes from both listening and reading.

    Employing his own position as a “teller of tales” he asks whether we believe the teller or the tale, and draws attention to the importance of not only the storyteller but also the community of listeners. For Chamberlin, Living Language and Dead Reckoning, the publication of the Garnett Sedgewick annual lecture for 2005 at the University of British Columbia, is the first step towards a “history of listening.”

  • Other 23 & a Half Hours, The

    Other 23 & a Half Hours, The


    It might be counterintuitive, but Catherine Owen believes being a writer involves much more than writing. In this provocative book she examines the moving parts of the literary community and explains what makes it tick. Starting with reading, which Owen believes is a fundamental part of being a writer, she considers activities such as reviewing, translating, hosting radio shows and even running small presses. With over sixty interviews as well as her own experiences to draw on, Owen sketches a compelling picture of what a literary life can be. Readers will come away with a new appreciation for the dynamism of the Canadian literary scene and the inspiration to contribute to it.

  • Pope’s Bookbinder, The

    Pope’s Bookbinder, The


    Pope’s Bookbinder, The

  • Slice Me Some Truth

    Slice Me Some Truth


    Luanne Armstrong and Zoë Landale have put together a thorough survey of the growing body of Canadian creative non-fiction, covering the areas of memoir, personal essay, cultural journalism, lyric essay and nature or place essays. These works are only a sampling of the diversity of Canadian writing, but together they create the best possible beginning for the exploration of this intriguing genre.

  • Strange Bedfellows

    Strange Bedfellows


    The English language has never been overly concerned with purity. For centuries it has slept around and been seduced by many foreign influences, indulging in promiscuous relations that have contributed to many alluring word histories. Combining his etymological talents with those of the muck-raking journalist, Howard Richler exposes the often louche baggage that many words have accumulated throughout the centuries.

    Discover how “exuberant” used to mean “luxuriantly fertile” and derivesoriginally from “overflowing udders.” Learn how words such as “avocado” and “porcelain” have past associations with some of the nether regions of the body that have been conveniently forgotten by the lovers of fruit and fine china.

    With over two hundred select words to uncover, readers will be surprised and delighted by the unexpected liaisons in Strange Bedfellows.

  • The 30-Second Commute

    The 30-Second Commute


    This book is a comic narrative about the real life of a full-time writer. Stephanie Dickison had been successfully publishing features and articles for over a decade while working a full-time job, but in December 2005, she left the secure world of a “real job” to tackle completing a manuscript that was close to five years old and to take on freelance writing full time.

    Drawing on her years as a book and pop music critic, she delves into food writing and becomes a restaurant critic for a big city Web site. She starts a blog about new products and services and soon, she and her fiancé have to consider moving due to the product piled up behind the bathroom door.

    Celebrity interviews, feature articles, and offers to speak about writing are just some of the highlights of what can happen when you get to live your dream.

    There are also the cautionary tales of what happens when you’re your own boss, saying yes to every offer that comes your way and typing hunched over a rolltop desk for 14 hours a day, but mostly it is a celebration and exploration of a writer just trying to make her way in this crazy world — one word at a time.