Too Many Books In The Kitchen

I'm Michael Hingston, books columnist for the Edmonton Journal (new columns every other Friday).

My novel The Dilettantes was published in 2013 by Freehand Books. Here's everything you might want to know about it.

Other topics under discussion: podcasts, strange sodas, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Moby-Dick.

Email me, if you like, at hingston [at] gmail [dot] com. I'm available for hire and I like free books.


Favourites: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013
What I Read: 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 (so far)

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Mark Abley (1)
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Interview: Peter Midgley, Counting Teeth

Midgley and Sinead also spend time camping on the charmingly named Shark Island, which has an even less charming past, as the site of a former concentration camp during the Namibian genocide. When Midgley asks Sinead if she’d prefer finding a different campsite—one sheltered from the brutal winds that come from a front-row view of the Atlantic, perhaps—she stoically puts on another hoodie and declines. “I want to feel the ocean.”

This week’s column is about Peter Midgley, whose memoir Counting Teeth is about his recent return to his homeland of Namibia, 20 years after the country won its war of independence against South Africa.

His book launches this weekend as part of LitFest—Canada’s only non-fiction festival, y’heard?

Read the whole story here.

Oct 17, 2014

Interview: Wendy McGrath, North East

There is an unusual amount of time spent studying the knives in Christine’s family’s kitchen. The colour red recurs. And the most prominent object of all is her parents’ ever-present cigarettes, which are both a realistic symbol of life in the ’60s, as well as a coded sign of tension just beneath the surface. During moments of stress, out come the smokes.

This week’s column is about a forgotten Edmonton neighbourhood, as revived by a recent suite of novels by Wendy McGrath. (It also gave me an excuse to do some sweet, sweet research. At one point I cooed to the laptop screen, “Oooh… Bylaw 6767.”)

Read the whole thing here.

Oct 3, 2014

Interview: Jacqueline Baker, The Broken Hours

Writing an entire first draft in three months would be impressive even for a rambling, thinly veiled autobiography set in the present day. But Baker’s novel is a period piece set in Providence, R.I., circa 1936. It’s also got a tightly wound plot that doesn’t reveal its hand until the final pages. Add to that a perfumed vocabulary inherited from the Victorians—a well-placed “leonine” on the first page convinced me that I was in good hands—and you’ve got a finished product that belies the speed at which it was conceived.

This week’s column is about ghosts, the opposite of writer’s block, and that H.P. Lovecraft fella.

Sep 19, 2014

Lifespan of a Novel, part four: promotion and beyond

“We’re a pretty small operation, so we have to think really intelligently about where we put our money,” says Matt Bowes, NeWest’s marketing and production co-ordinator. “Something like a Goodreads giveaway can stir up quite a bit of interest. That costs us five books.” Whereas a splashy ad in The Walrus, for instance, costs a lot more and might do a lot less.

The conclusion of the series! Laurence Miall’s novel Blind Spot is finally in stores. Now what? How do he and NeWest Press make sure that people actually, y’know, buy the damn thing?

Read the whole story here.

(Previous installments: weeks one, two, and three.)

((And thanks for following along.))

Sep 5, 2014

Lifespan of a Novel, part three: editors and designers

“It’s almost a mundane photo of a car crash,” Vrana says, noting that he darkened the image so that it blends in further with the metallic, dark-grey background. “There’s not a lot of movement happening, which I think worked well, given the literary quality of the book. It’s not a thriller, or a mystery that needs to be solved.”

My series about Blind Spot's journey from computer file to paperback original continues! This week we’re talking editing and design.

Aug 29, 2014

Lifespan of a Novel, part two: Finding an author

Today, Barbour is president of NeWest’s 15-member volunteer board. Together, the board members read through submissions from the slush pile (like most small, independent publishers, NeWest accepts unsolicited manuscripts from anywhere in the country) and collectively decide which titles they want to publish. If a manuscript gets a positive response from three separate readers, that’s usually the equivalent of a green light.

Last week kicked off my four-part series Lifespan of a Novel, where we learned how Laurence Miall found a publisher for his soon-to-be-released debut novel Blind Spot.

This week, we look at the other side of the coin: how do publishers find their authors?

Read it here.

Aug 22, 2014

Lifespan of a Novel, part one: Finding a publisher


For the next four weeks, I’ll be mapping the journey Blind Spot took as it transformed from a file on Miall’s computer to an expertly designed paperback published by Edmonton’s own NeWest Press, and available in stores across the country next month. Along the way we’ll learn how a publisher chooses which titles to acquire, how editors and designers help shape the finished products, and finally, how publishers and authors try to make their books stand out in a literary landscape that’s more crowded than ever.

Hoo boy, am I excited about this one. Today is the debut of a new series I’m calling Lifespan of a Novel, where we’re going to watch from four different angles as Laurence Miall’s Blind Spot walks the long, tricky road to publication.

Week one: So you’ve finished your manuscript. Now what?

Aug 15, 2014

Interview: Meags Fitzgerald, Photobooth: A Biography

And there’s the rub. As Fitzgerald makes clear in the book, the old-fashioned chemical photobooth is an endangered species, either being covertly replaced by digital lookalikes or else junked entirely. In fact, they’re already living on borrowed time: only one company on the planet still produces paper for the black-and-white machines, while the paper for colour photos stopped being made seven years ago. Current stocks are expected to run out for good by summer 2015.

That’s right: chemical photobooths will soon be a thing of the past. Luckily there’s Meags Fitzgerald, an Edmonton-bred illustrator whose new graphic novel, Photobooth: A Biography, will make you want to find your local booth and pose for one last strip. (I did.)

I interviewed Fitzgerald for this week’s books column. Read it here.

Jul 25, 2014

Interview: Chris F. Westbury; The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even

This was partly to do with Duchamp’s playfulness (in 1917, he famously scrawled a fake signature on a urinal and declared it art), and partly with the inscrutability of his intentions. What did any of it mean? Was it all a big joke? Duchamp courted mystery wherever he went, and that was before he quit the art world altogether to devote himself to playing chess—and certainly before it was discovered, following his death in 1968, that he’d spent the final 20 years of his life on a secret, final installation.

Over time, Westbury saw the foundation of a novel forming. “The idea that there could be some kind of tie-in between the way artists viewed Duchamp and the way obsessive-compulsives view their thing is one of the things that got me onto it.”

This week’s column is about obsession.

Read the whole thing here.

Jul 4, 2014

Interview: Mark Frauenfelder

If you talk to certain people about DIY culture, they’ll raise their eyebrows with suspicion, or perhaps fear—as if what you’re describing is an all-or-nothing proposition. The thinking goes that once you accept the premise that there’s pleasure to be had from making things by hand, you’ll be forced into investing in pedal-powered refrigerators and whittling your own cutlery out of driftwood.

Full disclosure: Mark Frauenfelder has whittled a wooden spoon or two.

Next week Frauenfelder, co-founder of Boing Boing, is coming to Edmonton to awaken the maker inside of us all. I spent a good chunk of this interview griping about a birdhouse I once had to build (in fairness, Frauenfelder was on my side), but that has been wisely scoured from the final column.

Read the whole thing here.

Jun 13, 2014