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About three years ago, in one of our overstuffed bookcases at home, I started a shelf dedicated to books written by people I know — teachers, writing group friends, former fellow students in UBC’s optional residency MFA program and the Humber College Creative Writing program. I mostly read on my Kindle these days, but I make a point of buying these books in print: there’s something about having the bright, shiny, physical evidence of friends’ work right there in front of me. My collection has since grown to two shelves and I fear I’m going to have to find room for a third (SOMEHOW), but this is thrilling to me, too: I’m always happy to add to the collection. Sometimes I’ve followed the progress of the book so closely (with Melanie Schnell’s gorgeous While the Sun is Above Us, for example) that it feels like having my own book in hand.

This month, two more are going in (as soon as they arrive via El Mailman), hurrah!

1. Catherine Bush’s Accusation. Catherine was the first teacher I ever had at UBC in the summer of 2006, and I booked her about three years in advance to be my thesis advisor (luckily for me, she graciously accepted, despite being insanely busy with other duties). I’ve heard her read from bits and pieces of Accusation over the years, as she was working on it, and I can’t wait to read it in full (and get her to sign it when she visits as part of the Ottawa Writers’ Festival later this month!). Her writing is always so smart and beautiful. Here’s a taste from the “inside flap” on that Amazon page: “The best of intentions may still lead to disaster. An Ethiopian children’s circus. An intrigued journalist. An accusation. From such slight beginnings momentous events may grow, as renowned novelist Catherine Bush boldly examines the devastating domino effect of accusations.”

2. Kim McCullough’s Clearwater. I got to meet Kim via mutual friends, and she’s part of the awesome Calgary community of writers. She went on to complete the UBC MFA as well. Here’s a brief description, from a review: “Kim McCullough’s Clearwater tells the story of two young people at the end of the 20th century who are struggling to make sense of their fractured worlds.  Claire and Jeff meet when Claire’s family moves into the other side of Jeff’s family’s duplex in Clearwater Lake, Northern Manitoba.  McCullough juxtaposes the teenagers’ relationship against the harsh North, the violence inherent in Jeff’s home life, and the violence that comes to define Claire’s.  Jeff and Clair’s desire for one another is real and complicated and drives the narrative.” I love that it’s described as “difficult” subject matter — “difficult” is so my bag, baby.

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