Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Interview on CBC's Up to Speed

On Monday, June 10th, the day before the launch of At the Edge, Marjorie and Deborah were interviewed by Larry Updike on CBC’s Up To Speed and had an engaging conversation about the unique features of our collaborative novel. Here is the post of the interview.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


We have had a grand At the Edge launch week here in Winnipeg. It all started on Monday afternoon when we two were interviewed about the book on the local CBC afternoon show. We hope to post that interview on our UE website and on the At the Edge Facebook page and are working toward that end.

On the Monday evening Arvel Gray hosted a lovely celebration soiree at her home. Those in attendance were members of the UE team and all our friends and relatives who assisted in proofreading the manuscript and were preparing to read selections from chapters at the Tuesday launch. As well, we were joined by special guest Elissa Frittaion, one of the contributors from BC. We toasted those present and all others who contributed creative energies and talents to the book.

The official coming out party for Unlimited Editions and our “first offspring” (At the Edge) happened on Tuesday evening (June 11) at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson Booksellers. Arvel was MC for the presentation and she first gave a brief intro to the book and then, before each reading, introduced the central characters of the four representative chapters. Special guests—friends of M& D (Maureen Monson, Corilie Bryant, Amanda Lerougetel) and a local CBC personality (Terry McLeod) read excerpts from the chapters. We were especially delighted that the narrative voices and the story segments offered in that way came across fresh and enticing, even to those of us who had gone over the chapters
many times. That bodes well for the reader-engagement factor of the whole book.

After the readings, Elissa and D & M spoke about the project and about our experiences in being part of the collaboration. The audience of around 200—sitting, standing, hanging over balconies, and peering around book stands—were high-energy and enthusiastic. In our discussions with book buyers later during the book- signing segment, they mentioned a number of facets of the book and the collaborative process that especially caught their interests. Those included…
-           How we managed to get 14 other writers to agree to keep their creative imaginings within the perimeters set out by a common setting and defining incident. (Novelists don’t traditionally “play well in the sandbox,” according to a novelist we’ve spoken to about collaboration);
-          How we first contacted writers and what it was like for those chosen to be part of the collective;
-          How writers who didn’t write the initial book could come up with an ending chapter;
-          What it was like for us to relinquish control over choosing what character from what chapter suffered the mishap. (They were fascinated by the fact that we didn’t know who the one going over the edge would be until we read and chose the final chapter);
-          How we shaped disparate stories into a novelistic arc;
-          Why the authors’ names aren’t attached to their chapters, and why that is being kept a “mystery” until October.

The icing on the cake of the week-long celebration came with our book landing on the local bestseller list and also being featured in the Saturday Winnipeg Free Press as one of the recommended books for a “hot” summer read.

So our creation is finding its home here locally. Now our efforts will be spent on making it known beyond these borders. It has wings as well as legs, we’re sure, so we anticipate that it will fly!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A query we get is about how the writers managed in being part of this collaborative creation. We asked them just that and here are some of their comments.
How did writers react to the idea of a collective novel?
“When I first heard about this project, I thought it was a bit wacky. Could this work? Would it add up to a novel in the traditional sense of the word? I would have pressed the ‘delete’ button on my email program if I hadn’t noted the names behind the idea. I knew Marjorie Anderson from the Dropped Threads project and Deborah Schnitzer from her own writing and work in Winnipeg. They were both serious women. Not at all “wacky.” … I`m convinced now that At the Edge may be off the wall, but the idea works. “
"I've always been fascinated with the important notion of voice in fiction. Here we have a novel that is also an anthology of different narrative voices all contributing somehow to a whole. Will the whole be more than the sum of its parts? Will the finished novel be a collection of individual voices or will the combination result in some sort of collective voice -- a 'village voice' speaking to an invisible audience?"

Why did writers decide to send in a chapter submission for the novel?
“I love irregular ideas of authorship. I love books that make me think differently about who an author is, how a book gets made, and how a reader takes part in making a story. I thought the idea of a collaborative novel – and a mystery at that! – was such an original concept, and I immediately wanted to take part.”
“I decided to participate in this novel because collaborative novels are rather a rare form for a writer to be part of. I also enjoyed working on an ‘open ended’ short story that was going to become part of a bigger project, and I was interested to experience how the project would be slotted together once everyone had submitted their stories. I loved, too, the idea of the various ‘voices’ that each writer brought to the project while working within the parameters of certain ‘rules.’
“I’d been messing around with a novel revision when I learned about the submissions call for “At the Edge.” I’m not someone to look gift procrastination in the mouth, so signed up immediately. I was glad I did. We were handed a bare bones set and asked to explore it by putting characters into a brisk fall morning full of crackling energy and possibility. A threat hid in the centre of this expanse, a shadow beneath the sunshine. The hook for me was that the shadow wasn’t mine: having another writer taking the role of fickle fortune created interesting tension. My characters had to live their day with fate moving around them, just as we each live our days without knowing their ends.”

How did writers feel about not having their names attached to their chapters, and having their characters “lifted” from their stories and appear, somehow, in other chapters?
“I love the concept of (temporarily) withholding the authors' names from the chapters; not only will this create buzz, but I can't wait to see how many friends and family members "see" themselves in other authors' work!”
“The insertion of other authors’ characters and their situations into my chapter was much less intrusive than I anticipated, although I confess I entertained thoughts – delightfully obsessive thoughts – as to how one of my characters would avenge those intrusions.”

We made the Novel-in-Progress (before the final chapter was added) available for the contributors so they could see how their stories were situated in the whole. What were some of their reactions?
“When I received the novel-in-progress and read all the stories of people moving through that brisk morning, I saw a living city that my characters couldn’t see from their context. Here again the sense of unfolding mystery and everyday reality mixed. Stories touched each other and then swirled away again, interesting people brushing against each other’s lives. And out there, the shadow lurked for all of them…”
“I was impressed with the compilation when I saw it without the final chapter. Yes, there were a few more characters than you would find in your standard novel. And yes, the writing style did vary from chapter to chapter. But that is exactly what had me turning the pages. This was a new kind of novel.”
“There’s so much variety in the book. A wealth of different stories and approaches. It reads like a book of short stories that is really a novel and vice versa. People crossing and re-crossing each other’s’ paths, and that’s how it goes. It is a mosaic, a kaleidoscope, a unified pattern consisting of wildly disparate parts. It is an invitation for you, dear reader, to get in a car and to get on the road and to realize that travelling in one car is always, at least where this book is concerned, going to be travelling in all cars. That is the beauty of the book: you get to hitch a baker’s dozen of rides or more for the price of one.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We’ve been asked what it was like to work with 14 other writers and to “mush” disparate stories into a novelistic arc. Well…
First thing is that we were incredibly lucky in the vanguard writers we chose. When we first sent off our query to Jack Hodgins and Gail Anderson-Dargatz we didn’t know what to expect in response. Imagine how pleased we were when they not only agreed to being part of this “something new under the literary sun” project but also immediately spread the word to the myriad writers they had taught over the years. And—good for them and lucky for us—there are a number of their former students who have ended up as contributors. We didn’t know that at the time of the selection, but once the names of the contributors were revealed, Jack and Gail let us know of their pride. The next big reveal for them, and for all readers, will be in October when writers “own” the chapters they wrote and read from them in events across Canada.
The experience of working closely with the contributors during the editing and “mushing” process was a time of much exciting creative fervor and the occasional tricky patch of negotiations. We see the writer-editor relationship as a creative dance and so much of that went smoothly—no stepping on each other’s toes; the writers worked with our suggestions in a most generous spirited manner. There were times, though, when we had to go beyond the usual perimeters of editorial input and have some of the writers change something in their chapters to accommodate an essential element in another. That’s when the “negotiation” came into play. Happily we can report that all turned out well: no one left the dance floor.
Coordinating the chapters was a fun job and we had the expert guidance of the copy editor, Trish, to do that. We (D & M), who are substantive editors, gained new insight into the precision of copy editors who have the job of ensuring consistency and accuracy. Trish noticed every nuance of every action and chapter and alerted us to where inconsistencies appeared among chapters, such as the sun shining on one head and clouds pouring rain on another head, at exactly the same time and location. We are eternally indebted to Trish’s expert eyes and want to applaud her here.
It wasn’t all editorial doing though. At the Edge is the result of the stunning creative talent of writers from five areas in Canada and two European countries. They came up with a wide diversity of characters and situations, and contribute to a “community of voices” narrative that will captivate readers—of this we are sure. And they all went so far as to agree to not having their names attached to their chapters in the book. Now there is a surrendering of personal gain for collective benefit.
Are you wondering what it was like for the writers to be part of this venture? Well, we’ll post samples of their comments on just that tomorrow. Stay tuned…
Beams to you all,
Marjorie and Deborah.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hi there, we're all a-twitter and if we knew how to tweet, we would. But we don't, so we're blogging . . .

One week until our collaborative novel is released.. (Tuesday, June 11.) We like to call this creation "innovative," "edgy," "rogue."


Because it is . . .

-  When else have sixteen writers crafted chapters fora common story without knowing what anyone else has written?
-  Where else could writers submit an ending chapter for a novel they never wrote?
-  What other book offers emerging novelists the chance to collaborate with established award-winning novelists?
-  How was it that writers agreed to not having their names attached to the chapters they wrote?
- Where else could you comment on this kind of narrative adventure but on this blog?
-  How else is a genre renewed other than by testing the limits of form?
-  Who wouldn't want to read something new under the literary sun?

Keep your eyes on the blog for daily postings leading up to the launch. Then, once the book is out, and you've read it, you can use this blog to tell us about your experience as readers of our innovative, edgy, rogue creation.
Tweet tweet . . . oops . . . blog blog, until tomorrow,
Deborah and Marjorie