December 7, 2023

(Also may as well throw this in here: No One Will Come Back For Us made the New York Times 10 best horror books of the year, thanks to Gabino Iglesias!)

But mainly, allow me to announce: It’s all official now! Very excited and honoured to report that I am now the 2024 Edmonton Public Library writer-in-residence, and I will be working out of the Stanley Milner branch downtown!

I’ve been holding onto the news for a little while—and actually for once I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at the time, because it was the day of my Elektra Festival panel, October 20. Our panel moderator had invited me and the other panelists out for brunch at Pub St. Pierre, which is across the street from the venue (the Phi Centre), and I left my hotel super early even though it was like… a two-minute walk. And the walk revealed that there was a bookstore in between the hotel (this is going somewhere, I swear) so I stopped in and ended up buying a book.

With the result that after we ate brunch and found our room in the venue, I told them I would run quickly back to the hotel now that I knew for sure it was literally two minutes away, and drop off the heavy hardcover book so I didn’t have to haul it around for the rest of the day.

And when I got there, I saw that I had missed a call because I hadn’t been looking at my phone during brunch, so I called the number back because it was clearly an Alberta area code, and it turned out to be someone from the EPL calling (on her personal cell phone, so it didn’t say EPL on caller ID) to offer me the position! So I had to be like “Yes! Oh my God!

Thank you so much! But listen, I gotta go! But thanks! Bye! Thanks!”

(I also quickly asked if the Banff residency was going to be a dealbreaker because how can you be literally gone from your position for 2 ½ weeks right at the start of the job, but she said it was totally fine and I thanked her again and ran back to the venue for the panel.)

I was then asked to keep it under my hat until the library announced it officially, and I was like “Oh sure! I definitely won’t explode!” (I almost did.) But it went official earlier this week!

This resulted in, immediately, as in “Are you free this afternoon?” immediately, a Zoom interview with Andrea Huncar for CBC (up here!) and then the next morning a very early live interview with CBC in their downtown studio with Mark Connelly (which was on the radio and may possibly have gone onto the CBC news later? Or a clip? I don’t know, it’s not clear from the people who are texting me) (also that was the day my phone died! And stopped recognizing its SIM card! Which! Timing!).

I guess luckily a couple of years of traditional publishing has prepared me to come up with coherent-ish answers to things like “So tell us how you began writing” and “What advice would you give to new writers?”

(I should also add: the CBC article contains one minor inaccuracy which is that I have eight books out, and five coming out next year, so I suspect technical/auditory shenanigans that suggested to Andrea that I only have five out. By the end of 2024 it’ll be thirteen dang books!)

Anyway! The application process for the writer-in-residence position was pretty interesting— asking for suggested library programs but not how many, so I ended up throwing ten in there, plus a longer list of things I could put on just by myself without inviting another author or creator. And I had to work up the nerve to ask for reference letters (by the way: thank you Heather and David!) which I truly hate doing, omg. It makes me feel like such a burden because it’s not a quick thing to write one of those! It’s asking a lot from very busy people!

So in the interview I got a little overexcited about the proposed programming and started waving my hands around and talking about the classes I’ve taught for Neon Salon and Reach Your Apex and everything.

(While also delivering, at high speed, a wide variety of disclaimers about how I don’t have an MFA or indeed any writing education and I’m entirely self taught and please don’t pick me as the writer-in-residence because I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m making it all up as I go along!! I am a clown dancing around in the sawdust making honk noises with my nose!!! Oddly this did not put them off.)

So I’m looking forward to that a lot, I mean the library programming, but also I’m curious to see how the whole ‘giving feedback on manuscripts’ thing goes? Because that’s part of the required duties! I do a lot of mentoring—official and unofficial—and I give a lot of feedback on my friends’ stories, and often the start of their books, but like… it’s different between friends and strangers? Part of me is like “Well how do I give good criticism to someone I don’t know” and part of me is like “DID YOU KNOW THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF ALL LITERARY CRITICISM IS GIVEN BY PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW WHO THEY’RE REVIEWING.” But just because it’s a reasonable expectation doesn’t mean I’ve been doing it? Or had much of an opportunity to do it? I do have a pretty good rubric, in my opinion, for strengthening a story, but the way I deliver the comments and questions is always tailored to what I know about the person. Can I… help… people I don’t know? Will I be… useful? We shall find out! Despite my trepidation!

This is a huge opportunity and I think my greatest fear is letting people down—the library, local writers, the community, the lovely and brilliant other writer-in-residence Katie Bickell.

I’m spending probably an abnormal amount of time worrying about it. Or maybe it’s not abnormal? I don’t know. I’m still tired all the time from having Covid in 2022; I don’t drive, so if I’m going to events at the other libraries I’ll have to take transit or cabs or Uber or whatever; I may arrive exhausted; I may catch Ye Pestilence again (my greatest nightmare at this point, since I’m immunocompromised already); even finagling the commute between my house and the Milner Bibliotank.

And like, what if people hate me? What if no one comes to the programming? What if people complain to the library about the comments I put on their writing? What if I do give people bad advice? What if I ruin their entire publishing career? What if someone comes into my office and turns out to be an eldritch creature in disguise and then suddenly transforms into their real form and then eats me?! What if I’m not good enough at anything—writing, helping, teaching, supporting, organizing, presenting—and the eldritch creature spits me out because I don’t even taste good??

(deep breaths)

I still have to meet up with the EPL folks (next week or so, I think) to talk about my duties and how it’s all gonna work with getting paid as a contractor and whatever, and to talk to the marketing team about how we’re going to promote library programming and the services of the writer-in-residence office and so on, and I’m sure many of my fears will be laid to rest (and some will certainly get worse, which is how anxiety works). But I really am so honoured and so excited. This changes everything for 2024, even the novel that I’ll be working on (that I applied with). It makes it possible for me to start saying no to things—so instead of instantly replying “Yes” to those emails that are like “Hey can you help us with this thing that’ll take you 15 hours and we’ll give you $100,” because I have no other source of income (thanks, Past Premee, for making me an unemployed bum for longer than I ever have been in my working life—since March 2023!), I can be like “Oh sorry I’m genuinely, actually too busy for this.” And it won’t be a matter of trying to carve out those 15 hours and working myself half to death! I can just say no! Because I will be making a little bit of money every month! (It pays less than half of what my real job paid, but it buys me a year to figure out what to do with my life, you know?)

Also I haven’t actually been inside the Milner since the reno, because of Ye Pestilence, but lookit the outside! It is all completely done! And it looks amazing! HELLO NEW HOME!

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