Books have birthdays all the time, but do we really celebrate any of their accomplishments after the first year? Sometimes but not always is the most honest question. As a publicist, and in general, someone who is confronted with strange puzzles of life, I’m always baffled how festivals want the freshest and newest books in all the land each year. If your book comes out in May or October and all the festivals you would best fit into happening in September and October, well, I guess you’re just out of luck and will have to try again the next time you happen to publish a book. No, that’s too cruel, but it feels sometimes like books that authors and publishers worked on for hundreds of hours get passed over, or get a bit of attention in clusters and then flatline to make way for the dreaded present tense.
With that in mind, here are a few books that are turning one right now that you should check out. In some cases, I even spoke to the author for some updates about their one-year-old and what’s next. (Full disclosure: none of these authors are publicity clients of moorehype, though I did publish Pasha Malla in Toronto Noir in 2008.)
Ash Winter’s debut collection dropped last spring and it’s a highly personal, evocative and soul-crushing when you think about the constraint under which it was written – one poem written each day during the poet’s ninety-day stay at a Vancouver rehab centre, Run Riot is an astonishing crash diet of poetry, bravery and artistic ingenuity. “It amazes me that has been out for only a year,” Winter says, adding, “I am incredibly grateful to have put out a book that means so much to many of the people who read it. Sharing my experience in early recovery has been one of the most challenging and healing things I have ever done.” Publishing their first book has sparked excitement for future creative projects, including a new collection of poetry centring around human interactions with fear.
Hollay Ghadery, author of Fuse says her one-year-old book fills her with complicated feelings.
“It feels a bit temporally out-of-whack, really, because while Fuse has been out in the world for a year, I’ve been living it for decades. Such is the nature of memoir, I suppose: that the book will always feel older than it is, because it is your life, and that life didn’t start when the book—that narrative—got published, or even when you started writing it.” Ghadery says that a year ago her mindset was “mostly one of pure terror: I was going to be sharing painfully personal things about my life. What would people think of me? Would they think I was a weak, snivelling brat? Would they think I was a terrible spouse/daughter/sister/mother? Was what I wrote a disservice to people struggling with the same mental illnesses and obstacles? Would readers not understand? What would my family think?”
Ghadery was not only concerned about the personal material that she was sharing with the world but also, the quality of her writing. Now, however, with a year under her belt with her first book, she worries less about all these things. “One reason is that—either by reaching out to me or writing a review—many wonderful readers made it clear that what I said resonated. The other reason is that some of the things I feared did happen…but not on a catastrophic scale. My immediate family was made uncomfortable by the book’s existence. A few people tried to uncut my experiences (for instance, telling me I cannot be biracial because Iranians are part of the Aryan race and therefore, white, or that because I am not particularly dark-skinned, my experiences with racism are not valid.)”
All this though—the good and the bad has grounded the author’s expectations. And with a debut fiction collection Rebellion Box coming out next year with Radiant Press, Ghadery hopes her experiences with Fuse will allow her to “enjoy the process a little more and worry a smidge less.”
Last year, rookie poet Rebecca Salazar, a Fredericton writer originally from Sudbury, released Sulphurtongue, which went on to become a finalist for the Governor Generals Award for English-language poetry –an incredible accomplishment for a debut poet. Barbara Carey, poetry reviewer at the Toronto Star, called Salazar’s work “lyrically striking or raw and confrontational.” To these observations in the review I would add my own “authentic”, “sincere” “powerful” and “unfortunate” – unfortunate in the sense that, as a man, I feel ashamed that our lousy gender is the cause for so much negativity and crap directed at others. Unfortunate because of what we have done – not unfortunate that it puts offenders in a bad light. Fortunate that Salazar addresses these issues in a book of wonderful poetry.
I asked writer Pasha Malla, winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, the Trillium Book Prize and the Arthur Ellis Award about his one-year-old Kill the Mall, his latest novel, which he began and completed pre-Covid. “The novel was born out of working in a failing mall as a teenager, at the movie theatre, and walking that creepy gauntlet of abandoned stores has stuck with me ever since. It seemed as good a context as any to explore the refuse of late-capitalism.” Malla says the book is the first in a three-book series which the author refers to as his “killogy” instead of trilogy, for those who are bad with math. “In January  I finished a sequel to Kill the Mall –All You Can Kill and set at an all-inclusive couples retreat. I think the final book will take place on a cruise ship. So I guess I’m still working through this stuff and will be for a while.”
Well, time travellers, I hope you’ve taken some notes for your next grocery run at your local bookstore. Maybe a novel or poetry collection that caught your attention when you were a year younger is going to be your next big read of [flips to calendar] ah yes, 2022.
I’ll be back again shortly with a most exciting second volume of this helpful time-travel device.
NATHANIEL G. MOORE is a Toronto-born artist, writer and publishing professional. His books include Wrong Bar, Let’s Pretend We Never Met, Honorarium, Savage 1986-2011 and others. He lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick. His latest book is Constrictor. His tenth book is a memoir on mental illness forthcoming.