“I love the losers.” – Book launch for The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman book launch

Before I jumped into the world of Canadian publishing, I didn’t know who Andrew Kaufman was. That was a mistake I hope none of you will make, as he is a delightful author on paper and in person, and my life has been a little richer since reading one of his books.

My first encounter with Kaufman’s work was his first and most well-known book All My Friends are Superheroes (you can read my review of the book here, if you’re interested). I was immediately charmed by his simplistic yet jammed-packed-full-of-metaphor way of writing. A lot of people have the misguided assumption that writing short stories or novellas is easier than writing a full-length novel, but they are wrong (Alice Munro will agree). To be able to say a lot in few words is quite the feat, and Kaufman has the art down to a tee.

The Tiny WifeThe Tiny Wife, while it is his most recent book in Canada, was originally published in 2010 by Madras Press in the United States and in 2011 by HarperCollins’ imprint The Friday Project in the United Kingdom. Given a new look and a new audience, The Tiny Wife has been brought back to life by Cormorant Books, a small Canadian publisher dedicated to publishing the best new work in the area of literary fiction and creative non-fiction for the adult market.

The book is about a robbery, and not just any robbery, a very unusual kind of robbery. Thirteen people in a bank, instead of losing their money, are asked to surrender that which is most valuable to them: a calculator, a cheap watch, photographs of children, a copy of Camus’s The Stranger, etc. It is after this incident that these thirteen individuals begin to experience strange and, quite honestly, impossible occurrences. One woman begins to shrink, giving the book its title and another is terrorized by her own tattoo, which has miraculously come to life. Everything is in chaos, and these poor souls must figure out what exactly was taken from them in the robbery to put a stop to these insane happenings before they literally lose themselves completely.

Although I haven’t read the book yet, I am thoroughly intrigued by its content, and it is no doubt another delightful read that Kaufman has delivered to his audience.

Andrew Kaufman The Tiny Wife Book LaunchOn July 17, 2014, I attended the official book launch for The Tiny Wife, held at the now-infamous Ben McNally Books. With a fairly great turnout, the event began a little after 6 PM. The main event of the launch was a Q + A hosted by Globe and Mail Books Editor Jared Bland.

Once the launch began, there was a lively discussion between Bland and Kaufman, which was more often than not comical, with jokes surrounding the book’s strange plot line and Kaufman’s writing method. A particularly funny moment was when Bland asked Kaufman about how he comes up with theses ideas and starts writing about them. Kaufman’s response: “When I come up with a book idea, I often do whatever I can do avoid writing the book at all.” He sounds like a publisher’s nightmare, but perhaps his procrastination lends something to his eventual genius. Every writer has a style that is purely his/her own. Who knows what would happen to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series if he was rushed to finish a book (He’s certainly feeling the pressure now with the hit HBO-TV series)…maybe he needs those 5+ years to get it right. It’s unfortunate but true.

Andrew KaufmanWe found out another interesting fact about Kaufman: He loves the losers. This is a fairly obvious observation if you’ve read anything he’s ever written, and there is definitely something about the “loser” in fiction. Losers are far more relateable and a lot more fun. There’s no such thing as perfection in real life, so why should there be in the stories we read? Kaufman is also very aware of the reader when writing about his “loser” characters. When asked about his eccentric plot choices, he said, “I’m very careful not to bore the reader.” Well he has not failed in that regard. His stories are packed with meaningful nuances throughout, but they are expressed in an entertaining and light-hearted fashions, and as a result the reader is certainly never bored.

Near the end of the interview, Kaufman also admitted he doesn’t actually like his first book All My Friends are Superheroes anymore. As much as I enjoyed the book, I can understand where he’s coming from. Just like in any job, writers gradually develop their individual style and when they write their first book, this “style” might not be fully developed yet. Of course, we are welcome to love the book (and BUY it), Kaufman said jokingly afterward.

A final revelation from Kaufman was his desire to actually write one of those big books with swooping revelations—War and Peace material. An intriguing wish for a man who has perfected the art of the novella. Will he do it and will he be good at it? Time will only tell.

P.S. Cormorant was also having a contest in which attendees were allowed to submit their questions for Kaufman prior to the book launch. Jared Bland would then choose the question he liked best and that person would receive a free signed copy of The Tiny Wife. Who was the lucky winner that evening? Your truly. However, I still can’t make out fully what Kaufman’s personalized message was to me…any guesses?

The Tiny Wife signed by author

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No apologies: The M Word book launch

The M Word book banner

At some point in all of our lives we feel an outside pressure to, putting it plainly, give birth. And yes, in the Stone Age, it was expected. But not now. I admit, I have given the whole “having kids” thing some thought, and, for the most part, I am undecided. I will smile at the cute baby in the buggy or the toddler making funny faces, but it doesn’t mean I want one of my own, even if that is the mistaken assumption of others if I opt to hold the newest baby in the family or wave back at a curious two year old. I can think they’re cute, but that is as far as it goes. Of course, it doesn’t help that I am only in my 20’s, just getting my career off the ground, and still living apart from my boyfriend.

So, here I am with these conflicting thoughts on motherhood and whether or not it is in my future and I’m wondering, “I can’t be the only one who thinks this way, right?” Watching various people I grew up with get engaged, get married, and get pregnant (whether or not in that exact order), I was beginning to think…maybe I was.

Well, the book launch on April 15, 2014  of The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood edited by Kerry Clare thankfully proved me wrong. It was hosted in the infamous Ben McNally’s bookstore (If you haven’t been, I suggest you do. The interior and its contents are to-die-for beautiful).

Upon initially arriving I felt terribly out of place. There were a lot of older, more than likely married women with children running around. I began to think…maybe this was a bad idea. I was wrong to think so, of course, because that evening was not about “motherhood” and “mothers” in which the definition of both translates into “women who are married with kids.” The M Word is a much larger conversation than that and it takes being a mom to a whole new level. It talks about becoming a mom, waiting to become a mom, becoming a mom through different methods, and deciding not to become a mom at all. It is a very liberating, honest collection of real stories that are frank in the best way possible. There is no sugar coating or pretending to be the stereotypical “super mom” every child thinks he or she knows and loves.

Kerry Clare and the book The M WordThe evening opened up with the editor, Kerry Clare, talking about the book and how it all began. A fantastically personable individual, she started the book launch off right. She discussed how the concept for The M Word came about and not too surprisingly, it came from conversations she had been having about motherhood with other moms. And it was through having these heart-to-heart talks with other women that Kerry came up with her idea of collecting all these truthful, even anti-conformist ideas of what motherhood means and making a book out of it. One literary agent and a book deal with Goose Lane Editions later and The M Word was in business, and now out just in time for Mother’s Day! (If you are behind on the whole gift thing, here’s a helpful option. It is only a week away now.)

The M Word contributors

The M Word contributors After Kerry’s introduction, each of the contributors who were present for the evening came up and read a short excerpt from their essays. This blog post would become unbearably long if I were to go through each of the contributor’s talks, but I will say that there is no doubt in my mind that each hit a familiar chord with someone in that audience, young and old, married and single, even me, and frankly, I am just starting my life in the “real” world post-university. However, there were a couple stories that resonated with me the most. In particular, Julia Zarankin’s “Leaving the Eighteenth Floor.” While I’m not currently planning on having children or trying in the same way as Julia, her words stuck. In her essay, she talks a lot about planning and preparing and trying to take control, which in the end only eluded her because of her obsessing about it. Minus the whole wanting to get pregnant part (definitely not there yet), I could understand how she felt. Interning, job hunting, money problems…I also have felt like I am grappling for control of certain aspects of my life only never to find it. It can be quite frustrating, and Julia has some great advice at the end of her essay: Let go of the “master plan.” It isn’t giving up, but it is letting go of the fine-tuning and the obsessing, which is something we all should do. Life is messy. Accept it and go with it.

After listening to stories like Julia’s, I realized as much as The M Word’s theme is motherhood, it is also about good old plain-jane life. I hope to fully read this book at some point, but I already know that it is chock full of relateable stories that will mean something different to every woman who reads it.

So what is the honest to goodness truth of what the “m” word means? For me, imperfection. So put away your “how to” books and breath. My mother has always told me there are no guidelines or hard-and-fast rules to cling to when you become a parent (or choose not to, for that matter). You wing it, and you learn as you go and hope for the best.

I think she did a pretty good job.

Kerry Clare, editor of the M Word's babyOne final word on The M Word book launch, Kerry Clare has the cutest little girl imaginable (pictured to the left). I had to say it. Noisy or quiet, she was adorable. She was also great publicity for the book. I am pretty sure everyone in attendance cooed at her appearance more than once…guilty as charged.

Thank you, ladies, for writing The M Word and finally putting in print what many women have been thinking, and thank you to Ben McNally for generously hosting the book launch.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of The M Word, which I highly suggest you do (it makes a beautiful Mother’s Day present for old and new mothers alike), you can get one from the publisher’s website Goose Lane Editions, Indigo, Amazon, or beautiful independent bookstores everywhere, such as Ben McNally Books in Toronto!

The M Word book launch