There Will Be Bylines // Nathaniel Moore

Nathaniel Moore steps in as guest editor for the month of February, looking at the depths of the process of publishing one’s work.

For my guest editorial shift this fine month of February at the Puritan’s Town Crier, I wanted to focus on publicity in Canadian publishing, but expand it from simply a promotional point of view to something with a deeper bite to it. Emotionality of sharing writing for public consumption in the post-Myspace age of Canadian Publishing. While I’m no doctor, I would imagine that, for the Canadian writer at any stage, the solitary act of writing is at once cathartic and frightening. What happens if you get published? People are going to read it and associate you with the word (for good or for bad) for the rest of your life. This is no longer the show your friends stage of the pageantry. People you can’t nudge, explain things to, corrupt or ever meet will be reading your book at any given hour of the day. This month, you’ll see fine work from Canadian creators from all over the country, including Charlie Petch, who, when asked what they thought about my theme, had this to say: “As a lateral lisper, I used to fear people hearing me speak. Now I worry about what they will do with things I say.” You’ll see a piece from Charlie on these pages shortly.

Nearly ten years ago, when I was finishing up my novel Savage 1986-2011, a close friend of mine asked how I was going to feel sharing a version of my life even if it was allegedly fiction. I hadn’t considered it. But after it came out in 2013, I felt little in the way of shame or embarrassment. If anything, I was frustrated because people I knew in my teen years from Leaside High School, through no fault of their own, seemed to undersell their reactions to what I consider to be a very dramatic, personal story of someone they knew in formative going through all these terrible things at the hands of friends and family. I didn’t buy it (not my own novel); there was no way they read it! I received zero in the way of any minor inquiry into the well-being of a character so sensationally based on my own actual life. From my fellow Leasiders, there wasn’t really even a simple bout of “did this really happen to you?”

More recently, while working on the sequel to Savage, I subconsciously found myself wondering aloud how the main character would be screwed up this time. Sexual abuse? Abduction? Murder? Shoplifting? Acne? It was at this moment that I realized I hadn’t really exorcised the demons from my past. And that being clever in a novel as it relates to finding a path to write, in a watered-down way (for fiction or even non-fiction, for that matter, is still removed from the actual bleating moment out of which we carve our stories) didn’t seem like the quality self-care someone approaching fifty should be undertaking. For me as a writer, I want a reaction. When I wrote my family horror story for Toronto Life about my grandfather’s Satan-obsessed religious cult, my mother told me my father’s family (the Smiths) would come after me. But they didn’t. I looked out my window for the pitchfork crowd of cousins and aunts but alas, no such visits occurred. My mother was always embarrassed about our family’s dark and secret past; so embarrassed, in fact, that she kept the truth from me until I read about it in the Toronto Star at twenty in 1995. It was just after my family divorced and split up, so learning about my father’s sad past was a strange consolation prize to a twenty year stint as a nuclear family.

Sharing writing shouldn’t be a trauma-inducing situation. Consult your doctor if it is. I’m hoping that this month we can get to the bottom of some great discussions about publicity, poetry, fiction, mental health, creativity, visual art, healing, the inner world of the author, and the exterior world of literary public consumption, and get some great ideas of how we can share our work creatively, safely and without judgement in these very sinister times.

And remember, the books offered up as hyperlinks in this month’s blog posts are your ticket to accessing great work by working artists across Canada. I encourage you to buy their books, or request them from your local library, but most of all, show that you care and let the publisher, bookseller or author know you’re enjoying their hard work. #LoveCanadianBooks

Nathaniel G. Moore has contributed to the Puritan since 2008. He is the author of three poetry collections, three novels and numerous articles concerning publishing. Next up? Honorarium, his collection of essays out in May with Palimpsest Press. Originally from Toronto, Moore now lives in Fredericton with his wife Amber McMillan and a lot of semi-trained animals.

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