My Young Adult Novel THE CAMINO CLUB to be Published by Duet Books (an Imprint of Interlude Press)!

I am beyond ECSTATIC to announce the sale of my young adult novel, THE CAMINO CLUB!!! It has found a home with DUET BOOKS, the young adult imprint of INTERLUDE PRESS!

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When I first set out on my own journey on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route back in May of 2014, I did so with a kernel of an idea for THE CAMINO CLUB novel percolating in my writer-brain. I had dreamed of writing a young adult novel that would combine a Breakfast Club scenario with the famous Camino pilgrimage route known as Camino Frances (or The French Way).

As my feet touched down on the pilgrim path, I imagined six juvenile delinquents reluctantly setting out on the very same path. They would be there not because they wanted to be there, but because they were court-mandated to be there. THE WALK youth diversion program would give all six of them the option to walk the pilgrimage route across Spain or serve time in juvenile detention.

I imagined their juvenile delinquent hearts being in a very different place at the onset of their pilgrimage than mine was at the beginning of my own. But I also tried to imagine that they would arrive at the famous cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela as changed as I was at the end of my own pilgrimage. I envisioned them softened, transformed, and maybe even less broken than they were when they set out on their forced adventure.

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This is a famous monument found on the Camino de Santiago, and one that my characters visit in my latest novel, THE CAMINO CLUB (This is found at MONTE DO GOZO or HILL OF JOY, which overlooks a valley from which pilgrims on the Camino can get their first glimpse of the spires of the famous cathedral in Santiago de Compostela).

As I completed my own Camino, I knew that the Camino de Santiago would stay in my heart forever. And I also knew that I had to share it…and I longed for that share to be impactful, meaningful. I wanted others to find the unbridled joy I discovered while walking The Way. If I could move just ONE person to discover the Camino and add it to their bucket list, I would feel as though I had won.

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One of the countless vistas pilgrims will come across while making their way across Spain on the Camino de Santiago.

It took me a few years of meditating on the concept, but I finally set out to write the novel that had been living inside my heart ever since I took that first footstep on my own Camino path. I had, after all, walked with all six of my characters alongside me. It was time to sit down and write their stories. I even had an idea for a seventh integral character, an homage to a ‘character’ I met on my pilgrimage across Spain…a magical character who stays with me to this day.

I could not be happier about the home this novel has found. It’s the home I wanted it to have all along. I’ve been amazed by INTERLUDE PRESS and DUET BOOKS ever since I first discovered RUNNING WITH LIONS by Julian Winters. I’ve kept my eye on them, ever hopeful that The Camino Club would somehow one day be a good fit for their boutique publishing house.

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Interlude announced the deal today, so I can now say it’s official! The Camino Club has found its WAY!

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A statue of a pilgrim making his way along the Camino de Santiago, complete with the Galician Cross, pilgrim’s staff and water gourd.

More details to follow, but for now I’m just thrilled to be able to announce the news! Eternal thanks to Annie Harper and the rest of the group at Interlude for taking a chance on this book that is so very near and dear to my heart in ways no other words I’ve ever written have been.

Time to celebrate! I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Buen Camino, Peregrinos!

The Next Three! Camino de Santiago from Fonfria to beyond! Onward…

Walking Day 6! Leaving Fonfria is such sweet sorrow. I love this stop. The only place I stayed in twice. Once in 2014 and back this year!

Angela, the lovely albergue owner and cook. Friendly and lively! She gives life to the Camino! Stop in Fonfria if you can!

Off we go. From Fonfria we took a bit of a rest day. Only about 10km to Triacastela. And the Pension Garcia just as you walk into town there. The eats were good and the room was comfortable. Because we had arrived early, we had lots of time to casually explore town after showers.

Day 7 Walking was Triacastela to Sarria, which is the big 100km town where lots of people begin their Camino. You need to walk at least 100km in order to get the Compostela certificate in Santiago de Compostela. It was, again, a lovely day. One thing to mention is the SAMOS route to Sarria. It adds kilometres, but is so worth the visit to the monasterio in Samos. I just love the murals there. So beautiful…we started in the dark in order to allow time for the detour…

Day 8 walking was Sarria to Portomarin. I had made an error in booking, and it was only after we had arrived in Portomarin that we discovered our hostel was 2km behind us. Be prepared for anything on the Camino…

 

Pratisara Protection Threads – From Abhaneri, India to Samos, Spain…

Tuesday September 18th of 2018 was a traveling day for us. That was the day we made our way by bus from Jaipur to Agra in India.

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We had a surprise stop along the way at a beautiful stepwell in Abhaneri. It was called Chand Baori Stepwell.

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The Chand Baori Stepwell is an architectural wonder. There are many places like it in India. And it was just sitting there in a small village, at the side of the road.
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At the Chand Baori Stepwell in Abhaneri, India. September, 2018.

While there, we visited a ‘holy man’ who was at a small temple off to the side. He tied red and yellow pratisara protection threads on our wrists and offered us a blessing. I’m writing about it today, on Tuesday May 14th, 2019, because my threads finally broke free of my wrist this morning.

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The ‘Holy Man’ who gave us our pratisara protection threads while we were en route to Agra, India.

It was bound to happen. It was just some threads tied together around my wrist. I’m actually surprised it lasted almost 8 months. Michael’s is still intact. Not only that, his looks way better than mine looked when it snapped. I’m guessing he’ll get a full year out of his. We shall see.

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The Rio Sarria, flowing past the beautiful monastery in Samos, Spain.

They say you should place your pratisara protection threads into a flowing waterway after they come off your wrist. I now have an offering for Rio Sarria, the river that runs through Samos, Spain, along the Camino. The river runs alongside the monastery there and I love the idea of leaving my protection threads in the river there.

 

There are places in the world where one enters and they immediately know they’ve discovered one of their heart-homes. Samos is definitely one of those places for me. From the moment I saw the monastery from afar as we entered the town, I knew it was a special place. I knew I would have to return.

Now, I get to Samos added meaning by leaving something behind when I go back in September. (-:

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The Pratisara Protection Threads I’ll Be Leaving Behind in the Rio Sarria in Samos, Spain.

Small Details Intimately Observed…

“If a writer stops observing he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.”~ Ernest Hemingway

I think a LOT about Ernest Hemingway. To be honest, I am not a fan of quite a bit of his work. I should probably give some of it another glance, seeing how much I love and adore both The Old Man and the Sea and A Moveable Feast.

What I do often think about are Hemingway’s many quotable nuggets of writerly wisdom and knowledge. I don’t always agree with his advice, and I often think, ‘Whoa there, Ernest! Who died and made you lord god king of everything and everyone. Chillax!’ I feel a my-way-or-the-highway vibe from him sometimes. But I love those two books SO MUCH that I at least stop and think about everything he has to say in regards to writerly advice. He was good at it.

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Ernest Hemingway

The quote above is one of my favourites. I see it bandied about now and again and it stops me in my tracks, simply because it’s so very delightful. It falls into line with my belief that we writers should get out into the world and explore…even if it’s only the world of our own little micro-neighbourhoods. We should always observe—others, smells, textures, colours, tastes, light, EVERYTHING. We are, after all, the final funnels through which the world flows prior to splattering down on the page. We should at least make that splat fall onto the page in a way that makes sense for the reader. We must never stop observing. We must never stop cataloguing the small details. We must remain intimate with them. We must, we must, we must. The writer must be vigilant with the details of the world around them. It is necessary. It is the playground in which we live and love and play and grow. The only way for a writer to celebrate the universe properly is to GET IT RIGHT when we reflect it back to our readers.

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I think I have Franny (AKA Franny Frannerton of the Frannington Frannies), my golden retriever with a golden light inside her, to thank for my return to WANDERLUST, for my return to my observations of the universe about me…both in the macro and the minutiae. She’s gone now, bless her. But she was a wonderful companion who brought me back to nature and gave me back my deep desire to explore. She definitely made me a better writer. She brought me into focus enough to examine the small details. She made me slow down. We all need reminders to slow down, to breathe in the universe around us. Not just writers, but everyone. We need to experience it, not just walk through it.

A writer friend of mine had some great news recently. I first met Jennifer Turney at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. She’s been a constant inspiration to my writing life over the past couple of years now. She’s on fire in her creativity and it’s so inspiring to see. Jennifer is observing the small details. She recently discovered that her short story Spot, Sun, or Otherwise took 2nd Place in the recent BLANK SPACES writing contest. Writers are asked to write a short story based on a photo prompt. I want to share a link to the story here, because when I read it I saw an entire world unfold. In just under 1,000 words, Jennifer created an entire world. She really locked into Hemingway’s vibe on this one. She is nowhere near finished. Jennifer Turney’s just getting started!

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READ SPOT, SUN, OR OTHERWISE HERE.

A Birthday, a Book, and Camino or Bust

Today marks what would have been the 80th birthday of my mother, Davida Cecilia (nee Creamer) Craig. Everyone called her Dee. She liked milestone birthdays and she would have loved this one. 80. I always thought there was something magical about her birth year because it was 1939. The same year as The Wizard of Oz. I always remembered that odd fact, for some reason.

A couple of weeks ago, I took out the recipe box my mother used to keep. To be honest, there was a time when we kept it together. We once began a project together of organizing that box and re-writing all the recipes on index cards. We bought the alphabetical dividers and everything. It was going to be a perfectly appointed collection to pass down. As I scrolled through the chaos of cards, pamphlets, magazines, magazine clippings and scrap pieces of paper with faded recipes scrawled on them, it became obvious that the project was a complete failure. We hadn’t even made it halfway through the reorganization process, and it seems to have declined back to chaos in the ensuing years. This recipe box is the Miss Havisham of recipe boxes. Hope lost.

But perhaps this is the way recipe collections should be, no? Fully loved and used and faded and worn and torn and in shambles. Maybe that’s the sign of a good recipe collection. Maybe our little project was where we went wrong. It was, come to think of it, my idea. Sure, Mom always said, “One day I should sit down and sort this mess out.” But I wonder now if everyone who loves to bake and cook says that occasionally when they open up their fragile elastic-reinforced recipe collections to get to work.

What I also realized as I flipped through all the beloved baking recipes from my childhood is that we must have began that project when I was no more than 10 years old. All the rewritten recipes on index cards were in my childhood eerily perfect and meticulous left-handed scrawl. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her and going through the recipes and being cautious to the point of insanity while I carefully wrote them out. All the 1/2s and 1/4s and 1/3s had to be 100% correct. Not a single word could be omitted. Baking is, after all, an exact science.

Our most baked recipe had to be peanut butter cookies (molasses cookies would take a quick second place…but they were harder to make and took more time). That’s the recipe I looked for while I took my nostalgic dip back into the recipe box. It was only after 3 thorough trips down memory lane that I finally found the recipe in a spiral notebook. I never did find the index card. And almost nothing was filed in alphabetical order in the filing system.

The peanut butter cookie recipe that I did finally find, after much panic, was in my mother’s gorgeous swirling curlicue handwriting. I always thought she had the most magical handwriting of them all. I remember watching her make words come to life on the page, knowing I’d never be able to come close to that kind of fancy. But I followed each and every swirl when I made my first post-Mom batch of peanut butter cookies.

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What I realized when I made a batch of these cookies was that my mother was always baking for an army. The batch was ENDLESS. But, as memory serves, a batch would last no more than a day in my childhood home. Her cookies often served the purpose of pied piper in our neighbourhood.

In retrospect, maybe the bomb that went off inside the recipe box that we never quite got a handle on is an allegory for the bomb that went off between us. No matter. Things happened. They won’t take away the time we spent together, though. We had a few things together. One was definitely baking. One was photo albums. The two of us were the official curators of our family photo albums. A third was puzzles. I can’t even begin to count the hours we spent together working on puzzles at the dining room table. One picture appeared after the other, seemingly out of nowhere. We never seemed to tire of that one.

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Mom, Manny, Me, Dave, Dad. Not in this pic is baby brother George. He wasn’t quite here yet. This was early 1971…George arrived in 1972.

Rest in peace, Mom. I’m glad that all the good memories eventually came bubbling back up to the surface. They never go away, do they? Not really. I just have to close my eyes and I remember being elbows deep in batter, helping you make your own birthday cake and trying DESPERATELY not to ask you for any help…because nobody should have to make their own birthday cake. Not now, not ever. Happy Birthday.

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This pic has nothing to do with anything I’m writing today. I’m using it only as a subject divider, because I’m all over the place today. As usual. This is me following Michael on foot for the last mile or so into Nepal, from India. It was really the only way for us to cross from one country to the other in any reasonable amount of time last September.

I have a book out on submission right now and I’d probably trade all my other publications combined to see it to market. I just finished a reread. This is something I sometimes do when a book is out in the hands of publishers. It’s on my list of thing I do to second guess myself and question my abilities as a writer. I still love this book, though. I still hope it finds a home. It’s not often that I feel this good about something I wrote. So, fingers crossed. I’m kind of at a standstill at the moment, because I’m thinking so much about this novel finding a home that it stops me from diving into the next and the next. I’m sure it won’t be an excuse forever. It will either happen or it won’t.

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This subject divider makes a little more sense. This is one of soooo many shrouds to shoes one finds on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. Shoes literally play out their entire lives on this path. I’ll be returning there in September, but I hope to leave my shoes at home.

The countdown to the beginning of Our Camino Adventure is now 181 days. As much as I love spring and summer, I have never wished them to speed by as much as I am wishing them to do so now. On September 10th we are boarding a plane that will take us to Madrid, by way of Lisbon, and I cannot wait. The Camino de Santiago is constantly percolating in the back of my mind. I daydream about the day my feet will once again touchdown on its sacred path. Like Frank N. Furter realizing he’s about to get the opportunity to return to his home planet of Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, I am beside myself with excitement.

On the day I went away, goodbye
Was all I had to say, now I
I want to come again and stay, oh my my
Smile, and that will mean I may

Cause I’ve seen oh, blue skies through the tears
In my eyes
And I realize, I’m going home

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This is the face of someone who knows they’re going home. This will be my face at the airport on Tuesday, September 10th, 2019. I may go slightly less dramatic with the eye shadow, but we shall see. I’m not promising anything.

Unlike Frank N. Furter, I’m not going to find out at the last second that I’ll be lasered to death just before take-off. At least I hope that’s not in the cards for me.

We now have our entire itinerary mapped out. We managed, through trial and error, to come up with it all by ourselves. We’re hoping we aced the journey and gave ourselves enough but not too much time for each day’s trek. It’s such a fine balance when figuring out in advance how far you’re going to walk each day. And with the throngs growing each and every year on the Camino**, we didn’t want to take our chances with not booking our nightly stays in advance. So, it’s all locked and loaded…even though we still have 181 days to go.

**In 2017 the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela received 301,006 pilgrims, up from 237,882 in 2014…which is the year I first walked the Camino. Last year, there was an even greater amount of pilgrims. More are expected to walk in 2019.

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Not only was my first Camino experience a mostly WET AND RAINY one, but the cathedral was also undergoing a massive exterior refurbishing. The front was covered in scaffolding. I’m told that the scaffolding is now gone. I’m excited to see the polished new exterior. Unfortunately, this means the interior is now under restoration. I’m told the Botafumeiro will not swing.

I will be attempting a BAREFOOT walk this coming Camino. I went barefoot for a few portions of my last Camino. Hopefully, I can do it all the way…only slipping into footwear to enter places that won’t allow bare feet. That’s the goal, anyway. We shall see.

THE SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION FOR THE TOPICS OF THIS POST

Not really six degrees.

Mom’s Birthday – The Book I have on Submission Takes Place on the Camino de Santiago – I’m walking the Camino. I’m dedicating this pilgrimage to the memory of my mother. Full circle.

Anyway…a lot on my mind today. I find getting it out helps. Happy Birthday, Mom…wherever you happen to be in the universe. Imagine me baking you a cake and I’ll imagine you being impressed by my cake decorating abilities.

 

Love_Is_Love Anthology and I Will Tell the Night Aesthetic

Two things. The first, I’m thrilled to announce the release of an anthology in which I have a short story! Love_Is_Love released yesterday (Jan 24/19):

Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens

All proceeds from the sale of the anthology go to THE TREVOR PROJECT (The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Lifeline: 866.488.7386.)

My story is called THIS IS ME IN GRADE NINE and it follows a trans girl in the moments leading up to her first day of high school.

Here’s some cover love for you! The strength of the Rainbow Fist in the Air is divine:

 

 

YOU CAN PICK UP A COPY OF THE ANTHOLOGY HERE. PLEASE CONSIDER DOING SO, AS THE TREVOR PROJECTS NEEDS YOUR HELP IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO THRIVE.

The second thing? During part of the festivities on Twitter this month for #LGBTRelease I made a NOVEL AESTHETIC for my upcoming release I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. I wanted to share it here. 🙂

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Steven & Finn and their cross-country journey to healing, complete with BEETS.

The origin story for the title of I WILL TELL THE NIGHT can be found at this recent blog post HERE. Details on its release to follow, but it is SOON.

Rejection/Acceptance – Are You Being Served?

…and if so, which do you prefer—the hard or soft option?

I have a novel–HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN–in the hands of my agent, who has it sent out on submission at the moment. The waiting is the hardest part. When you’re waiting to hear back from agents/publishers—whether it’s for a novel, a poem, an article, an essay or a grocery list—what kind of response do you prefer? Are you one of those people who would rather have an immediate rejection, or are you willing to wait for months on end for a possibly-maybe? Another one of my novels has been with a publisher for about 6 months now. There are days that go by where I forget it even exists… and other days where I want to send an email to remind them of my existence (something one does not do). I suppose we are all like Bambi’s mother. “Don’t go into the meadow!” and then that inexplicable need to go into the meadow…

I’d rather not get shot by the hunter, but I still feel the need to know if the hunter can see me or not. “I’m over here! I’m over here!” –waving frantically, waiting to be shot. “Hello!”

How do you like to be served? Rejection is a medicine best served quickly, is it not?

Lamu Town

(Originally appeared as PART THREE in a THREE PART SERIES in the WORDWEAVER.)

As our plane landed at the Manda Island airstrip, I was crazy with anticipation. Out the window, I had glimpses of the Indian Ocean and the tiny Arabic/Swahili island of Lamu!

Our first dhow (a traditional Arab sailing vessel) ride took us to Lamu Island. I didn’t know then that I would spend much of the upcoming week aboard these beautiful boats. We climbed from the dhow onto cement stairs that ascended right up out of the water. Lamu Town!

We arrived on a very special day: Islamic New Year, 1430—a day of festivities: donkey races, dhow races, dancing in the streets and vibrant reverent prayer. I was enamoured with everything I saw. Fellow traveller Venus Thrash was
offered a donkey ride upon our arrival. We followed her through the narrow streets of Lamu Town as she was escorted, like visiting royalty, to Lamu Fort and the town square. We were swept up and fully embraced in their celebration!

I woke the next morning at 4 a.m. to the gorgeous sound of Muslim prayer. It was so beautiful, I didn’t care about the early hour. I had too much to take in to waste time sleeping. The weekend was free time and only half of our group had arrived in Lamu. Eight of us had arranged for a special day trip with one of the dhow captains.

The dhow crew took us to Manda Beach, where we swam in the ocean while they made us a meal of fresh fish, coconut rice and tantalizing curry. After the meal, which was served under the shade of an acacia tree on beach sand-raked smooth by the crew, we lazed around while the crew cleaned up. Later, we piled into the dhow and made our way through an intricate mangrove forest waterway. As the path narrowed, we had to step out into the black waters and walk among the ancient mangroves to the entrance of the 15th-century Swahili trading town of Takwa. We walked the ruins with mouths agape. Crumbling walls of an ancient mosque, dinosaur baobab trees, wells, homes, a withering school and the burial site of a revered Imam…it all fascinated us. The air of Takwa was alive, abuzz—either with the voices of long dead ghosts or a mass of unseen insects. We didn’t know which. We only knew the peace of being there…the sacredness of the island.

Unfortunately, we only had half an hour in Takwa. Any longer and the waterway leading to the island would vanish. We’d be forced to spend the night within the island’s sacred hum. As much as we loved the ruins, we didn’t have to be told twice when it was time to leave.

One last surprise for the day… we emerged from the mangrove forest at the precise moment the sun touched the horizon and melted into the Indian Ocean. Perfect timing! We watched the sun melt into the ocean as we ate freshly cut fruit served to us by the crew.

That was just the first full day on Lamu. Every day was the same: perfection. We had our writing classes on the rooftop terrace of a hotel in the centre of town—a terrace with a 360 degree view of Lamu Town and the ocean surrounding it. We had sun, donkeys, dhows, sharks, weddings, Masai dancers, poetry readings on the beach, Imams, absolute joy in the face of abject poverty, a dancing/singing festive Kiswahili Christmas Eve mass in a tiny Catholic church, Rastafarians, children playing soccer, hennaed hands and so much more.

What a perfect place to end our Kenyan trip. I will never forget the people of Lamu. Their joy has changed me. Their remarkable radiance is something we could all aspire to. And writing. Ah, yes. I was there for the love of writing. My passion for words has never been stronger. The beauty of the world classroom…what a perfect place to dance with one’s muse!

Spark 10! It’s on!

…and I am so thrilled to be a part of it!

What is SPARK? I’m so glad you asked. You can click on the Spark 10 participant badge above to visit the Spark site.

SPARK is  a participatory creativity event that takes place four times a year. The rules are simple: Writers send their artist partners a story or a poem; artists send an image of their painting, photograph or sculpture. Musicians and video artists send either a link or a file of their work. Once all the creations have changed hands, the participants have 10 days to use their designated partner’s piece as a jumping off point for new work of their own.

The SPARK site will post the inspiration pieces, along with the response pieces, once the 10 day project draws to a close. It’s a collaborative art project! And SPARK site readers get to see how art begets art in such a unique and interesting way.

Keep a link to the SPARK site so you can discover the inspiration and response pieces, once the project wraps up. There are participants from all over the world taking part. It’s bound to be an exciting exhibit, once unveiled!

(I received a painting from a fellow participant, and I sent her a poem. Now, we are both leaping away from these pieces to create two new ones! Can’t wait to see what she comes up with.)

Forty Books I Would Rather Not Live Without.

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  3. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
  4. The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice
  5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  8. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  9. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers
  12. Old School by Tobias Wolff
  13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  14. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  15. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  16. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  17. Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
  18. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
  19. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  20. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger
  22. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
  23. Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke
  24. The Funnies by J. Robert Lennon
  25. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
  26. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  28. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  29. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  30. The Beginning and the End by Naguib Mahfouz
  31. The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy
  32. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
  33. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
  34. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  35. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  36. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  37. The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen
  38. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  39. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  40. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews