A review of both novels in The Hindu!

I’m thrilled that both Six Metres of Pavement and Stealing Nasreen were reviewed in The Hindu!

An excerpt:

“Some voices, despite quiet cadences, succeed in making themselves heard very clearly above the cacophony of lesser noises. Writer Farzana Doctor undoubtedly belongs to this minor group, speaking in meaningful whispers and bewitching her readers into complete submission.”

More here: The Hindu : Arts / Books : Quiet and clear.

2011 Round-Up

It’s 9pm on December 31st, and I’m waiting to go out to the first of two NYE house parties tonight.

2011 has been a fantastic year, and I’m grateful to my friends, family and readers for making it so fabulous.

Some  highlights:

-Six Metres of Pavement was released in March and received great reviews

-I received the prestigious Dayne Ogilvie Grant from the Writers Trust of Canada

-I was the writer in residence for Open Book: Toronto in September. I blogged on all things literary.

-I was invited to read at the Vancouver International Writers Festival

-I toured–all over Canada, Texas, and New Orleans

-Six Metres of Pavement received a Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Contemporary General Fiction

NOW Magazine named Six Metres of Pavement one of its Top Ten Books of 2011

What’s next for 2012? I’ll be touring some more. In January, I’ll head to LA and in March, along with Vivek Shraya, I’ll read all over the NE United States (stay tuned for more on our “God Loves Pavement, Two Brown Authors Hit the Road” tour).

Stealing Nasreen and Six Metres of Pavement will be published by Rupa in India (release sometime this summer) and I’m thrilled to be able to travel there to do some touring too.

Finally, I’m working on an ending and edits to my third novel, tentatively titled “All Inclusive”, a novel inspired by my love-hate relationship with all-inclusive resorts and monogamy.

It’s time to put on some lipstick and sequins. Happy New Year, all!

Leaving Del Rio

It’s been dry for seven months. On the way in from Del Rio International Airport, my father told us that the local church congregations have been saying rain prayers all spring.

Dad, my step-mother and younger siblings moved here almost ten years ago. Del Rio is his long-awaited escape from Southern Ontario winters, a Texas border town just 3 miles from Mexico. I’ve visited a number of times over the years; its low-key charm and arid climate make it a good vacation spot and writing retreat for me.

I toured Stealing Nasreen through here three years ago and am back with Six Metres of Pavement for a couple of readings, a book signing and a creative writing workshop. Each event has been attended by welcoming, interested readers, people who asked lots of questions about writing process, and the characters and setting in Six Metres of Pavement. They wanted to know about Toronto, Ismail’s mistake, Celia’s agonias. Del Rio is a frontier town with an artist’s heart.

It’s now a week later, and my partner and I wait at the airport. There are only two outbound flights a day, and ours has been grounded due to a thunderstorm with hail the “size of golf balls”. The airport staff have made us coffee, and changed the channel in the waiting room to Disney to entertain the children. They got the rain they prayed for after all.

Dad at Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Del Rio

Indian Voices launch

An excerpt of Stealing Nasreen has been published in a new anthology called Indian Voices. It’s edited by Jasmine D’Costa, who also edited Canadian Voices 1 and 2. Although I’ve been a part of a South Asian focussed anthology before, this is my first time being published in an anthology that will be available and marketed in India. My first foray into the Indian lit world!

The Toronto launch of this book will be held on April 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Supermarket Art Bar, 268 Augusta Avenue, in Kensington Market, Toronto. Also being launched is  “Hearts & Souls”, Leopoldo Paradela‘s new book of poetry. Come on out! The night is free (sponsored by Scotiabank) with refreshments, a cash bar and entertainment celebrating the cultures of the two books. The Consul Generals of India and Brazil will be in attendance. Some of the GTA-based contributors will be reading from their submissions, me included.

If you can’t make to the event, watch the livestream online.

Being a clue-giver at the Diaspora Dialogues Scavenger Hunt at Word on the Street

What a lot of fun it was to be at WOTS this year. I was a clue-giver and the correct answer was “Maury”. Here’s a link to the video. Here’s a photo from the Diaspora Dialogues flickr stream.

Thanks to Diaspora Dialogues for this content, and also to videographer Chris Jones and editor Matthew Manuge. 

Revisions, revisions

I’ve just come through the first stage of revisions and edits with Six Metres of Pavement and I’m pleased with the recent changes. Mostly, it’s small stylistic stuff and catching the strange little time/date/progression inconsistencies. The latter drives my author’s perfectionistic mind a little batty. I’ve been dreaming new scenes that in the middle of the night seem terribly important to add and in the morning are just terribly weird.

It’s been good working with a skilled editor, and I lucked out when I was assigned Dundurn’s Shannon Whibbs, who has been helpful with the story-telling and the tiny details. I’m sure she’d find a grammar issue in that last sentence.

And now I’m working on a glossary. When I went out to do Stealing Nasreen readings, I learned not to assume that people know about pakoras and mamajis. Not every town has a large enough South Asian community to help people learn about such things. And this time around, with a character like Celia, a Portuguese-Canadian widow, I’ve also needed to define terms like frango and bom dia.

The book won’t be available until Feb/March 2011, but you can get a sneak peak of it’s cover here.

If you are in London

I’m visiting London this July!

Imaan Queer Muslim Support has invited me to do a book reading and writing workshop. Check out the details here: imaan london flyer

If you’re in the area, I look forward to meeting you!

Novel in a nutshell

YouTube and Google have a very cool and fun app that helps you create a 35 second video using 7 search terms. Here’s my 35 second rendition of Stealing Nasreen. Check it out and then make your own stories.

I’m having trouble figuring out the 7 search terms for Six Metres of Pavement, my second novel, which will be released in winter, 2011. How do you distill 300 pages into 35 seconds, anyway? Here’s my first attempt

Montreal Serai review

Here’s another Stealing Nasreen review, this one by Montreal Serai‘s Niranjana Iyer.

I was reflecting on how a number of reviewers have specifically noticed and commented on the scene between Shaffiq and the hospital administrator, a scene which highlights his simultaneous invisibility (as an accountant, underemployed as a janitor) and visibility (as a racialized person, a new immigrant).

I wrote that scene during the very last revision, perhaps a week before I handed in the manuscript to my publisher. She’s asked me to add a little more detail about Shaffiq at work, and his feelings about being underemployed. The scene came easily, perhaps because by then I truly knew the characters, had been swimming in the sea of their lives for many years already. I typed the words, decided the scene was done after it’s second drafting (usually I redraft and redraft) and was happy to be done with the book.

I’ve been reflecting on this because I am now at this stage with my second novel, (currently titled) A Six Meter Stretch of Pavement. It’s the 14th (or so) revision, and I’m looking for gaps and things to cut. I hope that my final pieces of writing will be among the best, the noteworthy, the scenes that remain in readers’ imaginations long after they’ve finished reading it.

Starting again…

I was shopping at Multiple Organics today, my favourite local grocery store. I saw a couple of friends and we chatted about writing. One asked me how Novel #2 is going, and I replied, “Still tinkering”.

This past week, I completed revision #10, fixing typos, adding description, cleaning up prose. I told her this and she ordered me to stop. Put it aside. Leave it alone for now. Start something new. “There will be time for more revisions when you work with an editor,” she persisted.

I remember when I was in this place with Stealing Nasreen, back in 2006. I had sent out multiple submissions, created a new ending, and continued with edits. Then one day, it was time to move on. I don’t why it happened that day, and can’t recall how I started, but I did start  New Skin (which at the time, I was calling “Mistake”). It was strange starting fresh, getting to know my characters, finding out who there were and what they’d do. I watched the page count grow.

Half-way into New Skin’s first draft, a book deal for Stealing Nasreen arrived and I put New Skin aside, at the publisher’s recommendation–I had revisions for the first novel to focus on and needed not to be distracted by the second. Somewhat sadly, I said farewell to Ismail and Celia of New Skin and got reacquainted with Nasreen, Salma and Shaffiq. 

Then, a few weeks after Stealing Nasreen‘s release, I turned back to New Skin. At this point I felt polyamourous; I was talking about Nasreen at book launches, while further developing Celia. I was answering questions about Shaffiq, and writing dialogue for Ismail. This busy ‘intimate life’ has continued for the last year and a half. Add to this the further complexity of a brand new relationship with four strangers who have been visiting my imagination over the last couple of months–characters from novel #3. I’m still not sure who they are, but they won’t be ignored. 

Today, after listening to my friend’s wise words, I am putting aside New Skin. I’ve just sent the manuscript to an agent, and will wait. I know I’ll return to it again, when the time for edits comes.

Meanwhile, I have a date with four new friends…

Open Book Toronto “Overlooked Book List”

Thanks to all of you who nominated Stealing Nasreen for the Open Book “Overlooked Book List”! Thanks to you, Stealing Nasreen made it on the list! Go to www.openbooktoronto.com to see the full list. Perhaps you’ll find some great 2008 reading suggestions there.

Ottawa Reading and the Open Book “Overlooked Books” list

I was in Ottawa yesterday for a lovely reading at the Collected Works Bookstore. What a great audience! I was asked some really interesting questions that made me think more about my writing process. For example, one woman asked me what it was like to edit out pieces I worried would not be well received, which made me reflect more on the impact of audience on my writing. Another person asked how becoming a novelist had changed my relationship with my friends (writers are known for being conversation “magpies”). Someone else wondered about the ways in which characters take time and space in a writer’s head.

Sometimes the very best part about readings is the Q & A…


Would you like to nominate Stealing Nasreen for the Open Book “Overlooked Book” list? Below is some info:

What Canadian book do you think deserves more attention? Maybe you feel the book is an undiscovered gem. Maybe you think the book should have more readers or more media attention or more award nominations, or all of the above. Here is your chance to shine a little light on it — and to enter to win a $100 gift certificate for Pages Books & Magazines. Submit the title of your favourite overlooked book to Open Book’s Facebook discussion board or send an email to info@openbooktoronto.com with the subject line “Overlooked Book.” The winner will be selected in a draw on December 21st and Open Book will compile an Overlooked Reading List from your entries and post it on our site.