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I Know What I Read This Summer: An Intern's Journey

by Meaghan Laaper 

A friend of mine recently asked me how my internship at Goose Lane Editions was going and I told them, "I think the whole publishing world is absolute whack. And I love it."

My first day as an intern with Goose Lane, I walked up to their office, carved plaque of a wooden goose proudly mounted on their door, and had no idea what to expect. Seven weeks later, the end of my internship on the horizon and a mind fully mystified by everything I’ve learned, I’m not ready to let that goose-crested door close behind me. I’ve gotten to see that the life of a book starts way before I buy it at the bookstore. Working with Goose Lane’s editorial and publicity team has been an amazing, dizzying whirlwind of excitement (and stress) which I am incredibly grateful for. So as my final hurrah, I’m going to give you my take on some of Goose Lane's forthcoming titles that I’ve had the pleasure of working on. I’ve been told to just have fun with it, so brace yourselves.

* * *

"Later, cleaning the fur and blood off his sole, he’d felt sick to his stomach about it all. How much it mattered. How little. How common it was, to kill something."

You know those books you read that you become infatuated with? Like a new girlfriend/boyfriend your friends are sick and tired of hearing about but you can’t stop telling them the cute story of how you met and the way they swept you off your feet . . .

I was at Westminster Books. Just browsing but then my eyes fell on him. I know, it’s not all about looks, but that cover just roped me in, and after the first page, I knew we were meant to be.

That has been J.R. McConvey’s Different Beasts for me, only I had to keep quiet because it wasn’t published yet! It is a collection of fantastic short stories that stand on their own but that have built a world together that makes you question reality, humanity, and what you had for lunch (just read it, you’ll get it). I never thought I could fall so hard for a collection of short stories, but I absolutely have and no one can make me shut up about it.

* * *

"Baptizing Billy would have meant standing up at the front of the church and publicly claiming him as their child, as an equal to their other children, and as someone who would eventually have a unique and personal place in the church and in the broader community. I don’t think Dad or Mom ever saw him that way."

My obsession with reading took a long time to develop. When it eventually did it was all fantasy, fantasy, and a little dystopia to fit my angsty teen years. Needless to say, I had no room for non-fiction, and it has taken me too long to realize all the insightful stories I’ve been missing out on. Catherine McKercher’s Shut Away is one of them.

I was asked to verify corrections on this particular text and found myself reading whole chapters whether there were corrections to check or not. I always imagined non-fiction being a bland regurgitation of the facts and that is just not the case. McKercher carries you through years of medical injustices and opens up about her own family’s history and her brother who never got the chance to truly be her brother. I was captivated by her words and the truth of such a horrific situation of institutionalized neglect. McKercher has exposed me to an entire new genre and given me a much-needed eye-opener to the historical treatment of children with Down syndrome.

* * *

“The sense of illumination he achieves is extraordinary, with minimal intervention. He applies slits of bright orange to light up the horizon, allowing the negative space of the paper to activate the architecture, or the yellow glow of a street lamp to reveal the scene beneath.”

Have you heard of those adult colouring books? Those all-the-rage, beat-your-anxiety-with-a-box-of-pencil-crayons-and-some-paper-mandalas books? I remember getting one as a gift and was overcome with excitement and confidence at the prospect of turning those black-and-white pages into colourful works of art. No one really tells you that colouring is just as hard as an adult as it was as a kid, only now people actually expect something from you. Simply staying inside the lines just isn’t enough anymore.

Coloured pencils are an impossible artistic medium, which is why Itee Pootoogook’s art astounds me. I never realized artwork like his existed until I started working with Goose Lane. The depth, beauty, and emotion he is able to convey through coloured pencils, of all things, amazes me. There is softness to his art enhanced by the medium that makes you want to touch it, to fall into the book's pages.  He captures a world and a way of life I have never known, and it is beautiful.

Next time I need to de-stress, I'm curling up with Itee Pootoogook: Hymns to the Silence.

* * *
"It was bitterly cold, with a fresh north wind blowing. Snow was falling on the higher peaks. Even so, Beken wore only a well-worn sports coat, open, over a few shirts, and he had a little, narrow-brimmed tweed cap on his head. He wore no gloves. He could have passed for an eccentric country golfer on the links of Scotland."

All my life Mongolia has started and ended with Genghis Khan, and here I was missing out on a world that feels like it’s out of a movie (I mentioned my love for fantasy, well here's a reality that reads like fiction). The Mongolian Chronicles tells an incredible story of the author’s journey alongside spectacular eagle-hunters. I had to keep reminding myself that it was real, that there are people living in these extreme conditions, training these beautiful predators, and I’m at home, butt sunk in the couch watching Wall-E for the hundredth time. But that’s the best thing about books. You get to meet these captivating people and explore their culture through authors like Allen H. Smutylo while staying at home, wrapped up in a blanket licking ketchup chip crumbs off of your fingers.

* * *

"A. You know, it conjures images of flocks
of crows hanging around a garbage dump . . .
Q. It’s fairly ominous, yeah.
A. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to go there." 


Poetry is this wild thing that you can’t trap with a definition (though years of English classes have tried to do just that). Through all my schooling I still have not found a concrete definition of poetry. Yes, a Shakespearean sonnet has fourteen lines and a haiku only has seventeen syllables, but poetry has gone so far from rules and guidelines. My favourite poem from Crow Gulch is an interview, a little Q and A like you might find in a newspaper. I love it because it looks like anything but poetry. There is no structure suggesting it is anything more than a ridiculously short interview, but when you read it, it is simply poetical. Walbourne-Gough’s collection is innovative, and it tells an important history. An image of Crow Gulch is built through a combination of singular moments, singular people: Crow Gulch, more than just a shack town housing migrant workers. The poems made me feel closer to the story than prose ever could. At times, I felt uncomfortably familiar with the poet’s words, like I was infringing on these people’s privacy. Crow Gulch is a spectacular collection of poetry that I will read again and again.

* * *

“George Thomas Taylor was the first wilderness photographer in the Maritimes and one of the first in all of Canada.”

Though I did not grow up in Fredericton, it has since become home to me. Looking through the photos in Ronald Rees and Joshua Green’s book Slow Seconds, I found myself enthralled with the history. The landscapes I have known for years, captured from 1838 to 1913, seem familiar and alien.

The photos of George Taylor cover more than Fredericton, spreading to Saint John and along the Tobique River (my personal favourite). He travelled with a Wolastoqiyik guide in birchbark canoes and camped under lean-tos. He captured the construction of the Fredericton Railway Bridge, since converted into the walking bridge which I bike across on a regular basis. Even the art of painting photos to add clouds was fascinating to see. The photos transport you back and remind you of the hundreds of lives that came before you and how far (good or bad) we have come since then.

* * *  

“Have you met Jesus?”

“No," I say. "But I think I saw Him during snack. He was wearing tight white pants and eating a cinnamon bun with a knife and fork.” 

I had no idea what to expect with Richard Kelly Kemick’s  I Am Herod. It was the book everyone in the office was talking about, and I just couldn’t understand how a memoir about a biblical play could be as fabulous as they were making it out to be. “That Richard Kemick, he could make the dictionary interesting.”

I finally got the chance to work with it and was absolutely, positively, tickled pink. I actually laughed out loud within the first five lines! (Thankfully, I don’t think anyone heard me.) It is such an fantastically told story with out-of-this-world characters and a sense of humour that had me grinning through every page. Kemick gives you comedy and also explores the sensitive topic of religion. What are the realities of formalized religion in contemporary life? What are the experiences of those without that spiritual outlet? It is a terrific book that socked me with its wit.

That’s it. I’ve got to see this show for myself. Canadian Badlands Passion Play, here I come! 

* * *

"An accessory wrought of tail feathers
Remnants of extinction
Send me to the store for pigeon milk
And chortle as I waste my life
Vainly trawling aisles
Wanting to be more there than I am . . ."

Stewart Cole’s poems do what I always thought poems were made for: question what we take for granted and present the familiar as strange. Perhaps my favourite poem in this collection, entitled “Lostlandia,” questions the nature of national anthems. I was struck by memories of high school days, teenagers running so as not to miss class being sent to the principal’s office because they did not stand at attention as a stretched "O" oozed out of the speakers. I remember proudly marching to the head office’s intercom in middle school because I and a group of friends had been chosen to sing the national anthem for the whole school. I knew all the words, ticked them off a list in my head, but I never connected the words to their meaning. It was just a song, a song that garnered respect. It is for this reason I keep sneaking back to Soft Power (even when my attention is needed elsewhere). Its stirs up memories that have gone unquestioned and makes me hopeful for a future where things won’t simply be taken for granted.

* * *

"Embedded in her obliging artistic practice was a fierce creativity. Maud Lewis made paintings with her customers’ favourite motifs in mind, but she did so with marvellous inventiveness, wringing delightful changes from her homegrown themes." 

Maud Lewis is a name I’ve heard thrown around, though I never actually came in contact with her art until working with Goose Lane. I remember looking at Maud Lewis: Paintings for Sale for the first time and thinking that it looked nothing like the art I was used to seeing (pastoral fields, picturesque mountains, and portraits), but it immediately felt pleasing to look at. I felt a bubble of joy forming in my chest and I wanted to curl up on a couch, smothered in pillows and blankets, and riffle through the book’s pages for hours.  The layout of the scenes, the colours and emotions the artwork conveys, I was floored. They just make you feel happy. Her paintings of boats along the harbour are perhaps my favourite, or her black cats and kittens that I can’t help but smile at. All her paintings bring an overwhelming sense of happiness. I am just sorry that I was introduced to her art so late.

* * *

“Ice pellets the size of marbles really do drop from this equatorial sky. How I used to wish they would smash through our rooftop and force a stop to what was happening inside my house.” 

Daughters of Silence was one of the first manuscripts I got acquainted with at Goose Lane. I dove into this book blindly and had no idea where the author, Rebecca Fisseha, was going to take me. I was shocked and thrilled by every chapter. I actually cried at parts.

I want to get into the book’s character dynamics and themes but I don’t want to ruin anything! The greatest part of this book is being on a journey of discovery with the narrator, uncovering the mysteries of her mother’s life and voicing her family’s secrets. I love the way forgiveness plays into the text. The need to forgive and to be forgiven sews these characters together. Forgiveness is learned and sometimes no one needs your forgiveness more than yourself.  

* * *

I cannot begin to express my gratitude at being welcomed into Goose Lane and the time and effort they took to make sure I got the absolute most out of my internship (no coffee pouring or lunch runs, unless the coffee was for me). My time here has been rewarding, and I am thrilled with having had some part in the publishing process of the mentioned titles. The stories are all astounding in their prose, motifs, and images. I feel as though I have personally met all their characters, and their books will have a very special place on my shelves come this fall.
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