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Tagged "Jocelyn Parr"

Exclusive interview with author Jocelyn Parr, nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award

Jocelyn Parr’s celebrated novel Uncertain Weights and Measures, winner of the 2017 Quebec Writers’ Federation Concordia University First Book Prize and shortlisted for the 2017 Governor General's Award for Fiction and the 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, has earned another astonishing accolade with its making the longlist for the 2019 International Dublin Literary Award

We tracked down Jocelyn at Dawson College and begged her to stop marking history papers for a few moments to allow us this exclusive interview:

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Jocelyn Parr’s Uncertain Weights and Measures Longlisted for International Dublin Literary Award

Jocelyn Parr’s celebrated novel, Uncertain Weights and Measures, has received yet another award nomination: the International Dublin Literary Award.
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Jocelyn Parr's UNCERTAIN WEIGHTS AND MEASURES and Lauren McKeon's F-BOMB Shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

Today, Rakuten Kobo Inc. announced the shortlist for the fourth annual Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, which honours the best new books by debut Canadian authors in three categories: Non-Fiction, Literary Fiction, and Genre Fiction (Mystery this year). Shortlisted in the Literary Fiction category is Jocelyn Parr’s Uncertain Weights and Measures and shortlisted in the Literary Fiction Category is Lauren McKeon's F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism, both published by Goose Lane Editions.
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Jocelyn Parr wins the QWF Concordia University First Book Prize

The Quebec Writers’ Federation (QWF) Literary Awards announced the winners of their award categories at the QWF’s 19th annual gala. Taking home the Concordia University First Book Prize was Goose Lane Editions author Jocelyn Parr and her stunning debut novel, Uncertain Weights and Measures

Uncertain Weights and Measures, first published in September 2017, takes place in the heady days of post-Revolution Russia. Montreal writer Jocelyn Parr vividly captures the atmosphere of 1920s Moscow and the frisson of real-life events while also spinning a captivating tale of a love torn apart by ideology and high-stakes politics in this deftly written novel. Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels marvelled at Parr’s characters that “seem to move under the surface of the page—breathing, changing, flawed, and resilient.”

Also shortlisted for the award were Ariela Freedman’s Arabic for Beginners and J. Jacob Potashnik’s The Golem of Hampstead and Other Stories.

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Interview with Jocelyn Parr, GG Award nominee for Uncertain Weights and Measures

As you may know, Goose Lane author Jocelyn Parr's debut novel Uncertain Weights and Measures has been recently shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Adult Fiction (as well as the Concordia University First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers' Federation).

Jocelyn was nice enough to find time in her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

1.      What was the impetus behind Uncertain Weights and Measures?

A friend happened to loan me a tremendous book called Making Things Public: Atmospheres of DemocracyIn it, I found a very short, very intriguing article which described the brain institute that displayed Lenin's brain in the early Stalin years. The way the institute combined science, politics and something akin to a reliquary intrigued me, so I wanted to read everything I could find about it.

It turns out, there wasn't much published about it because the history of the institute had been systematically erased once the cult of Stalin surpassed the cult of Lenin. When my sources ran dry, I started inventing.

2.      Did your novel change at all once it was accepted for publication? 

It changed quite a bit. My editor, Bethany Gibson, was the perfect combination of challenging and encouraging, so in part due to her, I cut one character and vastly expanded another. In total, I added about 15,000 words, or 60 pages, to the manuscript that year, but I probably added even more, given how much I cut.

3.      How do you feel having your debut novel be nominated for The Governor General's Award for Adult Fiction?

It's a tremendous recognition. I feel very lucky.

4.      Did you ever think such your work would achieve such an honour?

I hoped it would happen one day!

5.      What has the reaction been to the nomination?

It's been a dream: my loved ones are over the moon, my students and colleagues are surprised and impressed to see me cast in the new light of "writer" as opposed to "historian," and the community more broadly has shown an excitement about the book that has been very rewarding.  

6.      In Canada, the big literary awards are the GG, the Giller Prize, and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. What do you think of the fact that, for the first time since all three awards have co-existed, not one single book appears in more than one list?

I'm really glad you asked this question. This year, publishers had to deal with different constraints on how many books they could submit to a given award, so this may explain, in part, why the lists are so different, but I think a broader explanation is that there were likely many, many excellent books vying for those coveted top spots. 

What these lists tell me, and what I hope they tell readers in Canada, is that there is something beautifully arbitrary about which books make lists like these. The juries are composed of people, after all, and although they are esteemed writers themselves, I doubt they'd describe themselves as the perfect judges of all things literary. Instead, they know a good sentence when they see one, and they recognize craft, and they fall in love with characters, and they are intrigued and moved and awed in mercurial ways, just like the rest of us. 

I can only imagine that the juries had long and difficult conversations as they tried to convince each other which books deserved the kind of attention that comes with such nominations. That the lists they produced are so different could be due to different books having been submitted, but I think they're also due to different readers making the selections, which is to say that had there been other juries, a whole other set of books might have been nominated. Our question, then, as readers, should be about those yet-to-be-discovered books, the ones that might have nominated had the jury (or wind, or universe) been different. 

8.      Can you say what's next for you, or is it a secret?

The next book I'm working on is a book that explores the relationship between my family's history and settler colonialism. For the past two hundred years, my ancestors have lived all over the so-called Commonwealth and our movements have manifested the patterns of settlers the world over. The book is a reckoning with that in light of the calls to action put forth by 2015's Truth and Reconciliation CommissionIt's written as a series of short interlockingpieces, some tender, some hard.

Thanks, Jocelyn!
Reminder: Winners of The Governor General's Literary Awards will be announced on November 1, 2017!
Jocelyn Parr was born in New Zealand, but grew up on Canada's West Coast. Her writing has been published in France, Germany, and Canada and in magazines such as Matrix, Grain, and Brick Magazine. She now lives in Montreal, where she teaches history at Dawson College.
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