Alumna publishes final book in trilogy

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Congratulations to UWaterloo graduate Shelly Sanders, who has just completed the final book in her trilogy. Rachel’s Hope will be published in the United States and Canada in fall 2014 by Second Story Press, an independent Toronto-based feminist press best known for Hana’s SuitcaseRachel’s Secret, the first book in the trilogy, received a Starred Review in Booklist and was deemed “critical for its under-explored subject” by Kirkus Reviews.

If you want to see Shelly in person to congratulate her–or just support independent publishing in Canada, a worthy enough cause–she will be signing copies of all three books at Toronto’s Word on the Street on September 21st. There will also be a book launch 2pm, September 28th, at A Different Drummer Books in Burlington. Shelly also has a Facebook page dedicated to the trilogy.

First novel from Award-Winning Alumna

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Congratulations to UWaterloo English alumna Christine Fischer Guy on the publication of her first novel, The Umbrella Mender, forthcoming from Wolsak and Wynn in Fall 2014. Advance reviews are strong; Miriam Toews, the Governor General Award-winning author of A Complicated Kindness, writes: “The evocative setting of a TB hospital in remote Moose Factory, a passionate and clandestine love affair, and the irresistible voice of intrepid nurse Hazel join forces to make The Umbrella Mender an absolutely compelling read from start to finish.”

You may recognize Christine’s name from her literary reviews for The Globe and Mail; she has also published in the literary magazines Descant, Prairie Fire, and Grimm and been nominated for the Journey Prize. In 2013 Christine won a National Magazine Award for “Burden of Proof” (in Eighteen Bridges), a  long-form journalism profile of native blogger Chelsea Vowel and the Attawapiskat crisis. Once again, congratulations!

Introducing new faculty member Stephanie White

Stephanie WhiteWaterloo English’s latest hire, Stephanie White, will soon be defending her PhD dissertation on community-engaged composition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We are thrilled to have her join the department and enhance this area of research and teaching expertise. Thank you to Stephanie for squeezing in an interview between moving and the beginning of term! –JLH

JLH: You’re Canadian, but you did your entire university education, from undergraduate to PhD, in the US. What made you make the choice to stay abroad throughout?
SW: Well, it ultimately came down to which schools took me! But the main reason I applied to PhD programs in the US is that there simply aren’t many programs in Canada that focus on composition and on writing instruction at the doctoral level. And that’s what I most wanted to study: university writing pedagogy. I also really wanted to learn about community engagement when it comes to writing studies, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison has a very cool culture of community engagement in their Composition and Rhetoric program. So that choice came down to which school was the best fit for what I wanted to learn about—and that school happened to be in the US. Oh, and I also fell for this American during undergrad, and his career decisions worked well for him in the US, so that was a factor.

JLH: Does it seem strange to be entering the Canadian system for the first time at this level? What differences stand out?
SW: It does and it doesn’t. I have a lot of questions about what really is different, but most of them at this point are logistical (like, what requirements are in place for doctoral dissertation defenses at UW?). But many of the differences will come down to institutional culture, not national culture.

JLH: Do you think your research will translate well to the Canadian context?
SW: I’ve always done research in both Canada and the US, and I’ve worked to make sure that my research was relevant to both contexts—that’s been a major priority for me. So, for example, my research on undergraduates doing community-engaged writing in first-year communication courses features case studies in Washington, DC, in Ontario, and soon in BC.

JLH: What most excites you about UWaterloo?
SW: I’m really impressed by the culture of growth that I see here–everyone seems invested in new initiatives, like the English 109 classes for math students that I’ll be teaching in the fall–which I think shows how innovative the faculty of English can be. That’s so important in academia!

JLH: Finally, what are you reading for fun right now?
SW: My sister just lent me her copy of Jane of Lantern Hill, by Lucy Maud Montgomery, which was the perfect (re)read for coming back home to Canada. Before that, I read the newest Bridget Jones book. Next up, I’m rereading The Brothers K, by David James Duncan. It’s been almost ten years since I first read it, and it’s so rich and powerful and funny that I want to go back to it for more. And, when you’re in the middle of major life transitions, like moving to a different country and starting a new job, past books are like old friends that have moved with you, you know? I need some comfort reading.

Book Launch for Alumna Carrie Snyder

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If you are in the Waterloo region, you might consider attending a book launch for Girl Runner, the latest book from Carrie Snyder, UWaterloo English alumna and lecturer.  The launch is scheduled for Saturday, September 6th, 7pm-10pm at Chainsaw Karaoke Bar in Uptown Waterloo. There will be a reading, and WordsWorth books will be selling copies at a book table. You can RSVP at facebook.com/carriesnyderauthor

You can read an interview with Carrie here, conducted for Waterloo’s English at 50 celebrations, and another here, celebrating the publication of her book The Juliet Stories (Anansi, 2012), which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. She also blogs.

NoFood: Professor Sarah Tolmie’s New Book

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Please join me in congratulating University of Waterloo English professor Sarah Tolmie on the publication of her short story collection,
NoFood. Read on for Aqueduct Press’s announcement and description of the content.–JLH

From Ambling Along the Aqueduct:

I’m pleased to announce Aqueduct Press’s release of NoFood, a suite of original short fictions by Sarah Tolmie, who you may recall is the author of The Stone Boatmen, which Aqueduct released earlier this year. In NoFood‘s vision of the messy near future, food is the language of love. For top chef Hardy Arar, his whole life is food. What is he to do when technology eliminates the need for it? TGB (total gastric bypass) is a giant leap forward for humans longing to transcend their flesh. It has fulfilled the desire of the rich to escape illness, boring sustenance routines, and disgusting bodily processes. But like all technological change, TGB unleashes a cascade of effects, social, political, and economic, effects drastically changing the lives of the characters in NoFood. For what is lost with the elimination of the drive to eat?

“He was gracious to the end, Harwicke Arar. He was satisfied. He was still in possession of his nose; he was still in possession of his principles; he was still in possession of his own digestive tract. He had cooked the best food in the world, real and imaginary, and found someone to eat it.”—from “Cakes and Ale”

NoFood is available in print and e-book editions from Aqueduct’s website now, and will soon be available elsewhere.

Welcoming new faculty member John Savarese

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Welcome to UWaterloo’s English Language and Literature’s newest Assistant Professor, John Savarese. I was fortunate that John was able to fit in an interview, in between everything else that moving cities, countries, and campuses involves. Thank you to John for participating! –JLH

JLH: You’re coming to us from California; what was the response from your US colleagues about your relocation to Canada and our institution?
JLS: I’ve found that relocating often seems like second nature to academics! Everyone was very happy to see the department continue to expand its faculty. The other thing, which I probably should have expected, was the huge number of Waterloo-related puns I’ve now heard from my fellow Romanticists: Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo was a watershed moment in the period, and there’s pretty broad punning potential there.

JLH: Now that you’re here, what are your plans?
JLS: This Fall term I’m helping to pilot a new course design in composition, and also teaching a wide-ranging survey in British Literature (200A). I love teaching courses related to particular, period-based research, but it’s also refreshing–and very helpful for the writing process, too–to teach more broadly, to think about longer histories and wider contexts. The major item on my research agenda is to get my book project into its final form. It’s called Romanticism’s Other Minds: The Science of Poetry from Hume to Mill, and it really took shape during the two years I spent on postdoctoral fellowships. I’ll spend most of my time whipping the manuscript into shape, and also pursuing a few related smaller projects that touch on topics like evolutionary theory, the popular ballad, and media studies. I’ll also be organizing the department’s speaker series this year. There are a few exciting events in the works already, so look for some announcements soon!

JLH: Has anything surprised you so far?
JLS: I’ve been just a little surprised by how populated the campus has been during the summer months. Most universities at which I’ve worked have had well-attended summer sessions, but the trimester system and Co-op program are new to me. I’ve also been struck by how strangely familiar the campus architecture seems. When I was a graduate student at Rutgers, I lived for several years on the part of campus that was built around the same time and in a similar style. Of course, that was a few minutes’ walk from the football stadium, complete with weekend tailgate parties, hoards of fans, and the like—so the different relationship between higher education and sports culture is also something worth noting.

JLH: Finally, a fun question: in the midst of chaos and relocation and unpacking, what books are getting read around your house right now?
JLS: During hectic moving periods I like to dip into old favorites; this time I carried poetry by James Merrill and Adrienne Rich, and also reread Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch, which I seem to return to every few years. Now that the boxes are unpacked there’s also a long list of scholarly titles on my agenda–right now I’m most of the way through Robert Mitchell’s book Experimental Life, on “experimentalism” in literature and the sciences. We also read a lot of children’s books. My wife Elizabeth is trained as a reading specialist, and we’re very keen on making a wide range of books available to our son James: things that help with his reading development, or just about anything that will pique his interest. Lately he’s been very interested in the Mes 100 premiers mots picture dictionary he took out of Waterloo Public Library.

A Life and Career Abroad: Alumnus Peter Hoflich

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Peter and his son at Singapore’s Hard Rock Cafe.

UWaterloo English alumni Peter Hoflich’s career has taken him through China, Japan, and Singapore. As Managing Editor of The Asian Banker, and author of Asian Banking CEOs and Banks at Risk, Peter has fully utilized his Waterloo training. Currently Communications Manager for RBC Wealth Management in Asia/Emerging Markets, Peter still finds the time to blog and perform. Thank you to Peter for participating in Words in Place! –JLH

JLH: Like many people in the 1990s, you landed in Asia after graduating, teaching English. What made that choice so appealing?
PH: I set out to Asia to learn Chinese, which I did in Taiwan over three years; I fell into English teaching quite naturally at this time, as I needed to pay my own way and it was practically the only work available to roving Canadians – of course, being an English Literature grad certainly made this a natural progression for me. And that was my job as well when I went to Japan for six years; but after a several years of teaching English there I was unsatisfied with my prospects and revived my dream of being a writer – I focused on journalism, and set my sights on Singapore, where I landed my first writing job in a trade publication that covers banking. That led to hundreds of articles about banking, two books published about financial services with Wiley, and my current job at an actual bank – RBC.

JLH: You’ve carved out a career for yourself abroad. Can you map that out a bit?
PH: I wish I could say that I had a grand plan for all this, but I didn’t do much more than what my German-born parents did when they were my age: set sail for a new land, despite not knowing the local language, and hope for the best. When I went to Taiwan, Japan ,and Singapore I had neither a job waiting for me nor a network of contacts, but I knew that there were opportunities waiting, and that hard work and persistence would pay off in the end; it did.

JLH: How do you think your time at Waterloo prepared you? In retrospect, are there any professors or classes that really stand out?
PH: Living at Waterloo taught me now only how to be independent, but also how to work steadily to fit the pieces together, and then to leverage my resources for a larger, institutional reward. It was the first time I was part of a huge organisation with all of its moving parts, but also all of its amazing facilities at my disposal. Marvelous. I also had some great professors, such as Professor Lister, in whose creative writing class I got my first novel-length manuscript together, and Professor McCormack, who had the best reading lists, and who really knew how to make learning fun. I also really love his fiction, and still enjoy re-reading The Paradise Motel once a year or so!

JLH: Do you think your work-life balance is different there than it would have been here?
PH: Everyone has their own approach to work-life balance based on their own particular conditions. I don’t watch TV, so that frees up a lot of time for playing guitar and songwriting. In some parts of Asia there are a lot of cultural and logistical reasons for long working days, but people still know how to have fun, and they always manage to spend time with their families. No one here has a cottage, so there’s no time lost in long traffic jams on Fridays and Sundays…

JLH: Finally, can you share what you are currently reading for fun?
PH: Nothing very high-brow at the moment. As a music freak, I devour autobiographies of rock musicians. The last one of those that I read was Al Jourgensen’s, and that was a pretty wild ride. I’m also given Game Of Thrones a try, but I can’t say it holds up favorably to Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books.