Category Archives: down time

Read all about it!

Screenshot 2018-10-29 15.08.48
Head on over to UWaterloo English to read our 2018 newsletter, featuring a letter from our new chair, Dr. Shelley Hulan, and updates on faculty and student achievements.


Wild Writers Festival, 2018

The New Quarterly
, a  literary magazine based at St Jerome’s at UWaterloo, is proud to present the seventh annual Wild Writers Literary Festival on November 2-4th, 2018. Join us for a celebration of the feral and free and its expression in poetry, the short story, and everything in between. Create, learn, discover and share the art of groundbreaking writing. There are workshops, readings, and food!

Friday the 2nd
Leading off Waterloo Region’s premier literary event will be Jael Richardson, an author and broadcaster, in conversation with Sharon Bala and Rawi Hage. This will take place at the CIGI Campus Auditorium on Erb Street West in Waterloo.

Sharon Bala won the 2017 Journey Prize, presented annually by McClelland and Stewart and the Writers’ Trust of Canada for the best short story published by an emerging writer in a Canadian literary magazine. Her story, “Butter Tea at Starbucks,” was published in The New Quarterly. Sharon’s bestselling debut novel, The Boat People, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2018 and the 2018 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.

Rawi Hage’s new novel, Beirut Hellfire Society, is a finalist for this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award and Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Hage’s debut novel, De Niro’s Game (2006), won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for English fiction. His second novel, Cockroach (2008), was shortlisted for the Giller, the Governor General’s and the Rogers Fiction Prize.

Saturday the 3rd

…also at CIGI, there’ll be an intriguing mix of writer’s craft classes, panel discussions and masterclasses. These classes will include instruction on writing poetry, creative nonfiction, character development as well as custom crafted ones for young creators and caregivers.

Sunday the 4th
A literary brunch featuring conversations with and readings from Katherine Ashenburg, Claire Cameron and Michael Redhill at the Rhapsody Barrel Bar on King Street in Kitchener.


Katherine Ashenburg is the prize-winning author of three nonfiction books: Going to Town: Architectural Walking Tours in Southern Ontario, The Mourner’s Dance: What We Do When People Die, and The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.

Claire Cameron has written three novels: The Last Neanderthal, which won the 2018 Evergreen Award; The Bear, longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize); and The Line Painter, nominated for the Arthur Ellis Crime Writing Award for best first novel.

Michael Redhill is a Giller Prize-winning novelist, poet and playwright. He is the author of the novels Consolation, longlisted for Man Booker Prize; Martin Sloane, a finalist for the Giller Prize; and most recently, Bellevue Square, winner of the 2017 Giller Prize.

Celebrating a Nobel Prize with STEM books featuring girls

In honour of Dr. Donna Strickland, UWaterloo professor, receiving the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, Words in Place presents a list of books featuring female protagonists with STEM themes for everyone from junior readers to young adult ones. Chimps? Epidemiology? Optometry? Entomology? Coding? Poison? Steroids turning the football team into zombies? They are all represented. Congratulations to Dr. Strickland!

Picture Books
Ada Twist, Scientist (Andrea Beaty)
Cleonardo, The Little Inventor (Mary Grandpre)
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 (Helaine Becker)
The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath (Julia Finley Mosca)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Laurie Wallmark)
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles (Patricia Valdez)
Rosie Revere, Engineer (Andrea Beaty)
Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian (Margarita Engle)
The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps (Jeanette Winter)
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid (Jeanette Winter)

Chapter Book Series
Ada Lace (Emily Callandrelli)
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist (Jim Benton)
Nick and Tesla (Bob Pflugfelder)
Wollstonecraft Detective Agency (Jordan Stratford)
Zoey And Sassafrass (Asia Citro)

Young Adult
Alice Jones: The Impossible Clue (Sarah Rubin)
Bad Taste in Boys (Carrie Harris)
Catalyst (Laurie Halse Anderson)
Chasing Secrets (Gennifer Choldenko)
Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Jacqueline Kelly)
Flavia de Luce (Alan Bradley) (snuck her in–it is an adult book, but she’s marvelous)
Mechanica (Betsy Cornwell)
Red Blazer Girls (Michael D. Bell)

For more Words in Place posts about children’s books see:
Fifty Children’s Picture Books with Interesting Heroines
Twenty Chapter Book Series with Interesting Heroines for Early Readers, 6-8
25 Classic Book Series, Age 6-10
Back to School with Chapter books featuring boys, 7-9
10 Children’s Books about Refugees
International Day of the Girl: A Reading List
If you have a favorite book you wish to share, please use the comment section below.


Voting day round-up

It’s an election day in Ontario. Have you reviewed the parties’ statements on higher education? Note that one party has only a single statement relating to universities: ensure free speech on campus. We’ve heard a lot about it in Waterloo recently, as people have argued that speech that claims the inferiority of some and suggests they should be accorded less respect and have lesser rights should be protected.

In response to our voting day, here are some links I would point you to, starting with a breakdown of the various parties’ platforms on education from Ontario’s non-partisan College Students Alliance. Here’s what OCUFA (Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations) has to say. Make your own decisions, pack your ID (and maybe additional ID and something with your mailing address), and head to the polls informed.

More generally–maybe to keep you from nail biting while waiting for results–here’s a recent essay by our own Dr. Frankie Condon, on “the possibility of imagining Canadian writing centres as sites wherein the Canadian commitment to multiculturalism and human rights may be more fully enacted.”

Finally, a provocative essay from The Guardian on how the literary canon reinforces the logic of the incel.

A funeral for your flip phone

digital rituals
Is it time to say your final goodbye to that old and broken iPhone SE? BlackBerry Curve?? Flip phone??? The University of Waterloo English’s Critical Media Lab presents “Digital Rituals.” Bring your old cell phones and smartphones to 44 Gaukel and give them the funeral service they deserve. “Digital Rituals” runs every Tuesday, June 5, 12, 19, 26 from 5-7 PM and Saturdays, June 9 and 30 from 1-4 PM.

All phone e-waste will be responsibly recycled by Ontario Electronic Stewardship.

A Novel about UWaterloo

Normally, we tend to confine our posts to the happenings in and around UWaterloo’s English department. But a novel by a UWaterloo alumnus which is partially set on campus, and involves werewolves and vampires–as well as explosions on campus–would seem to merit some sort of notice! James Alan Gardner, a math graduate from the 1970s, is the author of All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault (MacMillan, Tor, 2017), a science fiction/comedy in the vein of Terry Pratchett.  As the press writes:

Monsters are real. But so are heroes. Sparks are champions of weird science. Boasting capes and costumes and amazing super-powers that only make sense if you don’t think about them too hard, they fight an eternal battle for truth and justice . . . mostly.

Darklings are creatures of myth and magic: ghosts, vampires, were-beasts, and the like. Their very presence warps reality. Doors creak at their approach. Cobwebs gather where they linger.

Kim Lam is an ordinary college student until a freak scientific accident (what else?) transforms Kim and three housemates into Sparks―and drafts them into the never-ending war between the Light and Dark. They struggle to master their new abilities―and (of course) to design cool costumes and come up with great hero-names.

Turns out that “accident” was just the first salvo in a Mad Genius’s latest diabolical scheme. Now it’s up to four newbie heroes to save the day, before they even have a chance to figure out what their team’s name should be!

I asked about the best book and…

I asked a few UWaterloo graduate students and faculty what was the best novel they read in the last year. Here are the first five responses.–WIP

Marisa Benjamin (MA student)
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Honestly, I had some trouble remembering what fiction I read this year – it was all a blur. I reread all of Harry Potter (as one must do every so often). I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It was a very enjoyable, quick read. However I’m not particularly proud of just how much I enjoyed it considering it’s a repeat of Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash. The last notable runner up was Animal Farm by Orwell. I read it for the first time this year and as soon as I finished it I started over and read it again. I wanted to give you a fresh answer and The Bone Clocks was the closest I could come to fresh.

Fraser Easton (Associate Professor)
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. The book is a dream-like retelling of the Gawain legend, an allegory of Alzheimer’s and violence, a virtuoso exercise in prose style that somehow draws the reader into a realm both fantastic and realistic. The style acts like a slowly lifting fog that both softens and obscures, and makes sublime, its subject matter. Ishiguro continues his run as the Kubrick of fiction, never repeating himself.

Ken Graham (Professor)
I’ll go with Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap of Time, probably my favourite title in the Hogarth Shakespeare series so far. Not everything in this retelling works, but there are some wonderfully lyrical passages that more than make up for any shortcomings.

Jennifer Harris (Associate Professor)
It has to be the young adult novel The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, shortlisted for the National Book Award in 2008. I picked it up secondhand, and it perfectly suited my mood–and world events–the day that I read it. A teenager decides she’s going to upend the all-male secret society at her boarding school. If I ever teach the children’s literature course, it will be a strong contender for the reading list.

Monique Kampherm (PhD student)
If you are interested in a witty, smart, and thought provoking novel, for a book that will stay in your mind for days after you read the last line, pick up a copy of Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business. This Canadian classic may have you considering the choices you make and the miracles that happen along the way. It certainly compelled me to reflect on the role of “fifth business” and the role we play in our own “theatre of life.”