News and Interviews

The Dirty Dozen, with our March writer-in-residence, Zoe Whittall!

Zoe Whittall was already an acclaimed novelist, poet, and television writer in Canada and beyond before her latest novel, The Best Kind of People (House of Anansi Press) exploded onto the literary scene, deftly telling the difficult story of a family whose patriarch is accused of sexual crimes. The Best Kind of People is a rare hybrid that combines sophisticated and complex storytelling with a compulsively page-turning narrative drive, making it no surprise when the novel turned up on the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. 

Beyond the critical acclaim even, though, Zoe is a beloved fixture in the Montreal and Toronto lit scenes, and, more recently, the Toronto comedy scene. We're thrilled to announce that the multi-talented Zoe Whittall is our March 2017 writer-in-residence at Open Book. For those of you who don't know her already, you can get to know her today via her version of our Dirty Dozen interview series, where she tells us about her lucky dress (to protect against disaster), her favourite podcast, and her time as a road-side mascot.

The Dirty Dozen, with Zoe Whittall

  1. I really like reading novels narrated by lonely old men.
  2. I have a lucky dress I wear on every plane ride or else some calamity will befall the flight.
  3. I still have two comedy specials from the 90s almost entirely memorized – Jon Stewart and Janeane Garofalo’s HBO/Comedy Central one-hours.
  4. I had to stop being a small press publicist because I really hated making phone calls.
  5. I’m really obsessed with the Radiolab science podcast.
  6. I dislike when writers are expected not to acknowledge the financial realities of the writing life.
  7. I make excellent salad dressing.
  8. I think that the best final line of a novel is from Some of the Parts by T Cooper.
  9. When I first moved to Toronto I worked at a clothing warehouse in Hamilton a few days a week where we had to sometimes wear a mascot costume and hold a sign on the side of the road. It is amazing how much hostility people unleash on a mascot.
  10. The Nicki Minaj verse in Kanye West’s "Monster" is a glorious, faultless example of how women have to do everything much better than men and don’t get the same acclaim.
  11. I was in a band in high school that mostly sang Depeche Mode covers. 
  12. I live in a foodie neighbourhood, and I secretly hope the next big trendy restaurant craze is a menu modelled after rural united church basement suppers. Pies, turkey dinners, squares - those were pretty great.      

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Zoe Whittall is the author of The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life (2001), The Emily Valentine Poems (2006), and Precordial Thump (2008), and the editor of Geeks, Misfits, & Outlaws (2003). Her debut novel Bottle Rocket Hearts (2007) made the Globe and Mail Top 100 Books of the Year and CBC Canada Reads’ Top Ten Essential Novels of the Decade. Her second novel Holding Still for as Long as Possible (2009) won a Lambda Literary Award and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her third and most recent novel, The Best Kind of People, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her writing has appeared in the Walrus, the Believer, the Globe and Mail, the National PostFashion, and more. She has also worked as a writer and story editor on the TV shows Degrassi and Schitt’s Creek. Born in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, she has an MFA from the University of Guelph and lives in Toronto.

Related reading

The Best Kind of People

What if someone you trusted was accused of the unthinkable?

George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults between denial and rage as the community she loved turns on her. Their daughter, Sadie, a popular over-achieving high school senior, becomes a social pariah. Their son, Andrew, assists in his father’s defense, while wrestling with his own unhappy memories of his teen years. A local author tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist attempts to get Sadie onside their cause. With George locked up, how do the members of his family pick up the pieces and keep living their lives? How do they defend someone they love while wrestling with the possibility of his guilt?

With exquisite emotional precision, award-winning author Zoe Whittall explores issues of loyalty, truth, and the meaning of happiness through the lens of an all-American family on the brink of collapse.