Writer in Residence


By Jowita Bydlowska


I have a lot of neuroses and phobias when it comes to being a writer. We started with the case of WB but that’s only the tip of iceberg (how to avoid clichés is right below the tip of the iceberg).

There are more. Much more than the four I’m going to describe here but today’s post is inspired by Bad Writing, Rejection, Book Launches and Canada Reads. It’s inspired by Bad Writing, first of all, because I was trying to find something—to send to a magazine—that I remembered as being quite decent. Wrong. It was not quite decent. I decided was quite terrible, actually. But then I don’t know—maybe it wasn’t so bad? Maybe I’m not the right person to judge? I could show it to somebody but I am so embarrassed by it, I am afraid to show it. But I’ll show you a sample (that is not so bad but still cringe-y) at the end of this post. This here is probably Bad Writing too. Anyway, a writer friend has once said that writing (and having the world see what you’ve written) is akin to running into the street and pulling your pants down and screaming, “Look everyone!”

Speaking of having everyone look, Rejection is next on the list. It is unavoidable like a cliché.  Once you start sending out your efforts—Bad Writing included—you are going to encounter rejection. That precious, virtuoso piece of prose you thought would destroy whoever was reading it gets turned down over and over and it eventually metamorphoses into a shitty crap poo that it is, in your naïve mind. Having said that, I’ve had two fantastic rejections in my life. The first one from was from an editor who simply wrote: “I did not like this book” and the second one was this: “I'm afraid just can't make an offer on a novel whose main character I detested so much. Jowita deserves an editor for her fiction who doesn't find the asshole protagonist such a turn-off.”

That book eventually found an editor who didn’t find the asshole protagonist such a turn-off, which brings me to third neurosis: launches.

I’ve only launched two books so far—and both events were lovely & I don’t remember much from the first one, though I remember that rather than signing Josh’s book, I instead drew a house because I forgot my name out of all the excitement.  I am kind of terrified of launches. Other than mine, I’ve been to many launches and have tried to escape many of them, too. I almost always regret going. I like the getting-to part and the buying-the-book part but after that it’s a gamble. Now, I love celebrating friends’ accomplishments, yet, sometimes there are instances when you get cornered by someone who wants to list her or his literary resume and achievements and there’s no way out unless canapés are served (though this is CanLit so best you get is a pile of grapes and sweaty cheese) and you can lurch toward one floating-by tray and excuse yourself. Plus there’s always drinks and I don’t drink but sometimes want to when my jealousy gets the best of me.

The fourth thing that freaks me out is Canada Reads.

The photo-essay:


We had dinner at the new place ran by Susur Lee’s children. Coleslaw made out of 19 ingredients. Edible flowers. After dinner we checked into the Thompson hotel. We swam in the rooftop pool. From it we watched an older couple in the condo building below argue over an outdoor rug they were laying out on their balcony. After the pool, we drank drinks in triangle glasses. She got drunk fast and smashed her lips against mine then passed out. I carried her to our room.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Jowita Bydlowska was born in Warsaw, Poland, and moved to Canada as a teen. She is the author of the bestselling memoir Drunk Mom. A journalist and fiction writer, she lives in Toronto, Canada.