Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Book Launch

Normally, I'm not the sort of person who likes being the centre of attention, so I was wondering about how I would perform at my first book launch.  Although I'd been jittery and plagued by insomnia a few days before, on the day of the event, a calm came over me, and when I was suddenly there, immersed in all the people who'd come to celebrate and hear me read, it suddenly dawned on me, I'm really enjoying myself!  In a strange way, it felt as though my whole life had been leading to this moment (and I suppose it had, since I've been wanting to be a writer since age six).  Here are a few photos....  A big thank you to all of you who came out to celebrate and to The Japan Foundation for providing a beautiful venue, as well as to my publisher and agent for hosting the event.
A warm hug from my publisher, Sandra Huh
Having some pink bubbly with my agent, Sam Hiyate
Signing books for some old high school friends
Signing a book for my uncle, Bruce Kuwabara
Reading from my book
With my parents
My boyfriend and I ended the evening by wandering with a couple friends over to the bar on the eighteenth floor of the Park Hyatt and got splendidly drunk.  (They felt it was an appropriate venue because the bartender is known to have served drinks to Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler and many other Toronto writers, and I was just tipsy enough not to feel like a complete ingenue).  We enjoyed the view from the balcony of a skyline ethereal and fading, before joining my agent and his friends for a nightcap around the corner.  A memorable evening.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book #61: One More Week ...

Just one week until my book launch ...  These past few weeks, my mind has been oscillating wildly.  I have consulted my doctor, my naturopath and meditation coach about various sleep remedies, with varying results (in the end, listening to the sound of thunderstorms and ocean waves on my iPod seems to work the best).

Of course, I knew this day would come.  And I am excited.  And yet, there is an unnerving side to the self-exposure of having your memoir published, I've discovered, somewhat belatedly.  While having dinner with some friends who are now reading my book, it has, not surprisingly come up as a topic of conversation - particularly, the racier sections.  "Which old boyfriend was that?" one friend asked with an arch smile, trying to decode the changed names.  She'd heard bits and pieces over the years, over boozy dinners, but never as uncut as this.

I heaved a sigh of relief when she reassured me how much she was enjoying it and didn't object to when I changed the topic of conversation.  I guess that's what old friends are for.

Perhaps my insomnia hasn't been helped by what's on my bedside table.  When I haven't been writing, I have been reading Haruki Murakami's tome-like novel 1Q84 and I am now nearing the midpoint.  Although this novel feels experimental and meandering in structure, and may not be among Murakami's finest works, it is nevertheless strangely addictive to read.  It takes the reader on an epic journey through a world, which, on the face of it, is 1984 Japan, but turns out to open outward into a world of double reality.  As one of the main characters, a serial killer named Aomame, reflects: "The streets had fewer passersby.  The number of cars declined, and a hush fell over the city.  She sometimes felt she was on the verge of losing track of her location.  Is this actually the real world? she asked herself.  If it's not, then where should I look for reality?"  Characteristic of Murakami, the world of reality bleeds into another world that is surreal and disturbing and possibly is contained within his protagonists' minds and fantasies, but just as possibly might actually exist.  Similarly, it occurred to me, my own perceptions have been feeling weightless and off centre lately ...  Perhaps this is what the writing life does to you: it dissolves the world into pure, malleable representation, which can quickly take on a life of its own. 

Equally compelling about this strange double world is the quest of the other main character, a writer named Tengo, who has been retained to ghostwrite a novel based on the experiences of a mysterious, almost autistic high school girl, Fuka-Eri, who has lived through some unspeakable childhood in a cult.  But who are these strangely mystical beings called the "Little People" that haunt Fuka-Eri's narrative?  Don't expect this novel to provide a little soothing bedtime reading ...  More likely you'll find yourself up reading until three in the morning, unable to sleep, like me.

Hope to see you next Tuesday at my book launch!

Photo from: here


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About Me

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Toronto, ON, Canada
Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Leslie's writing has been published in WRITE, TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.