I’m very pleased to have my latest story, “Oil People,” appear in the most recent issue of Maisonneuve. This story is a revamp of the standard run-of-the-mill oil museum, Chernobyl babies, mutants, and juvenile sexuality tale. Thanks to Madi Haslam for her keen editorial ear and eye, and to Franziska Barzyk for furnishing the story with a beautiful illustration. This story is particularly close to my heart because it’s the impetus for a novel-in-progress. The story is available free for a limited time on the Maisonneuve website. If you happen to read it, and want to share some feedback, I’d love to hear from you.
Holy cow. My story, “Chemical Valley,” first published in The Fiddlehead, has been named as a finalist for the Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize! The story is up against Lisa Foad’s “Hunting” and Jessica Johns’ “Bad Cree.” I’m looking forward to reading both those stories, and all the other finalists, when I get my hands on The Journey Prize Stories 32. The winner will be announced on October 21, during an online Writers’ Trust event.
Here’s what the jury had to say about my story:
“In David Huebert’s ‘Chemical Valley,’ the narrator’s remarkable voice is laced with dark humour while displaying a tremendous depth of feeling as he cares for his dying partner and navigates a dangerous workplace replete with unpleasant coworkers. This is a complex story about love, death, and grief set in a contemporary Canadian community plagued by petrochemical-induced diseases and environmental ruin. The attention to language is so meticulous that tragedy is imbued with an aura of beauty. Each exquisite sentence in ‘Chemical Valley’ produces a sense of wonderment as the narrative crescendos to its harrowing conclusion.”
— 2020 Journey Prize Jury (Amy Jones, and Doretta Lau, and Téa Mutonji)
I feel enormously fortunate, and I’ve got many people to thank. First, I’m hugely grateful to all the hard-working staff and volunteers at The Fiddlehead, where this story was first published, and particularly to Fiction Editors Mark Anthony Jarman, Clarissa Hurley, and Gerard Beirne, and to Editor Sue Sinclair. I’m also hugely thankful to The Writers’ Trust of Canada, McClelland & Stewart, and Editor Anita Chong for making the Journey Prize happen and giving an opportunity to young writers. I’m also grateful to James A. Michener, who inaugurated the award by donating the Canadian royalties of his 1988 novel, Journey.
This whole thing is a big deal for me as “Chemical Valley” is the title story of a new collection I’ve been working on for some time now. Getting closer and closer to book meets world–can’t wait!
I’ve got some happy fiction news to report: 2 stories from my new collection-in-progress, Chemical Valley, have found stellar homes recently.
First, “Chemical Valley,” has been longlisted for The Journey Prize. This story, the lead piece in the new collection, was originally published in The Fiddlehead. I owe a huge thanks to whiz writer and excellent Fiction Editor Mark Anthony Jarman, and to all the rest of the lovely people at the Fid. I’m so pleased that this story will now be included in The Journey Prize Stories: 32 alongside the other talented longlisted writers like Canisia Lubrin, Paola Ferrante, and Jessica Johns. I’m also deeply grateful to judges Amy Jones, Doretta Lau, and Téa Mutonji. It’s my first time in the prestigious Journey anthology, a huge milestone. The story itself is new to me in its exploration of the gothic atmosphere. Set in the petrochemical mecca of Sarnia, Ontario, Jerry Oliver struggles with a dangerous workplace and the slow sickness and dread descending on this community. In the middle, there’s a little taxidermic twist.
I’m grateful to the Writers Trust, McClelland & Stewart, and Editor Anita Chong for making the Journey Prize happen and giving an opportunity to young writers. I’m also grateful to James A. Michener, who inaugurated the award by donating the Canadian royalties of his 1988 novel, Journey.
Second, “Swamp Things,” has found a home in the most recent issue of The New Quarterly. I’m grateful to TNQ’s superb Editor-in-Chief Pamela Mulloy, and to all the volunteers and staff at this excellent journal. In this issue, I’m honoured to have my work appear alongside talented writers like Kathy Page, Meg Todd, Wendy Donawa, and Dave Margoshes. “Swamp Things” is the story of a teenage girl living in Sarnia dealing with climate grief, pollution, and our world’s uncertain future while being taken advantage of by a charismatic teacher.
I’m grateful to the London Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council for providing much-needed funding as these stories came, gradually, to find their form.
I made a new book of poetry! This one has been in the works for years and I’m super thrilled to have it published by Palimpsest Press, where I was very fortunate to work with the talented editor and poet Jim Johnstone. Do I need to mention the cover? Thanks to Ellie Hastings for the cover design.
You can preorder the book online through Palimpsest or your local bookstore.
Here’s what another poet I deeply admire, Margaret Christakos, had to say about the collection:
“Huebert’s Humanimus conjures a farmyard of earthly debauchery, siding with the misused and woebegone animals humans seem to need to debase and consume. No quiet Canadian nature poetry here: Huebert steeps the “sphincteral” “demon fluid” of language’s baroque appetites into a “blubber-milk” “bite song” to frenzy between our dream-teeth. Poetic forms that favour repetition and transmutation of word and line structure act as sturdy racks for these sensational forays into the wild in us.” — Margaret Christakos
Calling all biophiles! I’m pleased to announce a call for submissions of fiction, poetry, and CNF for an upcoming special issue of The Dalhousie Review on the theme of biophilia (love of life). Please share away and consider submitting. Deadline July. Send work to email@example.com. Complete details on submissions here:
One day I’d like to have a story featuring a teacher band called Teachable Moments. For now, I just want to brag about my students. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect I’ve found in teaching advanced fiction workshops at Dalhousie this year is the joy of watching the way students get behind each other’s work. Inevitably, every student reads every other student’s work with warmth and generosity and sincerity. They are such powerful, attentive, empathetic readers. They care deeply. They listen. They bring each other to tears. They gush. They make friends. They respect each other by taking the work seriously, warts and all. More than anything else, they’ve taught me to read generously, to read with love. Sometimes the world of semi-professional writing can feel scarily competitive, even hostile. Never competitive, jealous, or egotistic, these lovely students have been showing me how to read with openness and empathy. It’s enriching and nourishing. I enjoy watching them become better writers, but more than that I find it thrilling to read alongside them, to peel back the skin of their stories and tend the beating hearts therein. So this is a thank you to my students for sustaining me this year.
I have the wonderful opportunity this year of doing some fiction teaching at Dalhousie University. It’s lovely to be back in my home town, at the university where I first worked as a dishwasher and where I developed my ongoing passion for literature. People who were my professors are now my senior colleagues. It’s been exciting, sometimes overwhelming, always thrilling, and deeply rewarding. I do get down to the ocean sometimes. And between the wild rush of email and PowerPoint and Brightspace I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on how great it is to just walk around thinking seriously about my students’ fiction. What a privilege to dream their characters and settings, their rinks and spacecraft and bumblebees and disco balls, over lunch, in the shower, sliding into sleep.
The above sketch, by my student Pedro Montoya, glows my heart. It grew out of an in-class riff on how to depict hockey culture (the type of riff we might apply to how to make any culture richer). We were debating whether a student had used too many names and I was saying I loved the names, that hockey culture (which I’m also interested in my own writing) loves to pile the names on. Then Bonesy and Jimso were born. I think they could make a great web comic. Thanks Pedro.
In other news, I’ve got a couple of new stories out, both from new book projects in the works. “Chemical Valley,” is from a new story collection I’m working on about Ontario oil culture. Crazily, it got published in the Fiddlehead’s summer fiction issue alongside writers like Eden Robinson and Steven Heighton. I’m really thrilled to be in such company, and I’ve got to thank Fiddlehead fiction editor (and dazzling writer) Mark Anthony Jarman for it.
My other new story, “Underfolk,” has been published in Rising Tides: Reflections for Climate Changing Times, edited by the super-talented Catriona Sandilands and part of her larger Storying Climate Change project. This important volume also includes a whole roster of mega-talented authors, from Betsy Warland to Laurie D. Graham. I’m very thankful for Catriona for letting me be a part of it. The spirit of the book (as I understand it) is to situate and foreground varied human stories–real everyday stories–within, alongside, and against the focus on sensational and apocalyptic imagery in the climate change discourse that affects us all. The world is ending–or at least changing drastically for the worst–but we feel it in little ways every day, and screaming from megaphones can only go so far.
“Underfolk,” is also part of a YA book called Sick Harbour I’ve been working on with dynamo kidlit writer Sarah Sawler. Another great thing about being back in Halifax is that Sarah get to write the thing in person (you can find us at Local Jo’s). Sarah and I are currently plugging away on edits as we work towards a draft of the novel. Collaborating with Sarah has been a lovely thrilling experience. She makes the usually lonely task of writing feel eerily fun and easy. It doesn’t hurt that Sarah has received a bunch of recognition and been nominated for major awards for her previous work, including Be Prepared: The Frankie MacDonald Guide to Life, The Weather, and Everything.
Stay tuned for more updates on the knuckly icetastic rampages of Bonesy and Jimso.
Somehow back in April I missed this lovely review of Peninsula Sinking from Jeremy Gilmer at The East. It’s one of the most thorough and thoughtful reviews the book has received. Gilmer describes the stories in PS as “rooms full of wonder that will play tricks of light with our hearts and heads,” adding that there “are forests behind this first sight of treeline, and I welcome the dark journey.”
In other recent news, I’m quite tickled to have a story included in Best Canadian Stories 2018, edited by Russell Smith. The volume features stories by some writers I’ve long admired, including Lisa Moore, Stephen Marche, and Lynn Coady. There’s talk of a Toronto launch on November 15th and I, for one, can’t wait to nervously skulk the outskirts of this crowd.
What a thrill! Peninsula Sinking got shortlisted for two Atlantic Book Awards: the Jim Connors Dartmouth Book Award and the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction. This means I get to go to a gala (which means I have to buy a new pair of dress shoes). I’ll also be doing a reading at Garrison Brewery on Wednesday May 9th. Needless to say I’m thrilled for this little homecoming excursion, and to be among such fine company on the ABA shortlists. When I think of recognition, I think of people back home. Maybe I’ll toss a copy of PS off the harbour to celebrate.
Peninsula Sinking has gotten some really great coverage since it came out in February. I’m grateful to Atlantic Books Today for a robust and thoughtful review by Donald Calabrese, who writes that the book demonstrates “one of Canada’s most promising talents.” I’m also thankful for Shelagh Rogers for having me on to discuss the book on CBC radio’s The Next Chapter. I’m also very please that Dionne Codrington interviewed my for CBC books’ “How I Wrote It” series.
And what better place to take the book on tour than the titular Peninsula! I’ll be in Halifax for readings March 13 & 14th (Halifax Public Library and TBA–get in touch on Twitter if you’re interested). After that I’ll hit the isthmus Fredericton area March 15-16 to do a reading and a workshop through Words Feast literary festival.