4 min read

Letter of News: Bookstore Event + A Month's Worth of Links

Two black and white cats sleeping on a grey couch near a window full of greenery.
Cats graciously napping on my behalf.

Dear Friends,

I sit down to write this letter, and look back through the last month for some kind of accounting of it, and latch on to that word, accounting. An account is at once a story and a ledger, a representation that mixes words and numbers: I can account for something, I can give a good accounting of myself, I can open a savings account, I can tell you the story of July and balance its intangible books. I can say, July was hard and strange, but not give you the full explanation of why, because it is a mixture of things that refuse a public gaze and others that are so fully public and wide-reaching that it feels wrong to count them among my own private pains.

I'll share some good things, then.

Promotional graphic for the launch of DEHISCENT, a book by Ashley Deng. A pale brown geometric border surrounds a maroon background with images of flowers and leaves, on top of which is the cover of DEHISCENT to the left, depicting the shadow of a feminine figure with a long ponytail against the façade of a colourful house. To the right of it are the words "Perfect Books presents DEHSICENT, Ashley Deng in conversation with Amal El-Mohtar and Suyi Davies Okungbowa, August 1st at 6:30 PM, 258A Elgin St, Ottawa, ON.

Ashley Deng was a student in the very first Creative Writing cohort I taught at uOttawa, and I'm excited to take part in launching her first published novella! Come join us at Perfect Books (my favourite local indie, where in the dim mists of time I also worked for five years) on August 1 for what promises to be a wide-ranging conversation about homes, hauntings, and the end of the world.

As it happens, August 1 is also a great time to be in a bookstore with me if you're into witches:

Promo card for THE BOOK OF WITCHES anthology, superimposing the words "Featuring John Hollowback and the Witch by Amal El-Mohtar" over an enlarged crop of the hand-like roots and branches from the book's cover, and a small photo of the book itself standing at an angle. A banner below reads "Something Wicked... ... Arrives Aug. 1, 2023"

August 1 is also the publication date for The Book of Witches, edited by Jonathan Strahan! Perfect Books has stocked up on it, and I'll be very happy to sign or inscribe copies for interested parties (whether you're there in person or you buy it from afar! Perfect Books also ships internationally, but charges for the shipping). It contains "John Hollowback and the Witch," the short story I wrote to break a years-long short fiction dry ...spell?! Ho ho. Anyway I'm proud of it and I hope you enjoy it. I wrote a little bit more about it in a previous newsletter, where I also shared the first page and invited people to comment for a random first-line from the other stories in the book. I'm so looking forward to it being out in the world.

This event will be my first in-person bookstore thing since 2019, and I really hope to see folks there!

Wishing you all a soft easing into the week's – and month's! – end,


Softly lit park selfie in which I’m wearing my long dark hair loose over a grey silk top with a plunging pleated neckline and loose, fluttering sleeves.


  • My very dear friend Karen Meisner lost her home in the devastating Vermont floods, and it is a frankly daily pain in my heart that I can't just get into a car and drive across the imaginary line between our countries to put my body to work on her family's behalf. You can hear (or read) her describing the situation on local news here, and donate money to ongoing relief efforts in Vermont here.
  • My very dear friend Jessica Wick loses her workplace as of today, as the Savoy Bookshop in Westerly, RI – where she's worked full-time for 8 years – very suddenly closes its doors: the owner announced the closure one week ago, and informed the staff some two hours before the announcement. Since Jess lost a lot of work time to an injury recently, this is a particularly hard blow for her, so I just want to make you aware that Jess is, among many other talents, a very skilled editor, and you can hire her for your projects through her website.
  • Jordan Peele and John Joseph Adams have collaborated on editing an anthology of Black horror called Out There Screaming and it looks absolutely amazing, with work by Erin E. Adams, Violet Allen, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Maurice Broaddus, Chesya Burke, P. Djèlí Clark, Ezra Claytan Daniels, Tananarive Due, Nalo Hopkinson, N. K. Jemisin, Justin C. Key, L. D. Lewis, Nnedi Okorafor, Tochi Onyebuchi, Rebecca Roanhorse, Nicole D. Sconiers, Rion Amilcar Scott, Terence Taylor, and Cadwell Turnbull. You can pre-order it here.
  • Speaking of horror anthologies! There are only 3 days left to back Why Didn't You Just Leave, a horror anthology edited by Julia Rios and Nadia Bulkin. It's very nearly at its goal and any project Julia's involved with is a project I want to see succeed.
  • Parul Sehgal wrote this very beautiful essay called "The Tyranny of the Tale," about storytelling and its limits, that I feel certain is going to be something I return to, to read and reply to, because its themes have been on my mind for years now. In particular, this part struck me: "When children ask for stories, what they’re asking for is the presence of the adult."
  • Over in Esquire, Kate Dwyer wrote "The Year of the Slim Volume," which I'm so grateful to Lincoln Michel (who has a great craft-focused newsletter) for sharing with me because in addition to being a fine conversation piece, it launches its argument with a very familiar tweet.
  • My agent DongWon Song wrote a truly stunning essay for Sarah Gailey's Stone Soup, that I don't want to tell you anything about because sometimes, very rarely, I feel more strongly about essays being spoiled than I do about fiction, and I treasure the surprise I experienced reading this and wish it for you too.
  • I read Jamie Loftus' Raw Dog while my back was in a state of acute explosion and the sky was orange with wildfire smoke, and by the time I finished it my back was functional and the sky was clear. Coincidence? Who can say! I utterly loved this deep dive into hot dogs and US labour history by way of road trip memoir, and as a direct consequence of reading it I ate what is probably my first hot dog in a decade and it was delicious.
  • Max and I recently appeared as guests on Subtle Asian Book Club to talk about This Is How You Lose the Time War, and had a lovely time! The conversation's just about an hour long. Enjoy!