Off the Record book cover image

Editor John Metcalf has inspired, challenged, and championed countless writers over his long career. In Off the Record, he encourages six to reveal what one rarely discusses in polite society: how they became writers instead of radio announcers or cabinet makers. The essays collected here, each accompanied by a short story, offer fascinating insight into the relationships between writers, their editors, and their fiction.

Off the Record brings together work by six noted Canadian writers, among them the winners of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Butler Book Prize, and the Marian Engel Award: Caroline Adderson, Kristyn Dunnion, Cynthia Flood, Shaena Lambert, Elise Levine, and Kathy Page. Their essays are candid, moving, and surprisingly relatable—providing plenty of inspiration for those among us who want to write.

Available December 2023. Pre-orders available now at Amazon.


“In this edifying volume, short story writer Metcalf (Temerity & Gall) pairs shorts by Canadian authors Caroline Adderson, Kristyn Dunnion, Cynthia Flood, Shaena Lambert, Elise Levine, and Kathy Page with the writers’ meditations on their processes and literary careers. Flood details how she wrote her impressionistic story, “Calm,” in which a young boy wanders after police horses through the streets of Vancouver at night, and transcribes her fragmentary notes on suggested revisions (“take out street names—all, if poss”). Dunnion—whose featured story, “Last Call at the Dogwater Inn,” depicts an unlikely friendship between a suicidal drug addict and a delusional fellow resident at the eponymous motel—recounts how, after the deaths of several of her friends in the late aughts, she took up writing fiction in the hopes of building a legacy. The authors’ reflections illustrate the complex interplay between craft and intuition that goes into writing fiction (Lambert suggests that “really good fiction moves beyond intelligence, into something that happens on the page that is beyond the writer’s conscious construction”) and provide revealing case studies of how stories move from inspiration to published product. Aspiring writers will be enlightened.” (Dec.)

Publishers Weekly