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 now at Amazon.


“Metcalf’s latest project, the anthology OFF THE RECORD brings together six of the writers with whom Metcalf has worked, in what becomes a dazzling collection of memoir and fiction. If Caroline Adderson, Kristyn Dunnion, Cynthia Flood, Shaena Lambert, Elise Levine, and Kathy Page aren’t quite household names, OFF THE RECORD is a powerful argument for just what a mistake that oversight is.” READ FULL REVIEW >

—Robert Wiersema, The Toronto Star

“If you write — or even just think you’d like to write — you can’t go wrong with adding this anthology to the stack on your nightstand. ”

—Heidi Greco, The Miramichi Reader

“Keep your pencil handy, for this is an underlining, notes (and hearts) in the margins kind of book…. [Their] publishing journeys […] affirm something my friend Marissa Stapley shared not long ago, about a writing career as a marathon, not a sprint, rife with as many downs as ups. The publishing business has always been fraught, and a book deal has never been the end of the story, but maybe we’d be sorry if it was.

From Shaena Lambert: ‘Showing makes our worlds more believable. But this is a secular way of understanding what is actually more like a magical question. In fiction, anytime you press into the five senses, you will write something specific, something, precisely because of its singularity, which will begin the strange work of making meaning. Things of the earth want to be doors into something greater.’

THINGS OF THE EARTH WANT TO BE DOORS INTO SOMETHING GREATER. I don’t know a better explanation of fiction-making, which is to say meaning making, than that.”

—Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This

“Metcalf challenges six decorated Canadian authors to consider and share just how they became writers. Each essay is accompanied by a short story, showcasing each writer’s literary identity and style, and providing insight into how each writer approaches their work and their editorial relationships.”

Open Book

“Carefully wrought, tonally diverse, artful, thoughtful, revelatory, and nothing short of enticing….”

—Brett Joseph Grubisic, The BC Review

“Metcalf asked six writers he knows — all women — to each explain […] how they became full-time writers. The result is an entertaining variety of approaches and revelations and how those blend or contrast with their personal lives…. John Metcalf deserves a round of applause for bringing together such an excellent variety of voices on the subject of being a writer.”

—Dave Williamson, Winnipeg Free Press

“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