Julie Booker is a Canadian author who really has a witty way with words. Her first book is a collection of short stories called UP, UP, UP. Booker has already earned impressive awards from the literary world. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Metcalf-Rooke Award, and published in the 2010 edition of Best Canadian Stories. In 2009 Booker won the Writer's Union of Canada's Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers.
To celebrate the April 16th release of UP UP UP, House of Anansi Press is having a book launch at the Toronto Women's Bookstore. See the invite details below. If you can't make it out to the UP, UP, UP launch then join the online fun during the Facing Out live streaming event on Saturday April 16th, from 3pm-5pm EST.
UP, UP, UP takes the reader on 20 short trips. These vignettes or scene snippets are windows into the worlds of fun, fallible and fiesty characters. These tales highlight the truth that everyone has a story to tell. Here's a tasty example with an excerpt from the UP UP UP short story "ENCOUNTER".
The ad for the speed-dating event lands in her email inbox.
subject: Cna ouy dera htsi?
Olny 55 plepoe can raed tihs. The phaonmneal
pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to rscheearch at
Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in what oerdr
the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is
taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
The ad is targeting word geeks, crossword addicts, bookworms, lit lovers like Jill. She thinks, Why not? Now she sits in the chi-chi bar, waiting for the bell to ring, for the steady stream of three-minute encounters.
There’s the standard get-to-know-you questions. “What book is on your bedside table?” “What book has changed your life?” Then there’s Lee, who asks, “So why are you still single?”Jill feels the guilt of her forty years, the cross on her back. Because I want to make my own bloody life and I just need to get past these next few years of cultural pressure, those smug married people with their “C’mon over to our side, it’s wonderful” smiles. To give myself permission to finally leave the party.
Lee’s a skinny guy. He works for the Toronto Star, and at first Jill circles yes next to his name on the Speed Date sheet, but at the end of the night she looks at her decisions.
She’s circled five other yeses and they are hunky guys. Two private investigators; another owns three houses. She looks around at the men scattered at tables, marking their Speed Date sheets, and thinks how unfair it is to pick a guy because he works somewhere she wants to work. She puts a thick black X through Lee’s yes and circles no a bunch of times as if she’s circling a track. It turns out that Toronto Star Guy is her only match. The email comes the next day. She emails the speed-dating coordinator. Are you sure? Jill asks her to check if she’s missed any of the hunks. No. Toronto Star Guy’s the only one who picked her, and Jill has definitely circled yes. Jill arranges to meet Lee. She’s nervous, because she’s always nervous before she goes out to meet a man. The hair’s not right, the jeans don’t fit, she needs new shoes — till she can’t even get out the door because her self-concept is doing the Why bother? dance. But this night, Pastor’s words come to her and she asks Jesus to help her out the door. She’s walking down College Street with Jesus. He’s in his long white robe, the one He always wears, with the dolman sleeves and the gold rope belt. He’s wearing the crown of thorns and there’s even a bit of blood dripping on His forehead, and then there’s not, because Jill wants to keep it happy. The two of them are swinging joined hands like two friends in the playground. On Sunday Pastor says he prays to Jesus as if He’s a friend. A friend who always comes when he calls. “Nothing’s too small for prayer,” Pastor says. Jesus, just hold my hand to the coffee shop, just get me there without once saying I’m not worthy. At Café Luna, when she sees Toronto Star Guy, she lets go, because Toronto Star Guy is human. So human. Kind of nervous looking and tired in his navy windbreaker, looking as skinny as she remembers.They sit and Jill fluffs the left side of her hair because that side always goes flat, and after all, he’s still a guy and she wants her hair to be right so he’ll have no excuse to reject her before she makes a decision.
The waitress starts clicking her pen. Toronto Star Guy asking about lattes.
“Is that in a cup or one of those bowls?”
“You can get either.”
“Is it the same amount?”
“No, you get more in a bowl.”
“Oh, so the cup is like a regular cup?”
“And what’s the price difference?”
“I’m not sure. Like eighty cents or something.”
“Yeah. Let me get the menu,” the waitress says. And she’s looking and she can’t find it right away and Jill looks at Toronto Star Guy and sees that the difference between the cup and the bowl is important. And she decides right there this isn’t a date, and he decides on decaf because it’s late and he has to work the next day. They start talking and they both went to the same university, got the same communications degree, had a lot of the same teachers, and followed a similar path, except Toronto Star Guy gave up his dream of being an editor and took a dead-end job at the paper and Jill is desperately holding on to hers of being an editor. She’s staring at his regret and it looks pale and wrinkled and hard, like something you hold on to when the Devil’s whispering in your ear.
“It’s like our lives have run parallel,” he says.
“Have you ever explored religion?” she says.
Pause. Then, “I’m a Christian.” He looks at her as if he’s confident she won’t ask for the bill, like he’s taking a chance but he’s not too worried.
“I just started going to a really Christian church,” Jill says.
“Really? That’s my church. I haven’t seen you there,” he says.
“I’ve only been going for like five weeks.”
“I’ve missed the past five weeks.”
“Wow.” It’s aha for both of them. Jill can finally have a conversation with someone on the inside. She’s been dying
to do that. And he seems normal.
“You can ask me anything,” he says.
He’s having a crisis of faith. A mini one, he tells her, but he’s a total believer. He was drinking a lot, he says. Before. The words are like part of a code they already share. He assures her he’s never alone now. It’s everything they say it is. And then she tells him she asked Jesus to walk down College with her for the first time tonight. Using a voice like she knows what that means.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because I was nervous.”
“Why?” He’s got his finger pointing at her like an investigator. Like maybe she’ll confess her desire for him. Like there’s hope for him.
“And who was here?” he says. “Who? Me! That’s no coincidence. That’s the Holy Spirit. This night is all about you, Jill. This is your moment.”
And Jill thinks, Could the Holy Spirit slip into the coffee shop without me noticing? Without all the disco lights of Downtown Church and the Hammond organ in D minor. Jill’s laughing because it feels joyous. She remembers the no she circled on her paper and how God must have changed it to a yes. She asks him everything. If I’m a Christian will I lose my sense of humour? Will I have to stop saying fuck? Will I stop feeling like a walking lint-collector of guilt that I spend each night picking off with a roller brush and reapplying each day? Jill doesn’t ask this last thing but she knows this is why she wants to go to the other side. To where those eyes shine, Toronto Star Guy right in the middle.
“Will I walk around seeing everything as a JC sign? How will I get anything done?”
“You can call me twenty-four hours. You have my number.” And then he takes her to his car and Jill sits in the bucket seat of his rusted-out Honda and he prays for her. “Thanks, Lord, for this amazing happening.” And Jill bows her head and hears the words “Jesus open her heart so that she may know You,” and she practises visualizing her heart opening. And tries not to think of how the words sound like every TV evangelist she’s ever switched channels on. She remembers hearing that the human mind does not read every word but absorbs the gist. She thinks how she is one of the fifty-five people in the world who are able to see right through to the message. She thinks how wrong she’s been about how a Toronto Star Guy dresses and the kind of expensive car he must drive. She pictures those thoughts leaving her heart so she can make room for the love that will soon come pouring in. Maybe it already has and she just hasn’t noticed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Booker lives in Toronto, Ontario and she is the proud mom to twin boys. Social media fans can follow the author on Twitter. I highly recommend you check out Julie Booker's witty guest post in the House of Anansi Press Blog. You can follow House of Anansi Press on Twitter and find them on Facebook.
YUMMY MUMMY BOOK CLUB
Lucky members from the Yummy Mummy Book Club will be having a virtual book club chat about UP, UP, UP on Wednesday, May 4th from 9:30 - 11:00pm EDT. To follow our regular book club updates search #YMBC but use #UPUPUP during the UP, UP, UP discussion.
BOOKALICIOUS BOOK GRAB GIVEAWAY
House of Anansi Press is giving away a copy of UP, UP, UP to 2 lucky Bookalicious readers who leave a comment below telling us why you want to win. The BBGG is open to Canadian residents until April 22nd, 2011.
Yummy Rules and Regulations
You must be a Yummy Mummy Club member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Contest open to Canadian residents. Winners will be picked using www.random.org.
Good luck and relish reading,
Wanda Lynne Young
This blog is proudly sponsored by our friends at House of Anansi Press"