The Eagle & The Weasel

I'd prefer not to

Authors for Indies

So it’s been one year since Sweet Affliction came out, and I’ve been thinking about and trying to quantify what the significance of that is. It’s been an amazing year, truly, in ways I would never have expected. Highlights include meeting strangers from the internet; hearing people like my book; the amount of people who sent me pictures of my book in exotic locales; getting to visit and read in independent bookstores in Vancouver, Montreal, Winnipeg, and New York; and not one but TWO goddamn fucking cakes. Serious major THANK YOU to everyone who’s been a part of this year.

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I’m sometimes asked for my thoughts on why Montreal seems to be a hotbed of literary activity. My way of thinking about it centres on the conditions of possibility–what makes it possible to be a writer here? And what makes it worthwhile?

There’s obviously no single answer, but a big part of it comes down to the support of local indepedant bookstores. I had my launch at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, and I can easily say that they are 87.5% of what makes being a writer in this city not only possible but, like, fun. They host excellent events, carry beautiful stock, and are generally the kindest, most accomodating lit nerds you could imagine. Other spots like Paragraphe, Argo, SW Welch’s, and The Word make me feel like I’m living in a place that cares about writing, which is a really important feeling, especially when I’m alone at my computer wondering what the point of it all is. (I gave Welch’s a shout-out in one of my stories.) These places are the fabric of a literary community. They’re invaluable, for people that read books and people that write them. I can’t imagine trying to do my work without them.

Montreal launch at Librairie D&Q, with MAD SNACKS by Preservation Society

Montreal launch at Librairie D&Q, with MAD SNACKS by Preservation Society

On May 2nd, I’m celebrating independent bookstores by participating in Authors for Indies, an initiative where writers act as booksellers for a day, recommending our favourite books at independent bookstores across Canada. I’m going to be at Librairie Carcajou from 1-3, which will be a first for me–not just at this bookstore, but in Rosemere. I’m looking forward to seeing a new part of Quebec and meeting the people who live and read there, and talking books with them. If you’re anywhere on the north shore, please come visit! And if not, check the Authors for Indies listings to see who’s going to be at your local bookstore.

Douce Affliction

A French translation of Sweet Affliction came out earlier this year, by the excellent writer and translator Daniel Grenier and published by Marchand de feuilles. It’s been a fascinating process, to work with him and to see a new iteration of the book in another language, still in the same city.
One of the trickiest and most interesting parts of the translation was figuring out how to migrate cultural references, puns, and wordplay from one language to the next. I don’t envy Grenier’s task… actually wait, I do. It seems like a really gratifying form of problem-solving that I, being only semi-fluent in a second language, will never really get to engage with. Translators are like Mercury, running messages between two worlds.
In any case, here’s a fascinating in-depth interview that Grenier did with Ambos Magazine about translating the book and how he went about it. It covers how he dealt with the aforementioned problems, as well as the importance of the film Slap Shot to Quebec culture and translation theory, and the trickiness of dealing with a grammar that’s far more gendered than English.

We also did a dual interview with La Presse.
Also, I’m not sure if this reference was intended by the cover of the French translation, but

In case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to, I’m beta-testing a super important project.

friends bingo

Shaky newborn deer news

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Last Tuesday my collection of short stories Sweet Affliction won the QWF’s Concordia University First Book Prize at the QWF awards gala here in Montreal. It was a very surprising win–I was up against some pretty tough competition. Ian McGillis summarized the QWF awards night in a nice piece that touches upon the apparent arbitrariness of literary awards–as he says, “No two juries, and indeed no two readers, are exactly alike in the way they respond to a book. So it has always been and so, hopefully, shall it always be.”

A few people have asked me what I said in my acceptance speech. The truth is I’m a doink and didn’t write out a speech, but rather had some notes I tried, sort of successfully, to memorize, and have reconstructed here. I may have exaggerated on the side of articulateness. Only people who were there will truly know.

One thing I can’t remember is who I thanked; I know it was a lot of people, and I know it wasn’t enough people. So, here, now: Thanks and gratitude to The Quebec Writers’ Federation, the members of the jury (Licia Canton, Johanna Skibsrud, John Steffler), Natalie St. Pierre, Michelle Sterling, the team at Invisible Publishing, my writing group: Sean Michaels, Melissa Bull and Jeff Miller. Many many others.

Here’s, roughly, what I said.

Publishing your first book is a strange experience. A first book is kind of like a first relationship–it’s full of possiblities, and hope, and your best intentions. And giddiness. And mistakes. You learn a lot from it–you see yourself at your absolute best and your absolute worst. And it will always have a grip on a section of your heart, even when you can’t stand to be in the same room with it. So it’s an honour to be recognized for this shaky newborn-deer of a book, especially by the Quebec Writers’ Federation, who do so much for writers in this province. I also want to congratulate my fellow nominees Sean Michaels and Caroline Vu, who surely recognize some of what I said, and have their own feelings about the process too, which you should probably ask them about tonight.

It’s significant to me to get this award at an event called Great Women of Words. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman, writing. When I read the women being honoured tonight–Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, and Maya Angelou–when I read any woman, which is often–I think about what they had to get through to be able to tell their stories. What they had to sacrifice, what they had to give up. And I also think about what they’re not saying. What stories they can’t tell. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

We’re a community of writers and readers. We’re really good at imagining new worlds. Let’s imagine one where women don’t have to live in fear: of violence, of humiliation, of powerlessness and shame. And let’s not stop at imagining it. Let’s make it real.


Publishing your first book is a weird experience. You spend a year or two writing down what are quite possibly your most ridiculous, most perverted, least sound, least relatable thoughts, while convincing yourself that these thoughts are neither ridiculous nor perverted nor unsound nor unrelatable and are totally worth committing to paper. You get rejected, a lot. You are told this is good for your soul or your creative process but exactly how that works is less clear. You melt down, which even when it’s happening you recognize as being totally embarrassingly banal and clicheed. Finally you get the opposite of rejected. Whatever that is. Another year or two passes. You forget whatever it was you were trying to say in the first place in that ridiculous, perverted manuscript. You get a real job. Suddenly it’s your publication date, and it occurs to you that everyone you’re related to, everyone you’ve ever dated, slept with, unsuccessfully hit on, borrowed money from, avoided making eye contact with, lied to, been passive-aggressive with, forgotten about, and stolen french fries from can now access your most private, ridiculous, unsound, perverted thoughts in one easy-to-quote-from volume. Friends and acquaintances send you pictures of your book on vacation, by swimming pools and the ocean and majestic mountain ranges. Strangers from the internet want to meet you. Congratulations, you published a book.

Anyway, that happened, and now I’m pleased to say Sweet Affliction was shortlisted for the Quebec Writers’ Federation Concordia University First Book Prize. It’s nice to have an award that recognizes that process, and it’s nice to be nominated for it. I don’t know if it gets easier but I hope to find out.

The moving vans are the first sound you hear

Introducting: Moving Day, the audio book! Participate, celebrate, curse the annual festival of permanent impermanence, immaterial materiality, and really heavy ephemera. Stream or download and listen linearly, modularly, concurrently, simultaneously, or put it on shuffle for a postmodern narrative experience!

Moving Day! Have civic crisis and half civic holiday. A festival of exhaust, sweat, lifting, garbage, boxes, masking tape, primer, longing and anticipation.

This audio experiment features music from five amazing and generous bands who let me use their music. Listen to and buy their albums:

Echo Beach
Hand Cream
And audio from the video Super Manif de casseroles dans villeray
All other audio recorded/created by me.

Cover image by NOMNRYN

If you love this story, why not check out the book it came from?

Enjoy, and don’t lift with your back. Lift with your arms, ding-dong.

Sweet Affliction (finally)

I’m very pleased to announce that my book of short stories, Sweet Affliction, is coming out in one month. I made a little page for it, where I’ll post pertinent information as it comes up.

As of April 15th you’ll be able to buy it at your local independent bookstore, or you can order it online.
If you’re in Montreal, I’m having a launch on April 16th, at Drawn&Quarterly, 211 Bernard Est. I’ll read from the book, and will be interviewed by writer and translator Melissa Bull. See you there?

A pregnancy test is taken at a wedding, a bad diagnosis leads a patient to a surprising outlook, and a civic holiday becomes a dystopian nightmare. By turns caustic, tender, and creepily hilarious, Sweet Affliction reveals the frailties, perversions, and resilience of Anna Leventhal’s cast of city-dwellers. Shiftless youths, a compulsive collector of cigarette butts, and a dying pet rat populate fifteen sharply-observed and darkly funny stories that suck at the marrow of modern life.


Leventhal’s work grasps multiple and brazen connections between sisters, lovers, strangers, friends. These stories wander and please. They knife unexpectedly. Truth is lodged in all the cuts. These stories “know the things energy can do.”

Tamara Faith Berger, author of Maidenhead

Sweet Affliction is — no big deal or anything — one of the most successful, high-functioning, sometimes perfect collections of short stories I’ve read in recent memory.

Andrew Hood, author of The Cloaca

These stories stand Canadian literature on its head — amazing characters, totally original and unexpected situations, absolutely hilarious and heartfelt prose — Anna Leventhal is a one-of-a-kind talent.

Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game

Other Girls


There’s this part in Buffy The Vampire Slayer (the movie, not the TV series) where Buffy is slow-dancing with Luke Perry, and he whispers into her ear “You’re not like other girls.” And Buffy replies “Yes I am.”

That exchange has been ringing in my head like a gong since 1992, and I’m still trying to figure out what it means.

In the movie’s context, it comes at a moment where Buffy doesn’t want to accept the responsibility of being a slayer, so the line is a moment of denial, a stall in the narrative, right before vampires attack the school dance and she has to take them out in a whirl of roundhouse kicks and flaming hairspray. It’s sort of the movie’s tagline: she can’t face her destiny, she’s afraid of being special, she just wants to be a regular teenager. But, like Ulysses or Arjuna or Luke Skywalker, she can’t escape the hero’s call. Even the title of the movie itself is basically a sight-gag that’s encapsulated and reaffirmed in her exchange with Pike: Buffy/Slayer. Regular girl/Vampire killer. Cheerleader/Warrior. It’s got a nice comedic ring, and it reflects basically every plotline since ancient Egypt: a character with some special quality who is called to a strange and wonderful destiny. This is the fundamental template of storytelling, if you believe Joseph Campbell.
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I was looking through my 2002 journal and noticed a few things.

– I have basically the same concerns
– My drawing hasn’t changed
– I look pretty much the same


Happy anniversary of patriarchy! LULZ

The Next Thing

My friend, the novelist and poet Lisa Pasold, tagged me in the The Next Big Thing writing chain letter.  The idea is you answer the questions below and tag another five writers you admire. This was a good exercise for me since I haven’t thought about my manuscript in a while and sometimes when something’s been in a drawer for some time you forget about why you cared about it in the first place. I’ve been working on a novel for the past year, and while that’s provided (and continues to provide) a whole slew of issues and things to fret about, it also caused me to forget about this short story collection that I sometimes feel almost pretty good about. So, thanks, Lisa.

What is the working title of your book?

Sweet Affliction.

What genre does your book fall under?

Short fiction.
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