The CanLit Tool Kit

October 2, 2009 by · 7 Comments 

The CanLit Tool Kit:

Pick one from each heading. Combine for an award-worthy Canadian novel.


  • lyrical
  • haunting
  • sensitive
  • heartbreaking
  • touching
  • burnished
  • windswept
  • multigenerational

novel, set on

  • a farm in southern Ontario
  • a Prairie homestead
  • a northern outpost
  • a bucolic lakeshore
  • a lighthouse


  • the First World War
  • the Second World War
  • the Boer War
  • the 1835 Northwest Rebellions
  • the Battle of the Plains of Abraham
  • the War of 1812

and focusing on

  • the flooding of a southern Ontario town
  • a drought on the Prairies
  • the destruction of a Maritime oil rig
  • a barn fire
  • locusts decimating the fall harvest
  • a cattle cull


  • an alcoholic/drug addicted/sexually abusive father
  • a steadfast wife
  • a rebellious adolescent
  • a child dying of grippe
  • a loyal dog
  • an aged, wisdom-filled elder

with the harrowing story of

  • a canoe trip in the Northwest Territories
  • an ice-fishing expedition in northern Ontario
  • a cross-country caravan
  • a winter in the Rockies
  • a tortured love triangle
  • memory and loss
  • the unyielding weight of the past

Mix well, and voilĂ .


7 Responses to “The CanLit Tool Kit”
  1. Mark Medley says:

    This multigenerational novel, set on a northern outpost during the Boer War and focusing on locusts decimating the fall harvest combines a loyal dog with the harrowing story of an ice-fishing expedition in northern Ontario.

    I’d read that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. August says:

    If I ever manage to get my novel finished (and published!) I think I’m going to swing for the fences and see if I can get a critic to call it ‘burnished’.

    Nothing screams literary quality like pottery polished with a bone spatula. (Except that one time I saw a critic call a novel ‘verdant’, though I fail to see what makes a green book any better than a book of some other colour.)

  3. Ha! Funniest thing I’ve read all day!

  4. Micheline Maylor says:

    I am posting this on my office door. You must submit this as a poem to a literary journal.

  5. And not a mention of The Rebellions of 1837-38, or Lower Canada or Quebec at all. Shows just what parts of the country count.

  6. Nigel Beale says:

    Careful Steven, you might get Noah Richler on your case.

  7. Jake says:

    I wonder how Robertson Davies, who is one of my favorite authors (and probably my favorite Canadian author) would fare on the joke list: not well, it seems, and maybe that’s why he transcends whatever prizes he received; I don’t know much about his capital-L Literary career. But I do know he spent a fair amount of time discussing what it means to be Canadian in Conversations With Robertson Davies, an interview collection that I wrote about at the link, and, obviously, in his novels.