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2013sticker_180x231.jpgExciting news: Sorrow’s Knot has made the Best Books of 2013 from the venerable Kirkus Reviews. Kirkus has a reputation for being the East German Judge among the big book review journals in the United States, but they loved Sorrow’s Knot, giving it a star and a review that made both my editor and my mother promise that they didn’t write it. Still, it was a lovely surprise to see Sorrow’s Knot called out here, and put in such good company.

It made the Best Books for Teens overall list, and two of the sublists, for best fantasy and for best coming-of-age novel.



Thank you, Kirkus!

Guys. Quill & Quire and me, we’re in LUV. We’re gonna get matching tattoos. They will look like this:


But seriously — the December issue came to my house the other day. It had “Best Books of 2013: the 15 Titles that Mattered” emblazoned on the front as if they’d hired a time-travelling sign painter. (Time-travelling sign painters are very much of the moment.) “Are you in that one?” asked James.

“I wouldn’t think so. I’ve been in three already this year….” (If you’re keeping track, that covers the “most anticipated books of fall” piece, the actual review, and the time in October when the put me on the COVER. Yowsa.)

But we flipped through it anyway, of course, and there — THERE — were the top five titles for young readers. Just two YAs. One of them was Sorrow’s Knot. There was jumping up and down at my house! The eight year old faked a bit of blasée, but the rest of us were knocked over.

Here’s what they have to say:

You’d be forgiven for thinking we have a crush on Erin Bow (the author herself made a comment to this effect after she was featured on Q&Q’s October cover). But if we do, we’re not alone. The Kitchener, Ontario, author inspires in readers the kind of cultish devotion that seems particular to fantasy, science-fiction, and other genres. After the success of her debut, 2010’s Plain Kate, expectations were running high for her follow-up. Happily, Sorrow’s Knot delivers.

Written with the same overtone of mystical intensity, Bow’s sophomore effort is a coming-of-age story steeped in magic. Her characters - protagonist Otter, in particular - are so fully fleshed out that their voices leap from the page, their joy and despair felt on a visceral level. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Sorrow’s Knot is that, although darkness an death cast shadows on every page, there is lightness and hope in the mix as well.

Plain Kate may have heralded Bow’s arrival on the YA scene, but Sorrow’s Knot leaves no doubt that the author is here to stay.

Here’s the full feature

I’m telling you guys. Matching. Tattoos.

Happy Halloween, me lovelies!

Here at the House of Bow, it's a day of celebration, and not just because my girls are at the Halloween-is-a-High-Holy-Day phase of their lives. No, indeed -- we're celebrating because, after years of waiting, my book Sorrow's Knot is finally, finally out!

Here, read this.

Sneak Peek: Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow (Excerpt)

Don't want to quit? Order the rest with these handy links.

It should be on local shelves too. Go forth and read!

UPDATE: Here is the whole article.

Here in Canada, Q&Q is a big deal. Sort of like Kirkus and sort of like Poets and Writers. They just did this. That’s me in the yellow box.


I saw it and I just about fainted. And then I read it … I won’t quote all of someone’s article, but here are some choice bits.

There is a darkness in Erin Bow’s writing — a mythical, mysterious reverence that suggests whispered tones and secrets held close. […] She creates legends in a way not many authors do anymore, augmenting the shadowy cast of her intricate fantasy worlds with crisp dialogue, complex characters, and moments of levity. [….] If Bow can temper the bleaker elements of her tail with as much grace as she exhibited in her first novel, the world of YA fantasy may well have a new master in its midst.

I’ve been sitting on this for way too long. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the official Sorrow’s Knot cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?


I also have an official release date: November 2013 — this November! — from Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic. Let’s start a countdown. And look! Flap copy!

At the very edge of the world live the Shadowed People. And with them live the dead.

There, in the village of Westmost, Otter is born to power. She is the proud daughter of Willow, the greatest binder of the dead in generations. It will be Otter’s job someday to tie the knots of the ward, the only thing that keeps the living safe.

Kestrel is in training to be a ranger - one of the brave women who venture into the forest to gather whatever the Shadowed People can’t live without and to fight off whatever dark threat might slip through the ward’s defenses.

And Cricket wants to be a storyteller - already he shows the knack, the ear - and already he knows a few dangerous secrets.

But something is very wrong at the edge of the world.

Willow’s power seems to be turning inside out. The ward is in danger of falling. And lurking in the shadows, hungry, is a White Hand - the most dangerous of the dead, whose very touch means madness, and worse.

Suspenseful, eerie, and beautifully imagined.

Want to see the look on my face on winning the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award? There’s a video!

In case you are wondering, no, I have not yet recovered from the win at the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Awards. In part because I’ve been very busy with the delightful business of giving interviews. Here’s the press round-up so far!

Here’s the CBC website piece, where I’m apparently “visibly stunned.” There’s a link included to a long radio conversation between Sheryl MacKay and me about Plain Kate.

Here’s The Record, my hometown paper, where I talk about getting hit by a happy bat and planning to use my prize money to buy a new mattress. That was the last interview of the day; I was somewhat loopy.

Here’s the Toronto Examiner, which picks up that great line from the citation: “this is a book that will be read for generations.”

Here’s the National Post. Just the announcement, but they’ve got a spiffy picture!

Also carrying the annoucement, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Quill and Quire, Publisher’s Weekly, and probably others I’ve missed

TD Awards portrait.jpgSo. So, Plain Kate won.

This time yesterday I was going through a checklist: Little Black Dress? Check. Fresh manicure (cobalt blue)? Check. Big earrings? Check. An undergarment so supportive that I no longer bent in the middle? Check. Time to go off to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre awards, where Plain Kate was up for the big prize, the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award for most distinguished book for children. My goal for the evening was to not throw up. At least not on anyone important.

The event was at the Carlu, the old Eaton’s Centre ballroom from the days when department stores had ballrooms: a restored Art Deco beauty of a place. There were seven hundred people there: book sellers, librarians, publishers, editors, writers — all people who love children’s literature. There was great food (I was too busy to have any) and a drink named after Plain Kate, the Plain Kate-tini. (Vodka and Sour Puss Raspberry Liqueur.) So we mingled and schmoozed than then all us nominees got sent to sit in the front of the gorgeous theatre.

I had written a speech, just in case (remembering about Francis at the Tonys) and memorized it. But as I waited for the big award announcement, which of course came last, I got more and more nervous. I thought: If I have to get up there, my jaw will just drop open. Nothing good will come out. I figured I’d better make a cheat sheet, so I did, on the back of the program with a lipstick pencil. The awards ceremony was great, especially because all the books I was rooting for won. (The Agency! I Know Here! The Glory Wind!) Still, the “don’t throw up” goal was beginning to prove challenging.

And then — well. Then I won. Here is the citation:

“Plain Kate is a triumph of imagination. With astonishing skill, Erin Bow creates the world of Kate, whose talents as a wood carver mark her as a witch. The fascinating, intricate plot bravely explores the wrenching complexities of cruelty and of love. Bow’s prose is at once lyrical and raw, and her characters are indelible. This is a book that will be read for generations.”

I got up on stage without either tripping or barfing and stood there for a second. Frank McKenna handed me a very big cheque and told me to cash it right away, as the markets were taking a beating.

Wow, I thought. Big Room, I thought. Bright Lights, Big Room. Wow. I’m pretty sure my jaw did fall open.

But then I did collect myself and gave my speech. I have no idea what I actually said, but this is what I had memorized.

Erin Speaking TD Awards.jpg

This is my first novel, and I wrote it very slowly; it took me six years. It’s been very strange to put it out into the world. My Kate is an unloved and outcast girl — and yet when I put her out into the world, she was embraced. Maybe even loved. And while a writer is not her work, I can’t help feeling that I’ve been embraced, too, by the kind of people who are hear tonight: readers and writers and publishers and the true champions of children’s literature, booksellers and librarians. And for that I thank you, all.

There are of course some particular people I need to thank. First, TD and the Book Centre, for throwing this wonderful party for us. (Well, it’s a wonderful party for me.) It is good to see children’s literature on centre stage, not off in the side ring.

Second, of course, the Plain Kate team. It turns out (and as a poet I didn’t know this) that a novel is not just the work of an author. A lot of people who have put their professional energy behind Kate. Emily van Beek, my agent, loved her first — picked her out of the slush pile and read her while having her toenails done on rainy Tuesday. She called me the next day, I think. Emily found my editor, Arthur Levine. And from there the whole team at Scholastic, and in particular the wonderful people at Scholastic Canada, many of whom are here — everyone, thank you.

Finally, I want to thank some of the people who came here with me tonight. My husband James is here: my fellow writer, he’s been with me every paragraph of the way. Neither of us would be half as good a writer without the other. Thank you James. My mother’s here: She’s come a thousand miles out of her way for me, because she always does — everyone in my family always has. My little daughters Vivian and Nora — they are five and three — they are not here, because they have patience with Mommy’s A Writer. It would be hard to be a writer without that. So I thank them. Actually this is a complete lie, they cried when I left and I know they’re sulking now, but I have faith that someday they’ll be proud.

You know, everyone always says it’s an honour to be nominated, but truly — have you seen this list? I’ve read all these books. Burn — as a poet, I’m so pleased to see something formally adventurous get the nod. The Glory Wind — I just read that this weekend, and loved it so much the bath water got cold; it’s the best Middle Grade I’ve read this year. I really did Know Here. And of course I know there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run, but now we can see that made fresh again. To be among that company is amazing. To be up here is beyond words.

(photo credits: Me and Frank McKenna and the stack of books — The Canadian News Wire Services. Me speaking: Carly Popenko.)

Tuesday I was driving alone on a quiet highway. The clouds were high puffy storybook clouds, with lots of blue between them. When I was almost home I drove into the shadow of a cloud, and saw then saw the front edge of the shadow sweeping along ahead of the car: as if by driving I was pushing the light ahead of me.

The whole week has been like that: a delicate week of edges, beginnings and strangeness of light. It began last Friday when I finished the first draft of Children of Peace, a book that tumbled out of me in less than six months. I’m doing a few last minute edits, and hope to send the whole thing to my agent before the week is out.

I also got a new job. Starting Monday, I’ll be a writer/editor for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics — a gig so cool it nearly sounds fictional. I’ll be halftime, working for PI in the mornings, and retiring to The Bordello (my novel-writing office) in the afternoons. I probably will continue to say not much about my professional writing here (it’s not the venue) but I must at least mention this, because a) it’s a permanent job and b) PI is amazingly awesome place. I glimpsed Leonard Susskind, an inventor of string theory, today. Fortunately I was too far away to fangirl him.

Finally, Plain Kate has been showered with honours this week — not just the TD Canadian Children’s Literary Award, which I gave its own headline, but the Sunburst Award honouring Canadian literature of the fanastic, and the Rocky Mountain Book Award, which is Alberta’s children’s choice award. With the Sunburst I’m keeping short-list company with Charles de Lint. With the Rocky Mountain Book award, thousands of kids across Alberta will read the nominated books and vote. Once this sinks in I’m sure I’ll be thrilled.

So it really is a strange time for me: liminal, a threshold time. I feel vulnerable and happy; at a loss and excited. Ready to try something new.

Holy cow, y’all. I just heard that Plain Kate is a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award!

The TD describes itself thusly: “The TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award is for the most distinguished book of the year. “Distinguished” is defined as marked by conspicuous excellence and/or eminence, individually distinct and noted for significant achievement with excellence in quality. The grand prize is $25,000.”

There are five finalists, ranging (age-of-audience-wise) from Gordon Lightfoot’s picture book to, well, Kate, just sneaking into the “for children up to twelve” requirements.

I am all around thrilled. Kate was shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year, and for the CBC’s Reader’s Choice award in the young adult category. (I wanted to win that one: the logo was a Golden Beaver.) But I think this is the biggest catch yet.

The TD Children’s Literature Award will be announced in October, at an “invitation only gala” in at the Carlu in Toronto. I am going to need a serious frock.