Interview with Shani Mootoo — Author of Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab

Book Reviews

9780385676229-1I read Moving Forward Sideways Like A Crab by Shani Mootoo in March and was truly moved by the story. Imagine being raised by two loving parents in a comfortable home in Toronto. At the age of nine your mother vanishes entirely from your life and it isn’t until you’re a grown man that you find her again. But she isn’t who you remember, she is no longer a lovely woman named Sid but a man named Sydney. This is Jonathan Lewis-Adey’s story, he is a writer in search of answers, hopeful that he will find the woman he knew so well inside the man sitting in front of him.

This novel is unlike any that I’ve every read. It is smart, thorough, and incredibly moving. It is honest and complicated in the most delicious way. It starts with pages from Sydney’s notebook and then moves on to Jonathan’s own memoir — moving in and out of time, Sydney’s story and the answers Jonathan finds can move its reader to tears.

authMoving Forward Sideways Like A Crab is the first book I’ve read by Shani Mootoo and I’ve fallen in love with her storytelling, with her voice. As such, I am thrilled that I was given the chance to interview Mootoo. Check out the interview below and let me know if you’ve read anything by her.

What was the biggest inspiration behind Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab?
There were two equally compelling motivations. First, the desire to write something new and challenging. I settled on snow, an all-too-familiar material to me, but not something I had ever tried to translate into literary language. Second, I witnessed a particular moment when a young man tried in public to grapple with his relationship with his mother who had undergone a gender transformation through surgery. I wanted to explore the son’s point of view and to see how such a relationship might endure. In the novel, it is the mother who walks in a snowstorm before she undergoes her surgery.

Where and when do you get most of your writing done?
The great thing about writing is it can be done just about anywhere. So, I write wherever I am: at home in my writing closet, or at a coffee shop, in a hotel room, at the kitchen table in my parent’s home when I am visiting. I don’t write everyday, but I’ve come to know that writing doesn’t always mean putting words down on paper or typing on a computer. It means, too, thinking, dreaming, imagining, sorting out a line, an angle, a dilemma while staring up, in a sort of daze, at the sky or into the trees. When I’m in the midst of creating a novel, then, I am writing even when I am sleeping. Really.

From your dedication to Sydney’s pages, you write about time being a gift, about running out of it when you need it most — what does time mean to you and are you happy with how you’re using your time?
There isn’t enough of it. There’s a leak in the system. I wish I could find it and plug it, and then, rather than always running out of time, we could overflow with it. I am happiest when I am creating something- when I’m writing, that is, or painting, or cooking, or hanging with good friends. But- and there is always a but- but, how time flies (leaks out) when you’re having fun!

When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Although I had a long career as a visual artist before coming out as a writer, writing is what I first and always wanted to do. I was very young when I knew this, before age ten. I wanted to write because I understood that things didn’t just happen, that they happened in a context and context was wide and deep. I wanted to write stories that explored a direct link between cause and effect. Very early, I saw that language itself created meaning and had the potential to colour a situation- for better or for worse. I was writing poetry at that young age. It was terrible poetry, of course. But it was a beginning.

Who are your favourite writers and why?
Virginia Woolf because context for her was non-linear, wide and deep. Gabriel Garcia Marquez because he indulged in a prose that was like lush jungle vines. Vidya Nailaul because he does the opposite of these two- he is sparse, to the point, his own people and the places he loves. Earl Lovelace because he can put two words next to each other and through them perfectly evoke a very specific place and its potpourri of cultures.

What are you reading right now?
Dinaw Mengestu’s third novel, All our Names.

Are you working on a new novel at the moment? Can you tell me about it? 
I am working on a new novel. Forgive me if I don’t talk about it right now: after five years of writing, Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab has just been published and I’d like to acknowledge and revel in its release. A book’s season is so short. What I mean to say is that to speak of another work, one that is in its gestation, is to deny the present moment. Time, as we spoke about earlier, is a funny thing. Isn’t it! You’ve got to keep moving to accomplish all your dreams, and yet if you keep moving forward, if you don’t insist on halting- despite such an impossibility- you lose something. You lose time. We’re always, it seems, losing time.

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Liebster Award!

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

liebster_awardThe lovely Lindsey over at Reeder Reads nominated me (yes me!) for a Liebster Award! Not sure what it is? Well, it’s a way for bloggers to share their favourite blogs and gain a little exposure themselves. It’s kind of a long process but it seems like it’ll be super fun, so I’m ready to give it a go. First I have to state 11 random facts about moi, then I have to answer questions given to me by Lindsey (my nominator), then I must nominate people/blogs that I love, and finally list questions for them to answer. Not sure if they’ll be into it but heck, why not? So here goes nothing…

11 Random Facts about ME!

  1. I recently discovered that I am TERRIFIED of kittens.
  2. I’m hate speaking in public and yet I always made it to the finals when it came to Public Speaking Contests in elementary school.
  3. I am obsessed with my iPhone, notebooks, and books in general.
  4. I decided to become a writer in the eighth grade after I wrote and presented a monologue in front of my class. I got 100% and my english accent was amazing — the monologue was about Harry Potter’s first Quidditch match.
  5. I don’t like massages — being naked and touched by a stranger makes me feel icky rather than relaxed.
  6. In the first (or second grade, I can’t remember) I peed my pants at school, right before I made it to the bathroom. I hid out in a stall until my teacher came looking for me.
  7. I love to travel and hope to head to Europe within the next few years.
  8. I will get married in a bookstore (preferably Ben McNally Books in Toronto).
  9. I cry every single time I watch Lilo and Stitch, even though Tangled is my favourite Disney movie of all time.
  10. I love having my nails and toenails painted.
  11. I work on my self-confidence every single day.

Answers to Lindsey’s Questions

What is the one book you could never ever part with or get rid of?

How can I choose just one?? Since interning at Random House and becoming a book blogger, I have so many books on my shelf that I want to keep forever and ever. So, if I had to choose JUST ONE that I could never part with, it would be impossible. There are three books I could never ever part with. I’ve reread Speak and The Alchemist more times than I can recall. They have both brought me to tears and have helped shape the person I have become. They helped me find my voice. As for The Aftermath, it’s a signed advanced reading copy of an amazing read but it’s much more than that to me. I spent a day with Mr. Brook and his daughter, accompanying them to stock signings and bookstores. It was a truly amazing experience with a wonderful author, who shared some advice that I will never forget.

Thats what writers do. They spin plates and see how much they can get away with.”


Paper book or eBooks? Why?

PAPER BOOK FOREVER AND EVER. I love writing notes in my books, I love the smell of the pages, and the sound they make when you flip through them. I love bookmarks and holding a book in my hand — no matter how heavy it makes my purse or my luggage.

If you could travel to one place in the world (all expenses paid), where would it be and why? 

England. It is super literary and I like their accents.)

If you could meet one author (dead or alive), who would it be and why? 

I met Michael Ondaatje at a book signing so I guess the answer would have to be Anais Nin or Dorothy Parker or J.K. Rowling. I just can’t decide.

Do you play music while you read?

Not usually, it depends on my mood or how loud everyone in the house is being.

If you could create a dish with any cookbook author, who would you want to cook with?

I’m not big on cookbooks, although I should be because my cooking skills are lacking quite a bit. I would have to say Chuck Hughes and not just because he’s super dreamy.


Okay, it’s mostly because he’s super dreamy.

If you were given $5000 to spend in one store in the world, where would you do your shopping?


Do you have a favourite quote? Can you share it with us? 

I look up quotes like they’re going out of style but here is one I’m currently obsessed with…


If you had to be a member of a literary family, which family would you join?

The Weasley’s or the Weird’s.

Do you have a bad habit when reading? Twirling hair? Clicking your tongue? Tapping your foot? 

I tend to bite my lip or furrow my brows.

Who is the one author or book that has changed the way you read?

Every book I’ve read has changed the way I read. Every experience is different and I appreciate them all. I can’t answer this one! GREAT QUESTIONS LINDSEY! ❤

Liebster Award Nominations

Kaley from Books Etc. trained me on my first week interning at Random House of Canada. She is a treat! Sweet, supportive, and one of the most bookish people I know! I knew I made a friend for life after only a WEEK of working with her.

Amanda from Not A Model Blog has a writing style that makes me swoon. Her words are like butter on a crusty, freshly baked loaf with an aroma that lingers for days. She’s a lifestyle blogger who writes about everything from fashion to everyday beauties to travel diaries to book reviews. Her posts have a powerful honesty about them and are just as wonderful as the writer herself.

Romi from Confessions of a Chick in Paris is a self-published author with sass and unbelievable whit. Her success and determination has inspired me beyond belief.

Deanne from My Fash Avenue is my go-to blog for fashion inspiration. I’ve been following her blog practically since its conception and to see how far it’s come is truly inspiring! She’s made a huge name for herself in the fashion blogging world and I’ve loved following her along the way.

Casie from This Is My Life is someone you’ve heard me talk about more than once. She’s an influencer and personal friend of mine. She was blogging before blogging was cool and I am so thankful for all of her advice and help since the start of My Pen, My Voice.

* Questions for the nominees *

1. What is one book you’ve reread over and over again?

2. If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?

3. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

4. Why did you start your blog?

5. What’s your go-to outfit?

6. Who is your biggest inspiration?

7. If you could have coffee with one person in the world (alive or dead) who would it be? What would you ask them?

8. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Thanks to Lindsey for the nomination! I would like to mention that had they not already been nominated, Lindsey and Maria (from I Believe In Story) would have been on my list as well! To all those who had stumbled upon My Pen, My Voice because of Lindsey, it’s nice to meet you! I hope we’ll be seeing each other again soon!

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo