Scratch - A Novel

Magic Green Door
Forthcoming from Buckrider Books (Wolsak & Wynn) in Spring 2019. 

A young thief and aspiring artist who is on the run from an assault charge in Toronto, attempts to start her life over on the streets of Barcelona, entering an underground world of pickpockets, squatters, and graffiti artists. 


On Writing Scratch

The Spaniards have a derogatory word for tourist, guiri, which is used mainly to describe the crowds who come surging off the cruise ships in their socks and sandals.

The first time a Spaniard called me a guiri, I was crushed. I’d been in Spain for over a month and was trying my best to fit in.

“How long do you think I’m going to look like a guiri?” I asked.

“Forever,” he said. “You will always be a guiri here.”

This was a depressing thought, and one that I internalized in my writing for quite some time. I was living in Barcelona, my favourite city in the world - a city I found incredibly inspiring - but for some reason, I was still writing about Canada. Outside my window, I could see palm trees and wild parrots, but on the page, I was still stuck on a Toronto streetcar staring out at the dirty snow.

A year passed, which included a moment when I threw my tattered map of the city into the garbage, a day when I knew where to buy a hammer, a month when I could suddenly speak Spanish, and a season when I stopped complaining about the heat.

One night, a local stopped to ask me for directions. When I told him I didn’t know the place he was looking for, he apologized, explaining that he’d thought I was from the neighbourhood. “You have a cara del barrio,” he told me. A neighbourhood face. I started writing a story about Barcelona the very next day and Scratch (formerly titled Yours to Keep) is the novel that resulted.

Scratch takes place on the streets of Barcelona and includes many of the things that intrigued me most about the city as I got to know it: the pick-pockets, the graffiti artists, the squatters, the Catalan separatists. Told through the eyes of a Canadian woman who is recovering from a loss by apprenticing as a thief, Scratch is about two Barcelonas: the beautiful tourist destination, and the less photogenic reality underneath.

Acknowledgments

This work has been generously supported by the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council's Writers' Reserve program, Diaspora Dialogues (via the Long Form Mentorship program), and the Access Copyright Foundation.