Carleigh Baker

award-winning author, teacher, mentor, bunny-enthusiast

Bad Endings, Stories, published by Anvil Press

  • Winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award
  • Finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize
  • Finalist for the Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice Award, BC and Yukon Book Prizes
  • Finalist for the Emerging Indigenous Voices Award for Fiction

Carleigh Baker likes to make light in the dark. Whether plumbing family ties, the end of a marriage, or death itself, she never lets go of the witty, the ironic, and perhaps most notably, the awkward. Despite the title, the resolution in these stories isn’t always tragic, but it’s often uncomfortable, unexpected, or just plain strange. Character digressions, bad decisions, and misconceptions abound.

While steadfastly local in her choice of setting, Baker’s deep appreciation for nature takes a lot of these stories out of Vancouver and into the wild. Salmon and bees play reoccurring roles in these tales, as do rivers. Occasionally, characters blend with their animal counterparts, adding a touch of magic realism. Nature is a place of escape and attempted convalescence for characters suffering from urban burnout. Even if things get weird along the way, as Hunter S. Thompson said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

In Bad Endings, Baker takes troubled characters to a moment of realization or self-revelation, but the results aren’t always pretty.

Get Bad Endings from any of these fine places

Anvil Press

Anvil Press published Bad Endings in 2017 and I will forever be grateful to them for the faith that they showed to me and my manuscript.

You can buy Bad Endings directly from this resilient, independent Canadian literary press on their website. Don’t forget to check out all the other amazing books that they publish.

Independent Bookstores

Independent bookstores are the heart and soul of the book world and one of the last few great joys left to us in this post-capitalist hellscape.

Head over to the Bookshop to see a list of local indies who may have Bad Endings on their shelves. If they don’t, they’ll be able to get a copy for you.

Public Libraries

Public libraries are important social and educational hubs in all our communities. You can search their catalogues and reserve titles online. If you don’t see the book that you want then you can request that your library get a copy for you.

If you live in Vancouver then you can reserve a copy of Bad Endings through the Vancouver Public Library website.

“In Bad Endings, Carleigh Baker has created a skillfully woven tapestry of stories, centred on strong, contemporary female characters battling for agency over their own lives. Their lives are awkward, absurd, beautiful, and desperate. We were impressed by the precisely drawn dilemmas the characters face, the way each story traces a quiet yet inevitable arc. Bad Endings is a work of a profoundly talented writer who wields gentleness, subtlety, and generosity as her tools. These stories are not about happy endings — they are about powerful endings, and we found them nothing short of electrifying.”

2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Jury (Michael Christie, Christy Ann Conlin, and Tracey Lindberg)

2020 Writers’ Trust Rising Star Mentorship

It was a tremendous honour to have been chosen by Thomas King for the Writers’ Trust Rising Star Mentorship , and look at the very fine company I’m in!

Troy Sebastian/ Nupqu ʔa·kǂ am̓ ’s stories have been published in the The Walrus, the Journey Prize anthology and Best Canadian Stories. He was a finalist for the 2020 Indigenous Voices Awards, and he’s a
Vanier Scholar currently working on his PhD at UVIC. His writing usually
has me laughing (darkly) and nodding my head at its hard truths.

Canisia Lubrin’s poetry blows the roof off any party it attends. Her recent
collection, The Dyzgraphxst, won the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Windham-Campbell Prize, among others. But here’s something you might not know about Canisia, she also popularized the taste sensation of putting a bay leaf in your coffee! Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Lorax B. Horne writes about the intersection of people, privacy and
technology, perhaps THE most important topic of the moment. Their current work in progress, Hacks and Hackers, will be an absolute must-read.

Laura Trethewey is an environmental journalist doing very important work in the field of Ocean health and sustainability. Her collection of nonfiction essays, The Imperilled Ocean: Human Stories from a Changing Sea  was published in February 2020.

There’s never a bad time to receive some mentorship from one of your heroes, but I have to say the timing on this was really wonderful, as I’ve been struggling with my current work-in-progress for long enough, and I’m eager to move ahead!

A short excerpt from my manuscript in progress was recently published in the Hairstreak Butterfly Review, a journal out of Colorado College. I was lucky to get to work with  Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer  as my editor, she is positively brilliant.  Have a look!

“Baker is blessed with an exacting eye for the disturbing and humorous detail and an ability to hear pain and sorrow, joy and delight, a #raretalent who can make you smile and cringe and think in the same sentence.”

Thomas King, author of The Truth About Stories, Green Grass, Running Water, and Indians on Vacation

Hay Festival, Querétaro, Mexico, and Arequipa, Peru

In the fall of 2019 I was incredibly lucky to have been able to participate in the Hay Festival in Querétaro, Mexico and Arequipa, Peru.

This festival, which originated in Hay on Wye, Wales, now brings writers, poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, comedians and musicians together in locations all over the world.

My favourite opportunity in Querétaro was an afternoon spent working with local students, including the immensely talented Jumko Ogata, host of the Spanish-language podcast, Yo Soy Negra on Spotify.

I also got to share the mainstage with Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil, an Ayuujk linguist from Ayutla Mixe in Oaxaca. I say “share,” but in reality I spent most of our time listening to this brilliant human who, among other things, has done some vital work on the intersections of traditional language, science, and environmental concerns.

Secwepemc poet Garry Gottfriedson was with us for the Peru leg of the festival, hanging out with him and Cusco poet and activist Jorge Alejandro Vargas Prado  was definitely a highlight!

Again, unsurprisingly, our conversations were primarily around language and the environment. Every night that we were in Arequipa locals gathered in the town square to protest dangerous and destructive extractive mining practices by Canadian and US companies.

The online magazine Joyland say they are “pretty sure she’s the new master of relationship tragicomedy,” but I would argue that she may be master of endings, too. The ending to “Grey Water” is sublime. Then, there is the noxious ending to “The Honey House,” in which we see the full, delicious fury of Ember, hanging by her arms from the rafters of the waxworks, while she fucks the poor, dumb hired hand, Joe. If “the bees are getting in” only to die from the heat, and if their carcasses now litter the romance, it’s the hum of their attempt, their primal attraction to the heat of things, that signifies.

As they seek a way out of their own very human impasses, and into the drama of life, Baker’s characters might fail, but failure never looked so sweet.

Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of All the Broken Things

Hamilton Review of Books

Writer-in-Residence at The Berton House, Dawson City, Yukon

My time at the Berton House in Dawson City was incredible.

I was the writer in residence from January to March 2019, which meant I arrived at the darkest time of the year and watched the light gradually return to the world.

The people of Dawson City were so friendly and welcoming, making space for me at rocking winter events like the (s)hiver arts festival and Thaw Di Gras in the spring, and at the radio station, CFYT106.9FM, where I hosted a weekly show on Sunday mornings.

It’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before, and perhaps even more stunning in the summer, under the midnight sun! But there was something very special about being tucked into the quiet darkness, bone-chilling cold—it made me appreciate the spring in a way I’d never experienced before.

I’m so grateful to the people of Dawson for hosting me and the Writers’ Trust for making it happen!

“Nevertheless, this is a satisfying read by an author whose talent is obvious in the way she succinctly sets a scene (“The morning mist is sea salt and oil slick”), in her understated humour (“Keep in mind, it’s thirty-five degrees, and I’ve had food poisoning for the last forty-eight hours. Keep it in mind, but try not to picture it”) and, as mentioned, in her pithy way of capturing our 21st-century struggles (re: video game addiction, “Good versus evil is such a comfort sometimes.”). Baker finishes Bad Endings with one question: “What now?” After reading this book, one is left with many questions and the knowledge that peace of mind lies not in the answers, but in the act of questioning itself. “

Susan Sanford Blades, author of the novel Fake It So Real and Winner of the 2021 ReLit Award

Malahat Review