Wolsak And Wynn

Eight-Wheeled Freedom: The Derby Nerd’s Short History of Flat Track Roller Derby set for release Spring ’16

One of my favourite pics that has been featured on this site; this one is by Kevin Konnyu.

Since the book is historical, I thought I’d take a look at some of the historic shots that have appeared on the site; this one by Kevin Konnyu captures the intensity of the great early ToRD rivalry between the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Chicks Ahoy!.

I still miss the Hangar and shots like this one (by Derek Lang) remind me why.

I still miss ToRD’s Hangar, and shots like this one by Derek Lang remind me why.

Some may have noticed that I’ve been posting just a little bit less this year as I have in the past—still hitting all the main high points in the season, but fewer of the traveling recaps and extra stuff I used to do. While this may be true, I can assure you that I haven’t been spending any less time thinking and writing about roller derby, I’ve just been focusing those energies toward a different project: a full length non-fiction book about the sport titled Eight-Wheeled Freedom: The Derby Nerd’s Short History of Flat Track Roller Derby that is nearing completion and will be released in Spring 2016 through Wolsak and Wynn.

There are, of course other reasons as well. I’ve been writing a column on WFTDA Canadian roller derby for Jammer Line and I’ve felt less pressure as there have arisen other great resources for derby news out of the ashes of DNN (among others); namely, Derby Central and even Derby Notes, which—even if I don’t always agree with the opinions expressed—is capable of producing very informative articles on the game. And of course, I’ve been on the road as part of the broadcast crew for this year’s WFTDA playoffs.

While the book has a Canadian perspective, the development of the larger game is certainly a focus as well. (Photo by Joe Mac)

While the book has a Canadian perspective, the development of the larger game is certainly a focus as well. (Photo by Joe Mac)

So yes, while my focus has shifted, I’ve still been immersing myself in the game: I’ve been following it as closely as ever, I’ve been researching its place in contemporary culture—how and why it has evolved the way it has. Eight-Wheeled Freedom is part sociological study, part memoir and part historical recounting of the 21st century revival of the sport of roller derby as a flat track game primarily played by women; there is a particular focus on the development of the game since it came to Canada in 2006.

Sustained global growth of the game has separated flat track roller derby from every version that came before it. This is a Greg Russell photo of the first game played at the first ever Roller Derby World Cup (Canada vs. France).

Sustained global growth of the game has separated flat track roller derby from every version that came before it. This is a Greg Russell photo of the first game played at the first ever Roller Derby World Cup (Canada vs. France).

While told from my point of view, it is not really a memoir in any traditional sense, but the structure of the text mirrors my growing understanding of the game and community right alongside flat track roller derby’s own growth. Also, while the text will provide a historical overview of the revival, it is not just a history book, and the focus is on why the sport has become so established in light of past failures of roller derby to inspire a grassroots movement. Another important focus of the text is the game’s evolution from sports entertainment spectacle to a complex, competitive endeavor.

An intense shot of intense action by Neil Gunner. Another focus in the book is on roller derby's evolution from spectacle to sport.

An intense shot of intense action by Neil Gunner. One focus of the book is on roller derby’s evolution from spectacle to sport.

The layout of the book is not chronological, but instead moves thematically in its exploration of the game and the surrounding community, tackling historical moments through an explanation of the cultural significance of the events. For example, a chapter on the influential 2006 A&E television show Rollergirls is framed around a discussion of roller derby’s role in third wave feminism. Another chapter looking at the history of Toronto Roller Derby’s relationship with Toronto Pride and the Pride-affiliated roller derby event that features an international all star game also examines the role that the sport has had in the LGBTQ community and, in turn, the influence this community has had on the development of the game.

With the WFTDA celebrating its 10th anniversary and the Canadian game about to celebrate a decade-long existence as well, it seemed like the perfect time to tell the story of flat track roller derby.

Some of you may recognize that Wolsak and Wynn also published my first book, David Foster Wallace Ruined my Suicide, and did an excellent job on it, so the book and the story are in good hands. That book’s designer, the excellent Marijke Friesen, returns as well. Work on the text is nearing completion with work on layout and other formatting concerns beginning as well, and keep an eye out for a book-specific website launching in the new year.

For now, stay tuned for updates on the final stages in the development of Eight-Wheeled Freedom.

Thanks readers and roller derby fans for your continued support!

Photo by Todd Burgess

Nerd to Release First Work of Fiction; Launch Dates Set for Toronto, Tri-City

The Nerd takes a moment for some shameless self promotion of book launches set for April 16 in Toronto and April 17 in Waterloo.

Writing as D.D. Miller, the Nerd's first book of fiction will be released in April. Roller Derby figures prominently in the title story.

Writing as D.D. Miller, the Nerd’s first book of fiction will be launched on April 16 in Toronto and the next night in Waterloo. Those old blue roller skates on the cover play a significant role in the book.

As some of you may have known, the Derby Nerd doesn’t just write about roller derby; I also write fiction as D.D. Miller.

Next week, my first work of fiction, a short story collection called David Foster Wallace Ruined My Suicide and Other Stories, will be published by Wolsak & Wynn (through its new Buckrider Books imprint).

This book has been a long time coming and features a wide variety of stories all dealing in some way with the vagaries of life in the early 21st century. Of course, roller derby played a part in the writing of the book—as it does in most aspects of my life—but it has a particularly large role in the title story.

The title story is about a character who has a brief, but to him intense, relationship with a significantly younger girl with whom he has remained obsessed, to the point where he’s found a lookalike online cam girl replacement for her. The second obsession that he has is with replacing a David Foster Wallace book that he’d lent to her and never gotten back. Eventually, he discovers that she has become a roller girl and goes to see her play:

“The Toronto Roller Derby League played its games north of the city in the Hangar in Downsview Park. It was a massive space, with huge windows that spread the late-evening summer sunshine across the hard concrete floor and the round track in the middle. Metal bleachers lined the track and they were full of a strange mix of people: punks and jocks and grandmothers and children, hipsters, nerds, a whole posse of women on a stagette. Loud rock and roll blared from speakers sprinkled among the bleachers, and a mohawked man in a slim suit and skinny tie prowled the zone between the track and the seats, stepping over and around the people who sat on the floor lining the track. He yelled into the mic, his face beet red and eyes gleaming: I could barely make out what he said. The louder he got, the louder the crowd got.”

**You can listen to me read from this particular section of the book at the 14:25 mark of this interview I did recently on CIUT’s (89.5) Howl radio show.**

The Toronto launch is set for April 16 at the Gladstone.

The Toronto launch is set for April 16 at the Gladstone.

For those derby people “in the know” there are a lot of “insider” references specifically for you in this story but there is also some “literary license” taken (for example, in this story, ToRD was playing in the Hangar in 2008—they didn’t actually move there until 2009).

While I will be making appearances across the country throughout the summer and fall (stay tuned!), there are a few specific launch dates set for Toronto and Tri-City (Waterloo specifically).

First up, for those in the GTA, I’ll be launching at the Gladstone Hotel on Wednesday, April 16, 2014, with doors opening at 7:00 PM. This is NOT going to be your typical stuffy literary affair: we’re hoping it will turn into a raucous celebratory party! For more information, check here.

The very next night, I’ll be in Waterloo at Words Worth Books. This will be a (slightly) quieter event, but refreshments will be served!. Check here for further details.

In both cases, I’d love to see roller derby take over these events! You guys have actually read more of my writing than anyone else (for which I am perpetually and eternally grateful), and would love to see some of you there! Thanks! And once again, apologies for the shameless self-promotion!

**For a further preview of the book, read this interview I did about writing and roller derby with Open Book Toronto.

**Also, for those in Toronto who can’t make the launch, I’ll also be reading on April 23rd at the Press Club as part of the Pivot Reading Series.

lanch date ain Waterloo set for apirl 17

The book will launch at Words Worth Books in Waterloo on April 17th.