Nicola Winstanley
  • $22.00

May 14, 2024
208 PAGES | ISBN 978-1-989496-89-3


Smoke is award-winning children’s author Nicola Winstanley’s first work for adults and it showcases her ability to create the unforgettable characters she’s known for. This deftly written linked short story collection moves between New Zealand and Canada following the lives of a fascinating collection of characters and considers the impact of intergenerational trauma on them from multiple points of view. Questions of responsibility and fate, and a search for understanding thread through these searing, often heartbreaking stories. Yet even though these are stories of loss, Smoke is ultimately a book about grace, one which calls not only for a rejection of guilt, but also for approaching the world with deep compassion.

Advance Praise

“In each of Nicola Winstanley’s powerful stories we feel for and feel tender toward, even love, these characters trying to navigate through their lives the best they can, with earnest hope and often unrecognized resilience as they find ways to make do and, despite everything, continue to be themselves, to find agency and possibility. Smoke leaves the reader looking into the future, wondering what will become of these people, what will become of all of us, recognizing how lives are often betrayed by the way the world is – often because of the brokenness of men – but also buoyed by the very humanness, the fragility and strength of the women. Smoke isn’t a sugar pill, but something far more effective: a clear-eyed and compassionate tonic for strength and courage.” – Gary Barwin, author of Imagining Imagining and Yiddish for Pirates

“In Smoke, Nicola Winstanley gives us a recurring cast of characters who we follow over their transition from girlhood to womanhood, growing up too fast in a world that has all but given up on them. But Winstanley also gives her characters hope, writing with raw, honest, unsentimental prose that infuses her stories with insight and humanity that shines a beacon of light through the bleak landscape of their lives. Nicola Winstanley is a fresh new voice in short fiction, and I’ll be thinking about these stories for a long time.” – Amy Jones, author of Pebble & Dove and We’re All in This Together

“The stories in Nicola Winstanley’s meticulously crafted and emotionally walloping debut behave like smoke itself: spreading slowly, getting into every corner, twisting and thickening and darkening, all while the characters that inhabit them struggle to put out the fires that threaten to engulf them. This is a collection that builds in power and strength: by the time you reach its final, unexpectedly grace-filled moments, you are blinking away tears.” – Nathan Whitlock, author of Lump and Congratulations on Everything

“‘A bad thing happens and then it never stops,’ says one of the characters in Nicola Winstanley’s empathetic and compelling collection. This is a beautiful book that gnaws at your heart with its stories about the pervasiveness of intergenerational trauma and the persistent human need to search for love, stability and connection.” – Meaghan Strimas, author of Yes or Nope and A Good Time Had By All

“Winstanley’s stories move effortlessly between dark and light, between innocence lost and joy gained. She writes characters with a brutal kind of beauty, imbued with sorrow and longing that force us to face things we’d like to ignore, but can’t because their universal truths reside in all of us. These are intimate, sharp, incandescent stories that assuredly declare that while suffering is an inevitable part of our lives, we can choose to not let it define us. A raw, funny and heartbreaking debut.” – John Vigna, author of No Man’s Land and Bull Head


Episode 99 - Nicola Winstanley: "Feeling in the Flesh" (Jon DiSavino, "Short Story Today," 03/07/2024)
Jon DiSavino interviews Nicola about Smoke.

Author Nicola Winstanley Shifts Focus in Smoke, Her Stunning Debut Short Story Collection (Open Book, 17/05/2024)
"Connectedness/disintegration. This paradoxical image appears repeatedly in the stories both concretely and metaphorically and represents the central theme of the book."

Power Q & A with Nicola Winstanley (River Street Writing, 08/04/2024)
"For a long time I floated on an inky black sea, lost and alone, and there was no restoration until much later in my life. And that’s what Smoke is ultimately about: restoration. But you have to read it to the end."

Featured Writer: Nicola Winstanley (Liisa Kovala, Women Writing, 26/03/2024)
“You don't need the perfect ‘writing nook’ and you don't need three uninterrupted hours a day. Stop imagining being ‘a writer’ and just write some stuff; it adds up, bit by bit.”


Nicola Winstanley, MFA’19 (Nicola Winstanley, the University of British Columbia Magazine, 14/06/2024)
A lovely mention of Smoke up at the UBC Alumni Magazine.

2024 Spring Preview: Short Fiction and Poetry (Attila Berki; Cassandra Drudi; Andrew Woodrow-Butcher, Quill & Quire, 17/02/2024)
Lovely to see Nicola Winstanley on the Quill & Quire Spring Preview for Short Fiction and Poetry!

Most Anticipated: Our 2024 Spring Fiction Preview (49th Shelf, 06/02/2024)
It's wonderful to see Nicola's book on the 49th Shelf Spring Fiction preview!


Click here to read an excerpt of Smoke.

About the Author

Nicola Winstanley is a writer for adults and children. She has been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award and is the recipient of the Alvin A. Lee Award for Published Creative Non-Fiction. Nicola’s fiction, poetry and comix have been published in the Windsor Review, Geist, the Dalhousie ReviewGrain magazine, untethered magazine and Hamilton Arts and Letters, among others. She holds an MA from the University of Auckland, NZ, and an MFA from UBC. Nicola works at Humber College in Toronto and lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

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