One Book, One Niagara: The Grande Finale

A One Book initiative is a community event designed to inspire conversation and create a dialogue about important topics through the shared experience of reading. This is the first region wide literacy event in Niagara. As the first guest One Book, One Niagara is elated to introduce seasoned author and spoken word performer Ivan Coyote.

Like many performers and creators, Coyote experienced the abrupt halt of outlets for crowd interaction at the onset of the pandemic. When uncertainties were the only constant, they began participating in online gigs. It was during one of these events that, out of isolation and missing the energy of performing, Coyote off-handedly said, “Write me a letter” not realizing how many would take the comment to heart.

This brings us to Brock University at the Grand Finale of the One Book, One Niagara event featuring Ivan Coyote’s most recent work, Care Of. The book is a collection of responses written by Coyote to the many letters that they received, the oldest being eleven years old. The correspondence is full of compassion, reflection, non-binary and transgender identity and the connections found in empathy. If you’re curious how Care Of came to be the first selection for this community-forward initiative, I urge you to visit your local library or independent bookstore for a copy. The only way to know is to become absorbed in the words of Coyote.

“The process of writing was a meditation,” Coyote said as they described how the book came to be. As a spoken word performer, Coyote takes the audience through each moment, as if the letter lays open on their lap and you’re reading along together. The Sean O’Sullivan Theatre at Brock University was silent, guests leaning on one another as Coyote read from Care Of. Fluidly, Coyote immersed the audience in their world; the pain, the love, the compassion and the hope, radiating from their voice. A pair of guests held hands, squeezing as Coyote read a letter in response to Victoria, an individual sharing their beautiful and at times humorous story of attending an event of Coyote’s in their first wig. Coyote writes, “I hope you are only finding love as you unwrap yourself.” The theatre remained still as words filled the space among the listeners. There was laughter and tears mixed together, hearts swelling at the tenderness and openness in the letters both to and from Coyote.

“I hope you are only finding love as you unwrap yourself.”

The evening closed with care and thoughtfulness as Coyote thanked the many libraries that have supported their work and allowed for community accessibility. The lobby of the theatre quickly overflowed into the hall as the audience lined up to share small stories with Coyote and have their books signed. Attendees came from near and far to share in the love that Coyote so generously offered. Thank you to our sponsors of the One Book, One Niagara initiative: Niagara Community Foundation, Meridian Credit Union, The Writer’s Union of Canada, Brock University, Niagara College Canada and all Niagara public libraries. Lastly and exceptionally, thank you to Ivan Coyote for being vulnerable and open in your work to allow for a truly salient discussion.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Viewing the World with Vincent Lam and C.S. Richardson

The spring season opened with two esteemed and award-winning authors. The first event took place virtually and even through the screen the humble demeanors of both authors was all the more inviting as they discussed their most recent novels. Ken Boichuk, with his gift of story-telling and inquisitive mind, brought the audience along for the ride during his conversations with C.S. Richardson and Vincent Lam.

C.S. Richardson

All the Colour in the World is familiar and compelling. In telling the story of life C.S. Richardson encompasses a little bit of everything, finding a way to illustrate with his words. The genesis of the book was born from concept, character and the collaboration of fiction and nonfiction. With a Bachelor’s degree in Art History (many moons ago as he puts it), Richardson is no stranger to the main character’s fascination with art. Henry is a young Torontonian and his journey takes the audience through the trials and tribulations of life and ultimately the power of art.

Weaved throughout the pages are references to art that are both known and renown while some are more obscure and implemented by Richardson to reflect the text. Boichuk revealed that he kept his iPad close by to research the art that meant something to Henry as he moved through the book. In one instance The Veiled Virgin by Giovanni Strazza made its debut on the page while Henry was at a conference in Rome. The marble statue depicts a delicate veil over the face of Virgin Mary and gives the illusion that the fabric floats over her bust. As Boichuk put it, the image “hijacks” the reader and truly transports the mind to the overwhelming dedication and talent of the artist’s creation. Richardson mirrors this expertise in his own craft by using his distinctive, economical writing style to speak volumes and fills in the details of Henry’s entire life in this short novel.

The image “hijacks” the reader and truly transports the mind to the overwhelming dedication and talent of the artist’s creation.

Prior to writing full time, C.S. Richardson was an acclaimed book designer working on nearly two thousand books over his forty-year career. An entire page could be dedicated to the expanse of his former craft. Richardson designed the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam and tonight their creativity is presented together again in a new light at the Grimsby Author Series.

Vincent Lam

Vincent Lam is a doctor and a writer, equally present and admired in both. Reading past interviews offers a view into his thoughtful and compassionate nature as a medical doctor and as a storyteller. In his new book, On the Ravine, Lam uses a fictional narrative to deliver the human experience of addiction saying, “some truths can only be told that way.” Readers of Lam’s previous work would be thrilled to revisit the characters Chen and Fitzgerald as they devote themselves to treating those affected by opioid addiction. In both On the Ravine and during his evening at the Author Series, Lam’s candor is refreshing and delicate as he comments on the challenging social and medical obstacles in contemporary society.

“Choices are inherent of conditions.”

Claire a violinist and is consumed by the practice of her music and its cadence. At the same time, she rides the heightened connections and separations as opioids become part of her life. When the lives of Claire and Chen cross, the uncertainties and unknowns of treatment arise for them both. Lam, full of honesty and respect answers the question ‘do I have a choice how to live if I am an addict?’ The answer is not a yes or no. “Choices are inherent of conditions,” Lam reflects and that for most individuals’, substance abuse can be a choice but there is usually already a tilt in that direction. There are choices between knowns and unknowns. Vincent Lam invites the reader into the muddy awakening of the realities and complexities of addiction and the profound force of those in its wake to help.

Thank You

Thank you first and foremost to our authors CS Richardson and Vincent Lam. The nature of All the Colour in the World and On the Ravine will keep us thinking about how we view the world on and off the page. A big thank you to our sponsors Hamilton Philharmonic, Objects to Desire, Joanne Gaulton Royal LePage and Gateway News Stands. Our wine Sponsor this evening is Sue-Ann Staff Estates Winery. Copies of All the Colour in the World by CS Richardson and On the Ravine by Vincent Lam can be found at Epic Books in Hamilton! We are so grateful to the community and our sponsors for supporting the Grimsby Author Series.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

A Casual Conversation with Linwood Barclay

Our Grimsby Author Series season came to a close with a standout event held in-person at the Grimsby Public Library. The guest of this special event was none other than copious author, Linwood Barclay.

The evening opened with some technical feedback blasting from the speakers. As the volume increased Linwood Barclay mimed being blown back off the stage adding a comedic lightness to the unconventional start, setting a tone for the witty evening ahead. Barclay opted to omit a reading and began by bringing the audience into the world of his novel Look Both Ways. “Think Jurassic Park but instead of dinosaurs it’s self-driving cars,” he summed up the premise in a few short, yet dramatic, words. Barclay reflected on his friendship with Stephen King and referred to the cars in the book as being “an island of one thousand Christine’s,” a nod to King’s 1983 novel. The cars in Look Both Ways however is not a Plymouth Fury but a 1959 Cadillac. The title page is splashed with an incredibly detailed illustration of the exact car. Barclay’s father used to illustrate automobile imagery that would appear in Life magazine and more. The 1959 Cadillac drawing still hangs in the author’s office and now lives on in his novel.

“Think Jurassic Park but instead of dinosaurs, it’s self-driving cars.”

Linwood Barclay is an open book. As each audience member fired question after question he did not hold back as he discussed the ins and outs of the publishing industry, the frustrations when a novel is being optioned for other media forms and the pleasant surprise he had when France became one of his best markets. Barclay spoke with great fondness about his agent. In 2008 No Time for Goodbye was released and was the year-end bestseller on the fiction list. He remembers calling his agent to discuss the early morning idea he had about a family who disappears leaving behind a daughter—are they dead or are they alive and don’t want her? “Well what happened to the family?” his agent asked, “I have no idea,” answered Barclay. He referred to this book as the one that changed his whole life. With over twenty books under his belt, Linwood Barclay continues to produce stories that chill the audience to their core and keeps the pages turning.

“Well what happened to the family?” his agent asked, “I have no idea,” answered Barclay.

Thank you Linwood Barclay for an unforgettable event at the Grimsby Public Library. Calamus Estate Winery and Roland + Russel provided the libations for the evening, thank you! We cannot thank our sponsors enough; Hamilton Philharmonic, Objects to Desire, Joanne Gaulton Royal LePage, Gateway, Carol Mazur, Sue & Norm McCarthy, Ruth Moffat and Jim Howden. Epic Books left with glorious stacks of signed copies of Linwood Barclay’s novels, thank you for selling Look Both Ways and copies from his backlist at the event.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Creating a World with Ann-Marie MacDonald

A familiar face graced our screens for the final virtual event of the fall Grimsby Author Series season. Calling her a best-selling author doesn’t quite capture the enormity of her success and yet here Ann-Marie MacDonald is with her fourth book, Fayne.

Ann-Marie MacDonald

The night began with Ann-Marie MacDonald holding us in the world she created. It was worth the eight year wait and the most enthralling reading of the season. Voices and varied cadence by MacDonald guided the curiosity of the audience through the estate of Fayne and the moorlands in which it is set. The “stinky peat and fermenting loam,” brings the stench of the bog fumes to the reader’s nose.

The world of Fayne is shared through the young Charlotte Bell who traverses the estate that lies between England and Scotland. It is among this idyllic landscape that familial secrets emerge. Like many of her creative endeavors, MacDonald began with an image. She drew a wavy line and from her impressive mind she connected this organic movement to the north Atlantic, then moorlands and eventually Bronte country. The foreground of her drawing filled with a young person, the creation of Charlotte, and so the house and inhabitants of Fayne emerged. An homage to Bronte is paid in the name of Charlotte Bell, the English novelists pen name being Currer Bell. Ann-Marie continues the natural creation of her world in the same manner, keeping it intuitive and then allowing herself to reweave from the beginning to fill in the gaps.

“A friend is someone who would follow you into exile.”

Ken Boichuk, host of the Grimsby Author Series reads a reoccurring line from the book back to MacDonald, “A friend is someone who would follow you into exile.” With a nod of compassion, MacDonald shares her view on the most redemptive force in the book: “For all the different relationships, the one that survives and transforms is friendship.”

Thank You

Thank you endlessly to Ann-Marie MacDonald for returning once again to the Grimsby Author Series and filling our ears with her immersive readings of Fayne and sharing her passion for writing. Author Debra Thompson of The Long Road Home was regrettably ill and unable to attend the event this evening. Find both Debra Thompson and Ann-Marie MacDonald’s books at Epic Books in Hamilton.

Thank you to our sponsors Hamilton Philharmonic, Objects to Desire, Joanne Gaulton Royal LePage, Gateway, Malivoire Wine Company and Carol Mazur, Sue & Norm McCarthy, Ruth Moffat and Jim Howden and Epic Books!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Across generations with Bonnie Stern, Anna Rupert and Iain Reid

Our October event revolved around family and gracious returning authors that have shared their love across generations. Bonnie Stern partners with her daughter Anna Rupert to create Don’t Worry, Just Cook a blissful cookbook full of family favourites. Iain Reid returns to share his newest title We Spread that echoes the experience of seeing his grandmother transferred to a long-term care home.

Bonnie Stern & Anna Rupert

In a world where knowledge is at your fingertips in an instant, why on earth do people still enjoy cookbooks? “Comfort and connection,” is the consensus between celebrated chef Bonnie Stern and her co-author Anna Rupert in Don’t Worry, Just Cook: Delicious, Timeless Recipes for Comfort. The mother-daughter duo was able to carve out time during 2020 when other professional aspects were not as demanding to make this project come to life. With limited opportunities to have outside help over the last two years, the job of testing (and tasting) recipes fell to their family. The main floor of Stern’s home seen her food stylist and others swiftly moving to-and-fro in winter coats, windows open, as Stern cooked and placed each recipe to get the perfect shot, using props from her own kitchen drawers.

“When you’re having people over cook something you’ve made before.”

Host of the Grimsby Author Series, Ken Boichuk, begins the evening by asking Bonnie Stern a question we all know the answer to: Do we have a tendency to overthink cooking? Stern confesses that even with her experience over the years even she worries when she is in the kitchen. “You want to feel comfortable,” she offers, “When you’re having people over cook something you’ve made before.” Food is a way to bring people together, it is a visceral experience that stimulates all your senses. Although Rupert is Stern’s daughter, she never needed convincing to cook, “It’s all about the fun,” Rupert says. At the end of Don’t Worry, Just Cook Anna Rupert lays out a few lessons that she has learned over the years, including the secret trick of adding lemon juice or vinegar to milk to make buttermilk in a pinch. Rupert comments on the patience her mom has whether it’s in the kitchen or in the car. Bonnie Stern and sous chef Anna Rupert ignite our creativity in Don’t Worry, Just Cook reminding us that “food can be a source of stability and comfort” and cookbooks can have the answers if you take the time.

“Food can be a source of stability and comfort.”

Iain Reid

Iain Reid joins that Grimsby Author Series once again for his novel We Spread. Reid affectionately refers to memories of his grandmother often when asked about inspiration for his most recent book. At a rather remarkable age in her late nineties, his grandmother was moved into a long-term care home. Watching the tireless effort of Personal Support Workers and Nurses along with the interactions with other residents established the landscape of the book. We Spread is not Reid’s first time diving into what it means to grow old. In 2013 Reid’s memoir The Truth About Luck reflects on family connections and time spent with his grandmother. Although much of We Spread was complete prior to the pandemic Reid expressed his heartbreak when asked about the isolation that many residents and their families experienced. “…It brought it to everyone’s attention,” remarks Reid.

We Spread focuses on Penny, an aging woman ruminating on the past as she moves from her apartment to a long-term care residence. Initially it seems as though her relocation to the woods and charming new companions has fueled her passions. Eventually though a fog settles in and obscures Penny’s sense of trust and certainty. Is this the fear that Penny’s partner spoke of near the end or is something more sinister taking place in her new home, Six Cedars? Although Reid’s novel is categorized as a psychological thriller, he makes the case that his book doesn’t clean up nicely at the end like a traditional thriller might. Iain Reid allows for much interpretation from his audience, drawing on our ability to observe.

Thank You

Thank you to Bonnie Stern, Anna Rupert and Iain Reid for joining the Grimsby Author Series, we are thrilled to have such talented creators making our series shine.

To our fabulous sponsors, we thank you: Hamilton Philharmonic, Objects to Desire, Joanne Gaulton Royal LePage, Gateway, Malivoire Wine Company, as well as our benefactors. Additional thanks also to our book sponsor, Epic Books, for supporting the Grimsby Author Series.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

The Heart of Grimsby with Cathrin Bradbury and Laurie Petrou

The Livingston Activity Centre is not the Casablanca Inn nor the idyllic setting of Coronation Park. Yet it provided the perfect backdrop for the in-person return event of the Grimsby Author Series to celebrate Grimsby’s Centennial. With more than a computer screen the audience was once again fully submerged in the presence of authors; the creative energy radiating off of them from the stage. Cathrin Bradbury and Laurie Petrou, both beloved neighbours past and present on the same Grimsby street, join the series once again.

Cathrin Bradbury

Spending formative years in Grimsby, Cathrin Bradbury weaves anecdotes of Grimsby through her memoir The Bright Side. After jobs picking cherries and sorting eggs, Bradbury landed at the Grimsby Public Library. At the old brick building on Carnegie Lane Bradbury would hide in the stacks while she was meant to be sorting books by the Dewey Decimal system, “I read Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman and would never charge anyone fines.” When referring to her years in Grimsby, Cathrin Bradbury reminds us of the Alice Munro quote, “In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places.”

“In your life there are a few places, or maybe only the one place, where something happened, and then there are all the other places.”

The Bright Side revolves around the year 2015 and the hills and valleys that were encompassed in it. Her siblings David and Ann sat front and center while Bradbury recounts their shared stories and her adventures in Grimsby. Although The Bright Side is a memoir her research was deep and exhaustive as she relays her experiences on the page and then asks others who were present what details their memories might hold of the same event. “Everyone’s opinions make the story better,” Bradbury shares. While reading from her newly released second paperback cover of the book, Bradbury ruminates on Grimsby tales that only residents of the town will smile about, sharing her little secrets, like our unspoken understanding of “the mountain”. During one story Bradbury pauses and looks to moderator Kathryn Drury, CEO and Chief Librarian, asking, “is it okay that we talk about acid punch?” Followed moments later by a joking audience member mischievously inquiring, “what’s the recipe for the punch?” A roaring laugh around the room filled with the pleasure of social events.

Laurie Petrou

Laurie Petrou lives across the street from the home where Bradbury grew up. There is a strong inclination of something in the water that flows to that street making words pour out of you with woven cadence. Petrou’s new novel, Stargazer, pulls from her past as an art student at Queen’s University and the tremendous liberties of discovering who one is. Although Petrou’s past is not embedded in Grimsby childhood adventures, parts from all of her books are written in town whether it is at Station One Coffeehouse or on a bench near her home.

“They act as a foil for one another, echoing and complimenting.”

Stargazer follows the dynamics of two university students, Aurelle and Diana, as they navigate their consuming, vile, and intoxicating relationships with each other and their families. “I want to go to this school,” comments Drury when referring to the fictional Northern Ontario university, Rocky Barrens. Pine trees, canoe rides to class and mesmerizing skies paint the school as a sleepaway camp that is the envy of every school-goer. Petrou regards the setting as “another character in the book,” allowing the weather to mirror the shifts in Aurelle and Diana’s relationships. Two characters are where Petrou directs focus as their conflict allows growth that can be transformative in writing. “They act as a foil for one another, echoing and complimenting.” For Laurie Petrou, it can become a small space when there is only one character to zero in on. We hope for many more powerful duos and creative worlds from her.

Thank You

After two years of virtual events, our intimate gathering of readers and supporters basked in the hearty laughs of the room. Cathrin Bradbury said it best when she read from her book, “If the escarpment was where we lost ourselves, the library was where we discovered who we were.” Thank you to the authors Cathrin Bradbury and Laurie Petrou for reminding us of the creativity and passion that ripples along the streets of Grimsby. Happy 100th to our benevolent and growing town.

To our sponsors, we are grateful: Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Objects to Desire, Joanne Gaulton Royal LePage, Gateway, Malivoire Wine Company and Carol Mazur, Sue & Norm McCarthy and Ruth Moffatt & Jim Howden. Thank you dearly to Epic Books of Hamilton for your support and to Jaime for selling copies of Cathrin and Laurie’s books at the event.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Deep Thoughts and Conversations with Joe Ollmann and Heather Marshall

The third and final event of the Grimsby Author Series spring session was overwhelmed by topics that make one consider what is taken for granted amongst humankind. Joe Ollmann discussed the connection between father and son; the falsehoods of that relationship which are so easily masked when hiding behind a comic strip. Heather Marshall dove into the broken trust between body and government when human rights are withheld, and the aftermath that is now playing out as her book is released at a time where it may be seen as controversial and instructive.

Joe Ollmann

In 2021 author Joe Ollmann made history when his novel, Fictional Father, was the first graphic novel to be nominated for the Governor General Literary Award. Caleb, a conflicted middle-aged painter, grapples with his decision to take over his deceased father’s comic strip Sonny Side Up. Although the strip eludes to an idyllic family life for the original author, time at home is in fact where Caleb found himself neglected as a child and living in the shadow of his father even as he grows up. Ollmann works with (mainly) nine-panels per page and includes colour in each frame. Although Ollmann is colourblind, he relies on his knowledge of colour theory and his children to guide his artistic intentions to intertwine with the words on the page. After a mere year and a half of work, Fictional Father was released. The final page is dedicated to a character furiously drawing, papers scattered around the floor and sweat beading down his face. We like to think this is Joe Ollmann, working in his element.

“It’s like pizza. Even when they’re bad, they’re good.”

While he created the artwork for Fictional Father Ollmann listened to hours on end of audiobooks. When he admitted to listening to hours of Victorian literature, Ollmann reminded the crowd, “There are no guilty pleasures, just pleasures. Read whatever you want.” To have a familiar face on the other side of the camera is always a joyful welcome to begin the final event of the spring 2022 series.

“It’s like pizza. Even when they’re bad, they’re good and I am glad [comics] are around, whatever form they are in,” Joe Ollmann reminisces on the nostalgia of sitting at the kitchen table with cereal and reading a comic strip and the beauty of the art form. Nowadays, Ollmann works exclusively on what is in his heart.

Heather Marshall

When a book is inspired by real events it invites a sense of curiosity and uncertainty. In Looking for Jane, Heather Marshall’s debut novel, she writes about the horrific life of maternity homes while weaving together the lives of three individuals. While doing her masters, Marshall had a thread of an idea about her now bestseller. It wasn’t until later when she came across an article on maternity homes that she decided to write it. “Why not a blockbuster or non-fiction examination?” Ken asked, regarding the form her research was presented. “The content was so compelling and dramatic…it has just reached so many readers as fiction,” Marshall replied. Looking for Jane continues on multiple bestseller lists, its praise high and its content heard.

As Looking for Jane evolved, Marshall always had the conscious decision to braid in details of maternity homes with reproductive choice, to advocate for women to have agency over their own bodies. The number of babies taken away from their mothers is larger than a ballpark, it is an entire city; over 300,000. Looking for Jane is set to release in the United States in the coming months and Marshall could have no way to predict the gathering storm as publicity is ablaze with comments about Roe v. Wade. The Grimsby Author Series looks forward to welcoming Heather Marshall back to discuss the reception of her novel in the United States.

Thank You

To our dear Joe Ollmann, thank you for creating such a thoughtful and kitchen-sink worthy graphic novel, we are grateful to be connected with you. It has been wonderful to have Heather Marshall at the series. We thank you for your stimulating and timely conversations and wait to see the lasting impression your novel will have

Thank you to our sponsors: Hamilton Philharmonic OrchestraObjects to DesireHome Team Realty GroupMelrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes, as well as our benefactors.  We could not do this without your support. Additional thanks also to our book sponsor, Epic Books, for supporting the Grimsby Author Series.

A final big thank you to our guests for supporting the Grimsby Library through your participation in the Grimsby Author Series!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Seasoned and Immersive: Emily St. John Mandel and Heather O’Neill

Two prolific and heavy-hitting authors joined the second evening of the Spring 2022 Grimsby Author Series, both with big stories, various moods and explosive developments. In one novel, the universe is an inception of layers, while the other is a story that weaves in and out of dark and deep obsessions. We are thrilled to have welcomed Emily St. John Mandel and Heather O’Neill to the author series this season.

Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel is the creator of six novels, various essays, and a handful of anticipated new projects. In 2020, Mandel was set to join the series for her novel The Glass Hotel. As the book had its publication at the gate of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we are grateful for her quick pen in creating Sea of Tranquility so that she could make a return virtually this season. Those who have indulged in Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel will be familiar with a line of characters in her new work. While discussing the return of many faces Mandel expressed her fascination with February 2020, “That moment – we knew what was coming – we could read the news and see the incredible disaster that was coming. Virus pouring in every hour of every day. We couldn’t believe it was happening to us. A mass failure of imagination.” To capture that reality in the many pockets of life she illustrates is truly a spectacle to soak in.

“We couldn’t believe it was happening to us. A mass failure of imagination.”

In her new novel, Sea of Tranquility, Mandel easily exposes the human condition of hope as she spans five centuries throughout the book. On each page she showcases a tableau that each of us can set ourselves into, a reflection of time over past two years. With Mandel’s non-linear structure the characters and plot develop wholly and concretely. Like many before it Sea of Tranquility encompasses a style that is all her own. We will be on the edge of our couch waiting for the television adaptations of The Glass Hotel and Sea of Tranquility which Mandel herself will have a hand in. “If we’re to be honest with ourselves, we’ve been changed by the past two years. I don’t want to only do my work alone in a room anymore,” said Mandel. We look forward to many other universes from Emily St. John Mandel.

Heather O’Neill

In 2006 Heather O’Neill debuted her first novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, which became a literary sensation in Canada. With a shelf of other work in between, her book When We Lost Our Heads was published in February 2022. At a time when Canada was on a plateau of the pandemic isolation and an upheaval in the capital with the convoy, O’Neill showed her intimate, dark, passionate and alluring self in the pages of her novel. In a desire to discuss the deeper side of female friendship, filled with powerful synergy and psychotic tendencies, O’Neill weaves the reader into the lives of Marie and Sadie with the prominent backdrop of Montreal. Poignantly describing the connection between the two girls O’Neill writes, “every decent friendship comes with a drop of hatred. But that hatred is like honey in the tea. It makes it addictive.”

“Every decent friendship comes with a drop of hatred. But that hatred is like honey in the tea. It makes it addictive.”

Marie and Sadie find a common ground in their obsession with one another in an era when one is born into a certain class and must adhere to strict and often unspoken rules. “…after discovering an illustration of a costume ball, my long desire to write about the time period of the French Revolution sparked.” Marie mirrors Marie Antoinette and the lifestyle and bourgeois anointments reflect within her character. Sadie is a female depiction of the Marquis de Sade, a nobleman known for his erotic writings. It is within the cloaks of these historic figures that O’Neill reveals these fully formed and detrimental characters in their caged dresses, ready to catch on fire.

Thank You

Thank you to our seasoned and immersive authors, Emily St. John Mandel and Heather O’Neill. It is fruitless to say, but we will never stop counting down the days for new publication dates from both of you.

Thank you to our sponsors: Good Earth Food and Wine Co., Hamilton Philharmonic OrchestraObjects to DesireHome Team Realty GroupMelrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For copies of the evenings books, check out our dear Epic Books for 10% off. A big thank you to our guests for supporting the Grimsby Library!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

Our First Evening: Nita Prose and Jesse Wente

Nita Prose and Jesse Wente ignite the fire that marks the beginning of the 2022 Spring Grimsby Author Series. Both Prose and Wente masterfully demonstrate what occurs when passions live deep within the human heart. Through connection and conviction, both of these debut authors showcase how the truth is key and showing up for your people is imperative. The host of the Grimsby Author Series, Ken Boichuk, gracefully queries the first authors of the season into expressing their journey as prominent bestselling writers.

Nita Prose

Nita Prose made a giant leap. She transformed her knowledge of fifteen years in the publishing world into the release of her very own novel, The Maid. After a bidding war, a movie deal and being published in thirty-three countries, Prose continues to keep us on our toes as she melds uplifting literature with mystery. Nita Prose speaks with such confidence surrounding the creation of her novel; she knows the ins and outs of her characters. “I had [Molly] and my setting because of an experience I had at the London Book Fair…I startled the maid folding my track pants. It is such an invisible job. That lodged in my mind.” A napkin scribble later and Prose had the idea for her #1 bestseller.

“I had [Molly] and my setting because of an experience I had at the London Book Fair…I startled the maid folding my track pants. It is such an invisible job. That lodged in my mind.”

With comparison titles such as the film Knives Out, authors including Agatha Christie and board games featuring Clue, The Maid was bound to be filled with notes of intrigue and sustained foreboding. In a first person narrative the main character, Molly Gray, struggles to interpret the world after the death of her dear Gran who was the compass that guided her. As a maid at the prestigious Regency Grand Hotel, Molly finds solace in her routine. “To think differently should not equal compromise to one’s self,” Prose said. The police do not share this thought when Molly’s peculiar behaviour puts her at the top of the suspect list when a guest is found dead in his hotel room. While Molly adapts to a world of cruelty, she finds support in unlikely characters that begin to emerge at her side. We will be keeping our eyes peeled for the release of the film, The Maid, and more stimulating work from Nita Prose.

Jesse Wente

In 2017, Jesse Wente spoke his truth regarding the most recent cultural appropriation debate at the time. In the aftermath, every major publisher in Canada was leaving Wente messages, urging him to write a book. In September of 2021 his memoir titled, Unreconciled: Family, Truth and Indigenous Resistance was released. His list of accomplishments span far and wide as he shares about his home and passion for diversity and inclusion. Growing up in Toronto meant that colonialism shone brightly when he was seen as “the kid from the city,” while spending time in Serpent River First Nation, a place he now considers home. Jesse Wente, much like his writing, was intentional about his connectedness and reforming bonds. As Ken suggests, “this one is to be read slowly and deliberately,” taking the time to reflect, be hopeful and heal.

“This one is to be read slowly and deliberately.”

Jesse Wente makes space for Indigenous storytellers, a creative outlet he deeply believes in. In Unreconciled, Wente directs away from appropriation and executes his concise standpoint for Narrative Sovereignty, literally translated as “Storytelling, Self-determined”. This system was not applied to Indigenous communities and Wente is introducing a long shift in Canadian culture. As Wente poetically explained, “Let’s not reduce or extract. In creating we give back, restoring balance in this circle.” We look forward to many more creations and collaborations from Jesse Wente.

Thank You

Thank you to our two debut authors who have made an unforgettable break from the gate, Nita Prose and Jesse Wente. We hope to see many more creative projects from both.

Thank you to our sponsors: Roland + Russell, Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, Objects to Desire, Home Team Realty Group, Melrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For copies of the evenings books, check out our dear Epic Books for 10% off. A big thank you to our guests for supporting the Grimsby Library!

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!

More and More from Catherine McKenzie and Iona Whishaw

For the final fall event of the Grimsby Author Series 21st season, two prolific mystery writers joined us from across Canada. Best-selling author’s Catherine McKenzie and Iona Whishaw come to us from Montreal and British Columbia, respectively, to discuss their work. As we dive into their niche inspirations and writing routines, we are thrilled to see that both McKenzie and Whishaw have publication dates already anticipated for their next projects.

Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie’s captivating eleventh novel, Six Weeks to Live, is a multi-narrative that strides quickly across the lives of the characters. Jennifer Barnes is a middle-aged mother diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given six weeks to live. Her adult triplets, Emily, Aline and Miranda guide the reader, along with Jennifer, through the twists, turns and moments of wit. McKenzie, zeroing in on the dialogue between her narrators seamlessly weaves the plot together as Jennifer begins to consider the possibility of a recent poisoning and who might have wanted her dead. “I’ll Never Tell had seven narrators! It’s less backstory, you can shift perspective and spend the story in the present,” said McKenzie, “…but I’ll never do that many again,” she also admits, getting a laugh from Ken.

“I always know the end before I start…you have to know to drop hints throughout.”

Starting her writing career through romantic comedies, McKenzie still found a way to incorporate mysteries into each. Although humour still highlights the darkness within her novels, she is a true mystery writer – former inspiration coming from past obsessions such as Agatha Christie, Dick Francis and Rex Stout. McKenzie writes both by planning and allowing an organic approach, “I always know the end before I start…you have to know to drop hints throughout,” she discloses. The powerful perspective of setting stems from McKenzie’s sense of grounding and space; she is sure to create a location based on somewhere visited or enjoyed to incorporate familiarity.

Before jovially holding up the advanced reader’s copy of her upcoming novel McKenzie discussed some of the excitement behind handing over a project when it is optioned for television. We look forward to much more from Catherine McKenzie in the near future!

Iona Whishaw

Where to begin with Iona Whishaw? Author of short stories, poetry and more, this copious writer presents Lethal Lesson, the eighth novel in the anticipated Lane Winslow Mystery Series. With the ninth on its way in early 2022, Whishaw finds no limitations in her inspiration and the abundance of ideas that become a part of Lane Winslow. “Lane is very clear to me, watching her develop and how she talks. It is clear to me who she is.” Whishaw published her first Lane Winslow book in 2016 and has not looked back since. Lane Winslow, the main character of the series was inspired greatly by her mother who may have had even more inconceivable adventures than Lane herself. “My mother told me she was an intelligence officer in South Africa…she was monstrously good at languages, the same qualities as Lane,” Whishaw confirms. It is through the guiding star of character development that Iona Whishaw honed her connection to Lane and introduced sincere individuals such as Inspector Frederick Darling and Constable Ames.

“Lane is very clear to me, watching her develop and how she talks. It is clear to me who she is.”

“I kill someone off and then spend the rest of the book figuring out how it happened and what circumstances might arise,” Whishaw says when asked about her writing process. She also admits to being surprised by the killer sometimes, “Oh, it wasn’t the person I thought,” and enjoying the awakening her writing continues to enforce.

The cover art of the entire Lane Winslow Mystery Series continues to stun and deliver with its exactness on 1940s design. It is not cheerful like the 1930s, sleek like the 1950s but captures the dullness and ration-filled days while still coming out of war. The creator, based out of Victoria, BC is Margaret Hanson.

Thank you

To Catherine McKenzie and Iona Whishaw, thank you for a powerful evening so full of inspiration surrounding your writing process and showing your deep love for mystery. It was captivating to share a screen with you!

Thank you to our sponsors: Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Objects to Desire. Also to our new sponsors Home Team Realty Group, Melrose Investments and Rosehaven Homes. For more from our authors, including this year’s releases Six Weeks to Live by Catherine McKenzie and Lethal Lesson by Iona Whishaw, visit our ever-wonderful Epic Books in Hamilton.

This blog post was written by our wonderful guest blogger Teanne Teeft, thanks Teanne!