Writing Ontario: Trillium book award nominees on the local spot most important to their writing, and which writer they can’t wait for you to read next

Writing Ontario: Trillium book award nominees on the local spot most important to their writing, and which writer they can’t wait for you to read next
Local authors and local books always hold a special spot in readers hearts as we see our own stories being told, set in places familiar to us. Each year, the Trillium Awards, presented by Ontario Creates, awards books written by Ontario writers, in English and French: for book and for poetry or children’s book. This year we’ve asked the five finalists — the winners are announced June 15 — in the English book category about the influence of Ontario on their writing — and the Ontario writer they think we absolutely have to read. Here’s what they said.

Emma Donoghue, “The Pull of the Stars” (HarperCollins)

1. What Ontario place/space is most important to your writing/writing life? Why?

One Ontario location that stands out for its importance to my writing life is Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. I set the two books of my young readers’ series there, “The Lotterys Plus One” and “The Lotterys More or Less,” because it seemed the perfect setting for a tale of a two-same-sex-couples-and-their-seven-kids multicultural family. Parkdale offers that flavoursome mixture of shabby and glossy, gentrified and ungentrifiable … but I must admit I fictionalized it by adding a ravine.

2. What emerging Ontario writer do we all need to read? Why?

As for a new writer, I’d recommend Karen McBride (an Algonquin Anishinaabe writer based in Ottawa) whose debut novel “Crow Winter” is a moving and humorous story of bereavement with lots of appeal to young adults as well as adult readers — and illustrated by the author, for good measure.

Craig Davidson, “Cascade” (Knopf Canada)

1. Niagara Falls would be, as the majority of my books are set there. It’s basically as I came of age there. St. Catharines specifically, but the whole Golden Horseshoe as it’s called would be the terrain I’ve walked with my very earliest books right until the most recent.

2. I’m afraid with the pandemic and so on I don’t really have my ear to the ground on what great writing talent is emerging in the literary journals or writing programs here in Ontario. If I were a journal editor or creative writing prof, I’d likely have a few emerging talents to keep an eye on. So the writer I’d recommend people read isn’t emerging — he’s been writing as long as I have — but I really enjoyed Pasha Malla’s “Kill the Mall.”

A.F. Moritz, “As Far As You Know” (House of Anansi)

2. I ought to mention many but with great pain and strain I’ll limit myself to two. Antonia Facciponte, Kevin Hardcastle: poetry and prose.

Hardcastle’s far from unknown, but far from known enough. His debut, “Debris” (2015), won the Trillium Book Award among others. His 2017 novel, “In the Cage,” didn’t get as much attention, but is even better. John Irving said it is “faultlessly conceived” and shows Hardcastle’s “abiding sympathy for the neglected rural poor.” Hardcastle’s language is spare, hard, exciting to read. Suspense and literature, realism and meaning, perfectly blended.

Facciponte has just published her first book, “To Make a Bridge.” She has a profound and creative — I’d say crackling, effervescent-grasp of English poetry and at the same time an equally profound thrust to remake it by bringing in her own place and people, all their flavours, customs, sufferings, knowledge … including their own way with words.
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