Junction Reads

A Prose Reading Series.



Dayle Furlong is coming to Junction Reads!

A review of Lake Effect and other stories by Dayle Furlong.

Join us for a reading and conversation, Sunday March 26 at 5:00pm ET. Register through EventBrite and you might win a copy of the collection from Cormorant Books.

The very first story in LAKE EFFECT from Dayle Furlong opens with a blockage that “had been disregarded as trash: a cluster of plastic bags, a few water bottles, and what looked like a discarded red jacket, swollen with water, caught in a bushel of cattails.” It is a bloated body, perhaps the missing stepson of the narrator in Tributaries, or another of the boys that keep disappearing in Thunder Bay.

Opening with this story, a reader gets the sense this collection isn’t going to be a light-hearted romp through the small towns surrounding the great lakes, but the opening story isn’t about murder, nor is it about the suspected swim coach. Tributaries is about love and its heartbreaking loss, and perhaps, more importantly, it is about being loved.  

The twelve stories in LAKE EFFECT are about people in places and situations that demand our attention. A chubby woman in a boring marriage obsesses over her younger, hotter next door neighbour while his wife has an affair; a man falls in love with an Iranian woman despite the anti-Muslim hate filling his small town; a woman steals a diamond ring when she discovers her gambling addicted husband has once again threatened their livelihood; a young woman finds the father she thinks abandoned her only to learn the truth her mother tried to hide, and a young ex-heroin-addict sits in jail awaiting news on the fate of a moms and babies program whose end would mean the removal of her son from her care.

These stories ask us to imagine what we might do, who we might be in similar situations. After spending a bit of time with all of Furlong’s characters, I am still wondering about the woman who married a man and moved to Paris at the drop of a hat. I’m still thinking about the ex-wife of the hot next-door neighbour and wondering if she thinks she’s the good guy in her story. And to be honest, I’m now thinking about opening a hot dog stand when I retire.

LAKE EFFECT is a collection filled with maudlin characters you can’t feel sorry for, because they don’t feel sorry for themselves. They get on with it. With precision and an incredible grasp of lyrical and metaphorical language, Dayle Furlong offers up the most glorious people, places and situations. When I read, that he’d curled up like a salted leech, I threw my head back in awe. When I followed Aurora, in Ebb, on her obsessively detailed walk home, I counted the steps with her, I also wanted to know the total number of spilled sugar granules that caught her attention. And when Candace, in What Follows the Falls, finds her new best friend Amy curled up on her daughter’s bed with one of her baby onesies stuffed down her shirt, I cringed. Furlong’s attention to the physical and emotional details is impressive and her accurate portrayals of family, friendships, loneliness, and loss is what will bring me back to her prose again and again.

In LAKE EFFECT, love feels a lot like drowning. If the water doesn’t kill you, you have three choices: dive back in, only go in up to your knees or avoid it altogether.

“Dayle Furlong is the author of the novel Saltwater Cowboys, a 2015 Toronto Public Library Dewey Diva Pick, and a collection of poetry entitled Open Slowly. Her short fiction has appeared in The Great Lakes ReviewThe Puritan, and The Saturday Evening Post. Her fiction has been awarded an Award of Merit from the Summer Literary Seminars international literary competition and was a finalist for the 2018 Curt Johnson Prose Awards in the USA. She is a graduate of the Humber College School for Writers and has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.”

You can purchase a copy of LAKE EFFECT from your local bookstore. Find your closest location through the publisher, Cormorant Books.

Battling the winter blues, one book at a time…

February makes a bridge and March breaks it.

Georges Hebert

We have a few more readings before we call the season over. Still online and still accessible to everyone with a computer or tablet, we are excited to share details, if only to give you something to look forward to in the bleakest of times.

Check back, as we may have more events and news of future in-person events.

On Thursday February 16, join us on Instagram for a live chat with Denise Davy at 7:00pm EST. We are still hosting our The First Thirty events on our @JunctionReads page, so check us out.

From Wolsak and Wynn: “Margaret Jacobson was a sweet-natured young girl who played the accordion and had dreams of becoming a teacher until she had a psychotic break in her teens, which sent her down a much darker path. Her Name Was Margaret traces Margaret’s life from her childhood to her death as a homeless woman on the streets of Hamilton, Ontario. With meticulous research and deep compassion author Denise Davy analyzed over eight hundred pages of medical records and conducted interviews with Margaret’s friends and family, as well as those who worked in psychiatric care, to create this compelling portrait of a woman abandoned by society.”

February 26: We get to sit and chat about historical fiction, specifically war fiction in THE GUNSMITH’S DAUGHTER, with Margaret Sweatman. From Goose Lane Editions.

“1971. Lilac Welsh lives an isolated life with her parents at Rough Rock on the Winnipeg River. Her father, Kal, stern and controlling, has built his wealth by designing powerful guns and ammunition. He’s on the cusp of producing a .50 calibre assault rifle that can shoot down an airplane with a single bullet, when a young stranger named Gavin appears at their door, wanting to meet him before enlisting for the war in Vietnam. Gavin’s arrival sparks an emotional explosion in Lilac’s home and inspires her to begin her own life as a journalist, reporting on the war that’s making her family rich.”

Register on Eventbrite.

On March 26, I get to chat with Dayle Furlong about her beautiful collection of stories, LAKE EFFECT from Cormorant Books.

The humanitarian crisis in Thunder Bay is seen from the perspective of a police officer whose stepson is missing; fearing he will be found, like so many others, in the McIntyre River, his mother’s grief causes an insurmountable rift. Crumbling buildings, high rent and condo developments in Toronto are playfully satirized. A young mother waits inside a Chicago-area prison to find out if funding for the Prison-Mother Baby program will continue. A man drives from Traverse City, Michigan in the midst of a lake effect storm to transport his Iranian-Canadian girlfriend across the border illegally. A Canadian mother befriends an American woman, employed at Target, whose desperation for a baby leads her to seek the advice of spiritualists in Lily Dale, New York.

Register on EventBrite.

On April 16, Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust award-winning author Nicholas Herring joins us to chat about his novel, SOME HELLISH, from Goose Lane Editions.

“Herring is a hapless lobster fisher lost in an unexceptional life, bored of thinking the same old thoughts. One December day, following a hunch, he cuts a hole in the living room floor and installs a hoist, altering the course of everything in his life. His wife Euna leaves with their children. He buries the family dog in a frozen grave on Christmas Eve. He and his friend Gerry crash his truck into a field, only to be rescued by a passing group of Tibetan monks.” Everything changes when Herring is lost at sea for days.

Register on EventBrite.

All of our events – except The First Thirty – are pay what you can. Please consider a paid ticket if you can, as ALL proceeds go to the authors.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch videos of past events.

As one door opens… let the books fall through.

January is named for the Roman god Janus, who presides over the doorways of time. With two faces, he looks both forward and back. It is a month of beginnings and endings, both a time to imagine a new year and reflect on what we’ve left behind. I can’t see anyone hoping for a worse year, so as we all conceive our resolutions to make 2023 better, or at least as good as the last, let’s talk about how books always make things better.

On January 1st, I logged on to my public library account and put five books on hold because just the anticipation of reading a new book makes me feel good, even if I am hold #1000 with only 30 copies across the entire library system. I was also gifted four new books and I can’t tell you how exciting it is to know that underneath the paper existed more characters to meet and more worlds to explore. I also wrapped two books for my husband knowing I will get to read them, too. If only Janus was able to expand time, I’d be able to read ALL the books. For now, the anticipation is good enough to make January a month where I will be looking forward.

January at Junction Reads and The First Thirty will certainly help.

On Sunday January 15 at 5:00pm, we welcome Paul Sunga, with his latest novel, Because of Nothing At All from Goose Lane Editions.

Because of Nothing At All is an engrossing tense, evocative novel about capitalism and power. It is a necessary read in our current world.

“Near the Kenya-Sudan border, a team of international health program evaluators are abducted and force marched under a desert moon. Their pasts and presents — and those of their abductors — unravel before them. An orphan named Money is one of 66 too hungry to sleep. A rich public health doctor is gradually losing his points of attachment. A driver tastes the river of wealth through the vehicles he’s provided. Some escape; others are recaptured; a few are held at ransom. All are lured into schemes that often lead to unexpected results.”

Register on EventBrite and join us on Zoom for a reading and conversation.

On Thursday January 19 at 7:00pm EST, grab your phone and join me for a quick and fun chat on Instagram Live with Nicholas Herring. The First Thirty is our new series where I sit with authors and reflect on their latest work through a writerly lens. How does one craft those first thirty pages or the first thirty words and compel a reader to keep going?

Some Hellish is Herring’s debut novel and it’s getting some attention.

About the novel: “Herring is a hapless lobster fisher lost in an unexceptional life, bored of thinking the same old thoughts. One December day, following a hunch, he cuts a hole in the living room floor and installs a hoist, altering the course of everything in his life. His wife Euna leaves with their children. He buries the family dog in a frozen grave on Christmas Eve. He and his friend Gerry crash his truck into a field, only to be rescued by a passing group of Tibetan monks.

During the spring lobster season, Herring and Gerry find themselves caught in a storm front. Herring falls overboard miles from the harbour, is lost at sea for days, and assumed to be drowned. And then, he is found, miraculously, alive. Having come so near to death, he is forced to confront the things he fears the most: love, friendship, belief, and himself.

Some Hellish is a story about anguish and salvation, the quiet grace and patience of transformation, the powers of addiction and fear, the plausibility of forgiveness, and the immense capacity of friendship and of love.”

Follow @junctionreads on Instagram for more details and join us there. Also, follow us @thefirstthirty so we can get more followers and host our new series there.

On January 29, Dan K Woo joins us at Junction Reads for a conversation about, and reading from, his collection of short stories, Taobao from Wolsak and Wynn.

“In twelve spare, fable-like short stories Dan K. Woo introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters from different regions of China. From rural villages to bustling cities, Woo deftly charts the paths of young people searching for love, meaning and happiness in a country that is often misunderstood in North America. Whether they are participating in a marriage market to appease their mother, working as a delivery boy in Beijing or dealing with trauma in a hospital in Shanghai, we see these young people push against both tradition and the lightning-fast economy to try and make their way in often difficult situations. Woo brings remarkable empathy to these dreamlike stories and their twists and turns, which will linger long in readers’ minds.  Through it all, the spectre of Taobao – China’s online retail giant – hovers, providing everything the characters might need or want, while also acting as a thread that ties together a captivating and complex collection of stories set in a captivating and complex country.”

Register on EventBrite. This is a PWYC event, with all proceeds going to the author.

Some of you may be wondering, when the heck is Junction Reads returning to in-person events? It’s been busy for all of us, with new jobs, new promotions and new stories needing our attention. We have been in talks with an event space (a fabulous bookstore), and have every hope of getting back in the Spring. We believe Covid is still a risk to many in our community and that accessibility means our events need to be safe and welcoming to all. When we get back, we will require masks at all our events.


We have a busy month ahead with four great books and four fabulous authors joining us for conversations about their new books.

Subscribe to our Youtube channel because if you miss any of our live events, you can find the videos there.

Register for our Junction Reads events, and you might win a copy of the book from the publisher. Follow us on Instragram @thefirstthirty and @junctionreads and join us for our live events,

On November 10, I am going to chat with Elaine McCluskey about writing her varied and vibrant collection of stories, Rafael has pretty eyes. from Goose Lane.

The seventeen stories in Elaine McCluskey’s latest collection, Rafael Has Pretty Eyes, follow characters who have reached a four-way stop in life; some are deciding whether to follow the signs or defy them; others find a sinkhole forming beneath their feet. Set in the Maritimes but transcending regional boundaries, McCluskey’s stories are experimental, sometimes provocative, and often about those living on the margins. Smart, compassionate and unsparing, Rafael Has Pretty Eyes explores the absurdity and interconnectedness of a life adrift.

Purchase your own copy, directly from the publisher or your local independent book shop.

On Sunday November 13 at 5:00pm EST, Margaret Nowaczyk returns to Junction Returns with her latest book, A Memoir of Genetics, Mental Health and Writing, Chasing Zebras from Wolsak and Wynn.

“From leaving Communist Poland to enduring the demands of medical school, through living with a long undiagnosed mental illness to discovering the fascinating field of genetics, plunging into the pressures of prenatal diagnosis and finally finding the tools of writing and of narrative medicine, Margaret shares a journey that is both inspiring and harrowing. This is a story of constant effort, of growth, of tragedy and of triumph, and most of all, of the importance of openness. In the end, Dr. Nowaczyk invites us all to see that “life is precious and fragile and wondrous and full of mistakes.” And to keep trying.”

Register on EventBrite. PWYC. Tickets are $0-20 and all proceeds to the author. You could win your own copy from the publisher.

On Thursday November 17 at 7:00pm EST, join us on Instagram Live, for a conversation with Nataša Nuhanović about writing and her delicate and heartbreaking love story, The Boy’s Marble from Guernica Editions..

“A boy and girl promise to meet at midnight on a bench halfway between their apartments, and run away together, only the boy never comes. Twenty years later in Montreal, she meets someone who reminds her of the boy and wonders whether it could really be him. A brilliant anti-war story that wakes the reader in hope and love, and helps understand just how useless, meaningless and absurd war really is.”

Follow us and share @junctionreads and @thefirstthirty.

On Sunday November 27 at 5:00pm EST, we welcome back Catherine Graham with her latest novel, The Most Cunning Heart from Palimpsest Press.

“In the early 1990’s, Caitlin Maharg, grieving the loss of her parents, leaves everything she knows in Canada for Northern Ireland to pursue her love of poetry while living in a cottage by the Irish Sea. Feeling like a child again in a distant land still affected by the Troubles, she is haunted by the secrets her parents’ deaths unearthed. In her longing for emotional closeness, she befriends Andy Evans, a well-known poet with a roguish charm. Their attraction soon leads to a love affair. Flouting the paisley headscarf of respectability, she plunges into a relationship that gives her an entry to the literary world, but at a price. Filled with insights into grief, longing and creativity, The Most Cunning Heart is a novel about how a quiet heroine learns to navigate deception, love and loss.”

This is a PWYC event. Register and you might win a copy of the book from the publisher.

Interview with Anna Dowdall

The end of last season was a rush. We were all racing to the summer and the relaxing sunny days ahead. If you missed our event with Anna Dowdall on May 5, you can check out the video of our event here.

APRIL ON PARIS STREET was released by Guernica Editions in October 2021.

“In April on Paris Street, a Montreal private investigator of half-Abenaki heritage takes a case that looks like old-school damsel in-distress rescue but that then turns into something unnervingly different. The narrative weaves working class Ashley Smeeton’s personal story (trying to connect with her Abenaki relatives, the death of a grandmother she’s hardly known, an ill-considered fling with a handsome vaurien) into the story of the privileged young woman, Mirabel Saint Cyr, whose fashion mogul husband hires her.” It is a gorgeous novel that takes the reader on a journey through Montreal and Paris.

APRIL ON PARIS STREET is filled with incredibly complex and duplicitous characters. The story itself feels like background to the lively characters. It is much like an Agatha Christie novel, where you can imagine each character having a novel to themselves. You also mention the Orient Express at one point. I wonder if you’d talk about any literary or creative influences?

How can I deny the influence of Agatha Christie and why would I want to?  Utterly without pretension and highly accessible, her books are genius.  But my influences are probably a real mix of this and that. I love Ursula Curtiss, and my first book, After the Winter, meant to read fallaciously like mid-century romantic suspense, is a tribute to her.  Then there’s Rebecca West, for the admirable subtlety of her female characterizations. Lucy Montgomery is probably partly responsible for my love of immersive setting. And if Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins can have all over the place “run on” plots, why can’t I?  And, finally, there is nothing UK screenwriter Sally Wainwright has done that I haven’t wanted to imitate. 

The women you write are strong and determined, even when others think they’re indecisive or weak. Creating a book filled with very different multi-dimensional women must be a challenge.

Can you talk about characterization and how, as a writer, you approach character development?

I’ve been drawn to writers whose female characterizations are considered ground-breaking or at least in some way unusual. In crime fiction, it is so easy to fall into sexist gender tropes. There is a prevalence of female victims in books by both male and female writers.  I cracked a Canadian hard-boiled crime story recently, saying I’d stick with it if the first female character wasn’t a hooker. Not only was she a hooker, but she also didn’t show up until page 81. In some ways what I do is almost elementary. I try to create female characters who don’t stab each other in the back; don’t talk about men all the time; take centre stage in the book; have a wide range of human preoccupations, and whose behaviour can be very unexpected. In crime fiction, this latter element is part of how a writer can misdirect the reader. You hit the nail on the head in your question, and the depths and strengths of women in my books are part of the reveal. My three novel endings one way or another are meant to be feminist repliques to commercial crime fiction with its voyeuristic female victims and typical endings.          

There are several doubles in the novel. Some we cannot mention, but near the beginning of the novel, there are two women named Mira, thugs described only as Thug One and Thug Two and other paired characters who work together to bring the story to the page. Can you talk about this in APRIL ON PARIS STREET, and how doubles work to amplify the tension and conflict in the writing?

A probing question. I’m not sure I can answer it fully. I have had a lifelong obsession with doubles. Maybe I am a little double myself, one way or another? But…having dumped all the doubles I could think of, related to form, plot, setting and character, into April on Paris Street, I guess I can stand back and say, almost as a reader, that they add to the uncanny feeling of the story, of things not being ever quite what they seem.  Maybe almost philosophical, as if I want to portray an uncertain world of ramifying and duplicating realities, even of eternal returns.  However, I hope I’m not as nuts as Nietzsche, although everybody should be a little bit crazy once in a while.  

Ashley is a working Private Investigator, and the Saint Cyr case is not her only job. In many novels with a PI as the lead character, we don’t get to see other cases they are working on. I couldn’t help but wonder if the ones in APRIL may appear again in a future novel. Can you talk about your choice to include such detail with the other cases?

It was part of my need to embroider motifs of doubleness wherever I could. The other cases are like mini plots, reflecting on and modifying the main plot and the theme, ie, betrayal where you least expect it. The neighbour’s wrong un boyfriend isn’t such a wrong un. The overworked pediatrician’s husband on the other hand exemplifies the double life. Etcetera. My second book, The Au Pair, explores a theme of tragic plagiarism and I also work in snippets of another plagiarism case, with comic overtones, to foreshadow the direction of my main plot. I do this type of thing almost automatically. I’m like a bower bird sorting my objects and colours, only they are themes and variations on themes. I could easily use these in future books! April on Paris Street ends with Dominique of the bright green eyes gone missing in the mysterious east (end.) Maybe Ashley will be hired to look for her.   

You do such a fine job of describing in vivid sensual details the surroundings in the novel: the cold, the wind, the darkness. How does physical space play a role in your storytelling?

Thank you for your kind words. The “place” of the story is the world I need to wander around in as I write. Again, it’s not a deliberate choice as much as a natural predilection. Even as a kid, I always preferred books that built a very complete world, in both its natural and human-made aspects. The interplay between setting and character fascinates me, as it is subtler than the tango between character and plot and captures the impalpable via mood. In crime fiction in particular, setting’s menacing and unknown aspects are a gorgeously ambiguous interactive frame for the unfolding story. Place, in my estimation, is what contributes magic to stories.

Paris and the Parisian Carnival really come alive in the book. Have you spent time there? Have you gone to Carnival? Have you been to a masquerade party? I’d love details on the research.

I was raised in a French-Canadian community and participated in many local Carnavals as I was growing up. I once won a prize as a Pierrette on skates. I love Paris, who doesn’t, and have spent much time there, in modest hotels in sketchy parts of the city. And I did spend five days in Paris, just researching Carnaval. I went to the research centre of the Archives Nationales de Paris, the archives of Le Figaro, a Musée Carnavalet special exhibit, and there were relevant collections at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée Bourdelle too.

Ashley meets her father’s family for the first time in APRIL ON PARIS STREET and it is a complex relationship, given she didn’t grow up with Abenaki traditions and culture. How much will you dive into this with her if she appears in the next novel?

I don’t know! But probably quite a bit if she is to feature in a future book. However, to keep things fresh, I might invent a mysterious and just discovered half-sister, who dies in problematic circumstances perhaps. Just to add a wrinkle. That, by the way, is a contrivance of my first book, After the Winter. No matter how detailed my characterization, I like to place my rounded characters adjacent to fairy tale and fable plot elements. I’ll never write social issue novels, although I adored reading them when I was younger.

From Guernica Editions:
Anna Dowdall was born in Montreal and recently moved back there, which surprised no one but her. She’s been a reporter, a college lecturer and a horticultural advisor, as well as other things best forgotten. Her well-received domestic mysteries, After the Winter and The Au Pair, feature evocative settings and uninhibited female revenge, with a seasoning of moral ambiguity and noir. She reads obscure fiction in English and French and thinks Quebec is an underrecognized mise en scène for mystery and domestic suspense.

Junction Reads is growing!

We are so excited to share the news that Sarah Campbell is joining Junction Reads. The best news? She will be our Social Media Coordinator and I cannot be more thrilled to have her join the team! Look out for more posts with recommended reads, reading events and other bookish things.

Sarah Campbell is a writer, a Roots Of Empathy Instructor and a lover of all things pop culture. When she isn’t reading she also writes book reviews for 49th Kids ( Most recently, she has been published in the Quarantine Review. She and her husband, their two sons and dog Bingo live in Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow her at Pink Fish Reads.

Our life is March weather…

“Our life is March weather, savage and serene in one hour. We go forth austere, dedicated, believing in the iron links of Destiny, and will not turn on our heel to save our life: but a book, or a bust, or only the sound of a name, shoots a spark through the nerves, and we suddenly believe in will.” ―Ralph Waldo Emerson

March is a month full of promise. Nature is changing. The sun shining through a window might actually mean it’s warm outside. It’s when I start thinking about my summer reading list. Here are two more books you might consider adding to your TBR pile.

March 6 at 5:00pm EST.

Home of the Floating Lily from Silmy Abdullah is “set in both Canada and Bangladesh, the eight stories in Home of the Floating Lily follow the lives of everyday people as they navigate the complexities of migration, displacement, love, friendship, and familial conflict. A young woman moves to Toronto after getting married but soon discovers her husband is not who she believes him to be. A mother reconciles her heartbreak when her sons defy her expectations and choose their own paths in life. A lonely international student returns to Bangladesh and forms an unexpected bond with her domestic helper. A working-class woman, caught between her love for Bangladesh and her determination to raise her daughter in Canada, makes a life-altering decision after a dark secret from the past is revealed. In each of the stories, characters embark on difficult journeys in search of love, dignity, and a sense of belonging.” From Dundurn Press.

Register on Eventbrite. You can win a copy of the book courtesy of Dundurn. PWYC. All proceeds to the author.

March 27 at 5:00pm EST

The Marriage of Rose Camilleri by Robert Hough. “When Rose Camilleri and Scotty Larkin meet, neither expects to spend a lifetime together, navigating a sometimes turbulent marriage and scraping through the process of raising a family. When he first enters the bakery where she works, she is a new arrival from the tiny island nation of Malta, fond of rabbit stew and Hollywood cinema. He is a thoughtful printer’s assistant recently released from juvenile detention after stealing and swiftly totalling a stranger’s car. Even after years of marriage and two children together, Rose struggles to shake the idea that perhaps she should have held out for someone as voluble and optimistic as herself. But while some marriages are weakened by trauma, Rose and Scotty’s union is strengthened by the act of survival, and they find their own kind of happiness along the way.” From Douglas & McIntyre

Register on Eventbrite. You can win a copy of the book courtesy of Douglas & McIntyre. PWYC. All proceeds to the author.

While you’re here, would you consider subscribing to our YouTube Channel? As we start planning our return to in person events, it is important we continue to serve the audience, and authors, in communities outside Toronto. This means we have to master our live-streaming skills. Getting more than 100 subscribers will help us do that.

Interview with Lindsay Zier-Vogel

On February 6, I sat down Lindsay Zier-Vogel to talk about her debut novel, Letters to Amelia. Published by Book*hug Press, it is part epistolary, part historical and all love! We talked about letter-writing, motherhood, and Amelia Earhart. What I felt so deeply in our conversation was love. Lindsay’s passion for letter-writing; her love of history, and her experiences as a mother are all bound up in this gorgeous novel and I hope you will all get a chance to read it.

You can check out the video of our full conversation and reading here.

The novel opens in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. You also have your own handbound books there and I urge people to go and see them. Can you talk about your experiences with the TFRBL and how it influenced the writing of Letters to Amelia?

I just love that library! I spent quite a bit of time there while I was doing my Masters and before I knew who the characters were in Letters to Amelia, or what the plot was, I knew I wanted it set there. I’m so grateful to John Shoesmith, the outreach librarian at the Fisher, who took me on tours of the backend of the library (deeeeeep into the sub-basement!) and answered all of my very practical questions about the realities of working in a library.

The letters between Amelia Earhart and Gene Vidal feel so real and authentic I had to look up whether they were in fact fictional. There must have been a lot of research that went into writing these letters. What inspired them? Were there other writers or biographers who were particularly influential?

I looked at a lot of Amelia’s archived and digitized letters that are housed at Purdue University to get a sense of her handwriting and the physicality of the letters. I originally hoped Amelia’s books and many articles would provide an entry into her written voice, but I found them to be quite formal and highly edited, lacking the personal quality I was looking for. Eventually, I found a collection of letters she wrote to her mother from when she was four years old until her disappearance—Letters From Amelia: An Intimate Portrait of Amelia Earhart by Jean L. Backus—and reading these letters unlocked her voice for me.

The heartbeat of the story for me is love, particularly motherlove. Amelia Earhart is this fearless, grounded, big dreamer and Grace is so afraid she won’t be able to raise a fearless dreamer. How did your experience as a mother affect/influence the story?

The story really took shape when I was very pregnant with my second child, and though I had taken many running starts, I began writing the book as it currently exists when she was a newborn. It was so helpful to be just on the other side of pregnancy to be able to write about the experience, something I couldn’t have done when I was deep inside the reality of it with my first child.

“I found a collection of letters (Amelia) wrote to her mother from when she was four years old until her disappearance…reading these letters unlocked her voice for me.”

Lindsay Zier-Vogel

I love when I read a novel and am introduced to characters so vivid, they could have their own novel, or short story: Patrick (a priest for 30 years); Jenna and Eric and their pregnancy dreams; Pat and Mike in Newfoundland. Do you create sketches or profiles for tertiary characters?

Patrick and Pat and Mike came very clearly, very quickly in early drafts, but it took a few passes before I really figured out Jenna and Eric’s stories. My writing group is in love with Patrick and they are petitioning for fan fiction about Patrick. I ended up cutting a lot of Patrick scenes and they’re still in mourning about it.

Grace takes an Internet dive into all the theories/conspiracies behind Amelia’s disappearance. Do you have your own theory? What are your thoughts on this obsession?

I, like Grace, prefer to focus on Amelia’s deep, rich life, rather than focusing on her disappearance. She was such a remarkable human and is so much more than her death. It’s pretty rare that someone truly disappears, which I think it what fuels the obsession with finding out THE TRUTH (all caps!), and I also think the impossibility of ever finding out what happened also fuels that often-obsessive search. My theories vacillate depending on the day. Some days I think she crashed into the ocean, some days I think she and Fred landed on Nikumaroro, though thinking of her agony is often too much for me to bear.

“People often say putting a book out into the world is like birthing a human, but for me it feels more like sending a kid out in the world—it’s so exciting and a little terrifying, but mostly just so wonderful.”

Lindsay Zier-Vogel

Have you written any more letters to Amelia since completing the novel?

I have! One! I wrote it the day the novel came out—on September 7, 2021. I took a picnic and the book to the lake, and sat on the edge of the water, where Amelia fell in love with flying and wrote her another letter.

At the heart of the novel is love and reading Letters to Amelia it’s all I felt. Love and a strong connection to you as its author. How did it feel putting the final touches on LTA and then seeing it in print?

Holding this book in my hands is truly a dream come true. Seeing the words (my words!) in print is surreal and still just so thrilling. As soon as it had a spine, and those beautiful end papers, it stopped being just mine, and now exists out in the world. People often say putting a book out into the world is like birthing a human, but for me it feels more like sending a kid out in the world—it’s so exciting and a little terrifying, but mostly just so wonderful.

Lindsay Zier-Vogel is a Toronto-based writer, arts educator and the creator of the internationally-acclaimed Love Lettering Project. After studying contemporary dance, she received her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto. Her writing has been widely published in Canada and the U.K. Since 2001, she has been teaching creative writing workshops in schools and communities. Her hand-bound books are housed in the permanent collection at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. As the creator of the Love Lettering Project, Lindsay has asked people all over the world to write love letters to their communities and hide them for strangers to find, spreading place-based love. Lindsay also writes children’s books. Because of The Love Lettering Project, CBC Radio has deemed Lindsay a “national treasure.” Letters to Amelia is her first book.

An interview with Hollay Ghadery

I sat down with Hollay Ghadery on November 7, to talk about her beautiful memoir, Fuse. It is a collection of memories expressed like short stories, that bring together Hollay’s life experiences and her sometimes raw and always honest reflections on mental illness, addiction, motherhood, family, and growing up biracial. It is truly one of the most poignant and self-reflective memoirs I’ve ever read. I was in tears at many moments while reading.

You talk about how these “truths all came tumbling in and they didn’t come in a manner that made sense” Were there any essays that didn’t make it into the book, or moments that didn’t find space in an essay?

Yes, there definitely were. Sometimes, the stories didn’t make it in because ultimately, I realized they weren’t my stories to tell. They belonged to family members or close friends. Other moments didn’t make the cut because they were not closely linked enough to my thesis—which is saying a lot because my thesis, in many ways, casts a broad net. Then there were stories that are mine but I am not yet ready to tell. Maybe I never will be. Not including them doesn’t make the stories I did share any less valid, nor does not detract from the momentum of the book overall. At least I don’t think so. I told the stories I did tell honestly. As for the stories I didn’t…well, I don’t owe anyone all of me.

The essays in FUSE are so deeply intimate, there are moments when I can feel the courage it took to bear so much pain. Did you know with each essay how deep you were going to go? Were there moments when you questioned whether you were sharing enough or not enough?

I often didn’t know until I got there. At times, I had to prod myself to go deeper—to not settle at what Adele Wiseman calls “secondhand epiphanies.” Of course, many of the experiences I discuss are common, and experienced by millions of other people, but the precise way in which each individual feels the shared experiences is unique. I wanted to tap into the current of shared experience while also exposing what makes my experience worth telling. This was tough, both in terms of craft and personal vulnerability. 

“I wanted to tap into the current of shared experience while also exposing what makes my experience worth telling. This was tough, both in terms of craft and personal vulnerability.”

Hollay Ghadery

The book is dedicated to your family and you mention in the foreword how afraid you were readers wouldn’t see how much you love them given how honest you are about your experiences growing up. I really felt the love, but I wonder how has the experience been for you and your family?

My immediate birth family has not read the book, so there’s little to report on this front. I know they haven’t read Fuse because they would find the experience too unsettling and I can appreciate that. There’s a large part of me that’s relieved, because no matter how much love I put into the book, I know my parents in particular would feel raw. I’d feel raw having them read it too.

My husband read the book long before it was published and was supportive, and my kids are proud that I wrote a book, but don’t have any interest in reading it at the moment. The stories they are in I have read to them, and they were comfortable with their inclusion.

Members of my extended family have read the book and have been wonderful and supportive. I’m grateful for them.

Motherhood is a strong theme that runs through the book. Both your relationship with your own mother and your experiences as a mother of four. As a mother, I was so moved by the moment with Nuala in bed when you say, “It’s strange how I’m an endless comfort for them and I’ve never been one for myself.” So many of your the moments with or about your kids I think about how hard it is to be a mentally healthy role model when we’re in the midst of our own crises. Do you hope when your kids are older they will read FUSE?

I do, yes. And I think they will. I hope they will see how much they mean to me, and how much I try to get better for them. I also hope they’ll see how none of us are infallible, and it’s not only okay not to be okay, but it’s absolutely normal to not be okay.

You recently published a piece of flash in Sledgehammer, and I laughed that when you shared it, you mentioned your husband Matt is not the man in the shower. Do you feel this conflict with fiction that is also very intimate in subject matter? That with your essays being out in the world, people might think that your fiction is also truthful?

I’m absolutely certain some readers will think my fiction is based on my life. I have been delighted to have people tell me they feel like they really know Matt and I after reading the book—that they have a sense of who we are. And they probably do!

My fiction is fiction, though. Of course, there are parts from my real life that I draw on to inform some (not all) of it.

But Matt was not the guy in the shower.

Here’s the story, if anyone wants to read it. Caviar, in Sledgehammer Literary Journal

It’s more typical for people with a confluence of challenges like what you’ve experienced, to go under, and remain quiet. Whether it is the stigma, loneliness, fear of judgement or myriad other reasons. How do you remain solid while remaining so exposed? Does the vulnerability not overwhelm you?

It can be overwhelming, but what overwhelms me more is not talking about it. I’ve seen what silence can do. I’ve spent most of my life being quiet. I’m terrified of that. It almost killed me. I can handle the stigma.

“I’ve seen what silence can do. I’ve spent most of my life being quiet. I’m terrified of that. It almost killed me.”

Hollay Ghadery

The essays are not structured chronologically. How did the essays come to you and how did you decide the order in which they appear in the book?

The essays were triaged: which one felt the most urgent to tell (it was the title essay, Fuse, for the record), and which came later on, when things felt less desperate (Monster was the last essay I wrote, after the book was already accepted for publication).

The order was another matter. There was some moving around and earlier editors and readers helped with some of that. For me, the order reflected my trying to establish the issues first, and then explore them further as the book progressed.

I’d like to say the process of ordering the book was very intentional on my part, but it was really…a feeling. The final order of the book was done by instinct more than logic. Like with memories, how they jump around but are connected. I tried not to overthink it too much and ordered the chapters in ways that felt organic.

Hollay Ghadery is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and a writing consultant with River Street Writing. Hollay earned her BAH in English Language and Literature from Queen’s University, as well as her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her short stories, poetry, non-fiction, and reviews have appeared in literary journals across Canada, including The Malahat Review, Grain, Understorey, The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead, and Room. FUSE is her first book of non-fiction. Hollay lives in small-town Ontario with her family.

You can purchase Fuse directly from Guernica Editions and from your local independent bookstore.

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