gritLIT Fundraiser at Gallery on the Bay

Wednesday, 20 November 2013
Gallery on the Bay is one of my favourite places for local literary events. I'm especially excited that their next event is in support of gritLIT, Hamilton's literary festival, which I am on the committee for. If you're looking for a great night of good books and good folks, consider supporting us on Thursday.

We will be joined by Giller and Commonwealth Prize finalist Mary Swan who will read from My Ghosts and fellow Giller finalist (and Hamilton native) David MacFarlane who will read from his latest book, The Figures of Beauty.

Also, for the price of a $2 raffle ticket, you could go home with all three winning titles from the 2013 Hamilton Literary Awards (a $78 value).

Readings start at 7:00pm at Gallery at the Bay, 231 Bay St N. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door or in advance at Bryan Prince, Bookseller.

Bloodlines: Canada Writes

Tuesday, 19 November 2013
A quick post before I leave my desk for the night! Check out my CBC Canada Writes #Bloodlines submission called "Nobody Left to Ask" on the Canada Writes website.

#HamOnt Blog Fair

Sunday, 17 November 2013
Blogging is a strange thing. It's fairly anonymous. It allows me to go to amazing events and read amazing local books and write about them. But the one-on-one facetime is limited. On one hand, this is great for an introvert and overall socially awkward member of society like me. But on the other hand, it means rarely getting to interact (outside Twitter and other social media) with the many other fantastic bloggers Hamilton has to offer.

That's going to change on Sunday with the first #HamOnt Blog Fair, which I'm thrilled to be part of.  

Here are the details from the Facebook page. Hope to see you there!

Come socialize, drink beer and cocktails, and get insight into the minds of those blogging about our ever-evolving city!

Sunday, November 24, 2013
The Casbah, 306 King Street West


I Heart Hamilton Tour (
Cut From Steel (
• This Must Be The Place (
Extreme Nonchalance (
• Not My Typewriter (
The Hungry Gnome (
• Hamilton Small Fries (
Steel and the City(
• Rebuild Hamilton (
Hustle and Glamour (
• 100 Mile Microphone (
• Love It A Lot (
Oh Summer Candy (
• When Words Fail, Photography Speaks (
Greater Hamilton Musician (

Featuring a live performance by alt-electro-dance-rock duo Dear Rouge at 5PM!
Also on hand —  Jonny Blonde Food Truck! 

Giller Prize 2013

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

For the third year in a row, I headed to the second-best place to watch the Giller Prize announcement — Giller Light. As always, it was a wonderful night (See photos below!) This year, the wonderfully talented Lynn Coady took home the prize, and I was lucky enough to write about it for

The following article was originally published here.

Last week, writer Lynn Coady received Canada’s most prestigious literary honour, the Giller Prize, for her short story collection Hellgoing, cementing that 2013 is not only the year of the short story, but also the year of the female writer in mainstream literature.

Coady’s win came less than a month after one of her mentors, Alice Munro, became the first Canadian woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and only the 13th woman since the prize was first awarded in 1901.

"[This award] makes me proud not just to be a Canadian writer, but to be Canadian," said Coady as she tearfully accepted her Giller, adding that she’s especially proud "to live in a country where we treat our writers like movie stars." Coady’s win also marked the first win for Toronto publishers House of Anansi, which is headed by president and publisher Sarah MacLachlan.

Canada has always had its own literary superstars, though many of them have been our own little secrets. In the past month, Canadian authors seem to have been grabbing headlines more than ever, both at home and abroad.

Shortly after Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize win, Canadian-born Eleanor Catton, 28, became the youngest writer ever to win the Man Booker Prize for her 832-page novel The Luminaries.

Alice Munro twice won the Giller Prize (in 1998 and 2004), just two of the many milestones garnered from her remarkable ability to carefully craft sentences that expose the beauty and complexities of everyday life, especially among young women in rural Canada. Similarly, the short stories in Coady’s Giller-winning Hellgoing insightfully capture the ways in which we are all shaped by our relationships to the world and others around us.

There’s no doubt that Munro and Coady’s recent successes would have had CanLit lovers reeling with excitement and pride at any time; however, their wins seem impossibly timed, coming just days and weeks after old, heterosexual, white guy’s guy David Gilmour told Hazlitt magazine (and pretty much everyone else) that only old, heterosexual, white, guy’s guys are worth teaching.

"I’m not interested in teaching books by women," said Gilmour, also adding that he teaches only "serious heterosexual guys," who aren’t Canadian. Or Chinese. After which the Internet exploded, first through passionate reactions on Twitter and other social media, eventually spreading to national and international mainstream news.

Gilmour, who was longlisted for the Giller, but did not make the shortlist, stood by his comments, telling the National Post that Hazlitt reporter Emily M. Keeler "is a young woman who kind of wanted to make a little name for herself, or something."

Gilmour’s remarks garnered headlines, but the news wasn’t all bad. His attitude toward women and literature, and toward Canadian writers in general, sparked a lot of fury, bringing the discussion of women in mainstream literature to the forefront.

The discourse inspired us all to turn toward our own bookshelves to see what we’ve been reading lately. It also gave us all the opportunity to reflect on the endless list of incredible up-and-coming female Canadian writers — Tamara Faith Berger, Ayelet Tsabari, Mariko Tamaki, Saleema Nawaz, Priscila Uppal — who are bringing their unique voices and experiences to Canadian literature, forcing us to read outside of our lived experience (something David Gilmour obviously struggles with).

Also proving that Canadians are engaging in the discourse about women in literature, calling equity and diversity into question, are recent results from Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (CWILA), an organization that tracks statistics on gender representation in reviewing, brings issues of gender, race, class and sexuality into the national conversation, and offers women in the literary arts a support network. reported earlier this year that CWILA’s 2012 numbers, "indicate a real effort [by Canadian literary publications] to take up our call and really change the ways that gender is addressed in terms of equitable representation." The 2012 results showed significant growth in the number of books by female authors reviewed and the number of book reviews written by female reviewers.

The opinions of some old white dudes like David Gilmour aren’t going to disappear over night, and we don’t need national and international awards to prove them wrong. But what is important is the discourse that the past month has inspired.

Right now, people all over the world are talking about the incredibly talented writers that make up Canada’s literary landscape. And here at home, we’re asking ourselves “Why read only the books of old, dead, white guys when we have so many amazing writers using their many unique voices to tell incredible stories here at home?"

Hamilton Literary Awards

The trend of women dominating this year's literary awards continued last night as Miranda Hill, Rachael Preston, and Diana Walsh took home prizes at the Hamilton Literary Awards. The awards, which are presented by the Hamilton Arts Council, celebrated their 20th anniversary last night.

I was lucky enough to read quite a few of the nominated books for Hamilton Magazine, but last night my "to read list" grew longer. This was especially the case after watching Rachael Preston tearfully accept the Kerry Schooley Book Award for her self-published book Fishers of Paradise, which takes place in the wetlands of Cootes Paradise.

Last night's turnout was impressive, as writers and readers gathered to celebrate not only books, but local books, once again proving that Hamilton's literary scene is something we should all be proud of.

Don't Forget

Tuesday, 12 November 2013
The Hamilton Arts Council will be presenting the Hamilton Literary Awards tonight at Theatre Aquarius. For a run down of all the amazing local talent who have been shortlisted, look here, here, and here. Tonight's event marks the 20th anniversary of the Hamilton Literary Awards.

When: Tuesday, November 12th, 2013; doors open at 7:00 PM; ceremony begins at 7:30 PM
Where: Norman and Louise Haac Studio Theatre, Theatre Aquarius, 190 King William St.
Tickets: Admission is FREE and all are welcome
Information: call us at 905.481.3218 or email Stephen at
Facebook: hamiltonliteraryawards

Saturday Trekking

Sunday, 3 November 2013
The nine-kilometre trek between my apartment in downtown Hamilton and my parents' house in Burlington is rife with history. Until a recent Saturday, I had never made the journey by foot to learn more about the history that stands between my parents’ house and mine. In what other nine-kilometre stretch can you find a castle built by a leader of the Canadas, an early 19th-century cemetery with mass graves from a cholera epidemic and the Spanish Influenza epidemic, a royal botanical garden, and battlegrounds from the War of 1812?

Hamilton is a city rich in history and rich in stories. These are just a few of them.

Since 1835, Dundurn Castle, now a National Historic Site of Canada, has been one of Hamilton's most notable landmarks. Anybody who grew up in this area knows from many school trips to Dundurn Castle that it was the residence of Sir Allan Napier MacNab, a lawyer and politician who gave the city its railroad and first bank. Featuring a combination of Classical and Italianate features, today the castle has been restored to the year 1855 and is open to the public.

Urban legend tells us that there are secret underground tunnels built beneath Dundurn Castle, but when we asked our guide on a recent tour she answered (a little bit too quickly), "There are no tunnels!" The grounds also feature the Hamilton Military Museum and a small building rumoured to have been used for cockfighting to entertain guests of Dundurn.

Recently called a "strange little war," the War of 1812 brought soldiers to many battleground in the area, including Burlington Heights, which is also a National Historic Site. Two hundred years ago, Burlington Heights was the stronghold for British troops against the Americans.

My favourite story of the T.B. McQuesten High Level Bridge is the story of its statues — or lack thereof. Each of the four columns that make the bridge so noticeable still have empty niches, originally meant to house statues. Recently, Paul Wilson at the CBC addressed the noticeable gaps:

"As the bridge was being completed, McQuesten contacted four prominent Hamilton families about whether they’d like a bronze statue in the niche. Turns out all four were Presbyterians and an uproar ensued. The niches have been empty ever since."

My favourite photo of the bridge is not one I've taken recently, but a photo of my grandfather skating near the bridge in, I think, the 1940s.

According to Lonely Planet, "With 1000-plus hectares of flowers, natural parklands and a wildlife sanctuary, the Royal Botanical Gardens is only one of six world gardens to be designated 'royal,'" yet despite it being so close to home, I haven't been there in close to two decades. I'll add that to my list of things to do in the Spring.

York Boulevard, which becomes Burlington's Plains Road, has long been of importance to the growth of the city. Before highways began crisscrossing the landscape, York Boulevard was "the pre-Confederation northwest gateway to Toronto." And today, thousands of people drive by every day on their way to and from work without realizing the historical importance of this stretch to the city of Hamilton. Nine kilometres is a long hike, especially in flip flops, but it's one I would recommend in order to better understand this rich city's past.
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