The traditional homelands of the Saugeen Ojibwe have been home to my family since the 1850s, when they (un)settled the Queen’s Bush, in what is now southwestern Ontario.
Saugeen means “mouth of the river.” I was born in Southampton, where the Saugeen River flows into Lake Huron.
I’ve lived in the West, the Southwest, New England and Montreal but rooted, always, in the Great Lakes basin. Canada’s innovation hub of Waterloo, Ontario–traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe and Haudenosaunee peoples–is what I now call home.
My field is the well-wrought essay. Creation and critique. I work with artists, activists, scholars and writers to release powerful, disruptive stories.
I am the nonfiction editor of The New Quarterly; associate director of the Wild Writers Literary Festival; faculty at Write on the French River Creative Writing Retreat, and a member of Native Immigrant arts collective, collaborating with Indigenous peoples in the global north and south.
I am a member of the CNFC (Canadian Nonfiction Collective).
Out & About:
Spring 2018: The wayward bride in Appalachia. In 1973 I eloped to North Carolina tobacco country, where I wed, in the woods, a young man I hardly knew. My daughter, Toronto filmmaker Cailleah Scott-Grimes, and I will return to look for those who sheltered (and married) me way back when.
November 15: Returning to Meteque Gallery in Montreal for the MARCHE d’Art NDG.
November 14: The Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize awarded, in Toronto, celebrating Sharon Bala for her compelling New Quarterly story, “Butter Tea at Starbucks.” The $10,000 Journey Prize recognizes emerging talent in Canadian fiction.
November 9, Waterloo, Ontario: Celebrating Sonja Larsen, winner of the 2017 Edna Staebler Creative Non-fiction Award, at Wilfrid Laurier University.
November 3-5th, Waterloo, Ontario: the 6th annual Wild Writers Festival. Chris Banks, Karen Connolly, Emily Donaldson, Kyle Edwards, Alicia Elliott, Stacey May Fowles, Laurie D. Graham, Helen Humphreys, Tasneem Jamal, Anna Ling Kaye, Pasha Malla, Lori McNulty, Alison Pick, Robert Rotenberg, Carrie Snyder, Betsy Warland and Kathleen Winter … literary musings, on a human scale… workshops, panels, interviews, brunch and authors’ after party.
October 26: The New Quarterly champions Jagtar Atwal at the Balderdash Reading Series, at Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU).
October 15: Launch of Foment, literary magazine cued to the Ottawa Writers Festival. Honoured to write the afterword for this year’s edition.
September: “Greeting fields.” A generous grant from the Region of Waterloo Arts Fund awarded me the gift of time in ancestral territory, researching the Bruce County archives in Southampton to write the capstone chapter of my book, Sainted Dirt.
August: TNQ announces Susan Olding as the winner of our Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest. Winner and runner-up, Michelle Kaeser, will be published in our Fall issue (no. 144); shortlisted authors will appear in one of our 2018 issues. Many thanks to Consulting Editor Tasneem Jamal, who makes the process such a joy.
June 20-24th: Writer-in-residence at Gallery Métèque in Montreal (NDG) to celebrate the start of Native Immigrant VII: Tionnhekwen: The Seeds of Life. The residency includes a writing workshop (11-1 PM, June 24th), as well as meetings with artists, writers, publishers and activists to discuss the role of writing in cultural collaboration. I will also be joining collective members in gathering oral histories around Dress # 7, The Seeds of Life installation.
We’re also planning to bring one of these extraordinary installations (dresses) to Waterloo, Ontario, in 2018.
Early June: Writing retreat. One glorious week in Prince Edward County, to work on my CNF collection, Sainted Dirt. The chapter, “Zion’s Children,” was long-listed in the CNFC’s recent contest. Thanks to the contest organizers and to judges willing to take risks on my unorthodox saga about eloping to a commune deep in Appalachia.
Speaking of risks: Body & Soul: Creative Nonfiction for Seekers and Skeptics showcases extraordinary original work by diverse women writers from around the country. What an honour to be editing this anthology. Alison Pick penned the foreword, which will also appear in TNQ 145 (winter 2018). More details in an upcoming post.
May 26th: The New Quarterly wins gold at the 40th annual National Magazine Awards, placing first among literary magazines, and 4th in medal standing overall: gold for fiction and poetry, and honourable mentions for essay and fiction. I had the pleasure of serving as a judge this year, for Best New Magazine Writer. Congratulations to winner Amorina Kingdon, and to the stellar finalists. Celebrate with us at www.tnq.ca
May 5-10: Met some fine storytellers at this year’s Write on the French River Creative Writing Retreat, founded by writer-adventurer, Nicola Ross. Many thanks to colleagues Don Gillmor, Alison Pick and Lindy Mechefske for bracing workshops, and to Brian D. Johnson and Marni Jackson for a candid look at their film, Al Purdy Was Here.
Each year, TNQ partners with the Retreat to offer a scholarship to a resident as well. This year’s winner was the fabulous Eufemia Fantetti. Watch for her post about her experience on TNQ’s blog.
Past winners include: Laura Rock, Lindy Mechefske, Pamela Mulloy and Kirsteen MacLeod—all of whom have gone on to snag book deals related to their work at the Retreat. Hmm, could be there’s something in the water…
April 28th: Arts & Literary Magazines Summit, Toronto. A chance to schmooze with colleagues in person. With 60+ lit mags (and those are the ones in English) across the country, it’s a challenge, keeping up with the surge of changes in the industry. Thanks to this year’s organizers and presenters.
April 20th: announcing the shortlist of nominees for this year’s National Magazine Awards. I had the pleasure of serving as one of three judges for the Best New Magazine Writer. We have incredible talent in this country. My best to all whose names were in the running. Keep digging. The work you do is vital. We need your voice.
Ongoing: TNQ’s diversity project began with introducing emerging writers from a broad range of backgrounds to the trials of breaking into publishing. Jagtar Atwal, Leonarda Carranza and Tamara Jong, in particular, have been our guides since 2016, when we really questioned whose works we were publishing, and why. Anna Ling Kaye, guest editor for TNQ’s summer issue (no. 143), as well as TNQ’s Consulting Editors Lamees Al Ethari and Tasneem Jamal have also been crucial to this process.
You can read more about the project at TNQ’s blog, under The Back Story.
Ongoing: TNQ’s nonfiction feature, Soundings, showcases innovations in spiritual memoir. To date we’ve featured work by Carleigh Baker, Emily McKibbon, K.D. Miller, and Zarqa Nawaz. Forthcoming: Dora Dueck, Sue Goyette, Laura Legge, Alison Pick, and more. Send your queries to email@example.com.