Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel

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Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel are the authors of Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started (Dundurn Press, 2008). The Kickstart blog is at The website is

Alexander Herman received his B.A. from Trinity College Dublin and is currently attending law school at McGill University in Montreal. He has completed a novel, The Toronto Trinity, and his work has appeared in a variety of sources from the Irish Journal of American Studies to the web publication Via Veritatis.

Paul Matthews studied English Literature at Oxford University. His writing has appeared in Toronto Life, Maisonneuve and the Globe and Mail. He has worked for media NGO Journalists for Human Rights and directed three short films, his latest being Point of Light. He lives in Toronto.

Andrew Feindel studied at the Richard Ivey School of Business and the Stockholm School of Economics. He is an Associate with Investors Group Financial Services Inc. and the co-author of True Wealth Management. He lives in Toronto.

Ten Questions with Alexander, Paul and Andrew

Open Book:

Tell us about Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started.


Kickstart is a book based on three-years of interviews we did with successful Canadians from coast to coast. We asked them how they got started – about their early experiences, obstacles, first jobs and more. We were trying to find guidance for our own lives: all three of us were just out of university and looking for first jobs. The book looks at the question “What do I want to do with my life?” and provides a number of answers – all shown through the examples of people as diverse as Karen Kain, Brian Mulroney, Alex Colville and Roberta Bondar.

Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started

By Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel

In 2005, recent graduates Alexander Herman, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel realized they weren't entirely sure where they were going in life. Then they had an idea. Over the next two years, they interviewed 70 well-known Canadians and asked them how they got started. The answers they found were not always what they expected.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

On Copyright

In an op-ed in the Books section of last weekend's Globe and Mail, John Degen, the head of the Professional Writers Association, argued that the panic over copyright in Canada is a false one. After years of defending copyright against those barking online that cultural products should be free (both in terms of access and monetary exchange), Degen ends his piece by declaring that, henceforth, his most recent novel, The Uninvited Guest, will be available as a free pdf download on his website.

Brian Linehan and the Notion of Celebrity

Over the course of this book tour – whether during our twenty-four hour train ride through the rockies or on a park bench in Halifax – I’ve been reading Starring Brian Linehan, a book offered to us writers in residence so graciously by the good folks at McClelland & Stewart. As a biography of the recently deceased Linehan by his good friend – and reputable entertainment writer – George Anthony, the book does a decent job of exploring the psyche of its lead. Linehan was one of Canada’s best celebrity interviewers and, as host of City Lights on the fledgling CityTv during the seventies, was able to meet (and develop strong personal bonds) with many of the most celebrated film stars of the era – from Martin Short to Clint Eastwood.

Farming, Pam's Legs and Elysium

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind. Our book tour, that is. We’d always included it in our plans for Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started. To go around Canada and tell people about the stories we’ve learned from interviewing so many interesting individuals. It was especially important since this book covers the country’s geography. We’ve included everyone from Cape Breton Island’s Annette Verschuren (now CEO of Home Depot Canada) to Vancouver MP Ujjal Dosanjh. And the tour has paid off. In spades. We’ve seen so much of Canada in all its diversity, met so many intriguing (and often hilarious) people, travelled by every form of transport (by foot, train, plane and, yes, automobile) and got to promote our book on television, on the radio, and in print.

Overcoming your inner introvert

Kent Allan Rees, the self-published author of Princess Molly and the Golden Tree (, sent us the following query:

"I have written and self-published my first book. If you could suggest three things to help gain the most exposure, what would they be?"

Here was our paltry and probably unsatisfactory response:

"Great question, and one we struggled with for a very long time. It's also a question most people within the publishing industry can't answer. They employ a very traditional model and seem committed to very traditional steps when it comes to marketing and getting their authors noticed.

Via One (Edmonton - Jasper - Kamloops - Vancouver)

The train was three hours late getting into Edmonton, so our trip didn’t start until after noon. We stalled several times in the outskirts of town and were forced to stare out at parking lots of uhauls and discarded farm equipment for what seemed an eternity. Lunch was already being served, so we went down to the dining car where a slim lady with a French accent handed us menus and took our orders. She told us she lived on one of the Gulf Islands, but that she’d grown up in Quebec City. We asked whether she’d be returning to Quebec for the celebrations that summer. With a shrug, she claimed she couldn’t afford the trip – which we didn’t understand since, presumably, any rail travel she took was free – and, besides, she was now a west coast girl.

The Diving Bell and Marsha Norman

In a DVD extra interview for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, American painter and director Julian Schnabel remarks that he made the film to help his ailing father overcome his fear of death. He goes on to say that, though the film wasn't finished at the point where his father passed on, the making of Diving Bell has at least partially succeeded in expunging the fear in himself.

A Word from Andrew - kinda

Paul here –

I want to try a little experiment. At the moment, Andrew is too busy hyping Kickstart on the tour to write a post. This is a shame, because I think he’d bring a very interesting perspective to Open Book. As a result, I’ve decided to write the following post as Andrew. You see, this is a little bit of a voice exercise. I’m going to try to piece together various conversations I’ve had with him into a coherent and artistically unified piece. As I have previously said, voice is a slippery fish. So, Andrew, don’t get mad if I don’t capture your inimitable buoyancy.

A Heatbreaking Idea of Staggering Genius

Paul here -

So I've made it my daily routine to watch TED Prize speeches every morning. Think of it like Wheaties for the dream reflex. An old family friend of Alex's wakes up at 4 am and reads the Saints Lives every morning as the sun comes up. Me, I log on and listen to people in Monterrey telling me to think big.

Anyway, here is David Eggers talking about a tutoring project he and McSweeney's run in San Francisco. The program's combination of selfless altruism and off-the-wallness made me want to go and set up a Fur Trader Canoe Wash on Queen Street, with tables in the back where kids can meet up with local artists and make stuff. Who's up for starting this?

Writing as Political Act

Paul here -

It's often difficult to remember why you're doing what you're doing. With deadlines to meet and rent to pay and the constant pressure to produce produce produce, it's sometimes hard to remember why you're writing in the first place.

Thankfully, while sitting beneath a tree in Trinity-Bellwoods park today while my landlord showed my apartment to would-be renters, I returned to Noah Richler's This is My Country, What's Yours yet again. There, I found this:

The Kickstart Book Tour Hits Calgary

Andrew Feindel and Alexander Herman met at the Calgary Airport. Andrew was wearing a shirt that read Kickstart: How Successful Canadians Got Started. There were far too many books in each of their bags. They took a taxi, chauffeured by a wild-haired woman of, oh, sixity-five, who took them for a ride through all four quadrants, telling them that no one in Alberta really hated people from Toronto (except when they complained about how "spread out" everything was). Andrew and Alexander found themselves at the door of familiarity and knocked. A friend of a friend answered. Suddenly, they were face to face with hospitality and a place to stay for two nights. Then the real work began...

Everybody Knows this is Nowhere

"I gotta get away from this day to day running around,
Everybody knows this is nowhere."

My friend Andy Bull and I wheel around my dust-caked 98 Tercel coupe, dancing ecstatically for the rising sun. It's March, 2005 and we are in Big Bend National Park in Texas. We have been driving for a month. We have been arrested for accidentally trespassing on US Navy Property. We have been waylaid by police for the "possession of a dubious odour". We have trundled through the heart of the United States of American. And now we are here, in Big Bend, and it feels like the beginning of time.

"Everybody knows this is Nowhere."

Bora Laskin and the Obscurity of the Supreme Court

Does anyone here know much about Bora Laskin? Probably not. And yet he was one of only a handful of people who has left an indelible imprint on Canadian society. If you were to trounce down to Bay Street, or to Osgoode Hall, or to Flavelle House off Queens Park, you would find small communities that worship the man, almost as a saint. But out in the general public? Not a chance.

Who needs real friends...

Paul here -

I know I shouldn't do this. I know that OpenBook is an a quiet oasis on the prurient, trash-clogged net; that it should be reserved for high-minded discussions about semi-colons and the passive voice, but I kinda want to talk a bit about Facebook.

Now, before I get too far with this, you should know I'm a recovering Luddite (who still occasionally re-lapses when things get to be too much). Until just over a year ago, I didn't even have a bloody cell phone. And when my brother, then at Queen's University, spent the better part of his Christmas vacation ignoring his grandmother and looking at photos of undergrads on some hoaky-looking social networking site, I mocked him relentlessly.

Open Book on the Open Road

The authors of Kickstart are about to set out on a book tour across Canada! That's right, the Open Book writers in residence for May will be mortgaging that residence for three weeks in order to explore what lies beyond the 416 (and even the 905). These are our dates and events. Please notify whoever you may know in these places. If you're actually from one of these places and are a frequent visitor to this Toronto literary site... well then, more power to you - and please stop by at one of our events.

May 9-11: Regina, SK

EVENT: Sunday, May 11 at 2:00 pm: Reading and signing at the Book & Brier Patch, 4065 Albert Street

May 12: Saskatoon, SK

May 13-15: Calgary, AB

EVENT: Wednesday, May 14 at 7:00 pm: Reading and signing at the Calgary Central Library, 616 MacLeod Trail SE

The City of Concrete

What does Toronto stand for? Well, it’s a good question and one that I imagine has bugged more than a few contributors to this site. Ever since my earliest memories of moving to the city at the age of four, Toronto has been searching for an identity. At least in my mind. Maybe it’s because I’ve never belonged to one of those lucky groups who rarely seem to lose sleep over questions of Toronto’s civic identity: the hockey players, the bankers, the immigrants. In fact, those groups are likely the best representatives of the city and the uniqueness it has to offer.

Voices are Slippery Fish

Paul here -

I ran into an old friend at a film screening the other day. He had heard about Kickstart and asked, quasi-jokingly, whether I considered myself an author, an editor, or a "compiler." This was a bit of a toughy.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.