Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Marianne Paul

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Marianne Paul lives in Kitchener, Ontario. Her novels include Tending Memory (BookLand Press, 2007), Twice in a Blue Moon (BookLand Press, 2007), Dead Girl Diaries (BookLand Press, 2009) and The Shunning (Moonstone Press, 1994). Her fiction, non-fiction and poems have appeared in publications such as Vox Feminarum, Cahoots, Canadian Author, Western People and The New Quarterly. She is the recipient of the 2006 Canadian Aid Literary Award, the Okanagan Fiction Award and Kitchener-Waterloo Arts Award for Writing.

Literacy is a cause about which Marianne is passionate. She is the author of Literacy is a Family Affair and Let's Play Literacy, as well as many other books and research projects that deal with the importance of reading. Marianne is a member of The Writers' Union of Canada and the Canadian Authors Association.

Marianne's house is full of stories half-done and underway - her husband, Bob, is also a writer. Their daughter, Samantha, is a choreographer and dance teacher and adds a layer of music and movement to the mix. Marianne grew up in Brockville, Ontario. Her father provided for the family of five children by working in a factory. His strong work ethic shaped Marianne's approach to writing. Her mother inspired her love of reading and her affection for words and the imagination.

Marianne Paul's website is Her blog is

Ten Questions with Marianne Paul


What was your first publication and where was it published?


My first short story was “Tea” in a magazine called Potboiler. I wrote that story half a lifetime away, when I was in my mid-twenties. Getting it published, even in such a small magazine, helped me realize that I could be a writer.


Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Looking for the Miraculous

I haven’t seen an angel in a water spot on my ceiling, or the Virgin Mary in the shape of a potato, or the face of Jesus on a scorch mark on the bottom of my iron, or the Son of God in the lines and wrinkles of a cinnamon bun. Maybe I lack the vision. Maybe I lack the creativity. Maybe I lack the faith. The truth of the matter is - and by that I mean matter literally, concrete existence - I’ve never looked out into the physical world and seen the Holy Family.

Other people have spotted them easily enough, Jesus and Mary and the Archangel Gabriel in the here and now. It’s a story that repeats itself like Christmas, resurfaces in news reports at least once a year, holy sightings in fruit and tree bark and paint chips, in the markings on calves and the forehead of horses.

So Long, Marianne

It’s been a fun gig. OpenBook is a wonderful website, so vibrant and alive. Kudus to the OpenBook staff for keeping the site up and running in such a smooth and seemingly effortlessly way. Anything that appears to be effortless never is - it always comes as the result of careful thought and behind-the-scenes hard work.

I've Been Kicking Butt...

I’m one of those people who claims she doesn't believe in astrology, and then reads her horoscope each day. I’m also one of those people who claims she pays no attention to what the horoscope predicts, but sighs with relief when the planets are aligned in her favour. It all comes down to stories. Everybody loves a story – good or bad - and when you’re the main character of that story, my stars, what could be better than that? Take today’s horoscope: “After all your recent butt-kicking, it’s time for you to do something lovely and relaxing. Get outside and go for a nice walk.”

Out on a Limb

My husband went out on a limb today. Way out on a limb. Climbed the chestnut tree in our backyard with a dexterity that proves once and for all that man (but not necessarily women) evolved from apes. Three stories up, to give you an idea of height, if he were scaling the side of an office building in downtown Toronto. Climbing that tree was a spontaneous act. It’s not like he woke up and rolled over and said, okay, Marianne, this morning before I go to work, after I’ve shaved, and found a clean shirt and pants and matching socks (which isn’t always easy in our house), right when I’m about to leave for a meeting, I’m going to climb the tree in the backyard.

You're So Obama

I love language, the way it is alive, squirms to go its own way like a naughty child, even with the best efforts of purists to keep a firm grip on it. But anybody who has a kid knows the kid usually gets her own way. Breaks free, goes wild, stays out all night, parties, drinks, does drugs, has sex. Okay, okay, not every kid, and for the record, not MY kid. (I’m covering my butt, just in case she drops by OpenBook and reads this post). I’m just sayin…

No matter, the child thing is simply a metaphor. What I’m really thinking about is language, how this lovely balancing act occurs between grammar-perfect “correct” language, and common-usage language. It’s in this balance that the most expressive communication, dare I say the best writing, occurs.

One Book I Won't Be Buying

I spend a lot of money on books. I have no patience with writers who won’t spend money on books, and even less patience with writers who don’t read much. And I’ve come across both over the years.

It’s a tough business, book selling, book publishing, book writing. If writers won’t support it, how can they expect others to do so? When I think about the cost of a large pizza with all the toppings compared to the price of a book… sheesh… buy the book.

I admire people who get into the book publishing business, and stay in the publishing business, especially at a time when there is so much uncertainty, the electronic media changing the face of publishing and communication.

The Breadwinner Trilogy

The story is fictional, I know, yet I cried when I read the YA book, The Breadwinner Trilogy, by Deborah Ellis. Parvana and Shauzia – the Afghan girls who hide their gender, dress and act as boys, risk their lives to venture out of their houses and into the marketplace to earn bits of money so that their families can survive – are not real.

For every tale writers put together, every plot they imagine, there is a person who has experienced something similar, whether an event upon which the book is based, or a theme that is central to it, such as loss. The stories that novels tell are rooted in reality.

What's Going On in Your Writing Headspace?

Do you see the words within your mind when you write, or do you hear them as if spoken aloud? It’s a strange question, I know, and one I would never have thought about if Netty hadn’t asked it in a piece of writing she brought to our writing circle. You might remember her from another post. She’s my poet friend.

I write. I read. To borrow a phrase from Nike, I just do it. Sometimes I think about the mechanical process of writing and reading, how adults acquire literacy skills. I know that new readers often read in a strictly linear way, word by word. If they don’t recognize a word they stop, stumped, and don’t continue. They handle a book the same way, start at the front, and work through page by page to the back.

Blame it on Glenn Gould

Spent yesterday “bagging” writing. Didn’t write a word. It was glorious. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love to write, but sometimes, I love not to write. To give it all a rest. The pause between actions. Glenn Gould came to mind when I wrote those words, the pause between actions. The process of writing is like that - the most unexpected connections pop up.


Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. I’d chant that verse with my little girl nose up in the air in a “holier-than-thou” way in response to name-calling or other playground taunts. It’s rather surprising I didn’t suffer a beating, that some smart-ass kid didn’t say, okay, you asked for it, I’ll hurl sticks and stones at you instead of words. The playground can be a war zone.

A Rule of Silence

I thought it would be difficult, to follow a rule of silence. Four women writers sharing a house for two weeks and no conversation throughout the day, not even a simple good morning at breakfast. We would remain silent until we gathered for our evening meal.

Silence was not a guideline or a suggestion, but the central part of the agreement when accepting a residency at the Norcroft writing retreat for women, located on the American side of Lake Superior. Silence included no talking, no music, no landline telephone, no internet, no television, no visitors.

Is it Book Removal or Book Banning?

Grade 10 students at a Brampton secondary school won’t be studying To Kill a Mockingbird in English class this fall. Their principal has taken the novel off the curriculum after a complaint from a parent. The Dufferin-Peel-Catholic District School Board says the book has not been banned, but removed from this particular school’s course list, as is the prerogative of the principal.

Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne spins it as an opportunity. The school board can now choose a book by a Canadian author as a replacement.

Word choice is so very important. Removal, opportunity and replacement are words chosen to soften the situation and to defuse controversy. Many others would choose different words, such as censorship and book banning.

Stay-at-Home Writer: Pros and Cons

Yesterday, I looked into the mirror and saw that I had two pairs of reading glasses perched on my head. My only defence is that I was in the writing zone, that interior place where I’m focused on story. Frankly, when I saw that reflection of myself, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that I work from my home office, and not from a building in downtown Toronto, or another busy public workspace.

How Stupid

I’m sitting here looking at a Canadian Press photo of two Saskatoon brothers leaving court after being convicted of breaking a slew of wildlife laws. The men filmed themselves “gleefully” shooting ducks and ducklings, the young birds moulting and therefore unable to fly away, and then posted the carnage on YouTube.

My first thought is how cruel. My second thought is how stupid. One of the brothers is covering his face from photographers. What’s that about? Duh. He should have thought about issues of anonymity before he posted the video.


I don’t know much about war. Or wars. Not in a personal context, nor an historical context. I’ve stood along the parade route of aging war veterans on November 11th, and broke into applause with those around me. It sounds like an odd thing to do, to applaud, but in the moment it feels right.

I’ve driven the Highway of Heroes, the stretch of the 401 that honours Canadian soldiers who have died in war. I’ve driven it when crowds have gathered overtop lining the bridges to pay respect to a soldier who has died in Afghanistan, the military convoy following the route from CFB Trenton to Toronto.

Full Circle

I can get lost anywhere. Not only in my head while working on a story, but in the physical world. You’ve heard that cliché, she doesn’t know her right hand from her left hand? That’s not my problem, I know my right hand from my left hand. North, South, East and West, now they’re the problem.

I got a GPS for Christmas, a bit of gadget wizardry that makes my life much easier, although more crowded. Now, instead of a single voice in my head pointing out directions for a story, there’s a second voice in my car pointing out directions for a destination point. It gets noisy.

Let's Talk Intimacy

I prefer intimate settings to large gatherings, tête-à-tête shared over a glass of wine (or two) with a friend, or a friend in the making.

Maybe that’s why I gravitate to reading, to writing. Books are read one person at a time, a relationship between reader and author. It’s an intimacy that I don’t think exists with other story forms. I’m not sure watching a movie is an intimate experience, unless there’s an exterior circumstance to the viewing, someone snuggling into you.

What Michael Jackson and I Have in Common

A little demon copy editor is jumping up and down on my shoulder, madly waving his arms, telling me I should rewrite the title. I should put it in the past tense, since MJ is deceased and I am alive. It should read: What Michael Jackson and I Had in Common. I will resist the urge. I can do that – this is my author’s blog. The present tense is so much more immediate. I love writing in the present tense.


Call me old-fashioned, but I expect my books to stay put. I don’t think it unreasonable to expect the words to be there the next time I resume reading, not to have disappeared mid-story like some kind of Harry Potter wizardry. I also don’t like the thought of my books vanishing before I’ve read a word. I’m a collector of unread books.

That may sound odd, but I love the fact that not all of the books in my bookshelf are those that I have read. I have a full shelf of books “in waiting”, carefully chosen for my future reading. There is pleasure in anticipation.

Giving up my day job

You know that piece of advice often given to writers? Don’t give up your day job? Well, I’ve given up my day job. Okay, not permanently, only for the month of August during my tenure as WIR. It really is quite a delight to give myself permission to focus on creative writing, and reading, and books, and the arts in general, and then to be able to blog about them here through Open Book.

Like so many others in the arts, I have a day job that financially makes it easier for me to continue to do what I love – write poetry, stories, and novels.

What’s my day job?


Hello Open Book!

I have to admit I’m a bit nervous about this first posting. It’s like writing that first line in a novel. It’s supposed to “grab” the reader, be a hook that pulls you further into the reading. What would keep you coming back for more?

I could promise a month of tabloid-style blogging about celebrity authors, wild parties filled with book swapping and other forms of literary intercourse, binge writing and all-nighters, out-of-control book-signings, and six figure advances blown on internet Scrabble gambling by word-addicted authors.

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.

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