Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Five Things Literary: Queen West & Beyond, with Monica Kulling

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Monica Kulling (photo credit: Monica Kulling)

As part of our mapping of literary Ontario, we're highlighting five things about literary life in communities throughout the province. What do our cities, towns and villages have to offer writers, readers and the curious? Follow Five Things Literary to find out.

Today's feature on literary life in Toronto was contributed by Monica Kulling, whose book Merci Mister Dash! has just been published with Tundra Books.

Merci Mister Dash! was illustrated by Esperança Melo. Visit Open Book: Ontario for Esperança's Five Things Literary: Millbrook, Ontario.


Five Things Literary: Queen West & Beyond

Who says dogs don’t earn their keep? Mine have certainly made their contribution over the years of walking them around our Queen West neighbourhood and the ’hoods beyond, and I’m pretty sure walking would not be such a regular activity if it weren’t for Charly and Roxy. As many writers know, walking and writing are perfect companions. Not only is walking great exercise, but the rhythms of placing one foot in front of the other for the purpose of discovering your destination as you meander is analogous to the act of writing. I work out plot predicaments while walking. I gather snippets of dialogue. Most wonderful of all, I come home with many a fine inspiration. In fact, my newest book, Merci Mister Dash!, is the direct result of a walk. Thank you dear furry ones. Woof! Woof!

  1. High Park
    • This gem of green space, located south of Bloor and west of Roncesvalles, is our doggie destination three or four times a week. A couple years ago I met a Standard poodle named, of all the appealing appellations in the world, Mister Dash. By the time I’d finished briskly walking the trails, I had imagined a life for my new hero, a cast of characters and a predicament. Click here for the story of how Mister Dash made it from park to paper.


  2. Stephen Bulger Gallery, 1026 Queen Street West
    • I celebrated the launch of my first Canadian publication, It’s A Snap! George Eastman’s First Photograph, with the illustrator of the story, Bill Slavin, at the Stephen Bulger Gallery and Camera Bar in September 2009. And how did we wind up launching the book in this beautiful space? You guessed it. I was walking the dogs past the gallery (as we’ve been doing since it opened in 1994) when inspiration struck. Why not launch a book about the camera in the loveliest photography gallery in the city? Fortunately, the owner Stephen Bulger agreed. The evening will long be remembered. Visit Tundra's blog for photos.


  3. El Almacen, 1078 Queen St. West
    • This coffee place has a gentle, charming vibe that comes with a twist — yerba mate, a tea that is made by steeping dry yerba mate leaves and then drinking the brew from a gourd with a metal straw. And how did I stumble upon this charming destination? Walking the dogs, in winter this time. Sometimes walking can be hazardous to your health. When I slipped on ice, losing my coffee of the moment in the process, Silvio Rodriguez, owner of El Almacen, immediately came out to see if I was okay and to offer me a complimentary cup, Latin American style. El Almacen is a jewel of a coffee place, perfect for lingering, to write or to listen to the great musical offerings. Here’s what others have to say about El Almacen.


  4. Another Story Bookshop, 315 Roncesvalles Avenue
    • This is my favourite indie bookstore. The owner, Sheila Koffman, who has been selling books for nearly twenty-five years, is an enthusiastic supporter of local authors. The walk all the way to Roncesvalles is a healthy one and browsing in Another Story allows us to catch our breath (and open our imaginations) for the walk home. Open Book has given readers a tour of this wonderful book haven.


  5. The Parkdale Library, 1303 Queen Street West
    • Every writer could use a library just down the street, and mine is the Parkdale Branch. When I’m not online researching, I’m off to my local to pick up the books I’ve requested.


Monica Kulling was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. She received a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Victoria. Monica Kulling has published 26 fiction and non-fiction books for children, including picture books, poetry and biographies. She is best known for introducing biography to children just learning to read and has written about Harriet Tubman, Houdini, Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart, among others. She lives in Toronto. Visit her at her website,

For more information about. Merci Mister Dash! please visit the Tundra Books website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Would you like to contribute five things about literary life in your community? Send an email with your ideas to

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