Oonya has lived most of her life in various Caribbean islands and currently lives in St. George’s, Grenada. Her first novel, Buxton Spice (1998), was longlisted for the Orange Prize and translated into six languages. Her second novel, Tide Running, won a Casa de las Américas 2002 prize and was well received on both sides of the Atlantic. Oonya was named “a Great Talent for the 21st Century” by the Orange Prize judges and both books were nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2011 Oonya was awarded a fellowship for the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa, and her next novel, All Decent Animals, will be published in spring 2013 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, USA). She is currently completing a non-fiction narrative of local perspectives of sexual abuse, and a film adaptation of Tide Running. She has worked with UNICEF and UNAIDS as a consultant and researcher, and has been tempted by travel writing and agricultural journalism.
Monday, March 11th, 2013
Interview with Giller Prize winner Will Ferguson (& some writing tips): “The material is all around us”
Timing is everything.
When Will Ferguson agreed last summer to be guest author for the fall 2012 session of my University of Toronto online course Memories into Story: Introduction to Life Writing, his novel 419 (Viking Canada/Penguin Canada, 2012) had not yet been longlisted for the national Scotiabank Giller Prize. The list was unveiled just days before the course began, and over the next couple of months, my students and I watched in anticipation as 419 jumped to the shortlist, and finally, at the televised black-tie gala on October 30, took the prize.
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
Interview with Ana Rodriguez Machado, First-Prize Winner in the 2012 Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest
Queen’s University student Ana Rodriguez Machado has won first prize in the 2012 Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest for her entry “An Afternoon in Central America,” and I’m pleased to share my interview with the young writer below. Poet Catherine Graham, who judged the contest, describes Ana’s submission this way:
“Concise, charged with menace, and with an arresting range — from the highly poetic, The mountain danced with shades of cadmium and emerald, to the stinging last line — this five-line poem hooked me.”
You can read Ana’s poem, along with those of second-prize winner Nora Grove and third-prize winner Jill Talbot, on the contest website here. Congratulations to the three winners, each of whom has been awarded online mentoring sessions with Catherine.
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
From Ann Vanderhoof’s An Embarrassment of Mangoes:
“ʻWould you like some mangoes?’ a woman’s voice sings out from across the road, as we stand and admire a tree that’s positively dripping ripe fruit.
Steve and I are in the middle of a game we play whenever we go for a walk lately: Let’s pretend we can buy a piece of property in Grenada; what would we choose? We have fallen in love with this island at 12 degrees north of the equator since arriving here a few weeks ago….
Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
Life Without Agenda: author Marleen Rechsteiner on writing, and raising a son with Williams syndrome
“Writing [in the first person] was a painful process since it exposed me and made me feel vulnerable. All my feelings became so much more real. The rewriting caused me a lot of tears.”
MARLEEN RECHSTEINER is the author of Leven Zonder Agenda (“Life Without Agenda”; Artemis & Co, 2009), which explores the challenges of caring for a special-needs child. Her book combines memoir, research, interviews with other parents, and advice.
Marleen writes from personal experience: her 15-year-old son Emile has Williams syndrome — also known as Williams-Beuren syndrome — a rare neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by an “elfin” facial appearance, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and cardiovascular disease, but also strong language skills, high sociability, and often, an affinity for music. Estimates vary, but according to the Williams Syndrome Association in the United States the condition affects about 1 in 10,000 people worldwide.
I met Marleen in Santiago, Chile, where she was living at the time (her family has since returned to the Netherlands). She participated in a two-day workshop I led on memoir writing following my teaching at Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat. I spoke to her recently about her published book, currently available only in Dutch.
Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
It was a pleasure to welcome Adair Lara as guest author for the spring 2012 session of my online course Memories into Story: Introduction to Life Writing (University of Toronto in partnership with the New York Times Knowledge Network). Adair is the San Francisco–based author of the memoir Hold Me Close, Let Me Go, and of the memorably titled Naked, Drunk and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir.
Following are more of her thoughtful answers to my students’ interview questions.
On writing your own truth …
Monday, July 23rd, 2012