Toronto Lit Up Authors Still Shine Brightly
Published on March 4, 2021
Since 2016, Toronto Lit Up has provided book launch support and career-building opportunities to local authors. The initiative, a partnership between the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) and Toronto Arts Council, has produced 107 events to launch 131 books by 177 Toronto authors. With the submission period for the 2021 Fall/Winter season now open until March 31, we are taking a look back at 10 authors who launched their book through the programme.
Deb Loughead and Mary Jennifer Payne
The inaugural Toronto Lit Up event took place on December 14, 2016, with Deb Loughead and Mary Jennifer Payne’s joint book launch. TIFA, then named International Festival of Authors (IFOA), and Dundurn Press celebrated the YA novels The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead and Finding Jade by Mary Jennifer Payne on the Lakeside Terrace at Harbourfront Centre. It was a great opportunity for guests to get a copy of the book and chat with the authors in person about their work. Since then, Deb Loughead has published a children’s book, Bright Shining Moment, and Mary Jennifer Payne has gone on publish two more books within the Daughters of Light series: Soloman’s Ring and Darkness Rising.
On April 25, 2017, TIFA and Penguin Random House Canada celebrated the release of The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron at No One Writes To The Colonel. The award-winning and bestselling author read an excerpt, signed books and chatted with guests who attended the free event. The launch was a success, and the book went on to win the 2018 Forest of Reading® Evergreen Award, became a 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize Finalist (now the Atwood-Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize) and national bestseller.
Lithuanian-Canadian author Antanas Sileika has celebrated the launch of two books as part of the Toronto Lit Up programme. On May 2, 2017, ECW Press launched Sileika’s memoir, The Barefoot Bingo Caller, at the Lithuanian House, with stories, a book signing and even a game of bingo during the evening. Almost two years later, Sileika joined us in March 2019 for the release of Provisionally Yours, published by Biblioasis, at Ben McNally Books. Since publishing his books, readers can occasionally find his book reviews on CBC radio 1 and The Globe and Mail.
On May 26, 2017 at The Ossington in Toronto, TIFA and Penguin Random House celebrated the launch of Pasha Malla’s novel Fugue States. Type Books joined the celebration to sell copies of the books and Canadian writer David Chariandy dropped by to chat with Malla about the novel and its story of two young men who embark on a journey from Canada to Kashmir, India. That year, Fugue States was included in The Globe and Mail’s Best Books of 2017 and it won the Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction. In February 2021, Malla published his latest novel, Kill the Mall.
On June 1, 2017, Catherine Graham joined TIFA and Two Wolves Press at Tranzac Club to celebrate the launch of her debut novel Quarry. Guests of the free event got to enjoy a reading, book signing and a special appearance by radio and television journalist Mary Lou Finlay. Quarry was a finalist for the 2018 Sarton Women’s Book Award for Contemporary Fiction and Fred Kerner Book Award, and went on to win the Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal for Fiction. Catherine Graham will be joining Toronto Lit Up again this year for the launch of Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric with Wolsak & Wynn in April. Keep an eye on our What’s On page for details about the upcoming free event. Catherine also acts as host of the TIFA Book Club.
George Elliott Clarke
Canadian poet, playwright and literary critic George Elliott Clarke celebrated the book launch of his anthology Locating Home: The First African-Canadian Novel and Verse Collections on January 19, 2018, with TIFA and Tightrope Books. The event took place at Ben McNally Books and explored Clarke’s anthology of the historical, cultural and political significance of the first African-Canadian literature. Poet Michael Fraser also dropped by the launch for a special reading. In 2019, Clarke published a new poetry collection called Portia White: A Portrait in Words, where he explores the life of his great-aunt, the celebrated opera singer Portia White.
In March 2018, TIFA and Simon & Schuster Canada invited the public to attend the book launch for Find You in the Dark. The novel, the first thriller by Nathan Ripley (pen name of screenwriter Naben Ruthnum) was an instant bestseller and was selected as an Arthur Ellis Awards finalist for Best First Novel. Following the success of the book, Your Life Is Mine was also published under Nathan Ripley. Under Naben Ruthnum, the author has had work published in magazines and works as a screenwriter, with projects in development at Oddfellows Entertainment. Ruthnum joined TIFA in 2020 for the 41st edition of the Toronto International Festival of Authors to teach a writing masterclass with Humber School of Writing.
Through the Toronto Lit Up programme, A.G. Pasquella launched the first book in his Jack Palace series, Yard Dog. The event took place on November 29, 2018, at the Tranzac Club with TIFA and Dundurn Press to celebrate the gritty crime novel. The sequel, Carve the Heart, was published in 2019 and the third installment, Season of Smoke, was released in February 2021.
In July 2019, Farah Heron became one of the many authors that have launched their debut novels as part of the Toronto Lit Up programme. TIFA and HarperCollins Canada celebrated The Chai Factor at Supermarket. The novel, a romantic comedy about thirty-year-old engineer Amira Khan, attracted a lively crowd that celebrated with signed books, tea and a barbershop quartet. Fans of Heron will be happy to hear that her latest book, Accidently Engaged, was recently published in March 2021.
What’s been your favourite Toronto Lit Up event? Let us know on Twitter or Instagram by tagging @festofauthors with the hashtag #TorontoLitUp.
If you are interested in virtually attending Toronto Lit Up events in 2021, be sure to check our What’s On page regularly as events are added. All Toronto Lit Up events are free and open to the public.
If you are a Torontonian planning a book launch between July and December 2021, consider applying to the programme here.