As the official presenter of MOTIVE Crime & Mystery Festival, Kobo Plus is offering Toronto International Festival of Authors guests, friends and supporters an opportunity to try Kobo’s all-you-can-read subscription service.
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If you are looking to make the most of the recent summer weather, be sure to drop by MOTIVE Crime and Mystery Festival, presented by Kobo Plus, this weekend! The Toronto International Festival of Authors will be taking over Harbourfront Centre’s waterfront campus with free outdoor activities for mystery fans of all ages.
From thought-provoking discussions to riveting readings, there will be a lot going on Saturday and Sunday. Below is a rundown of the wonder and mystery to expect at the beautiful lakeside location.
Kobo Cabana Reading Lounge
Be sure to visit our friends at the Kobo Cabana Reading Lounge! The welcoming space will have a charging station, comfy couches and some delicious treats. It’s the perfect place to relax, get book recommendations and chat with other crime and mystery fans.
Join writers Alan Brand, Bruce Madole, Scott McKinnon and Hope Thompson as they pitch book ideas to a panel of publishing industry experts. Pitching may sound like a stressful process, but it’s all in good fun. After their pitches, the judges will provide constructive, positive feedback on the writers’ ideas. The event will take place inside Harbourfront Centre. Tickets are free with registration.
At the outdoor stage on Harbourfront’s west lawn, authors Marcie Rendon, Beverley McLachlin and Ryan Gattis will explore the nuances and ethical implications of how crime, criminals and police are represented in the genre. In conversation with Robert Rotenberg, they will discuss their writing choices, as well as their ongoing work to better the criminal justice system. The Critical Conversation series is presented in partnership with the Provocation Ideas Festival.
As you enter MOTIVE’s hub of outdoor activities, an interactive audio installation will you greet you. Take a snapshot of the QR codes to hear different experiences of incarceration. There are a total of five stories being shared, so be sure to explore the entire space. Presented by Trophy, in partnership with Provocation Ideas Festival.
The TIFA Kids & Family tent will have fun for the whole family! There will be board games, colouring and other free activities to enjoy all weekend long.
Crime Writers of Canada Book Signings & Readings
The Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) is joining MOTIVE with free readings and book signings. See authors like James Arnett, Nate Hendley, O’Cinneide, Robert Rotenberg, Lynne Murphy, Dianne Scott and many more throughout the weekend as they read from their books on the outdoor stage. Afterward, head to the CWC tent to meet authors from all over Canada.
Check out their weekend lineup:
Toronto Crime Tours
Drop in to hear the true crime stories of Toronto’s past! Presented by Toronto Crime Tours, theirs are the only crime tours in Canada hosted by retired Detectives. Hear stories that are both fascinating and frightening like the Clowns vs. Firefighters Riot of 1855, the tragic case of the Shoeshine Boy and the notorious Boyd Gang. No walking or registration required.
While the books may not be free, browsing them sure is! Explore Indigo’s Bookstore in the Marilyn Brewer Community Space inside Harbourfront Centre all weekend. From cozy mysteries to chilling thrillers, true crime to police procedurals, the bookstore will be stocked with all the must reads in crime and mystery.
Ask the Expert
Two crime-writing experts will be on the outdoor MOTIVE stage to discuss the latest trends in the genre. On Saturday, New York Times journalist and crime fiction expert Sarah Weinman will be chatting about all things true crime. Then on Sunday, Globe & Mail crime fiction reviewer, Margaret Cannon, will be taking a look at the crime genre through a Canadian lens. Don’t miss these great conversations!
Want to see the full schedule? Check it out here.
Opportunities are ripe for aspiring crime and mystery writers at MOTIVE Festival, presented by Kobo Plus. The newest literary celebration from the Toronto International Festival of Authors offers many ways to meet like-minded booklovers and learn from the world’s best authors.
From insightful conversations to hands-on classes, MOTIVE audiences can gain award-winning advice on how to take their next step in the publishing process. Here is a collection of activities worth considering to further your writing career.
Sit down with acclaimed authors and industry experts for a MOTIVE Masterclass, where hands-on lessons dive into crafting compelling stories and perfecting the art of editing. Each leading their own class, Torontonian Marissa Stapley, Scottish author Doug Johnstone and UK publisher Karen Sullivan will share a facet of their expertise in an intimate 90-minute session in Harbourfront Centre’s Main Loft. Whether you sign up for all or just one, be sure to bring your questions about plotting, writing and publishing for these experts to tackle. All writing levels are welcome.
Masterclass: Marissa Stapley on the Heart of Character Development (Friday, June 3 at 6pm ET)
Masterclass: Doug Johnstone on Killer Editing (Saturday, June 4 at 4pm ET)
Masterclass: Karen Sullivan on the Path to Published (Sunday, June 5 at 4pm ET)
Pictured: Doug Johnstone.
Crime-writing experts Margaret Cannon and Sarah Weinman will take the MOTIVE stage to field your questions about writing tools and trends and Canadian reading recommendations. Don’t miss this chance to ask the experts your biting crime-genre queries at these free, outdoor presentations.
Pictured: Sarah Weinman.
Ever wonder what it’s like to pitch a book idea? TIFA and the Crime Writers of Canada invite you to be a fly on the wall to witness a live pitch session in action. Pitch Perfect is a showcase of writers pitching their ideas to a panel of judges. Be prepared to jot down some notes as the panel of publishing experts provide constructive feedback on their ideas. This event is free with registration.
Pictured: Pitch Perfect judge Carolyn Forde, Partner, Senior Literary Agent and International Rights Director at Transatlantic Agency.
What better way to become a great writer than to learn from the classics? TIFA’s Re-Read series is back for MOTIVE, featuring award-winning writers , Kurdo Baksi, Mark Billingham and Val McDermid taking a look at famous books and authors who have captivated readers for decades and made a substantial impact on the crime and mystery genre. From Agatha Christie to Stieg Larsson, you’ll learn how prolific authors broke the rules to make the genre their own.
The Re-Read: Val McDermid on Agatha Christie (Saturday, June 4 at 1pm ET)
The Re-Read: Kurdo Baksi on Stieg Larsson (Saturday, June 4 at 1:30pm ET)
The Re-Read: Mark Billingham on Dashiell Hammett (Sunday, June 5 at 1pm ET)
Debut authors were aspiring writers not too long ago, and are a great resource for learning about the publishing industry right now. Join debut authors Ramona Emerson, Wanda Morris and Nita Prose at MOTIVE to learn about their books and publishing process, and get advice on how to jump from aspiring to published.
Secrets & Lies: Wanda Morris & Chris Pavone (Sunday, June 5 at 6:30pm ET)
The Maid: Nita Prose (Sunday, June 5 at 7pm ET)
Paranormal Plotlines: Ramona Emerson & Stuart Neville (Sunday, June 5 at 7:30pm ET)
Pictured: Ramona Emerson.
Meet your favourite authors in person throughout the weekend at MOTIVE book signings, which take place after most ticketed events and at the Crime Writers of Canada tent. It’s an opportune time to interact one-on-one and ask that quick burning question. Be sure to check individual event pages for details on book signings.
Looking for more? Browse the full MOTIVE schedule here.
Meet some of Canada’s best crime writers live and on stage at the MOTIVE Crime & Mystery Festival, which marks the exciting return of in-person programming for the Toronto International Festival of Authors. MOTIVE runs from June 3 to 5.
Learn how these masters of the whodunit build immersive worlds, indelible characters and clockwork plots that will keep you turning the page late into the night. Just keep the light on!
Linwood Barclay is an American-born Canadian author whose New York Times bestselling novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages and sold millions of copies around the world. Notable books include No Time for Goodbye, which The Daily Express called “a fast-moving rollercoaster of a read,” and Trust Your Eyes, a finalist for the Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read from the Crime Thriller Awards. Barclay’s newest novel, Take Your Breath Away, delves into the cold case of Brie Mason, a woman who mysteriously disappeared six years ago. When Brie’s lookalike returns, her husband Andrew must uncover a trail of accusations, lies and murder. Join master of suspense, Linwood Barclay, as he discusses his infectious new thriller.
Linwood Barclay will participate in the following events:
Take Your Breath Away: Linwood Barclay
Sunday, June 5 at 1:30pm ET, Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Rabbit Hole: Mark Billingham with Linwood Barclay
Saturday, June 4 at 5pm ET, Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Ian Hamilton is the Canadian author of the acclaimed Ava Lee and Uncle Chow Tung series. The Water Rat of Wanchai won the Arthur Ellis Award for best first crime novel, The Disciple of Las Vegas was shortlisted for the Barry Award and The Wild Beasts of Wuhan was shortlisted for the Lambda Award for best lesbian crime/mystery novel of 2013. BBC Culture named Hamilton as one of ten mystery writers from the last 30 years who should be on your bookshelf. In The Sultan of Sarawak, Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant Ava Lee travels to Malaysia on the trail of the powerful Chong family, who have a criminal stranglehold over the province. Join Ian Hamilton as he discusses his brilliant heroine and intricately crafted plots.
Ian Hamilton will participate in the following event:
The Sultan of Sarawak: Ian Hamilton
Sunday, June 5 at 1:30pm ET, Brigantine Room in Harbourfront Centre
Robyn Harding is a Canadian author of many books, including The Party, which was an international bestseller, and The Swap, which reached #1 on both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star bestseller lists. In The Perfect Family, Harding crafts a fast paced and character-driven thriller that explores the lives of Thomas and Viv Adler and their well-mannered children. When their Porsche is pelted with eggs, it sets off a cascade of attacks against the wealthy family. The police dismiss these as the work of bored teenagers, but the terrified Adlers begin to investigate on their own, only to discover family secrets better left hidden. Join Robyn Harding as she discusses her twisty, page-turner of a novel.
Robyn Harding will participate in the following event:
The Perfect Family: Robyn Harding
Saturday, June 4 at 2pm ET, Brigantine Room in Harbourfront Centre
Thomas King is the Canadian-American author of Green Grass, Running Water; The Truth About Stories; The Back of the Turtle; Indians on Vacation; and the DreadfulWater mysteries. He has won numerous awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the RBC Taylor Prize and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. King’s latest crime novel, Deep House, continues the adventures of Cherokee ex-cop Thumps DreadfulWater, who has found peace in small-town Chinook, only to stumble upon a body at the bottom of a treacherous canyon. Join Thomas King as he lays out the clues with his signature wit and wry humour.
Thomas King will participate in the following event:
Deep House: Thomas King with Shelagh Rogers
Saturday, June 4 at 7:30pm ET, Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Canadian Shari Lapena is the bestselling author of The Couple Next Door, A Stranger in the House and An Unwanted Guest. Her books have sold seven million copies in 38 territories around the world. In her latest thriller, Not a Happy Family, Lapena delves into the lives of a rich and seemingly happy family in upstate New York. When Fred and Sheila Merton are brutally murdered the night after Easter Dinner, suspicion falls on their three adult children. Could one of them be a psychopath, and wouldn’t the other siblings know? Join Shari Lapena as she untangles this web of secrets, greed and revenge.
Shari Lapena will participate in the following event:
Not a Happy Family: Shari Lapena
Friday, June 3 at 6pm ET, Brigantine Room in Harbourfront Centre
Beverley McLachlin is a Canadian crime writer and #1 national bestseller for her book, Full Disclosure, which was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Best First Crime Novel Award. She is also Canada’s longest-serving Chief Justice. Her novels combine thrilling plot twists with realistic courtroom scenes that have been used in law schools to show how trials really work. In McLachlin’s latest bestseller, Denial, brilliant defence attorney Jilly Truitt must use all her legal acumen to untangle the truth in a bizarre “mercy-killing” case. Join Beverley McLachlin as she discusses her process for creating a gripping mystery.
Beverley McLachlin will participate in the following events:
Denial: Beverley McLachlin
Sunday, June 5 at 11am ET, Brigantine Room in Harbourfront Centre
Critical Conversation: The Ethics of Crime Writing
Friday, June 4 at 2pm ET, Outdoor Stage
Nita Prose is a Canadian author whose debut novel, The Maid, was a #1 national and New York Times bestseller, and was also a pick for the Good Morning America and Cityline book clubs. Molly Grant is a young woman who struggles with social queues. She takes a job as a hotel maid, delighting in her orderly surroundings. However, when Molly comes upon the body of rich and infamous Charles Black during her rounds, her unusual demeanor makes her the prime suspect for the police. Join Nita Prose as she lays out her Clue-like mystery and hear her unique perspective on the publishing world as an editor-turned-author.
Nita Prose will participate in the following event:
The Maid: Nita Prose
Sunday, June 5 at 7pm ET, Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Canadian Marissa Stapley is a journalist, magazine editor and bestselling author of The Last Resort, Things to Do When It’s Raining and Mating for Life. Her newest book, Lucky, was a New York Times and national bestseller, and was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. Meet Lucky Armstrong, a talented grifter who is on the run from the police. When Lucky buys a lottery ticket on a whim, she discovers it is worth millions. Only problem, how to collect her winnings without being arrested? Join Marissa Stapley on this rollercoaster ride of a heist novel that interrogates the ideas of punishment, redemption and forgiveness.
Marissa Stapley will participate in the following events:
Lucky: Marissa Stapley with Hannah Mary McKinnon
Saturday, June 4 at 2pm ET, Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Masterclass: Marissa Stapley on the Heart of Character Development
Friday, June 3 at 6pm ET, Main Loft in Harbourfront Centre
Crime Writers of Canada
After seeing your favourite Canadian mystery writers live on Harbourfront stage, sleuth out the Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) Tent and meet them in-person. CWC is a national non-profit for Canadian crime and mystery writers. All day Saturday and Sunday, authors will be signing books and chatting with fans. The tent and readings are some of the many free, outdoor events at MOTIVE this year, including readings, discussions and activities for the whole family.
From June 3 to 5, Toronto International Festival of Author’s inaugural MOTIVE Festival will take you on a worldwide crime and mystery tour as authors from around the globe gather at Harbourfront Centre. After two years of only virtual events, we are excited to celebrate the buzz of activity and wide variety of conversations, readings and special performances together again.
With storytellers from Germany, Iceland, Scotland and more, don’t miss this rare opportunity to see these incredible authors in person.
Mark Billingham (UK)
Mark Billingham is an English writer known for his bestselling Inspector Thom Thorne novels, which Sky 1 adapted into a hit series. He has twice won the Theakston’s Old Peculier Award for Crime Novel of the Year. In his latest standalone thriller, Rabbit Hole, Billingham follows ex-cop and long-term patient Alice Armitage as she investigates a murder in her acute psychiatric ward. Will Alice be able unravel the mystery without succumbing to her lingering PTSD? Get the scoop on this latest novel as he sits down with Canadian bestselling author Linwood Barclay in person at MOTIVE.
Mark Billingham will participate in the following event:
Rabbit Hole: Mark Billingham with Linwood Barclay
Saturday, June 4 at 5pm ET, Harbourfront Centre Theatre
Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers in Concert
Saturday, June 4 at 7:30pm ET, Concert Stage at Harbourfront Centre
The Re-Read: Mark Billingham on Dashiell Hammett
Sunday, June 5 at 1pm ET, Main Loft in Harbourfront Centre
Val McDermid (Scotland)
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year Award and the CWA Golden Dagger Award, Scottish author Val McDermid has sold over 17 million books around the world. In her newest novel, 1979, McDermid introduces rookie reporter Allie Burns, who must navigate the newsroom boys’ club while investigating a terrorist plot close to home. Join Scotland’s Queen of Crime in person at MOTIVE for discussions about her writing, Agatha Christie and a special performance.
Val McDermid’s Festival appearance is generously supported by Scottish Books International.
Val McDermid will participate in the following events:
The Re-Read: Val McDermid on Agatha Christie
Saturday, June 4 at 1pm ET, Main Loft in Harbourfront Centre
Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers in Concert
Saturday, June 4 at 7:30pm ET, Concert Stage at Harbourfront Centre
1979: Val McDermid
Sunday, June 5 at 1pm ET, Brigantine Room in Harbourfront Centre
Adrian McKinty (Ireland / US)
Irish author Adrian McKinty has written over a dozen crime novels and is the winner of the Edgar Award, the International Thriller Writers Award and the Ned Kelly Award. In The Island, his latest novel and soon to be Hulu series, McKinty explores a family vacation gone horribly wrong. Separated from her new husband and surrounded by murderous locals, what will one woman do to keep her step-children safe?
Adrian McKinty will participate in the following event:
The Island: Adrian McKinty
Saturday, June 4 at 11:30am ET, Lakeside Terrace at Harbourfront Centre
Melanie Raabe (Germany)
Winner of the Stuttgart Crime Fiction Award, Melanie Raabe is a German author and journalist whose work has been published in over 20 countries. Her latest novel, The Shadow, spent 18 weeks on the Der Spiegel bestseller list. After a homeless woman prophesises the date when Norah Richter will kill a man “with good reason and of your own free will,” Norah must decide whether she should hate someone she has never met.
Melanie Raabe’s Festival appearance is generously supported by Goethe-Institut.
Melanie Raabe will participate in the following event:
Chiller Killers: Melanie Raabe & Max Seeck
Saturday, June 4 at 11:30am ET, Brigantine Room in Harbourfront Centre
Book & Brötchen with Melanie Raabe & Elizabeth Renzetti
Sunday, June 5 at 11:30am ET, Goethe-Institut Toronto
Lilja Sigurðardóttir (Iceland)
Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an award-winning Icelandic author, playwright and scriptwriter. The first novel in her bestselling Reykjavík Noir Trilogy, Snare, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, while the third, Cage, won Best Icelandic Crime Novel of the Year and was a Guardian Book of the Year. Her latest thriller, Cold as Hell, follows Áróra as she returns home to find her estranged sister, who has gone missing in the midnight sun of the Icelandic summer.
Lilja Sigurðardóttir’s Festival appearance is generously supported by Icelandic Literature Centre.
Lilja Sigurðardóttir will participate in the following event:
Sisters in Search: Kellye Garrett & Lilja Sigurðardóttir
Saturday, June 4 at 2pm ET, Studio Theatre in Harbourfront Centre
If you won’t be in Toronto for #MotiveTO, or you are, but are looking for some events to watch from home, you can also check out these international authors virtually at festivalofauthors.ca/motive.
Javier Cercas (Spain)
Javier Cercas is an internationally acclaimed Spanish novelist and columnist. Cercas’s books have been translated into over 30 languages, while Soldiers of Salamis has sold more than a million copies worldwide. In his latest novel, Even the Darkest Night, convict-turned-cop Melchor Marín must uncover the truth about a brutal double murder in the remote town of Terra Alta. Learn from this master storyteller from the comfort of home as Cercas discusses his elegantly constructed thriller.
Javier Cercas will participate in the following event:
Even the Darkest Night: Javier Cercas
Saturday, June 4 at 8pm ET, Virtual Event
Tica Morgan (Netherlands)
Bestselling Dutch crime novelist Tica Morgan brings her experience as a police-investigator to her acclaimed Inspector Zoe Janssen thrillers. In the series’ upcoming fourth novel, Hell’s Gate, Inspector Janssen must investigate a new mystery on the small islands of southern Netherlands. Join Tica Morgan for this special event, presented by Kobo Plus, as she discusses her new book, fascination with the crime genre and experience being published in multiple languages.
Tica Morgan will participate in the following event:
Hell’s Gate: Tica Morgan
Friday, June 3 at 5pm ET, Virtual Event
Fuminori Nakamura (Japan)
Fuminori Nakamura is a Japanese author best known for The Thief (2010), his critically acclaimed first novel to be translated into English. Winner of the prestigious Ōe Prize and David L. Goodis Award, Nakamura creates fascinating puzzle box narratives that feature tantalizing strangers and enigmatic acquaintances. “Turn this page, and give up your entire life,” he writes in his latest novel, My Annihilation, a disturbing dissection of what motivates a killer. Join the master of the literary noir virtually as he discusses this journey into the darkest corners of the human mind.
Fuminori Nakamura will participate in the following event:
My Annihilation: Fuminori Nakamura
Sunday, June 5 at 12:30pm ET, Virtual Event
Ilaria Tuti (Italy)
Ilaria Tuti is an Italian author and winner of the Gran Giallo Città di Cattolica literary prize for her short story The Pagan Child. Tuti’s novels evoke her love of nature and Italy’s rich history. In The Sleeping Nymph, her highly anticipated next instalment of the Teresa Battaglia series, Superintendent Battaglia must travel to one of Italy’s most untouched regions to investigate a decades-old murder.
Ilaria Tuti’s Festival appearance is generously supported by Istituto Italiano di Cultura.
Ilaria Tuti will participate in the following event:
The Sleeping Nymph: Ilaria Tuti
Saturday, June 4 at 10am ET, Virtual Event
Emma Viskic (Australia)
Critically acclaimed Australian author Emma Viaskic has won the Ned Kelly Award, five Davitt Awards and has twice been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger Award. Her books are published worldwide and are frequently listed among the best crime novels this decade. In Those Who Parish, the hotly anticipated conclusion to the Caleb Zelic series, Viskic places her Deaf protagonist on an isolated island community under threat from a sniper. Will Caleb find his drug addicted brother before the sniper does?
Emma Viskic will participate in the following event:
Those Who Parish: Emma Viskic
Sunday, June 5 at 8pm ET, Virtual Event
See the full list of #MotiveTO authors and events here.
In February, the Toronto International Festival of Authors announced a new series of events called The New Embassy. Featuring spoken word, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, theatrical readings, music and dance performed by a roster of influential Canadian artists, the five digital events provide an incredible opportunity to watch an array of artists speak their truth and push the boundaries of storytelling.
To get insight into their work, we asked The New Embassy artists about how they challenge themselves and break the mould of what’s expected. Read what they had to say below.
“I challenge myself by trying to always deepen my own relationship to my artistic practice. The notion of risk and risk-taking, for me, is first and foremost a relationship to myself, a relationship I hold with my work, with my artistic voice, where I strive to go deeper into my research, into my inquiry and in the artistic forms that this inquiry can take. There lies the challenge for me.
I try not to think or focus on what is happening “in the field.” I turn to the field as a way of inspiring myself, to keep my ear to the ground, to be engaged with the work of my peers. But when it comes to challenging myself, it is always in relation to my own practice. It is about expanding my own mould, the one within which I am working, so I never get too comfortable.”
“I don’t necessarily think of challenging myself as an impetus, more so I am interested in sharing a truth about myself that deeply resonates with me, and literally feels like it’s moving me, by rattling my bones and setting my heart and spirit free.
Breaking the mould is not something I consider when creating work, but I am aware that the mould of what is expected of me is very narrow. So, in a sense existing in this world the way I do already breaks the mould. When I say I am nonbinary, people often think it is referring to gender only, but there are so many binaries (race, sexuality, body type, class), and boxes that cannot contain the truth of who I am, & I no longer wish to abide by them. When creating I think mostly of my unique truth and humanity, and let the boxes shatter where they may.”
“I believe I challenge myself as an artist by tackling topics that would generally be uncomfortable to discuss publicly, within my art. Expressing myself has always come with some difficulty, and art has been a way to move past that.
Generally, I don’t ever really consider it as breaking the mould of what’s expected. Rather my intention when touching on these topics is to let others within my communities know that they are not alone.”
“I’m continually challenging myself as a performer and writer by asking myself: am I telling a whole story, a story that includes contradictions and multiplicity, and makes space for grief, pain and joy and hope?
I am not interested in breaking the mould, that has nothing to do with me or my work and I can’t let myself get distracted by that.
I am interested in making my own singular and authentic contribution to culture and storytelling.”
“I challenge myself by learning things that are just too difficult for me to do. I am obssesed with form, absence, context and emptiness. The vastness of space and how to capture it in art. I challenge myself mostly by learning the works of great masters of the past, and they teach me various lessons about the creation of the sublime.
I think understanding the mould in great depth is a pre-condition for breaking it, and I do not presume such a depth of understanding. While it is amusing to thwart the expectations of the audience I am more concerned with verisimilitude and divinity. Many of the existing moulds and structures are very fine for creating sublime and uncanny effects, but in truth I do break rules where it is natural or within the logic of the work to do so. But I take no special pride in trailblazing, I view myself as a continuation of many other greater artists than myself and find my practice a humbling one.”
Learn more about The New Embassy digital series, running from February to April, 2022, here.
Black Futures Month, celebrated in conjunction with Black History Month, takes place every February to encourage a more nuanced understanding of Black existence. Through events, readings, performances and more, it’s an opportunity to highlight the work being created by Black artists all year long, and consider the roles we all play in paving new, equitable futures.
The Toronto International Festival of Authors has selected six Black writers creating remarkable work in the Canadian literary scene today. Through their poetry, books and essays, these authors are sharing unique perspectives and experiences. Learn more about these authors below, and be sure to add their work to your reading list.
Scarborough, Ontario’s Randell Adjei has made a name for himself inspiring communities through his passion for poetry. He is an author, spoken word artist and motivational speaker whose debut poetry collection, I Am Not My Struggles, is a powerful exploration challenges and triumphs, and a reminder that an individual’s struggles should not define them. In addition to becoming Ontario’s first-ever Poet Laureate (a role he’s held since 2021), Adjei is also well-known for his extensive work with BIPOC youth through R.I.S.E. Edutainment.
Romance readers might already know Jane Igharo. Her first two books, Ties That Tether and The Sweetest Remedy, are fan favourites owed to the strong and beautifully flawed Nigerian women portrayed at their core. These characters are reflective of Igharo’s own experiences immigrating to Canada from Nigeria at the age of 12, and the women she’s encountered in her life. Her third novel, Worth Having, is will be released in September.
Even before the pandemic, author and freelance journalist King Perry was fascinated by the way local sports brought communities together. From basketball to cricket, Perry witnessed how groups of people gathered all around Toronto, celebrating and strengthening their neighbourhoods. When the pandemic restricted these gatherings, King was optimistic and penned Rebound: Sports, Community and the Inclusive City. The book celebrates the importance of inclusive local spaces, such as community centres and parks, and explores the many ways to reimagine neighbourhoods.
While readers eagerly wait for Canisia Lubrin’s debut fiction book, Code Noir, to be released in 2023, the award-winning author’s poetry continues to impress. Her collection The Dyzgraphxst, was the winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Derek Walcott Prize and the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize. To celebrate the new generation of artists inspiring Canada’s ever-evolving literary scene, Lubrin is curating a special performance of poetry, music and theatre as part of TIFA’s The New Embassy series this February, available to watch digitally for free.
Robyn Maynard’s national bestselling book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present is a staple in reading lists nation-wide. An honest portrayal of anti-Blackness, racism and slavery in Canada’s history, Maynard lifts the veil of ‘multiculturalism’ that Canada promotes. Her work as a writer demands a new way forward, and she isn’t stopping with Policing Black Lives. In Maynard’s new book Rehearsals for Living, set to release in June, she teams up with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson for an honest conversation about Black and Indigenous perspectives on what’s happening now, and how slavery and colonization brought us here.
YA author Louisa Onomé’s book Like Home is an enthralling coming-of-age story set in a beloved neighbourhood threatened by gentrification. From navigating common teenage emotions and complicated friendships to fighting for a place to call home, Onomé finds a unique and thoughtful way to explore what many marginalized races and socioeconomic classes face every day. Drawn from her own experiences of being a Nigerian-Canadian, her writing provides much-needed representation in the YA genre. Her second novel, Twice as Perfect, will be released in July.
If you are looking for more opportunities to learn from Black authors, artists and performers, be sure to check out Kuumba, a month-long programme of stimulating and thought-provoking discussions and performances.
Whether you are looking to complete a reading challenge, or just seeking an enjoyable way to pass the time, Canadian authors have a lot to offer your 2022 TBR (To Be Read) pile. From thrillers to memoirs, and poetry to stories for young readers, the Toronto International Festival of Authors has selected 10 books that showcase some of the incredible diversity and talent being published by Canadians this year. Read on, for our suggested new releases.
Canadian storyteller Vivek Shraya has embraced many roles throughout her work in music, literature, visual art, theatre and film. In People Change, Shraya explores this desire to change, the impulses behind doing something new, and the many ways people are drawn to change. Through the lens of her own life experiences, Sharya presents a new perspective, one that encourages you to celebrate the past, and to look forward to what will come next.
The Other Ones, written by Jamesie Fournier & illustrated by Jared Boggess (Inhabit Media Inc., March)
Featuring two stories that blend the elements of traditional Inuit mythology with the modern horror genre, debut author Jamesie Fournier’s The Other Ones is a dark, thrilling exploration into the monstrous forces awakened in a secluded cabin. How does a simple game with leftover string turn into a visit from the horrifying Inuunngittut? Be forewarned, this heart-pounding book is not for those easily spooked.
Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004–2021 by Margaret Atwood (McClelland & Stewart, March 1)
Margaret Atwood is back with even more powerful insight. This time, it’s an expansive collection of essays full of humour and curiosity. From asking why people everywhere tell stories to what zombies have to do with authoritarianism, Atwood explores a wide range of burning questions throughout the 50+ pieces published in this new book.
And a Dog Called Fig: Solitude, Connection, the Writing Life by Helen Humphreys (HarperCollins, March 8)
Canadian poet and novelist Helen Humphreys’ latest work is a celebration of the loyal four-legged companion of writers everywhere. Through Humphreys’ own stories about her dog Fig, and additional tales from other writers like Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein and Thomas Hardy about the impact of their own dogs, And a Dog Called Fig mixes important lessons about the craft of writing and a life shared with a loving friend.
Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of the hit CBC series Little Mosque on the Prairie, is back with another book called Jameela Green Ruins Everything. This time it’s a hilarious satire about an American Muslim woman named Jameela as she gets caught up in a chain of absurd and unfortunate events. From the simple wish of getting her memoir on The New York Times bestseller list, Jameela suddenly finds herself on a rescue mission involving the CIA and an international terrorist organization. It’s promising to be full of adventure, humour and heart.
Poetry enthusiasts are in luck with Shani Mootoo’s new collection, Cane | Fire. After a long-awaited return to poetry, Mootoo explores the past and present, going on a journey through Ireland, San Fernando, Canada and many more places along the way. The deeply personal poems challenge the idea of self, and how life can be shaped and reimagined.
What Is Written on the Tongue is a new transportive historical novel by Saskatchewan-based author Anne Lazurko. Fans of her first novel, Dollybird, a winner of the WILLA Award for Historical Fiction, will be immersed in the throes of war and colonization as a drafted soldier recently released from Nazi forced labour finds himself lost between love and the horrors of battle.
East coast author Lisa Moore is known for creating incredibly complex and rich characters, and her latest book, This is How We Love, delivers in spades. Through the story of 21-year-old Xavier’s brutal attack during a snowstorm in Newfoundland, Moore showcases the sacrifice, pain and joy of family. As the events of Xavier’s night unfold, so do the stories of the generations before him that led to that unthinkable moment.
Martin and the River, written by Jon-Erik Lappano & Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon (ages 3–6) (Groundwood Books, March 1)
A perfect book for young kids, Martin and the River is about a young boy’s experience having to move to a new home in the city, away from his favourite river in the country. While it’s a big change for Martin, he learns along the way that big changes also come with new places to explore. With beautiful illustrations, the book celebrates the wonderful connection kids can have with nature wherever they live.
Set during a humid summer in the mid-2000s, Alexandra Mae Jones’s debut novel follows 16-year-old Dell as she takes a much-needed escape at the family cabin. But with a lake filled with trash and having to navigate the suffocating expectations of everyone around her, Dell finds herself struggling with new feelings, family secrets and troubling dreams.
Holiday season is fast approaching, so the Toronto International Festival of Authors is back with a list of well-read gifts for book lovers. From unique experiences to Festival-approved titles, delightful debuts and books by local Toronto authors, we’re excited to offer these merry-making gift suggestions for the readers of all ages in your life.
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
TIFA had the privilege of having Omar El Akkad join us for three events this fall where we learned more about his experience writing the novel and incredible writing tips. Shortly after the Festival, What Strange Paradise was awarded the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize. With beautiful storytelling, the novel explores the challenging and heartbreaking refugee experience through the journey of nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who finds unexpected support in a new country from a teenage girl named Vänna.
A finalist for the Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, We Want What We Want is a collection of glittering, surprising and darkly funny stories of people testing the boundaries of their lives. This isn’t the first time one of Ohlin’s books have caught the attention of both readers and critics as she is author of five books, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize finalists Inside and Dual Citizens.
Through poetry and prose, Æther: An Out-of-Body Lyric provides a breathtaking homage to family, to cancer and to the strange windings of truth. A finalist for the 2021 Toronto Book Award, and a Toronto Lit Up selected book, Graham’s poetry captures incredible moments of pain, love and forgiveness with beauty.
Find You First is Linwood Barclay’s latest psychological thriller. It’s an adrenaline-packed novel that follows the story of a tech millionaire who must locate the nine children he fathered via sperm donation two decades prior. Through a series of mysterious and terrifying events that occur during his search, the millionaire soon finds himself in a deadly race against time. If your giftee loved Barclay’s No Time for Goodbye and The Accident, this book should be on their list too.
Canadian novelist Shari Lapena is the author of several international bestsellers, including The Couple Next Door, A Stranger in the House and Someone We Know. Not A Happy Family continues Lapena’s trend of incredible storytelling that keep readers engaged and on edge. Full of secrets and what-ifs, this book is a must-read for those who like a good whodunnit mystery.
Dog Park by Sofi Oksanen
Sofi Oksanen is an internationally critically acclaimed writer whose work has been translated into more than 40 languages, has sold more than two million copies, and has been adapted into two films. Her latest novel, Dog Park, is a captivating story of intrigue and betrayal following a murder in a global fertility market. Translated to English by Owen F. Witesman, it’s the perfect gift for those who crave a good thrill.
Actor and musician Asha Bromfield’s literary debut tells the heartfelt, coming-of-age story of Tilla as she spends a summer on the island of Jamaica. Exploring colourism, classism and a struggling father-daughter relationship, Hurricane Summer is a great gift for the avid YA reader, and Riverdale fan, in your life.
Why I Was Late by Charlie Petch
Why I Was Late is Charlie Petch’s debut poetry collection. The Toronto Lit Up title fuses text and performance into a decades-long trans/masculine coming-of-age story. Through unpredictable and vulnerable poems, Petch pierces straight to the heart, which will leave readers feeling moved and changed by the experience.
Another Toronto Lit Up selection, Letters to Amelia underscores the essential need for connection, and our universal ability to find hope in the face of fear. In this incredible debut novel, Zier-Vogel explores grief, love and, of course, the captivating Amelia Earhart.
A picture book for readers four and up, Welcome to the Cypher is a fun introduction to the vibrant, rhythmic, musical world of rap, beatboxing and spoken word poetry. The book is a joy to read with beautiful illustrations and a fun story, and a great gift waiting to be wrapped.
American author Kate Kate Dicamillo is a two-time Newbery Medalist, whose latest book, The Beatryce Prophecy, is a coveted gift for readers aged eight and up. Full of magic and set in medieval times, Beatryce must venture through the dark woods in search of a castle and the king who wants her dead. It’s an adventure your young reader won’t want to miss!
A YA romance novel for readers aged 12 and up, Nicola Yoon’s Instructions for Dancing turns heartbreak on its head. Readers will meet a charismatic character who thinks she knows all about love and the pain it brings, but ends up getting a lesson in relationships.
Share the gift of the Toronto International Festival of Authors and all the awesome benefits of being a Friend. Your gift will support TIFA while we prepare for an exciting 2022 and return to in-person events, while also unlocking specific TIFA Friends personal benefits for your giftee, from extended viewing for virtual events to retail discounts and access to exclusive offers.
During the 42nd edition of the Toronto International Festival of Authors, 11 authors contributed original commissions to the Can You Hear Me Now? anthology. This collection of short stories features international and Canadian authors Max Porter, Shani Mootoo, Scholastique Mukasonga, Clayton Thomas-Müller and more, who explore the phrase “can you hear me now?”. The phrase has become ubiquitous in the age of digital meetings, but also speaks to global movements for change that call for marginalized voices to be represented, celebrated and heard. This special collection of their work is now available through Kobo, an official bookseller of the Festival.
During the 42nd Toronto International Festival of Authors, writers of all genres of literature spoke about their experiences with the writing process. From first novels to exploring new topics, advice and experiences were shared that would benefit many aspiring writers. Whether you are taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, or you simply enjoy learning more about a writer’s experience, here are six personal stories transcribed from Festival events, below.
Mateo Askaripour, author of Black Buck
“Black Buck was my third manuscript. I had written two manuscripts, one partially while I was still in the world of startups and sales. Writing for me at that time, back in 2016, became an outlet, and then I turned from writing essays and articles to writing fiction. And I found that, beyond an outlet, it was a very specific form of salvation. So, I tried my hand at writing a novel. I did. No one wanted it. And then at that point, I wasn’t even working at that company anymore, but I didn’t want to feed into this ‘starving artist’ cliché, you know. So, I was consulting with tech startups to make money, helping them build and maintain sales teams. I’d learned a little bit more about writing with the assistance of a book called Plot & Structure and just a lot of trial-and-error. I wrote a second book, which I thought was going to get me in, get me an agent. Nah, no one wanted that one as well. And then I said, you know what, I’m going to write the book that I want, in the way that I want, for the people I want it to resonate with, and that was Black Buck that I began in January 2018, and it worked out.”
Transcribed from: A New Way Forward: Mateo Askaripour & Natasha Brown (October 27)
Photo credit: Andrew FifthGod Askaripour.
S. Bear Bergman, author of Special Topics in Being A Human
“I would say that I have a bit of a tendency toward constant self-improvement, which is a mixed bag for a writer. Sometimes it’s very hard for me to decide ‘okay, this is done now’ and send it in. There’s a writer named Anne Lamott and she wrote a great book about writing called Bird by Bird and in it she talks about how, you know, finishing a draft is a little bit like putting an octopus to bed. At a certain point, you just have to get like most of the tentacles under the covers and then that’s it. You turn out the light and called it a happy day.”
Transcribed from: Special Topics in Being a Human: S. Bear Bergman (October 23)
Illustration credit: Saul Freedman-Lawson.
Tziporah Cohen, author of No Vacancy
“I can tell you that my biggest challenge was believing that I could do it. I mean, I think I was my own worst enemy in the process. I had never seen myself as a novel writer. I came to writing to write picture books. I started my MFA to write picture books. And even when encouraged to write a novel, I kept saying I don’t write novels, and so I think that was the biggest hurdle for me, was just having the confidence to overcome that hesitancy. And of course, the next biggest challenge, which I’m sure everybody can relate to, is then finding the time and plugging through ’cause it’s hard.”
Transcribed from: The Jean Little First-Novel Award Shortlist (October 27)
Michelle Good, author of Five Little Indians
“I think one of the most important things is ‘don’t use too many words’, you know, and I know it sounds simplistic, but know what your story is before you start. Know what your story is, and that doesn’t mean you need to know everything that’s going to turn, but know the heart of your story and then stay true to the heart of your story and, you know, don’t get lost in the weeds. Be true to your story and that applies to developing your characters too.”
Transcribed from: 2021 Evergreen Award™ Winner Michelle Good in Conversation (October 22)
Shari Lapena, author of Not a Happy Family
“I think it’s really good to write in secret. If that works for you. It worked for me. I think that everybody, I think a lot of creative people tend to censor themselves too much, and I think if you’re worried about pleasing other people or pleasing someone that knows that you’re writing that can put a lot of pressure on you. . . I don’t really believe in writer’s block, I just think it’s perfectionism getting in the way. So, I think what you should do is forget about perfectionism, forget about people knowing what you’re doing. If you are worried about people judging you, just don’t tell anyone what you’re doing so you can free up your creative impulse. And, you know, don’t worry about it being any good. You really have to get through a bunch of crap before you get the good stuff. And I think if you start writing, you’ll soon find that you start to find your own voice.”
Transcribed from: Kobo in Conversation with Shari Lapena (October 25)
Jesse Wente, author of Unreconciled
“It took me a while to figure it out. I had never written a book before, obviously. It was a new medium for me. I start the book with the first moment where life of an Indigenous person came up against the myth of Indigenous people in Canada, but really for me, the decision to write the book came at a time I sort of figured it out, or that’s not quite correct, because I haven’t figured that much out. You know, I’ve been asked to write a book several times before, and I always said no. I didn’t know what I would write about, what I had to say. You know, I was doing radio, it felt like I had the space to say whatever I wanted to already. I think it sort of took realizing, coming to a point in that journey of understanding my place in this world, my place within my community, how those two things are both connected, but also at times, at odds. It took that long to get comfortable, to give me the material to write a book. I never thought I would write a book about myself. I always imagine I would write about something else.”
Transcribed from: Unreconciled: Jesse Wente (October 25)
Photo credit: Red Works