fbpx
TIFA colour divider

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.

Choose from hundreds of thousands of popular, classic and original titles for only $9.99 a month.

Start your FREE Trial

Toronto International Festival of Authors book logo        Kobo Plus Read logo with All-you-can-read ebooks on any device tagline

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.


Creative Writing Masterclasses

Doug Johnstone
Photo credit: Duncan McGlynn.

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.

Get tickets:

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.

Ask the Experts

Sarah Weinman's headshot

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.

Events:

Ask the Expert: Sarah Weinman (Saturday, June 4 at 3:30pm ET)
Ask the Expert: Margaret Cannon (Sunday, June 5 at 3:30pm ET)

Pictured: Sarah Weinman.

Pitch Perfect

Carolyn Forde, the new IV Programme Committee Chair, headshot

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.

Event:

Pitch Perfect (Sunday, June 5 at 6:30pm ET)

Pictured: Pitch Perfect judge Carolyn Forde, Partner, Senior Literary Agent and International Rights Director at Transatlantic Agency.

The Re-Reads

Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles book cover

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.

Get tickets:

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)

 

Hear from Debut Authors

Ramona Emerson's headshot
Photo credit: Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers.

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.

Get tickets:

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.

Book Signings

A fan getting their book signed at TIFA’s 2017 Festival.

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.

Events:

Crime Writers of Canada Tent (Saturday and Sunday starting at 11am ET)
In-Person Events (June 3–5)


Looking for more? Browse the full MOTIVE schedule here.

Wanda Morris's headshot

The Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) today announced the author lineup and programming for MOTIVE presented by Kobo Plus, Canada’s newest and largest crime and mystery writing festival, taking place June 3 to 5, 2022 based at Harbourfront Centre. Marking TIFA’s return to in-person programming after two years of digital presentations, the inaugural edition of MOTIVE features nearly 100 authors from Canada and around the world, with over 40 ticketed events, 13 free digital events, plus free outdoor events and activities all weekend long. Tickets are now on sale online and through the Harbourfront Centre Box Office by phone at 416-973-4000. 

“This Festival is the realization of a two-year dream: when I arrived in Toronto I was struck by how passionate Canadian readers were for crime and mystery books. So it feels fitting to return to live, in-person events with the launch of MOTIVE, and to share this exceptional lineup of authors with audiences,” said Roland Gulliver, Director, Toronto International Festival of Authors. “From cozy crime to police procedural, psychological thriller to Nordic Noir, the crime and mystery genre has created some of the world’s best storytellers who offer perspectives on the world and explore contemporary social issues through captivating narratives.”

“We are thrilled to work with TIFA to bring the MOTIVE Crime & Mystery Festival to life. As one of the most popular genres on the Kobo Plus all-you-can read subscription service, we have experienced first-hand how passionate readers are for the genre,” said Bart Roberts, Director, Kobo Plus. “Readers who get hooked on mystery want to read everything they can uncover and we’re pleased to offer stories from the best criminal minds in the world for one low monthly fee. Kobo Plus makes it easy to read as many books as you want, to explore new mysteries risk-free, and discover international authors you may not otherwise have found.”

MOTIVE is generously supported by Presenting sponsor Kobo Plus, International sponsor Icelandair and Official booksellers Rakuten Kobo and Indigo.

Ticket prices for MOTIVE start at $16.50+HST ($12.50 for students and youth aged 25 and under). Digital events, The Hidden, and a selection of outdoor activities will be free.

Browse the Programme

Read the Press Release


MOTIVE general banner

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.


Kama La Mackerel

The New Embassy: Beautiful Journeys March 18 at 7pm

Kama La Mackerel headshot
Photo credit: Noire Mouliom.

“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.”

Sze-Yang Ade-Lam

The New Embassy: Beautiful Journeys March 18 at 7pm

Sze-Yang Ade-Lam headshot
Photo credit: Dahlia Katz.

“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.”

Aedan Corey

The New Embassy: The Brave and The Vulnerable – March 25 at 7pm

Aedan Corey's headshot

“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.”

Dainty Smith

The New Embassy: The Brave and The Vulnerable – March 25 at 7pm

Dainty Smith headshot
Photo credit: Gesila Azorbo.

“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.”

Tallan M.D.

The New Embassy: Creativity in Collective Solitude – April 28 at 7pm ET

Tallan Alexander headshot

“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.

Today, the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA)announced the Spring 2022 Season of Toronto Lit Up, a joint initiative with Toronto Arts Council to spotlight Toronto writers, and also opened the call for submissions for the programme’s next season. The Spring Season, taking place now through to June, will feature digital and in-person events that celebrate the launch of eight new books by nine local authors/illustrators.  

The selected authors and books for the Spring 2022 Season are: 

July 2022 – March 2023 Season Call For Submissions

As of today, the call for submissions is open for the next season of Toronto Lit Up, which will take place between July 2022 and March 2023. This is an extended season, taking into account that many book launches were delayed during the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Torontonians who will be published authors within the season dates, and their publicists, are invited to apply to the programme for book launch support. Submissions will be accepted between April 1 and 30, 2022.

All submissions will be reviewed by the Toronto Lit Up Committee, composed of Ayesha Chatterjee (past president, League of Canadian Poets), Alison Jones (Quill and Quire) and Hazel Millar (Literary Press Group).  

Click here for more information


Toronto Lit Up logos

Toronto Lit Up banner with "Spring 2022 Selection" and the featured book titles displayed.

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.


Randell Adjei

Randell Adjei Headshot

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.

Jane Igharo

Photo credit: Borada Photography.

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.

Perry King

Perry King headshot
Photo credit: Jalani Morgan.

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.

Canisia Lubrin

Canasia Lubrin
Photo credit: Samuel Engelking.

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

Robyn Maynard headshot
Photo credit: Stacy Lee Photography.

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.

Louisa Onomé

Louisa Onomé headshot
Photo credit: Linda Arki.

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.

Blog banner featuring the headshots of the six writers featured in the blog

A digital mini-series spotlighting a new wave of CanLit influencers

The Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) is thrilled to announce The New Embassy: a new five-part digital series spotlighting artists who are shaping Canada’s literary futures. The events will stream for free between February and April, 2022. Events will be curated by Yousef Kadoura, Canisia Lubrin, Jen Sookfong Lee, Kai Cheng Thom and Syrus Marcus Ware; and feature spoken word, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, theatrical readings, music and dance performed by a roster of influential artists, including Sze-Yang Ade-Lam, Britta B., Courage Bacchus, Aedan Corey, Rodney Diverlus, Beau Dixon, Jaz Fairy J, Aisha Sasha John, Kama La Mackerel, Joy Lapps, Janice Jo Lee, Erica Violet Lee, Kim Ninkuru, Dainty Smith, Zoey Roy and others.

The New Embassy is a celebration of Canadian voices in the 21st century, presented in the spontaneous and innovative spirit of Toronto’s iconic Bohemian Embassy: the iconic 1960s coffee house that helped cultivate the careers of many storytelling legends, such as Margaret Atwood, bpNichol, Gordon Lightfoot, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Lorne Michaels, Michael Ondaatje and Al Purdy. The Bohemian Embassy is considered to be the foremother of the Harbourfront Reading Series, which has grown into the Toronto International Festival of Authors we know today. Prompted by the renowned Ai WeiWei quote “Everything is Art, Everything is Politics”, The New Embassy will bring forward diverse perspectives and lived experiences through artistic works that explore the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and identity.

Events will be available to watch at their designated release times and 72 hours thereafter. As always, TIFA’s donating Friends and Patrons will have extended viewing access (to learn more, visit festivalofauthors.ca/donate).

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

View Lineup

The New Embassy event banner. The New Embassy text on a red background with white swirls to the left. The logo has an eye with flames above it.

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.


People Change book coverPeople Change by Vivek Shraya (Penguin Canada, January 4)

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 book coverThe 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 book coverBurning 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 book coverAnd 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.

Jameela Green Ruins Everything book coverJameela Green Ruins Everything by Zarqa Nawaz (Simon & Schuster Canada, March 8)

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. 

Cane | Fire book coverCane | Fire by Shani Mootoo (Book*hug, March 15)

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 book coverWhat Is Written on the Tongue by Anne Lazurko (ECW Press, April 26)

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.

This is How We Love book coverThis Is How We Love by Lisa Moore (House of Anansi, May 3)

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.


Young Readers

Martin and the River book coverMartin 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.

The Queen of Junk Island book coverThe Queen of Junk Island by Alexandra Mae Jones (ages 16–18) (Annick Press, May 3)

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.


Woman with protective face mask reading a book in the bookstore

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

Mateo Askaripour headshotBlack 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

S. Bear Bergman headshot“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

Tziporah Cohen Headshot“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

Michelle Good headshot“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

Shari Lapena headshot“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

Jesse Wente headshot“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

Jesse Wente on stage at Harbourfront Centre during #FestofAuthors21

During the 42nd edition of the Toronto International Festival of Authors, over 300 Canadian and international authors and artists generously shared their stories and the inspiration behind them. We heard from many viewers about all the ways these conversations and performances inspired their own creative work. Local Toronto artist Kaz Ogino started sharing with us the drawings she created while listening to authors, poets and performers share their passion of storytelling.

 Explore Kaz’s drawings below, and read what inspired them, in her own words.


Alan Cumming Talks About His Baggage

Art by Kaz - Two line drawings with half faces, shadows and shapesArt by Kaz - Three line drawings with leaves and shapes.

These pieces were drawn during the reading by Alan. I move my pen in a continuous line to the sound and sense of the words I’m hearing. This stage I call ‘taking a line for a walk’. The finishing work is about image, often but not always, envisioned by the content piece read. Here I used two images: Alan’s portrait by Christian Hood including the colours of the tartan in the portrait, and the second images are falling leaves, from Alan’s earliest memory and maybe influenced too by the season happening outside my window 🍁🍂😊.


Toronto Poetry Slam

For drawings making up the word POET. This piece is from the TIFA & Toronto Poetry Slam event. My 22 drawings from this event suggested the alphabet and with a bounty of performance poetry events offered, I’ll have material for several versions and to keep my ‘line walking’ 😊

I am also a hobby numerologist. Each letter is represented with a number from 1 to 9. For example, S is 1, and I surprisingly found a home for the drawing of the poetry from slam poet Symbolik. These serendipitous connection are ramping up even higher through my enjoyment of the TIFA events.


The World of Upside Down, Inside Out Superheroes with Sophy Henn

A shadow drawing of a child reading a book. Surrounding the child is swirls and colour loops

Kid’s books are among my favorite genres, both for their perspectives and art. I think that the Pizazz series is right up there with Shel Silverstein for excellence of story, illustration and design. Sophy’s playful page layouts are so inspiring and seem to literally animate the story.

A famous Picasso quote, also echoed in different ways by many well known artists goes: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”


Bonus: Toronto Festival of Authors 2021 (an English Madrigal poem)

A festival of authors on parade
11 days of brilliance to hear and inhale
Spell binding, head scratching and ideas to scale

Authors, performers, and teachers by trade
Wisdom, experience, and concepts unveiled
A festival of authors on parade
11 days of brilliance to hear and inhale

Readings, interviews and spoken word played
A cornucopia of talent on a large scale
And from the word smiths, a holiest of grails
A festival of authors on parade
11 days of brilliance to hear and inhale
Spell binding, head scratching and ideas to scale


Kaz Ogino headshotKaz Ogino is a Japanese-Canadian artist living in Toronto, Canada. See more of Kaz’s art at artbykaz.ca or on Instagram @artbykaz.ca.


While these events are no longer available to watch for free, you can still check out the events from the last three days of the Festival here.

A shadow drawing of a child reading a book. Surrounding the child is swirls and colour loops