Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Bringing Literature Home

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Bringing Literature Home

As a child, the library was my haven. A space where I could quietly read and let my imagination run free. Every summer, my mom would take us to our local library in Unionville, where we were allowed to choose a handful of books to take home. The library was a safe place, a sacred place, a place where if you spoke above a whisper, you'd get a stern look. It taught me to love reading. It taught me discipline. It taught me to care for possessions that were not my own. My book bag became a portal to a world of quirky characters, colourful illustrations, silly puns and magical lands.

When I went to university, the library became more than a haven. It became a lifeline. In between the shelves, I discovered poets and mystics, philosophers and teachers, artists and students. On the 13th floor, I'd stack the books on the table, take out a fresh piece of paper and copy. Copy because I wanted to internalize the words. I wanted the words to be written by my hands, to be folded and tucked in my bag, or my pocket. I copied Edmund's Speech from A Long Day's Journey into Night. I read the marginalia from students of the past, sometimes learning more about them than the book itself.

After I graduated, I was accepted into the first cohort of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at the University of Guelph (Humber). On the first day of playwriting class, our professor lay down on the floor and read from his play with his feet up in the air. I had poetry classes with Dionne Brand and tea breaks with Janice Kulyk Keefer. I listened to Thomas King warn against adverbs while he nibbled on diabetic chocolate.

Instead of just reading about writers, I was sitting with them. Talking to them. Breathing the same air. Instead of signing books, they scribbled notes on my crappy poems and condemned my mediocre stories.

One of the perks of being the program was our master classes at the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront. After watching world renowned authors read from their latest books, our class stayed on and asked questions. We had private access to some of the most brilliant literary minds on the planet. I remember shaking hands with Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Wole Soyinka, and thinking, "I'm never washing this hand again".

And now, the journey has come full circle. Through the Lit on Tour initiative, the International Festival of Authors has come home to Markham. Now I can go to the Markham Public Library, pick up Vincent Lam's book, "The Headmaster's Wager", read it in one day and see him read from it *live* a week later.

Instead of going downtown to pick the brains of authors, young writers like myself can do it on home turf. And there's a need. The Markham Teen Arts Council, a wonderful bunch of high school students (who could very well be running the country in the next 20 years) organized a literary competition this September and received over 50 submissions in two weeks. The submissions were well-crafted, original and unique. I was blown away by the immense talent in our newly crowned City of Markham. It proved to me that the passion for the written word is alive and well.

Join us next week at the International Festival of Authors in Markham.

Instead of going downtown, come to us and share in the celebration of bringing literature home.

Event Information:

Whole Foods Unionville presents: IFOA Markham 2012!

On Tuesday October 23, 2012, Mayor Frank Scarpitti will be hosting the “Mayor’s Hour: Wine and World Cuisine” reception, welcoming this year’s headlining author and past recipient of the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize–Dr. Vincent Lam, along with international world renowned authors: Marjorie Celona, Ayesha Chatterjee and Chan Koonchung. The evening will be hosted by Toronto Life columnist, Bert Archer.

This year the Mayor’s Hour held in the lobby of Flato Markham Theatre will include authors meet-and-greet, an exciting visual arts exhibit and performances by award winning YorkSlam performers. The reception will be followed by Author Readings and Q & A.

Tickets for Author Readings and Q & A only are $18.00 (readings begin at 7:15pm)

Tickets for “The Mayor’s Hour: Wine and World Cuisine” are $65.00 (reception begins at 6pm)

Tickets can be purchased through the Markham Arts Council at 905-947-9054 or from the Flato Markham Theatre box office at 905-305-SHOW (7469).

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sheniz Janmohamed

Sheniz Janmohamed is a spoken word artist, author and graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Guelph. Her first book, Bleeding Light (TSAR) a collection of sufi-inspired English ghazals, was published in 2010.

Go to Sheniz Janmohamed’s Author Page