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Reading: Elizabeth Hay

lizOn the evening of Tuesday 23 September Elizabeth Hay will read from her work at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts. This will be the first of three readings this fall to complete the 2008 Reading Series presented by Parry Sound Books. Following Elizabeth Hay will be Jane Urquhart on Tuesday 21 October and Sheree-Lee Olson on Tuesday 11 November. It is an invigorating experience to listen to an author read from their work. You will hear that voice as you read for yourself, giving an added dimension to the words on the page. It is also an opportunity to question the author – you can ask the questions you wondered about while reading a novel – you can discover the “story behind the story” as the author will often reveal their inspiration – the truth behind the fiction.

We make an attempt to present a variety of authors – some have a substantial literary reputation, while others are just launching their literary career and presenting their first published work. This fall Elizabeth Hay and Jane Urquhart are both well-known, award-winning authors with established careers and Sheree-Lee Olson is the author of a critically acclaimed first novel.

Attending a reading is an opportunity to make the discovery of an unknown, but excellent writer. Who knew anything about Joseph Boyden when we first had him to Parry Sound to launch Three Day Road a couple of years ago! I encourage you to attend our readings this fall if you are not already a subscriber – I promise you will find it an informative and invigorating evening out.

We begin the fall readings with Elizabeth Hay. She was born in Owen Sound, and after attending the University of Toronto she moved to Western Canada. Then to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in 1974, where she worked for CBC Radio for the next ten years. It is this time that is the setting for her most recent novel Late Nights on Air.

Late Nights on Air was the winner of the 2007 Scotiabank Giller Prize. As we read this novel many of us will be reminded of the days of Peter Gzowski when we felt that CBC Radio connected the country. At this small radio station in the north there are love affairs and rivalries among the group of people who have found themselves living in isolation together. A canoe trip into the barrens is an exciting and dangerous summer holiday. This novel is as Canadian as it gets.

As much as I enjoyed reading Late Nights on Air - and contacted Elizabeth Hay immediately to ask her to come to Parry Sound - it was an earlier novel, A Student of Weather, that has remained one of my favourite novels of all.

This novel won several awards and found itself on all the book club lists. This is the story of two sisters, who love the same man. It begins during the depression on the Prairies and follows the lives of these characters for the next thirty years to Ottawa and New York City.

It was after this novel that Elizabeth Hay received the Marian Engel Award for her body of work in 2002 – an award much coveted by Canadian writers.

I am very pleased that Elizabeth Hay – who is doing very few readings this year – has agreed to come to Parry Sound.

This is a unique opportunity to meet this charming and talented writer as she reads from her work and discusses her novels with the audience.

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