Monday 25 July 2011

"Life Begins at Fifty!" New Interview, Open Book: Toronto

Writer and scientist Beverly Akerman's first book, the short fiction collection The Meaning of Children was recently published by Exile Editions and was just longlisted for The ReLit Award for short fiction. The book won the David Adams Richard prize in manuscript form. (It has since made the Top 10 for the CBC-Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers' Choice Contest!)

Beverly Akerman talks with Open Book's Grace O'Connell (below) about her first book, the art of organizing a short fiction collection and her upcoming projects. You can find Open Book: Toronto here.

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book, The Meaning of Children.

Beverly Akerman:

Published by Exile Editions, six years in the making and soon to be a major motion picture, The Meaning Of Children is a collection of 14 short stories, divided into “Beginning” (first person point of view child stories), “Middle” (of those in the child bearing years) and “End” (stories of older people, or that take the long view of life). Many of the stories have won or placed in contests, some of them multiple times.

And I was just kidding about that movie thing. Well, more like hoping…


How did it change your writing process to consider your narratives in relation to children and how they might view events?


I didn’t start out writing for any particular theme, beyond the issues I was interested in, felt strongly about, was moved — or even obsessed — by. Then, after four or five years, I had 25 or so published stories to my credit, and I was left to try and figure out what united them — other than the fact they were written by me. I had to package them in some sensible way. I didn’t have much luck with the submission process until I hit on the current format, but you always find something in the last place you look for it… I do think writers who plan a linked or otherwise related set of stories (e.g. about people travelling the Pacific trail) will find agents and/or publishers to be receptive. But this is my first book… I had no grand plan at the outset, beyond wanting to write. And deciding that juggling the smaller universe of a short story felt way less intimidating than starting with a novel. The feedback from my readers has been pretty amazing. Touching. Heartfelt.

“I found your writing haunting and powerfully emotive, drawing on the subtleties of childhood, youth and parenthood that undermine us in strange and unexpected ways. Your writing is polished and mature, something I am always in awe of and why I got into publishing to begin with.” ~ An agent at a prominent Toronto literary agency (it was a refusal, but still).

More here.


How do you feel the stories in your collection interact? How do you decide on the order of the stories?


That’s an interesting question. We had this really compressed production schedule — only several weeks from acceptance to printing. So I read the book over a number of times in a very short period, which led me to think a lot about how the stories relate. And also to realize that they reflect the way both halves of my career intersect.

I worked for over 20 years in molecular genetics research. Now in biology and genetics, evolution by natural selection is as close to ‘written in stone’ as a concept can be. But the point of evolution — and selective advantage via sexual reproduction — is to produce a new generation better suited to prevailing circumstances, which change over time. And also better suited to change. So if the climate cools, for example, offspring with a warmer coat are better adapted to it and more likely to survive and go on to contribute their genes to the next generation. In other words, it’s about doing your best for your offspring, albeit in an unconscious or extra-conscious way. So children are very central to all of this, or offspring, anyway, but in a very macro way. I also had three children with my husband while I was doing all that bench work, a kaleidoscope of new experiences and feelings. The stories are micro views of that.

In terms of selecting and ordering the stories, once I hit on the idea of beginning, middle, end, it all seemed much easier. I tried not to have too many of the same type of story (I had a surfeit of “middle” stories from which to choose). I wanted also to showcase different aspects of what I can do. So there’s satire, there’s sort of fairy tale allegory, and there’s straight realism, especially in the kids-eye view stories. I would have liked a few more funny stories; a lot of my work is dark.
(One of my favourite stories is “The Hardboiled Stress of Being Santa,” but I just couldn’t see a place for it in the book. Also, it’s so Canadian — about Brian Mulroney, Karlheinz Schreiber, and scatological letters from Santa — I worried it would hurt the book elsewhere. But I’d love it if more people read it. It’s on but they have one of the footnote links wrong, so I’ll point you to this version. Perhaps the perfect antidote to summer heat…)

Growing up can be really tough. Not so much physically, in my stories. More emotionally. That feeling children have when they realize their parents have feet of clay. If you manage it right (as a parent and maybe as a writer, too), you get growth.


What recurring themes or obsessions do you notice turning up in your writing?


The underappreciated world of women is my bailiwick. Loglines of several stories in The Meaning Of Children: a girl discovers a fear of heights as her parents’ marriage unravels; a thirty-something venture fund manager frets over his daughter’s paternity; an orphan whose hands kill whatever they touch is accused of homophobia; a suicidal daycare worker has a very bad day; a mother of two can only bear to consider abortion in the second person; the wife of a retirement-aged professor finds him unconscious near his computer. Life happens in these stories; stasis is just not an option. I write about foster kids, survivor guilt, Jewish themes; how, over time, we sometimes grow out of the lives we’ve painstakingly built for ourselves.

I’ve been told there’s a lot (comparatively) of science and medicine in my work. Makes sense, as that’s my background — I spent over 20 years in molecular biology labs, most of them connected with McGill University and the Montreal Children’s Hospital.


How do you make a character vibrant and realistic in just a few pages?


Describe what they’re experiencing with their senses. But not in a list… it has to be more subtle than that. The telling detail is important. The guy at the restaurant who salts his food before tasting it… does that tell you something about character? Actually, a lot of the novels I read these days seem 100 pages too long. I’ve heard editing is becoming a lost art, especially with ‘established’ writers. So I would have to say short stories are much more focused because of their length. Less flabby.

That’s really the important thing: the medium requires you to cut out the unimportant details. You just don’t have room for them.


Who are some people who have deeply influenced your writing life?


First off, I’d have to mention several of the many writers I’ve had as teachers: Neale McDevitt, Nancy Zafris, Luis Urrea spring immediately to mind. Wonderful writers, and amazingly generous teachers. My family, of course, who are my inspiration (in every possible way, often to their chagrin).
Then there are writers I’ve read: Morley Callaghan, whose The Loved And The Lost taught me when I was a very young reader that the place I lived could be interesting enough to sustain a Governor General Award-winning novel (his son Barry started Exile Editions, now run by Barry’s son Michael; both these gentlemen have read my book, which feels like coming full circle). Mordecai Richler, who taught me that the best way to engage readers is to put serious themes in a comic novel. Rohinton Mistry, for demonstrating the power of a writer who loves his characters (Swimming Lessons: and other lessons from Firozsha Bagg). Lionel Shriver (We Have to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World) for being fearless and an innovator. Margaret Atwood, whose “Death by Landscape” revealed the power of even the shortest stories to haunt us. Alice Munro — I still have the copy of Lives of Girls and Women I bought at 17. Kurt Vonnegut. Harper Lee.

And last but far from least, my writing group, a wonderful gaggle of co-conspirators, who read my work and offered up their own, teaching me so much in the bargain: Pauline Clift, Julie Gedeon, Kathy Horibe, Maranda Moses and Heather Pengelley.

How much time do we have? ;)


What would you say to convince someone who is "more into novels" to give short fiction a try?


I’d say a couple of things. First of all, as I alluded above, short stories are a highly distilled form, a lot more focused than (many) novels. Comparing them to novels is like comparing brandy to wine. Short stories — the best short stories — are a more concentrated version, a purer hit. From the same source, yet for different purposes. From all we hear about today’s shorter attention spans and more pressured lifestyles, it seems like the world is ready to rediscover short stories in a big way. They’re perfect for commuting, for example. And a number of daily subscriptions on hand helds are now available (Dan Sinker’s, currently on hiatus, published my story “Pie” twice; there’s also CommuterLit).

The other main point is that short stories are often a proving ground for great new writers: Alexander MacLeod, Sarah Selecky, David Bezmozgis, Vincent Lam. So reading short stories lets you be part of discovering the next big thing. There’s a certain cachet in being able to say you were among the first to appreciate them ‘way back when.’

But really, diff’rent strokes for different folks.


What are you working on now?


I’m trying like the devil to get my collection published in the US and elsewhere. I’m figuring out how to write a novel, something set in late ‘60s Montreal that features the FLQ crisis. I’ve also been dabbling in playwriting with Colleen Curran. One of my monologues was performed at Sarasvati Productions’ FemFest 2010. I keep thinking that some of my stories could be put together in film form, sort of like Raymond Carver’s were in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts.

There’s a whole world of things out there to try. Maybe life really does begin at fifty.

Beverly Akerman is an award-winning Canadian writer and a scientist. She is strangely pleased to believe she's the only Canadian fiction writer ever to have sequenced her own DNA. You can visit her online at her website.

For more information about The Meaning of Children please visit the Exile Editions website.
Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

The Meaning Of Children Scores Another Lovely Review (this time from Newfoundland)

One book currently being considered for the Giller Prize is the remarkable collection of short stories “The Meaning of Children” by Montreal writer Beverly Akerman.

In differing ways these stories relate to the large themes of childhood and parenthood. But, in saying this, I’m quick to also point out that these stories are not simply about being a child or a mother or father. These perspectives serve as launching points for stories that actually transcend such matters rather than being entirely defined by them.

The same applies to the fact that some of these stories also reflect Judaism and aspects of the Jewish experience; it’s a meaningful thing to keep in mind — but such aspects of how Akerman’s stories are grounded serve well as a starting point in understanding her fiction; they are not the be-all and end-all of what her stories are “about” as it were. It’s as though these considerations are simultaneously central and incidental.

One thing that readers of these stories might notice quickly is the way Akerman engages with dichotomies. Childhood is that safe, magical, carefree time and place — but it’s also risky, threatening, ominous and dangerous — full of impenetrable mystery around things seen and experienced, but beyond understanding. And if it’s not too much of a simplification or stating the obvious, life and the world are not gentle on children simply for being children.

In the opening story, “Tumbalalaika,” Akerman shows how the slightest touch can bring childhood perceptions crashing down to expose harsh truth and reality. When Karen, who is just on the verge of beginning to understand the world of adult concerns, lets her guard down and dares to playfully address her mother as an equal, her mother counters in brutal terms that she is not.

Children are not safe from harsh awakenings, and Akerman shows that very capably throughout.

Parent and adult characters are both touched and irritated by the children in their lives. For their own part, children try — and often fail — to take measure of the world of adults.

In the world of these 14 stories, the beauty of children and the innocence they represent is recognized and welcomed by parents — but, as is often the case in actual life, parents fail in this because they’ve lost that connection with their own childhoods, and the warm influence of their children cannot bring it back.

The story “The Mysteries,” shows very well that the signals given off by children reach adults only in scrambled form. Adult perceptions distort the meaning of a small girl’s friendly encounter with an elderly man she does not know while walking to school. This brief, warm and innocent encounter swiftly becomes misconstrued as a brush with a suspected predator — all because she fears adult reprisals for being late.

If, as Dostoevsky once remarked, and as is quoted on the collection’s frontispiece, “The soul is healed by being with children,” it is the tragedy of adulthood that we become so isolated from childhood — and what children offer us.

Artfully, evocatively, Beverly Akerman’s “The Meaning of Children” reminds us of that.

Darrell Squires is assistant manager of Public Information and Library Resources Board, West Newfoundland-Labrador division. You can contact him at: or by phone at 634-7333. His column appears every other week.

(The review was originally published here.)

Monday 18 July 2011

From alpha globin genes to short story magazines: Singularity Magazine (May 2011)

Vincent Tan of Singularity Magazine (the magazine "for curious artists and scientists") was kind enough to interview me for his May 2011 issue...thanks again, Vincent!!

1) Before we talk about your book, The Meaning of Children, tell us more about your work in molecular genetics research.

I did my McGill University MSc with Charles Scriver at the Debelle Laboratory for Biochemical Research, which is a department in The Montreal Childrens’ Hospital. The title of my thesis was Alpha Globin Genes in Quebec Populations. Adult hemoglobin is made of two chains, so-called alpha and beta (two of each, actually). Hereditary anemias—like thalassemia and sickle cell anemia—are caused by mutations (which can be point mutations or deletions) in either gene. Because the normal person actually has 4 copies of the alpha gene (two from each parent), most alpha mutations are due to deletions. So basically I used Southern blotting to analyze how many alpha globin genes there were in people from Quebec groups at varying risk for hereditary anemia. My thesis was deposited in 1987, before PCR technology became widely used. My first job was in Nahum Sonenberg’s lab in McGill’s biochemistry department. He focused on translation initiation; that’s where I became really proficient in DNA cloning and sequencing. From there, I worked with Roy Gravel (who had just come from University of Toronto to head up the MCH’s Research Institute; ’90-‘96). He worked on gangliosidoses—I published work on Tay Sachs disease mutations in non-Jewish populations. And from there, it was back to work with Charles and also Dr. Eileen Treacy (’96-99). I spent 10 months in the lab of Andrea Leblanc at the Lady Davis Institute—working on enzymes involved in programmed cell death, called caspases. From there, I headed off to the private sector, to a now-merged biotech company called Ecopia. They were looking for new antibiotics by scanning bacterial genomes. After three years there, molecular biology and I called it quits.

2) You sequenced your own DNA. What made you do it? More importantly, how did you go about doing it? Can everyone do it too?

I needed a control for a Tay Sachs disease patient whose DNA I was sequencing, so I used my own (probably not a good idea but people do that all the time, or at least did so back then). I don’t think you could do this at home: for one thing, in those days, you needed to use radioactive material. So ordering it and using it safely meant doing it in a laboratory. And it was only short segments of my DNA, not all of it. But it is a true quirky fact that I’ve done it, so it amuses me to include it as part of my biography.

Vincent Tan & alter ego

3) Moving from molecular genetics to fiction writing seems like a big jump. What's the story behind it?

Well, I think I had been moving beyond science for a decade, but gradually. Then something really acute happened: my father-in-law, Gerry Copeman, died of lung cancer in 2003. Gerry and I didn’t get along that well, though we’d made our peace. But when he died, I was plunged into a sort of crisis: I understood—emotionally, as opposed to rationally or intellectually—that my time on this earth was finite, and that I’d better use it doing something I’d always dreamed of doing—which was writing fiction. So I quit working in science and started writing. I have a wonderfully supportive family.

4) The short stories in your book all revolve around children. What's the significance?

I didn’t start out to write stories on any particular theme, beyond that they were about issues that I was interested in, felt strongly about, was moved by. Then, after four or five years, I had written all these stories and I had to find a way to unite them, to put them into a package in some way that made sense other than that they were written by me. I ended up with a book that has three parts—Beginning (which features first-person point of view stories of children), Middle (stories of people in the child-bearing years), and End (which features older people, or stories that take the long view of life). I’ve also been thinking a lot lately of where my two careers intersect. In biology and genetics, evolution by natural selection is as close to written in stone as any concept. But the point of evolution—and selective advantage via sexual reproduction—is to produce a ‘better’ next generation, one more suited to the prevailing circumstances. In other words, it’s about doing your best for your offspring, albeit in an unconscious or extra-conscious way. So children are very central to all of this, or offspring, anyway. I also had three children with my husband while I was doing all that lab work. I’ve been intrigued to experience all those parental feelings on a personal level.

5) Of all the 14 short stories, which one did you find the hardest to write? Why is that?

The hardest ones are the ones that aren’t published yet. Probably because I have yet to get them right!

6) If you had to write a children's book, instead of a book revolving around children, what is the first idea and storyline you think of?

I’d love to write more funny stuff, so I’d want to write something about misunderstandings or kids getting into mischief. Science mischief, maybe, I hadn’t thought of that before, so thanks for this. I feel that I may have written too many sad or dark stories. Maybe I just had to get them out of my system, though.

7) Where can we get more information about you and your book?

You can read about my triumphs and tribulations by finding me on Facebook, ‘liking’ my book’s Facebook page, or on Twitter at @Beverly_Akerman.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Author! Author! An Interview with Beverly Akerman

After over two decades in molecular genetics research, Beverly Akerman realized she’d been learning more and more about less and less. Skittish at the prospect of knowing everything about nothing, she turned, for solace, to writing. The results are impressive: She’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (fiction and nonfiction) and National Magazine Awards. Her credits include Maclean’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, The National Post, The Montreal Gazette and CBC Radio One’s Sunday Edition, myriad literary and scientific journals and other publications. And, now, she has a collection of short stories titled The Meaning of Children, published with Exile Editions.

In The Meaning of Children, Beverly presents us with 14 stories that approach the world’s complexities through a child’s eyes (Beginning), grapple with the sorrows and ecstasies of the child-bearing years (Middle), and probe truths that emerge near the end of life’s journey (End). The Meaning of Children speaks to all of us who—though aware the world can be a very dark place—can’t help but long for redemption.

You are a master story teller Beverly. What, in your opinion, makes a great short story and what did you have to pay attention to as a writer?

Everyone’s time is precious, particularly my reader’s. So if I want people to read something I’ve written, there has to be something in it for them. Like, a good story.

I write literary fiction (or try to), but I think some readers (and writers!) have decided that means stories where nothing much happens. Well, in my stories, the kernel is an event that creates a significant emotional response in the reader. I don’t want to spend all my time in a character’s head when I’m reading a book myself, so I’m not going to write stories where the protagonist spends all her time moaning and groaning about her lot. I don’t believe in anomie. I don’t believe in books about nothing more than young people f*cking.

Emotion is important and at the crux of everything. So emotional experiences matter. Paring down the prose matters. Beginning, middle, end. The character has to change (or miss a grand opportunity for growth), and the reader has to know that.

Getting a book of short stories published with a prestigious publisher like Exile Editions is everyone’s dream. Tell us a bit about getting them on board.

I’m really pleased to be published by Exile for a number of reasons. They’re a small literary publisher with a solid gold reputation—they’ve published some of the great writers of our time— Yehuda Amichai , Pablo Neruda , Morley Callaghan , Austin Clarke , Lauren B. Davis , Michael Moriarty , Joyce Carol Oates , Boris Pasternak , to name a few. But the secret reason I’m thrilled with Exile (I’m a diaspora Jew—even the name “Exile” pleases me!) is that it was founded by Barry Callaghan, who is Morley Callaghan’s son. The current publisher is Michael Callaghan, Barry’s son and Morley’s grandson.

But that’s not the secret.

The secret is that Morley Callaghan is fundamental to my having become a writer. And in more ways than one.

First of all, his 1951 masterpiece, The Loved and The Lost, has always stuck with me. This great novel of the immorality of racism takes place in Montreal , and the protagonist is a man named Jim McAlpine. TLATL is one of the first CanLit novels I remember reading as a really young person. My last science job ended in 2003, when I left a biotech company called Ecopia. Some time during the last year or so that I worked there, a new VP was recruited from the States, a man named Jim McAlpine.

"A day is full of possibilities… " Beverly says. (Photo taken by author; dawn in Ogunquit, Maine)

Now I hadn’t thought of TLATL for years, but the moment I heard the new VP’s name, my first thought was, “that’s the name of Callaghan’s protagonist in TLATL.” I dug up my old copy of the book and brought it into work, where it sat in my desk drawer for months (I never worked up the nerve to show the biochemist Jim McAlpine; I figured he’d think I was a loon!). Every time I caught sight of it, I puzzled over the coincidence of the names and why it meant so much to me. Eventually, I realized that I had to quit science because what I really wanted to do was write.

So Morley Callaghan taught me two absolutely vital things: that the place I lived could be interesting enough to sustain a Governor General Award-winning novel—remember, this was before I’d ever read anything by Richler!—and that a novel I hadn’t looked at for a couple of decades still meant that much to me.

There was one more really fundamental thing that put me on the path to being a writer: the death of my father-in-law, Gerry Copeman. Gerry and I didn’t get along that well, though we’d made our peace. But when he died, I plunged into a crisis: I understood—emotionally, as opposed to rationally or intellectually—that my time on this earth was finite, and I’d better use it doing something I’d always dreamed of doing—which was writing fiction.

Let me take another stab at answering your question, though. I submitted to Exile more than once. I just kept at it. They had my manuscript for close to 2 years, without a contract. The length of time I found very trying, I can’t deny it. But, if there’s a message here, it’s to believe in your work and not give up.

And, by the way, as far as submitting short stories goes, I submitted like mad. And I pretty much completely disregarded any demands not to submit simultaneously—that is, I submitted each story to many lit journals at the same time. That’s supposed to be a no-no. But really, if I needed to face 10 rejections before an acceptance (and that’d be an easy road for most of my stories!), and each journal took six months to answer me, that’d be five years before I got a story accepted…at that rate, I’d’ve been DEAD before having a significant body of stories in print!

Reprinted, with kind permission, from

Monday 11 July 2011

New Review of TMOC in The Rover: "Suffer the Children"

Yesterday, I posted some of the emotion-laden comments of recent readers of The Meaning of Children (and tweeted my brains out about it--sorry if I got on your nerves!)

And then today, a lovely new review that has me reaching for the thesaurus, fresh out of superlatives...The Rover's Francine Diot-Layton says, "With The Meaning of Children, we get a beautifully written exposé on the meaning of life."

Another sliver: "There are fourteen stories in all. Many of them exercise difficult writing tools such as the second person point of view in Like Jeremy Irons, which deals with abortion. Surprisingly, the use of “you” blankets the stories with anonymity. The first three, narrated through the eyes of a child in the first person, are candid, disarmingly frank and lucid. So delightful they are, that I regret is that the entire collection isn’t written from the children’s perspective."

You are cordially invited to take a moment to read the review: Suffer the Children.



Sunday 10 July 2011

Reader Feedback on The Meaning Of Children

The Meaning Of Children now available on Kindle!

[An updated version of this posting is available here...]

Just had to share some of the incredibly moving feedback I've been getting from readers of my new book, The Meaning Of Children (available at fine bookstores, through Exile Editions, on, and

  1. I found your writing haunting and powerfully emotive, drawing on the subtleties of childhood, youth and parenthood that undermine us in strange and unexpected ways. Your writing is polished and mature, something I am always in awe of and why I got into publishing to begin with.~An agent at a prominent Toronto literary agency
  1. I adore your knack for leaving questions hanging in the reader's mind…and then there are those thought provoking zingers tucked neatly inside the last thought, description or action of your narrators. I haven't enjoyed short stories like this since Margaret Atwood, Barbara Gowdy and Alice Munro. ~Rusti Lehay, Writer and Editor (just met Rusti at the AGM/Conference of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, held in Montreal, mid-June)
  1. Beverly Akerman is what Alice Munro was supposed to be. ~Email sent to my Canadian publisher, Exile Editions
  1. I wanted to let you know that I purchased your book, and I really enjoyed it. I was just going to read a few of the stories at a time, but I read until the ‘End’ section the first night, and then read that section the next night! I liked [how you demonstrate that] our childhood experiences affect us forever. And what we bury comes to the surface from time to time. I feel the story about the woman who couldn't touch anything without it dying was sad and funny - loved the boys next door - and I liked PIE - as you have now given me a simple recipe that I can remember for pie crust -I am a baker. And the poor woman who had entered probably menopause and her marriage had broken without her noticing it. She was just so angry and exhausted. So many women I feel are and hide it.

    And, I liked how easily you seem to write. Everything kind of just kept flowing. I really admire people who can put their thoughts on paper and have it make sense.

    So, have a lovely week and keep the interesting wall posts coming. And I will recommend and lend your book to friends. Be well.~a Facebook friend I haven’t met in real life (yet!)
  1. Just finished ‘Like Jeremy Irons.’ That was a tough one. Saying I loved it feels contrary to the agony I'm feeling right now. (Perhaps I shouldn't have settled into it with a glass of wine?) Awesome writing - even if my uterus is cramping!~a fellow writer I met at the Writers Federation of New Brunswick’s WordSpring 2010, where I was awarded the David Adams Richards Prize
  1. Counter-intuitive to the title, for me these stories resonate with the sad truth of being a grownup. Life is that damn hard and just-under-the-surface tension saturates our existence. But the kids, they know what's going on. They may not understand all the details but they know the score. Akerman nails that sorrow, highlights it with unexpected humour, credits our resilience and almost never skips a beat. As with any collection of stories, some are stronger than others. Lighter Than Air, The Mysteries, and Broken knocked the wind out of me, forcing me to take a long pause and mull them over, sit a while. ~Chris Benjamin, author of Drive-by Saviours, on Goodreads (met Chris on Facebook)
  1. I enjoyed The Meaning of Children so much that I wished there were twice as many stories! If I had to pick one, ‘Pour Un Instant’ was my favourite. I was sad to come to the end of the book. ~Lisa De Nikolits, author, on (I met Lisa on Facebook and then in person at TMOC’s Toronto launch)
  1. @Beverly_Akerman I am devouring your fabulous book the meaning of children!~Alison Palkhivala, Writer and Editor, on Twitter
  1. Read the first two stories last night. They are amazing. You really capture what the children are feeling and going through. I could relate to both stories, especially the second one where the 8 year old felt alone when her mom was more concerned about the baby, and the girl walking to school and meeting a stranger. Similar to things that happened when I was that age...Can't wait to read the rest of the book.~from an American Facebook friend I haven't met (yet!)
  1. This morning I wrote to a friend in Victoria about your book. This is what I told her: ‘I finished Beverly Akerman's book and really liked it. The theme throughout is children: being a child, being pregnant, abortion, losing a child, being a father, giving a child for adoption. Touchy stuff but she has such kindness, such compassion and infuses hope and love in the saddest situation. She offers unique and surprising insights, it's never sappy or cliché. All this within the short story frame, quite a feat in my opinion. If you can't find her book, I'll send you my copy.’

    I guess that sums up what I felt while reading each story. Here are some of my favorite ones:

    Paternity: you take a man's voice and point of view; stepping in the Oratoire and being confronted by the statue of St. Joseph holding baby Jesus is soo powerful and literally a validation of his own paternal feelings for Daisy.

    Pour un instant: such a sensitive story, two English kids kissing at la Saint-Jean, seduced by Harmonium's lovely song Pour un instant. There are many layers here. Conflict in our two communities. Akiva being murdered for being Jewish, senseless abominable antisemitism. Marcy's lifelong grief. Your ending is so clear and liberating. I felt the water of the lake, I experienced the hope, the joy of being alive - in spite of all this.

    Like Jeremy Irons: I love that you use the second person. It sets the necessary tone of detachment, as if the self is someone else. Your first paragraph is amazing. The OB closing up shop and the Gyno performing abortions = the English community is shrinking. Those were the days when one could chose a doctor! You give a chilling and accurate description of the whole process, from the waiting room to the operating room. Again, I found your ending to be compassionate, surprising and unique. You are a very talented and creative writer! …Thank you for writing such an amazing book and for promoting yourself at the gym. It was a bold and creative move. I would have not known about your writing otherwise.
Me again. I want to thank all the goodhearted people who have shared their thoughts on my book, passed the word along to friends, and just otherwise encouraged me on what is, after all, a sometimes lonely pursuit…this week, I learned my book has been submitted to The Giller Prize committee for consideration. The Giller Prize is Canada’s "most generous literary fiction award." It is an honour to find my book in such august company (and it’s only the beginning of July, too!)
Please feel free to let me know what you think of The Meaning Of Children.
A word on my photos: thought I would just share some of my favourites with you…our lakeside idyll, north of Montreal; dawn at Ogunquit, 2008; "Tenacious" near Banff, 2009.