25th Trillium Award

Beverly Akerman at the Ottawa Public Library

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Monday, December 12, 2011 - 7:00pm


Ottawa Public Library – Main Library Auditorium
120 Metcalfe St.
Ottawa, ON
K1P 0A7


Beverly Akerman will be at the Main Library in Ottawa to read from her book The Meaning of Children, a collection of short stories of childhood, adolescence, parenthood, and beyond.


Reader and Reviewer Response to Beverly Akerman’s The Meaning Of Children:

A keen, incisive vision into the hidden world of children as well as intimate knowledge of the secret spaces that exist between the everyday events of life. A work with a brilliant sense of story…Magical, and so refreshing for me to read. I absolutely loved it and I hope it goes on to do marvellous things. Yours is a luminous talent.

~JoAnne Soper-Cook, Author and Judge, the WFNB's 2010 David Adams Richards Prize

The book looks great. I read a couple of the stories and really liked them. Also revisited the ones you wrote in class and it was like wow, what prompt was that? What prompt was it, by the way? Do you mind if I use one for a writing book I think I might write?

~Nancy Zafris, series editor for The Flannery O’Connor Awards, former fiction editor of The Kenyon Review

Loved your book... read it in one sitting.

~Mutsumi Takahashi, Anchor, CTV News Montreal; Interview

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.

~Meghan Macdonald, Transatlantic Literary Agency

This isn’t the invented childhood of imagination and wonderment…[here] children both corrupt and redeem: each other, family relationships and the female body.

~Katie Hewitt, The Globe & Mail

Akerman holds up our greatest fears, not to dwell on them, but to marvel at our commitment to life, especially to passing it on to others.

~Anne Chudobiak, The Montreal Gazette, Edmonton Journal, and Regina Leader Post

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

Your book The Meaning of Children is great and so are you!

~Anne Lagacé Dowson, CJAD Radio journalist, on Twitter; Interview

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…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, The Western Star

Beverly’s background as a scientist, MSc and twenty years as a molecular researcher, inevitably spills into the stories…characters, the settings and her style. Intelligent, objective, open-minded but not clinical, her prose is refreshing and unprejudiced. Her characters are frank and genuine...With The Meaning of Children, we get a beautifully written exposé on the meaning of life.

~Francine Diot-Layton, The Rover

Your book is filled with insight and wisdom and gorgeous moving stories...You are dazzling. (I had read “Pie” long ago. It is just as moving the second time).

~Hal Ackerman (no relation), UCLA Screenwriting Area Co-Chair and author of Stein Stoned and Stein Stung

All I seem to read these days are parenting books. But I think I might be learning more about being a parent from Beverly Akerman's The Meaning of Children than from anywhere else. I can't put it down.

~Jenn Hardy, Writer, Editor and Blogger at http://mamanaturale.ca

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

Beverly Akerman is what Alice Munro was supposed to be.

~Mike Rose (received by my publisher, via email)

A life-altering read is so rare for me, and I imagine for many writers, with a critical eye often hard to keep closed while hoping to get caught up and swept away while reading fiction for pleasure...Her stories are as diverse as her changing career path and yet string together a theme as connected as a genetic chain…Children weave their way through every tale…always sparking the reader to question where in all these stories sits their own story.

~Michelle Greysen, Writer, Editor, and Blogger

[You show us how] our childhood experiences affect us forever. And what we bury comes to the surface from time to time….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.

~Carlene Orefici, a Facebook friend I haven’t met in real life (yet!)

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!

~Lisa Dalrymple, Winner of The Writers Union of Canada’s 2011 Writing for Children Competition

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 of The Hungry Mirror, on Amazon.ca

@Beverly_Akerman I am devouring your fabulous book The Meaning of Children!

~Alison Palkhivala, Writer and Editor, on Twitter

This morning I wrote to a friend in Victoria. 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.’ 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.

~Diane Des Roches, new gym friend and budding writer

The Meaning Of Children made the Top 10 List of the CBC – Scotiabank Giller Prize Readers’ Choice Contest, the ReLit Longlist, and won the David Adams Richards Prize. Many of the stories have also received awards, including firsts in the Gemini Magazine Flash Fiction Contest and the Fog City Writers Short Story Contest, second prize in the Sheldon Currie Fiction Contest for “Tumbalalaika,” an Editor’s Choice designation in Best New Writing 2011/Eric Hoffer Award, and as a finalist or honourable mention in several other competitions, including twice each for The Writers’ Union of Canada’s Short Prose Competition and the Glass Woman Prize, and for the 2011 Aesthetica Magazine (UK) Creative Works Competition.

The underappreciated world of women is my bailiwick; my stories capture pivotal moments of childhood, adolescence, parenthood, or life as a whole. Disparate decades, genders, and narrative voices are woven together by themes of sex, death, guilt, social prejudice. And love, always love. 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, and stasis is just not an option. The Meaning Of Children speaks to all who—though aware the world can be a very dark place—can’t help but long for redemption.

TV and radio interviews: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0i9teebBxk&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyOp2wQlxvk; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djOXwJasZes.

My thumbnail biography:

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—winning accolades for her prose ever since. She was just shortlisted for Aesthetica Magazine's Creative Works Competition (UK), recently won the Professional Writers Association of Canada’s Short Article Award and was an honourable mention for their Feature Award. Other honours include Pushcart Prize nominations in fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in the anthology Best New Writing 2011, in over 20 literary journals as well as in newspapers, magazines, on CBC Radio One, and in numerous learned journals. It pleases her strangely to believe she’s the only Canadian fiction writer ever to have sequenced her own DNA.

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