Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Five Things Literary: Hamilton, Ontario with Krista Foss

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In our Five Things Literary series, we bring you into the literary life of individual authors and the communities that nurture and inspire them.

Today we hear from debut novelist and past Journey Prize nominee (twice over!) Krista Foss, who lives and writes in Hamilton. Krista's debut novel, Smoke River, was published this spring by McClelland & Stewart. Quill & Quire triumphed the work as a modern classic, saying Smoke River will "overwhelm you with deep feelings — despair, anger, love, defiance, frustration, yearning, bitterness, pain... [a] searing novel".

Krista is in good company in Hamilton, which has quietly been attracting writers and artists of all stripes from across the province to its historical core for many years, creating a vibrant arts community in the southwestern Ontario city.

Read on to hear from Krista about the literary life of Hamilton.


Five Things Literary: Hamilton, Ontario

My home is in a central downtown neighbourhood of Hamilton. Gentrification and dispossession are neighbours in this city, as are industrial brutalism and sprawling greenspaces, ambition and fatalism. These juxtapositions — and the relatively inexpensive cost of living — make this place attractive to artists and writers, whose numbers grow daily. Here are five things that keep me inspired:

  1. My desk
    • It?s command central; bills and parking tickets are paid here, e-mails read and sent, and the day planned. But there is too much going on here for me to write — so my desk inspires me to leave. (The needy little creature under my desk is also a distraction.)


  2. Coffee shops
    • Pictured is one of my favorite coffee shops, which has, in my opinion, the best pour in the city. For me, much of the heavy-lifting of writing can only be tackled in a coffee shop (the fine-tuning might be done in a quieter space.) I try not to overstay my welcome, so I have a circuit of independent cafes that I cycle through, stretching from the city?s east end to Dundas. Luckily, I have a lot of choice.


  3. The Escarpment
    • One of Hamilton?s most striking geographic features is the Niagara Escarpment, a spine of glacial limestone that divides the city from the suburbs. The downtown rolls out from the escarpment?s base toward the bay. Bike paths and a set of staircases take you up this ledge of rock to what?s affectionately called the ?mountain?. The Bruce Trail meanders the entire length of it. Here?s where I go to shake of the sluggishness that comes with a few hours at my laptop. Even though I technically live downtown, I am just a block away from a little respite among the trees. It helps that I have two dogs who I insist I take a break for the outdoors.


  4. Bryan Prince Bookseller
    • Every city needs independent booksellers and right now ours is sustaining three. Bryan Prince is the stalwart. This bookshop in the city?s west end is tireless in sponsoring readings for local and visiting writers as well as writing festivals and series. It?s a haven for readers and writers as well. Every chat with a staff member there reminds you that books matter. (That?s Kate Hilton pictured.)


  5. Homegrown Hamilton
    • This restaurant, cafĂ© and all-purpose hangout just off James St. North is a venue for a variety of music and art shows, and importantly, the Sunday night LitLive series. It?s a blurry picture but that?s poet Amanda Jernigan on stage, reading to packed house at the end of the gritLit Writer?s Festival in April. The enthusiastic audiences and the sense of ease in which the homeless also wander in to have a cup of coffee and catch some of readings — I find that inspiring.


Krista Foss is a former journalist whose short fiction has twice been a finalist for the Journey Prize and long-listed for CBC's Canada Writes contest as well as published in several literary journals. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and lives in Hamilton, Ontario. Smoke River is her first novel.

For more information about Smoke River please visit the McClelland & Stewart website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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