Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Kingston WritersFest Interview Series: Laurie Lewis

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Laurie lewis

Laurie Lewis has been worked in various capacities within the publishing industry for just over 50 years. Laurie's writing has appeared in several publications and she is the author of Little Comrades . Today, Laurie Lewis talks with Open Book for our Kingston WritersFest Interview Series:

Kingston WritersFest is one of Ontario's most popular literary events, drawing guest authors from around the world as well as from the dynamic and well-established Kingston literary community.

Visit Open Book: Ontario throughout the month for more interviews with KWF authors!

Open Book:

Have you been to or lived in Kingston before? If so, what are some of your favourite spots? If not, what are you most looking forward to about visiting?

Laurie Lewis:

I moved to Kingston 20 years ago, from Toronto, after I retired. My mother and I researched retirement cities and decided on Kingston: It has a university, a lake, a symphony orchestra, and an excellent writers community. What more could we ask? We found a tiny house by the lake, in Kingston?s west end, planted some trees and some flowers and settled into a life of relative calm. She was a writer and was working on her own memoir, which was subsequently published by Penguin.

I love downtown Kingston, the sidewalk cafes, the patios, the good restaurants, the shops and the market.


Tell us about what you?ll be reading at this year?s festival.


I?ll be reading from my newly-published memoir, Little Comrades, just out this summer from Porcupine?s Quill. I haven?t quite decided what part of the book I?ll read, actually. I?ve been busy for a couple of months with readings here in Kingston, and in Toronto and Stratford, and my brain is a bit dried up right now.

I?ll be reading, and talking, with Merrily Weisbord as ?Daughters of the Revolution?. Merrily wrote some years ago The Strangest Dream, on the Communist Party in Canada, so perhaps we will have some interesting conversations? I?m a bit terrified about that, actually, since my book comes from my own childhood memories, and I?m not sure how much objectivity I can bring to this discussion. But that?s probably just nerves. Once things get going I sometimes turn into a mouthy-old-lady. Perhaps I will be brave and true.
And, I believe that Merrilyn Simonds also has put me onto a panel discussion about what it?s like to ?debut? as a writer. She has put me with two other people, of varying ages ? should be interesting?


What are some of your favourite memories from past readings, from this event or others?


Well, I have been to a lot of other people?s readings over my twenty years in Kingston, some good, some dreadful (and, actually many, many, over the years, including hearing Dorothy Parker read in New York in 1945). However, I do have to say that the big thrill of my own launch here in Kingston at the end of June is still buzzing in my brain. There were over a hundred people, lots of good food, music, and a fine buzz of excitement. I?m 80 years old and this is my first book, so you can imagine the kick! And Dave Dove did a superb video of the proceedings, so I could actually see it and hear it later, since I was altogether too keyed up to be much aware of things at the reading.

Last year at the WritersFest, I went to a session on promotion, given by Sandra Gulland. It was an inspiration. She warned us all that we?d have to do our own promotion, because our publishers couldn?t do it any more. She gave us great lists and examples, and I went home and did it. I think that was one of the big factors in my favour when my book began to get some attention: people could go to my website ( and see something of the previous lives I have lived, the other people I was before I turned into a writer.

And one of the most exciting readings I have been to recently was Carolyn Smart, reading from her recent book, Hooked, a collection of long bio-poems of obsessed women. Thrilling! The book is now being dramatized with Nicky Gaudigni and is touring through many communities this summer.

The Kingston community is fortunate to have several excellent series of readings at various venues about town, and many of those events are recorded for the local Queen?s radio program, "Finding a Voice", hosted by Bruce Kauffman.


What?s the best advice about public readings you have ever received?


Drink Water, breathe, speak up (My daughter Amanda is director of Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, and I took her short-form advice).


Tell us about one or two of the best Canadian books you?ve read recently.


I have just finished Elizabeth Hay?s new book, Alone in the Classroom, a rather dark and disturbing novel, intricately twining through families and communities, opening strange memories, exploring the whole idea of memory and obsession.


What are you most looking forward to about this year?s Kingston WritersFest?


This is the first time I will actually be participating, and I do look forward to buzzing about from one session to another, soaking up as much a possible, picking up advice and just generally stuffing my brain (for replaying later). I guess I?ll be a groupie for a bit!

Laurie Lewis has worked in publishing all her professional life, since 1961, when she began working at Doubleday in New York, and was intrigued by the notion that so many ?older? people were beginning to write memoirs. At the same time, she began to make connections among the poets? community and became interested in publishing the work of some of the liveliest minds in the Kingston area. She felt that she was serving a useful purpose in publishing well-produced and designed books for her community, to be sold locally by the best independent bookstore in Kingston, Novel Idea. Laurie's own writing has appeared in several publications and she is the author of Little Comrades .

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

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