25th Trillium Award

Read Ontario, with Laurie Lewis

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Laurie Lewis (photo credit: Amanda Lewis)

Ontario has a wealth of fantastic writers and amazing stories. This October the Ontario Book Publishers Organization is highlighting a selection of Ontario's finest writing from some of the great Ontario publishers. Pick up an Ontario book and ?Read Ontario!?

But just where does the magic happen? Visit the Open Book: Toronto and Open Book: Ontario websites over the next few weeks to find out how living in Ontario has influenced some of our best authors.

Laurie Lewis has led no ordinary life. In Little Comrades (The Porcupine's Quill), her first memoir, she writes about the new life that she and her mother discovered in post-war New York City, fleeing a childhood in Depression-era Alberta with Laurie's alcoholic father. She navigated Greenwich Village and Little Italy as a young socialist at a time when that was a very dangerous thing to be. Her newest book, Love, and all that jazz (The Porcupine's Quill), is the sequel to her fascinating life story, beginning with her doomed marriage to Jazz aficionado Gary Lewis and following her return to Canada as a single mother determined to make her way in the publishing industry.

Although readers of these spellbinding memoirs might disagree, Laurie asserts that after writing two memoirs, she's a touch sick of herself. This is why she flees the sanctuary of her Kingston home and nestles herself in with the breakfast crowds in the coffee shop — at least when she's between projects, or versions of herself.

Visit a participating Read Ontario independent bookstore to purchase your copy of Love, and all that jazz, or click here for details on how you can enter to win The World of Niagara Wine and 41 other Read Ontario books.

Read Ontario: Laurie Lewis

I live in Kingston now, at this rather late stage of my life. Kingston suits me — I?ve been here for over 20 years, since I retired from my life in Toronto as an art director. Kingston is a great community for writers — plenty of readings, book launches, stimulating coffee talks?.

I have a quiet little house, where I have lived alone for over ten years. For the past year or so, since my husband died, I seem to have been deliberately cultivating chaos in my writing workplace. I cart my laptop from room to room — working in the big wing chair in the living room, sitting at the patio table, sprawling on a lawn chair, propped up in bed late at night. And I scribble little notes about ideas and leave them all over the house, where I won?t be able to find them, won?t be able to remember them. Sometimes I write them carefully into a notebook, and then I lose the notebook and start another one. Then lose that one too.

I have a little writing shed out in the garden, with a big window and a comfy chaise — it?s a calm and wonderful place to write. Sometimes I go there, but my restlessness drives me out. I?m escaping from serenity.

I sometimes run away from my calm quiet house, escaping to an internet cafĂ© early in the morning. I order breakfast, read the local paper, look at the other patrons and at the muted TV news. After the breakfast crowd leaves, I settle into a big black armchair with my laptop on the table in front of me. I think I like the ?foreignness? of the space — its complete lack of Laurie-ness.

After writing two memoirs I?m rather sick of myself. So perhaps it?s me I?m running away from, not orderliness. I?m not merely ?between books?, but between concepts of who I am.

However, I begin to see a small glimmer of hope. Just a couple of days ago I cleared up some clutter from my office, stuffed the detritus of Love, and all that jazz into a file box and carted it to the big filing cabinet in the basement. I unearthed a small basket into which I began to fling the notes I found scattered around the house. I rearranged my office furniture, hung a new bulletin board beside the desk, and made a rather sensible arrangement — if I do say so myself — of my desktop and laptop computers, sliding the laptop into a perfect nook next to the desk, ready to travel with me to the big chair, now that summer is over. (In theory my laptop does email and writing, and the desktop does other business. Thanks to the joys of Dropbox, I now have access on both computers to all the major work I have on the go.)

Perhaps my self-generated period of chaos is over. I certainly hope so.

Laurie Lewis is a Fellow of Graphic Designers of Canada and is editor of Vista, the publication of the Seniors Association in Kingston, Ontario.

She began writing in 1991 after retirement. Her written work has been on CBC and has been published in Contemporary Verse 2, Queen?s Feminist Review, Kingston Poets? Gallery, Queen?s Quarterly, and The Toronto Quarterly. Her memoir, Little Comrades, was published by Porcupine?s Quill in 2011 and was named by the Globe and Mail among the Top 100 Books of the Year 2011. A second memoir, Love, and all that jazz has just been published by Porcupine?s Quill.

For more information about Love, and all that jazz please visit the Porcupine's Quill website.

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

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