Years ago on a dark Edmonton night, a local Canadian author had a book launch at Audreys Books. Only two university-aged girls walked in and not noticing the author behind them, one said to the other: “Sucks to be this author.” As I’m sure almost all writers have felt the sting of that kind of sentiment before (maybe even in their own head), one can only take it as it comes.
This humbling story comes from Ann Eriksson, a Saskatchewan born and seasoned writer in the literary sphere, as well as an established biologist. On Nov. 9, she was one of three authors speaking about their newly-published books at Audreys Books on Jasper Avenue to a packed crowd. Alongside Eriksson were Emily Saso, an Ottawa born writer, and Clea Young, a Vancouver-based author.
Eriksson says it’s not about the notoriety. Keeping in the tradition of most of her books by remarking on various environmental and social issues, her new book, The Performance, explores a story about a privileged and gifted pianist, Hanna, alongside the beatnik life of Jacqueline, a homeless yet powerful character.
The Performance is, as Eriksson puts it, a novel about inequality and power, set in our modern times. Perhaps this is the type of disparity most see in their daily lives but tend to ignore, and it is this type of social commentary Eriksson finds inspiring, even if it “sucks to be this author.” For Eriksson, it is the creative freedom that keeps her writing and publishing books after all these years.
Emily Saso has been living in Toronto since 1999 (though, she would like me to refrain from saying she’s from Toronto out of fear of insult) and supports her writing habit with a job in marketing. For her first published book, The Weather Inside, Saso took the time to meticulously research the religion of the Jehovah’s Witness.
She lived across the street from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and went to the meetings to really explore religion and invest her time to create that nuance in her new book. In fact, Saso prides herself on that. She says writing is a difficult craft, and if you’re dedicated to writing, you should work hard on that. The Weather Inside is based in Toronto, and when asked whether Canada influences her writing, she naturally says yes. “It’s easy to write about the United States, but Canada also has something unique to it as well,” she says.
Although her book is set in Canada, she finds the message universal. In Saso’s mind, the book opens itself up to universal ideas on love, loss, and abuse. For Saso, who enjoys knowing her characters and their emotional complexity, it’s easy to understand how The Weather Inside, with its dark humour, explores these complexities.
Saso says the story has a theme of mental health as well, which university students may find solace in. The story, even with all its sadness, encourages forgiveness and especially, hope.
Clea Young was also present to showcase her first book, Teardown, a collection of short stories from her stint at the University of British Columbia’s creative writing graduate program. The title story is a contemporary short story, and expresses itself in a setting most know well: Ikea.
Young, who started out writing poetry, says she finds her inspiration in images or dialogue she observes that catch her attention, and from there, explores the idea until she sees a story take shape. With that in mind, Teardown looks at the mundane tasks in life and talks about what meaning we get from those simplicities. Soon, a simple trip to Ikea carries with it a deeper meaning to it than just grabbing Swedish furniture.
Although writers can often become discouraged and begin to feel like the entire process of getting their work out there “sucks,” the night of the launch was a bright spot to counter that. Instead of discouragement, the night was a bonafide celebration of books, ideas, and intellect.
Cover photo by Ryan Hook.