News and Interviews

Ontario's Vibrant Voices: Talking to The Word on the Street Authors Lezlie Lowe, Rabindranath Maharaj, & Merilyn Simonds

The Word on the Street Toronto's Vibrant Voices of Ontario stage is a perennial favourite with festival goers, packed as it is with some of the brightest, most talented literary voices in the province. Fiction, non-fiction, mystery, biography, and poetry all feature on the stage, with authors reading from and discussing their latest work and showcasing the wealth of talent in Ontario.

We got to talk to three of the authors from the Vibrant Voices stage: Lezlie Lowe, author of No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs (Coach House Books), Rabindranath Maharaj, author of Adjacentland (Wolsak & Wynn), and Merilyn Simonds, author of Refuge (ECW Press). They tell us about what they'll be reading, their recommended Ontario-authored books, and their favourite spots to relax in the province. Best of all, they tell us what they love about The Word on the Street and its special vibe amongst book lovers. 

You can catch Lezlie at 1:45pm, Rabindranath at 3:30pm, and Merliyn at 2:15pm, all at the Vibrant Voices stage at The Word on the Street this Sunday, September 23 at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto! 

Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices stage this year.

Lezlie Lowe: 

Lezlie Lowe

I will be reading from my new book, out this September, No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs. The book is about the politics of public bathroom access in Canada, the US, and the UK. It looks at the history of the public bathroom, as well as issues that affect everyday people, like the challenges of people experiencing homelessness in big cities, design flubs that plague public bathrooms, and those loooooong bathroom lines that women wait in.

Rabindranath Maharaj:

I will be reading an extract from my novel, Adjacentland, published by Wolsak & Wynn earlier this year. It’s a story of a man who has lost his memories and believes he is being deliberately misguided as he tries to reconstruct his past.

Merilyn Simonds:

I’ll be reading from my new novel, Refuge, the story of Cassandra MacCallum, a feisty old woman who has created an island sanctuary where she intends to live out her days, and Nang Aung Myiang, a young stateless Burmese woman who arrives on her doorstep, claiming to be family.

OB:

Have you attended The Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?

LL:

I love the energy of The Word on the Street, and the communal sense that every person there is full-on for books and magazines and reading. It’s like: ahhhh... these are my people!

RM:

rabindranathmaharaj

Yes, I have attended The Word on the Street. I don’t typically like crowds but WOTS is different. I like the frenetic energy as people try to take in as much as possible, moving to and from tents hosting writers completely dissimilar from each other.

MS:

I love The Word on the Street. Where else can a person find such an intense, happy book buzz that lasts all day?

OB:

The Vibrant Voices stage celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite book by an Ontario-based author that you've read.

LL:

I recently read Helena Moncrieff’s The Fruitful City, which is about a basket of important issues - including food waste and making community - but is really also a lovely narrative. 

RM:

Dionne Brand’s Map to the Door of No Return. It was published in 2002 and it explores the shifting nature of identities. I believe it’s just as relevant today as when it was first published.

MS:

Merilyn Simonds

A book I return to often is Nocturne by fellow Kingstonian Helen Humphreys. A poet and a novelist, she wrote this rare memoir as a letter to her brother, a gifted pianist who died young of cancer. A poetic elegy, it gets at the heart of love and grief.

OB:

Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario?

LL:

Bank Street in the Glebe, Ottawa.

RM:

It’s very close to home. The Ajax waterfront. Picturesque, and late in the evenings, suitably desolate.

MS:

My mother’s family were among the first settlers in Muskoka in the early 1800s. Perhaps it is genetic—my heart still quickens when I enter the land of granite rocks and lakes and conifer trees.

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Lezlie Lowe is a freelance journalist and journalism instructor based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has been recognized for her long-form journalism by the Canadian Association of Journalists and the Atlantic Journalism Awards. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of King's College, where she also teaches in the Journalism department. No Place To Go: Answering the Call of Nature in the Urban Jungle is her first book.

Rabindranath Maharaj is the award-winning author of three short story collections and five novels, including The Amazing Absorbing Boy, which won the 2010 Trillium Book Award and the 2011 Toronto Book Award, and was voted a CBC Canada Reads Top 10 for Ontario. In 2012, Maharaj received a Lifetime Literary Award, administered by the National Library and Information System Authority as part of the commemoration of Trinidad's fiftieth independence anniversary. In 2013, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, which honours significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.

Merilyn Simonds is the author of 17 books, and her work is anthologized and published internationally. Simonds’s most recent fiction is The Paradise Project, a collection of flash fiction hand-printed on an antique press with endpapers made in part from plants in her garden. The experience of producing the collection in both a digital and book-arts edition is the subject of her latest nonfiction work, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels, and the Lasting Impression of Books. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.

The Word on the Street takes place on Sunday, September 23, 2018 at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Click here to check out the full programming for the Vibrant Voices stage.