Writer in Residence

I am a celebrationist

By Lindsay Zier-Vogel

Celebrationist top

I am a celebrationist.

I celebrate big things and small things, all the things, really—kids getting their final molars, the anniversary of my fella and I meeting, the first day of summer (and fall and winter and spring), the day before school, the last day of day camp, the first day of snow. In the early days of the pandemic, my kids and I even celebrated every Raptors’ birthday with cake and balloons and streamers (though that was perhaps more about my desperate need to escape the deep panic and all-consuming fear than celebrating Pascal Siakam turning 26).

I make cakes to commemorate just about everything, and always have a spare bottle of prosecco at the ready.

And I celebrate things in my writing life too. Writing novels (for me) takes SO LONG and if I only celebrated a published book, there’d be years and years between cakes. And so, I celebrate all the small wins—finishing first drafts, and getting a new agent, and sending out pitches, and receiving glowing blurbs, generous press, all the things!

Long before I’d even signed a publishing contract for Letters to Amelia, I had a fantasy I’d return to again and again when I couldn’t sleep: I’d imagine the book’s launch party. It involved plane-shaped cookies, and cake and a toast, and a fabulous flight suit and pair of heels. I’d stand on a stage, or in a bookstore, and hold up my book and thank people into a microphone and then we’d eat cake and clink glasses, and dance. This daydream buoyed me when the writing was hard, when the book was on submission, and during especially hard rewrites. It was the light at the end of a very long tunnel. 

But when my book came out, the pandemic was still raging and it didn’t feel safe to gather. I couldn’t fill a room with my favourite people and eat cake and thank people in a microphone. I couldn’t. I knew it was the right choice, but it was hard not to celebrate, and I mourned letting go of my years-long launch party daydream.

I then started planning a park party with mason jars filled with paper plane cocktails, and cupcakes, and my flight suit, but after schools reopened (and then, in our case, closed with the highest number of COVID cases in the city), it didn’t feel safe.

I was all set to not celebrate at all, except my dearests would not allow that. One friend (who is also a celebrationist) drove in from Ottawa for the weekend and brought champagne and prosecco and made an enormous poster of my book cover and insisted on a back yard reading.

My beloved book club turned our monthly backyard meet-up into a Letters to Amelia party complete with oysters and bubbles and a flight-inspired playlist, and my writing group, who were so instrumental in every word in the novel, also threw me a Letters to Amelia party that ended up in my garage when the rain started falling. On my publication day, I ate cake, and the following week, I launched my book on Zoom, wearing my fabulous flight suit, with my favourite people, and a pitcher of paper plane cocktails.

Yes, I’m looking for silver linings—launching a debut novel in a pandemic is far from ideal—but instead of a single day, I got to celebrate for weeks, and all of these smaller celebrations ended up being so much better than my daydream ever could’ve been.

Today, I’m celebrating my final day here as the Open Book writer-in-residence. It’s been a wonderful month and I’m so grateful for everyone who took time to read my words. And now it’s time for cake.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.

Lindsay Zier-Vogel is an author, arts educator, grant writer, and the creator of the internationally acclaimed Love Lettering Project. After studying contemporary dance, she received her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto. She is the author of the acclaimed debut novel Letters to Amelia and her work has been published widely in Canada and the UK. Dear Street is Lindsay’s first picture book, and is a 2023 Junior Library Guild pick, a 2023 Canadian Children’s Book Centre book of the year, and has been nominated for a Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award. Since 2001, she has been teaching creative writing workshops in schools and communities, and as the creator of the Love Lettering Project, Lindsay has asked people all over the world to write love letters to their communities and hide them for strangers to find, spreading place-based love. 

Buy the Book

Letters to Amelia

Grace Porter is reeling from grief after her partner of seven years unexpectedly leaves. Amidst her heartache, the thirty-year-old library tech is tasked with reading newly discovered letters that Amelia Earhart wrote to her lover, Gene Vidal. She becomes captivated by the famous pilot who disappeared in 1937. Letter by letter, Grace understands more about Amelia while piecing her own life back together.

When Grace discovers she is pregnant, her life becomes more intertwined with the aviation hero and she begins to write her own letters to Amelia. While navigating her third trimester—amidst new conspiracy theories about Amelia’s mysterious disappearance, the search for her remains, and the impending publication of her private letters—Grace goes on a pilgrimage of her own.

Underscoring the power of reading and writing letters for self-discovery, Letters to Amelia is, above all, a story of the essential need for connection—and our universal ability to find hope in the face of fear.