RBC Taylor Prize

All Things Consoled: a daughter’s memoir was a finalist for the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize for Nonfiction. Here’s the jury citation by the three jurors, Camilla Gibb, Roy MacGregor, and Beverley McLachlin:

IN THIS BRILLIANT AND HONEST MEMOIR, Elizabeth Hay traces the final decline of her parents–her father, a proud and ambitious school teacher possessed of a terrifying temper and moods of melancholy, and her mother, who kept the family peace and reconciled herself to life through painting. As she cares for her parents in their final days, Elizabeth–the difficult daughter–describes the truth of who they are and what they did. Tender, witty and brutally honest, the book tears open the cloak of shared secrecy to bare the dynamics of a family–the fears, sibling rivalries, joys, disappointments and grievances that have lain unacknowledged through the decades.

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Maclean’s Interview

I very much enjoyed talking to Brian Bethune of Maclean’s magazine about my memoir All Things Consoled. This link will take you there.

I should probably correct two small details. My parents were 89, not 88, when my mother’s health fell apart. And she had been trapped in bed, not for days but for a single day, unable to stand. A bit less extreme, though certainly traumatic enough.


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2018 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction

All Things Consoled: a daughter’s memoir has won the 2018 Hilary Weston Writer’s Trust Prize for Nonfiction. On November 7th, in the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, seven literary awards were handed out by the Writers’ Trust, this one among them. You can watch the accompanying video here.

Jury Citation:

“Elizabeth Hay’s loving, exacting memoir, All Things Consoled, details the decline of her elderly parents with unflinching tenderness. The path she and her family travel is crooked and long, filled with hospital beds and doctors’ visits, foggy minds, and shuffling confusion. But Hay’s prose elevates this ordinary rite of passage — the death of one’s parents — to something rare and poetic. All Things Consoled becomes, itself, a consolation for anyone despairing at the loose ends that parents leave behind. Page-after-page this is a masterclass in observation — a lesson in how meaning can emerge from grief.”

Jurors: Joel Yanofsky, Donna Bailey Nurse, Michael Harris.

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Narrating My Own Books

For a long time I wanted to narrate at least one of my own audio books and now I’ve narrated three. In the fall of 2017, in a studio across the Ottawa River in Aylmer, I spent eight sessions or so in front of a microphone reading my second novel Garbo Laughs. We had great fun doing it, the director Wendy Robbins, the technician Marc Parizeau, and I, the croaky reader, who relied on quantities of herbal tea with lemon and honey to lubricate my pipes.

Since then, in June and July of 2018, and with the same team, I narrated Late Nights on Air as well as my most recent book, All Things Consoled: a daughter’s memoir, this last one available in September, 2018.

These audio books are among many being made available by Penguin Random House Canada Audio. The many include several more of mine. My story collection Small Change read by Kate Greenhouse, my most recent novel His Whole Life read by Susan Coyne, and my first novel, A Student of Weather, read by my daughter, the Toronto actor and light of my life, Sochi Fried.

All of the above can be downloaded from Audible, Kobo, iTunes, Google Books, and Penguin Random House Canada.

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Literary Sofa

Isabel Costello from the Literary Sofa, one of the best fiction blogs in the UK, included His Whole Life in her roundup of the best Spring 2017 titles. Now she has gilded the lily by featuring the novel with a review, several photos, and a posting by me. For the full treatment click here.

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Chapbook: The Original Title

Available now as a beautiful chapbook published by Maureen Scott Harris is the Page Lecture I gave at Queen’s University in 2015. “The Original Title” is a talk about editing and being edited and bears directly on my novel Late Nights on Air. Here is the first paragraph:

I was in my study gathering up the piles of pages all around me after finishing Late Nights on Air. The title of the book had changed as I worked on it, and the subject. The subject, therefore the title. (It was The End of Shyness for a long time, then Dido in Yellowknife for a while, and then Late Nights on Air after a friend told me everyone would call the book Dildo in Yellowknife.) But I was still attached to the initial subject and the initial title.

To purchase the chapbook you can write to Maureen Scott Harris at 19 Biggar Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M6H 2N5. Or reach her by emailing maureenscottharris@icloud.com

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Globe & Mail Lauds New Zealand Trip

Marsha Lederman in the Globe & Mail gives an exciting account of the recent trip to New Zealand by Canadian writers. I was lucky enough to be one of them.

Thinking back on it, it seems to me that I went very far away and then I came home again, not necessarily changed but jolted out of myself. On this beautiful October day, I am glad to be home in Ottawa, even if the coffee isn’t quite as good.

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Radio New Zealand Interview

In August and early September a little band of Canadians travelled to writers’ festivals in New Zealand and Australia, so now I am a connoisseur of the flat white, a more potent latte than you’ll find in Canada and a source of rivalry between the two countries down under (though perhaps Australia doesn’t know it, in the way that an older sibling tends to be unaware of the younger). Each thinks it has the better coffee. I praise both.

            Our little band was organized by Hal Wake of the Vancouver Writers’ Festival and accompanied by Marsha Lederman of the Globe & Mail. The three authors were the outstanding writer/storyteller/performer from the Yukon, Ivan Coyote; Sheila Watt-Cloutier of Inuvik, whose The Right to Be Cold flows out of years of impressive work defending the world of snow and ice inhabited by the Inuit; and me.

            Radio New Zealand’s Kim Hill interviewed a number of authors who attended the Christchurch Festival. Her interview with me is here.

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NOW’s Top 10 Best Books

His Whole Life made the Top 10 Books of 2015 in NOW Toronto Magazine, with this citation: “Hay’s expertly realized novel, set during the 1955 Quebec referendum, is a poignant portrait of a complex family dealing with loss and regret, riffing on a 10 year-old boy’s question: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” For the full list click here.

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CBC Winter Reading List

CBC Books has drawn up a list of twelve books to banish winter blues and included His Whole Life as one of the twelve. For the full list click here.

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