Madeleine Thien is the winner of every prestigious literary award Canada offers, as well as some from other countries. Her works have been translated into twenty-five languages.
She is the author of a short story collection, Simple Recipes, and three novels, most recently, Do Not Say We Have Nothing. This stunning novel spans the length of China's modern history from Mao's revolution in 1949 to the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s to Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Short fiction by Ms. Thien appears in numerous anthologies. Her literary criticism, essays, and multimedia work have appeared in numerous publications on topics as diverse as music and human rights, personhood, female beauty, state surveillance, visual art, race, literary politics, neighborhoods and the Québec Rodeo.
Ms. Thien has taught literature and fiction around the world.
Ian Williams is a restless writer. Each of his four books not only experiments with form, but tackles a new genre. What is truly astonishing is that no matter what new genre he takes on, the result is a book that is either a finalist or wins a major literary prizincluding Canada's biggest fiction award ($100,000)..
According to Williams, each of his four books can be read as a chapter in the progress of a life. With his debut poetry collection, You Know Who You Are, published when he was in his early 20s, he was coming to terms with his identity as a black man. In his short story collection Not Anyone's Anything he was letting go of what he calls his "adolescent self-delusion that he was special." In Personals, he explored the search for connection through lyrical variations on the personal ad. And now in Reproduction, he digs into his fascination with how children come into the world, both psychologically and physically, as a symptom of the biological clock that he believes ticks not only for women, but for men.
Williams is not a hasty writer. He spent six years developing and refining the intricate story of boy-meets-girl-meets-cross-cultural-chosen-family that became Reproduction. The premise sounds satisfyingly simple, and it is, but in the hands of this gifted, inventive writer, the novel spins out across four decades and four points of view — black, white, male, female — and prods most of the uncomfortable identity issues that puzzle us today.
How does a young writer — Williams is just 39 — turn out one award-winning debut after another, in three such diverse genres? That will be the subject of the onstage conversation between Ian and Merilyn Simonds.
Merilyn Simonds is the author of 18 books, including the creative nonfiction classic, 22 years in print, The Convict Lover.
In 1987 she moved and discovered in the attic of her new house a cache of letters, from a young student to a man in prison, that became the basis of The Convict Lover. With the release of The Convict Lover in 1996, she became nationally known as a literary writer, exploring the zone where fact and fiction meet.
She founded and served as Artistic Director of Kingston WritersFest a world-class festival, that draws an audience of 10,000.
Her work (short and long fiction, creative nonfiction, historical nonfiction, children's literature, drama, fable, hybrid forms that have no names) includes many bestsellers, which have won many awards. Her short fiction has been anthologized internationally.
"In the end, what matters are stories, stories that we've been telling each other, in one form or another, for as long as we've lived."