Stellar writers here thanks to UBCO’s visiting authors series

When UBCO’s visiting authors committee assembled their wish list and started the paperwork, landing this year’s Man Booker Prize winner wasn’t even on the radar.

  • Jan. 18, 2011 9:00 a.m.

Emma Donoghue

When UBCO’s visiting authors committee assembled their wish list and started the paperwork, landing this year’s Man Booker Prize winner wasn’t even on the radar.

Members, like professor Nancy Holmes and assistant professor Michael V. Smith, knew they loved Irish author Emma Donoghue’s work, and that she lives with her family in Canada, but she hadn’t yet sealed her status among the dozen must-meet authors of the year. “We didn’t know The Room would become such a hit,” said Holmes. “We all just really liked Emma Donoghue.”

One year later, as she heads to UBCO for a highly anticipated engagement next month, Donoghue is one of the biggest authors on the literary scene. She was the youngest person nominated for the Man Booker in 2010, which eventually went to Howard Jacobson for The Finkler Question. Her latest novel has, nonetheless, achieved universal acclaim.

The Room is written from the perspective of a five-year-old boy who has never seen the world outside his household confines. With a touch of horror, terror and philosophical overtone it’s both impossible to pin down or put down for readers and critics alike.

“My main concern was to avoid the True Crime genre,” Donoghue told The Economist in an interview which describes the novel’s key idea as hearing a horrific tale from a child’s perspective.

The result is a work of art that leaves one wondering how one person’s imagination could conjure such a tale. Thankfully, local fans won’t have to wait long to ask. Donoghue is scheduled to give a free public reading as part of UBCO’s Visiting Authors Series, 7 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Okanagan Regional Library, 1380 Ellis St.

“I think we all genuinely want to contribute to the artistic life in the community and we feel we can do it this way,” said Holmes.

Donoghue is not the only big name UBCO has landed this season. This year’s writer in residence is Annabel Lyon, who spends March 6 to 20 at the school.

Lyon’s latest book, The Golden Mean, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award in 2009, and won the 2009 Rogers Writers Trust Award.

UBCO’s writer in residence program is an incredible opportunity for the community, as well as the school, as each author offers sessions where local writers can have their work read and critiqued.

“People just love it. They get an intimate one-on-one meeting and she’s already read their work,” said Holmes.

Information on Lyon’s activities and how to book a session is on UBCO’s website under Creative and Critical Studies. Writers can contact irma.ronkkonen@ubc.ca to submit their work by Jan. 31; only 16 will be selected for a critique.

Lyon will teach a workshop on Mar. 12. Enrol by contacting Continuing Studies at 250-807-9289.

And she will give a free public reading at the Okanagan Regional Library, 7 p.m. Mar. 10.

Also coming is University of Victoria professor Patrick Lane whose book, Red Dog, Red Dog, is set in Vernon. He won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence in 2007.

Lane speaks at the Okanagan Regional Library on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.

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