Fredrik Backman Visits Kitchener

Yesterday, I attended “An Evening with Fredrik Backman” at the central branch of the Kitchener Public Library. The New York Times bestselling author of five novels, two novellas, and a book of essays has been published in 25 languages across 40 countries.

Author and Conestoga College professor Judah Oudshoorn joined Fredrik for an armchair conversation. Judah began by introducing the Stockholm native as a non-pretentious and genuine master storyteller.

An informative and entertaining session followed where Fredrik displayed self-deprecating humor in his responses to questions about two of his novels: Beartown and Us Against You.

In writing these novels, Fredrik wanted to explore the locker room culture. It took him a while to understand that he was part of that culture. He commented, “The worse people in my books come from me.”

Fredrik really feels for his characters. They live and run around in his head for a long time. His wife often calls him “reality impaired.”

Fredrik did not aspire to be a writer. He likes telling stories and realized early in life that writing is an excellent way to communicate. As a child. he struggled to speak until he discovered that if you can write, you can edit yourself until it’s comprehensible. After an argument with his articulate, lawyer-educated father, Fredrik would go to his room and write a stern letter to his father.

Fredrik was inspired by Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking. An intelligent and accomplished writer, Ms. Lindgren, could have won a Nobel prize in Literature. Instead, she chose to write Children’s Literature using the simplest of words. She didn’t want to exclude anyone from reading her books. Fredrik shares that goal.

Fredrik Backman’s advice to aspiring writers…

Dig deep within your emotions and ask: What story do I want to tell? And how can I express those emotions?

You won’t stumble onto an original story. What is original: Your voice and the time in which you live.


Lisa See Visits Kitchener

Yesterday, I attended “An Evening with Lisa See” at the central branch of the Kitchener Public Library. This 85 Queen Event was well attended by fans of the best-selling author of On Cold Mountain, Flower Net, The Interior, Dragon Bones, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love, Shanghai Girls, and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.

Lisa See’s latest novel, The Island of Sea Women, was released earlier this month.

Kitchener reader, blogger, and dedicated volunteer Lizz DiCesare joined Lisa for an armchair conversation.

After announcing that she didn’t plan to read aloud, Lisa launched into the back story behind The Island of Sea Women.

Ten years ago, Lisa was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office when she came across a short article about the haenyeo, female divers on Jeju Island off the South Korean coast. She ripped the page from the magazine and took it home.

After eight years of thinking about a possible story, she experienced a sense of urgency. Realizing that the work tradition would die within fifteen years, she decided to spend two years researching and writing the book.

While visiting Jeju Island, Lisa had a “full senses immersion” into the culture. She interviewed women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s and collected anecdotes about the matrifocal society of the island.

For generations, women divers supported their families by free-diving deep into the ocean to harvest its bounty. They possessed the abilities to hold their breaths for prolonged periods and withstand cold temperatures. Their husbands stayed home to raise the children and do menial chores.

Having read several of Lisa’s novels, I am familiar with her extraordinary attention to detail and focus on female relationships. She has always been intrigued by stories that have been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up.

The Island of Sea Women is sitting on my nightstand…I can’t wait to start reading!