Ami McKay’s debut novel, The Birth House was a # 1 bestseller in Canada, winner of three CBA Libris Awards, nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and a book club favourite around the world. Her new novel. The Virgin Cure, is inspired by the life of her great- great grandmother, Dr. Sarah Fonda Mackintosh, a female physician in nineteenth century New York. Born and raised in Indiana, Ami now lives in Nova Scotia.
I was born and raised in rural Indiana. Between cornfields and Interstate-65 I learned to tell tall tales, play the piano and drive a yellow 1972 VW Super-Beetle.
After an undergraduate degree in Music Education and graduate studies in musicology at Indiana State University, I moved to Chicago to teach music at an inner city high school for the arts.
While my days were focused on teaching music, I spent most of my nights filling notebooks and journals with short stories and ideas for novels. Trying to make my way in the Windy city as the single mother of a two-year-old, I kept my words to myself, having decided that a career in writing would have to wait. In the meantime, I kept a copy of a Time magazine article about Toni Morrison (along with my notebooks) hidden under my bed. I read the article whenever I felt down, and drew a large red circle around her recollection of her child spitting up on the manuscript of her first novel.
In 2000, I moved to Scots Bay, Nova Scotia (For the love of a good Canadian man.) The prolonged wait for my residency papers to be processed gave me plenty of time to embrace the writing life. (Thank-You Immigration Canada) After much prodding from my partner, I agreed to start sending my writing out into the world. In an effort to start small, I chose the year 2000 as ‘the year of writing thank-you notes to people I don’t know.’ My first attempt, led to an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Once people stopped looking at me like, “haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”, I took bigger steps towards the writing life. A summer workshop on “Writing for Radio” opened new doors and the opportunity to combine my love of music and sound with my passion for writing. This experience led to writing and producing documentaries for CBC radio as well as other freelance assignments. In 2003, an apprenticeship in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s mentorship program gave me the excuse I needed to complete a first draft of The Birth House.
Now, every day is a writing day. There are still mounds of laundry to be done and bedtime stories to be read, but it’s all worth it when there’s a notebook waiting…on my desk, on the kitchen table…under the bed.
Awards and Recognition
CBA Libris Award Nominee “Book of the Year” (The Virgin Cure)
O Magazine “The Books of Summer” pick (The Virgin Cure)
Book of the Month Club “Blue Ribbon Pick” (The Virgin Cure)
CBC Canada Reads top 5 finalist for “Book of the Decade” (The Birth House)
Robert Meritt Award (co-winner with Allen Cole) for Outstanding Sound Design or Original Score for the 2008 production of Jerome: The Historical Spectacle produced by Two Planks and Passion Theatre Company.
Robert Merritt Award (nominee) for Outstanding New Play by a Nova Scotian Playwright
Evergreen Award. Presented by the Ontario Librarian’s Assoc.
CBA Libris Award – Fiction Book of the Year
CBA Libris Award – Author of the Year
CBA Libris Award –Book Design of the Year (Kelly Hill)
Booksellers’ Choice Award – AIBA
Long listed –International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Short list –Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize
Quill and Quire Books of the Year
Toronto Star #1 Book of Original Fiction
Reader’s Pick – Irish Times
Discover Great New Writers Holiday Selection – Barnes and Noble
ABA Booksense Notable
Heather’s Pick – Chapters Indigo
Knopf Canada’s New Face of Fiction
Atlantic Journalism Awards – Excellence in Journalism Award (Finalist in the Feature Writing for Radio Category, Daughter of Family G)
- The Virgin Cure – a novel.
- Jerome – the Historical Spectacle, Play, for Two Planks and a Passion Theatre.
Published by Gaspereau Press
- Motherhood Unplugged, Personal Essay, Between Interruptions
- No Shoes Required, Personal Essay, My Wedding Dress
- The Birth House – a novel
- Daughter of Family G, Feature Documentary for CBC Radio’s The Sunday Edition.
- Kitchen Ghosts, Feature Documentary for CBC Radio’s Outfront
- The Midwife House, Feature Webumentary for CBC Radio’s Outfront
- From Smart Girl to Scat Girl, Feature Documentary for CBC Radio’s Outfront
- Learning to Box, Personal Essay for CBC Radio’s First Person Singular
- Magazine credits include: Elle Canada, Chatelaine, Canadian Living
Writers’ Union of Canada
The Writers Federation of Nova Scotia – Writer’s Council Member
PEN Canada & the PEN Canada Rapid Action Network
Ross Creek Centre for the Arts – Writing Fellow
Historical Novel Society
Festivals, Appearances and Readings
Ontario Library Association Super Conference
Atlantic Public Libraries Conference
Read for the Cure
VIWF Incite Series
Grimsby Author Series
Northrup Frye Festival
Halifax Club Literary Luncheons
Bonnie Stern book club
Brescia College Sophia Lecture
Read by The Sea – River John, NS
International Festival of Authors – Toronto
Halifax International Writers’ Festival – Halifax
Word on the Street – Halifax
BookFest Windsor – Windsor, ON
Booked – Book Expo Canada – Toronto
Ottawa Writers Festival – Ottawa
Atlantic Book Festival
Halifax Public Libraries
Wolfville Public Library
St. John’s Public Libraries
Toronto Reference Library
National Library and Archives – Ottawa
Museum of Civilization – Ottawa
Edmonton Public Libraries
Calgary Public Libraries
Fieldwood Heritage Society
Canadian Association of Midwives
Creative Writing Workshop Instructor – Ross Creek Centre for the Arts