After the ball is over…

The lobby of the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto

Here are a few highlights from my recent trip to Toronto.

Yes, it’s true. The fabulously talented Erin Morgenstern (author of The Night Circus) “accosted” me at the Toronto Public Library Foundation’s Book Lover’s Ball. And, of course,  I loved every minute of it. In truth, we were mostly bonding over our love of sparkly things…me, adoring the stars in Erin’s hair; Erin, loving the vintage gown I was wearing. It was a magical night to be sure, with loads of literati sightings (Linden MacIntyre, Margaret Atwood, Lawrence Hill, etc.) and conversations with facebook author friends I hadn’t met face-to-face until that night (Eva Stachniak, Lilian Nattel, Alison Pick, Linwood Barclay, Kathleen Winter, to name but a few.) Best of all, it was for a wonderful cause, the Toronto Public Library System.

Hanging out at the Book Lover's Ball with my Canada Reads buddy, Terry Fallis (author of The Best Laid Plans)

While I was in the Big Smoke, I also had the privilege of speaking at a Writers’ Trust of Canada Salon. It was a delightful evening of storytelling and lively conversation, all made possible by the hospitality of my hosts and the wonderful people who keep the Writers’ Trust going. We’re so fortunate to have such a fine organization in this country to support and encourage Canadian writers.

Erin Morgenstern and me at Random House Canada

On Saturday, I met up with Erin again and we joined Paula McLain (The Paris Wife) for the Random House Canada Blogger Fest. We were the three “super secret surprise” authors for the day, and what a fun day it was! The energy in the room was, in a word, squee-rific. It was great to have the chance to sit and chat with so many book bloggers. We dished about everything from women’s history to cupcakes, from literary inspiration to our favourite Etsy finds. Oh, and just for kicks, I read my first blog post ( from March 2003) to the group. In the post, I was just about to finish the first (extremely rough) draft of what would become The Birth House. My how time flies. Here are a couple of lines from it. (I’ve chosen not to include the first and only comment the post ever got from the ever prolific “how to increase your sperm volume.”)

March 26, 2003

picked up Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer at the Odd Book used book store. Written in the 1930’s, it’s an incredibly useful tome of information.

getting closer to the end of the novel. I can’t believe that within a month I may be finished with the first draft. The ending is still forming, mixing…all yeasty and warm in my brain. It’s a good place to be. I’m not panicking…

reading my first blog post at #RHBlogfest (photo courtesy of SassyMonkeyReads)


Sunday saw my last event of the trip, a lovely luncheon put on by the Globe and Mail and hosted by Sarah Hampson. Paula was at this event as well as Eva Stachniak (The Winter Palace,) and the three of us took turns talking about the inspiration behind our novels. I loved hearing the behind-the-scenes stories of Paula’s and Eva’s books. Sarah added insightful observations and questions to the mix during the Q&A, so I headed home feeling inspired and eager to write!

the view from inside my car at the Halifax Airport parking lot...yup, that's ICE!


I knew there’d been freezing rain and snow the night before I arrived in Nova Scotia, but I had no idea that my car, parked in the airport parking lot (rather than the garage) would be completely covered in ice. After I was unable to get my key into the lock of the driver’s side door, I managed to coax it into the lock on the passenger side. Lock turned, I jiggled the handle until it popped up. So far so good.

When I tried to pull the door open though, it wouldn’t budge. I ran my key along the perimeter where the door meets the body of the car, and got rid of some of the ice that was keeping the door shut, but when I pulled at the handle again, it opened just enough for the interior light to go on and nothing more. (At least now I had a bit of a gap to work with…about half an inch.)

I hip checked the door several times over and said more than a few choice words. (Did I mention it was really cold and windy?) I pounded at the door with my fist, then hiked up the skirt of my dress (I hadn’t changed after the luncheon) and kicked the crap out of the door with my mighty Fluevogs. The door was still stuck. The interior light mocked me every time I tried the handle…blink, blink, blink.

What did I have in my bags that I could use as a lever? I thought. It needed to be strong, but slim. Opening my suitcase, I took out my curling iron. It’s been threatening to fall apart for ages, so I decided to try wedging the thin part of the metal clamp between the door and car.

The curve of it was too deep, it wouldn’t fit.

Meanwhile, my husband is texting me with welcome home messages and updates on the current episode of Downton Abbey I was missing. I texted back my parking lot woes, a few more colourful words, and told him I hoped to get home before dawn.

Pacing to keep warm, I tried once more to think of what I could use to get into the car. In desperation, I started digging through the swag bag they’d given me at the Globe and Mail event. Chocolate and Books. The chocolate would come in handy if I had to wait at the airport for a ride…

“OK book,” I said, as I pulled it from the bag. “Don’t fail me now.” Flipping the font cover of it open, I slid the edge of the hardcover into the gap and began to pry at the door. Working my way around the door, I finally heard a blessed “pop” and I was in! I made it home by 1am.

There truly is nothing like a book.

"after the ball is over..."


A few of the people and places mentioned in this post:

Erin Morgenstern, The Book Lover’s Ball, The Writers’ Trust of Canada, Sassy Monkey Reads,  and my mighty Fluevogs.


Site Footer