New work by Creative Writing faculty to add to your winter to-do list

This past year, Creative Writing faculty have been prolific. They’ve published adult and young adult fiction, children’s books, and anthologies, and produced plays, podcasts and radio shows that call on us to consider our place in the world.

Whether grappling with the act of using social media to exercise power, exploring the relationship between fibre arts and mental health, or retracing the steps of a grandparent to better understand family history, these publications and productions demonstrate that writing is an act of vulnerability.

We invite you to join us by listening, reading and watching.


Afterdark Sunday
Tariq Hussain

Radio show on CBC Radio

What is the radio show about?

It’s a music show featuring pop hits and avant-garde sounds and thoughtful host breaks.

Why were you interested in hosting a radio show?

I was guest hosting on the weeknight Afterdark show here and there and eventually I got asked if I might like to try out having my own dedicated slot. I said sure! It’s a great way of sharing new music with an audience and I also find I learn so much about music too as I create the shows. I love the challenge of trying to figure out how to talk about a song or an artist in short, sixty-second breaks.


Behind the Moon
Anosh Irani
Assistant Professor

Play performed at the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto, Ontario

What is your play about?

In a Mughlai restaurant in Toronto, a late-night visit from a mysterious stranger rattles the cage and shatters the peace. Now Ayub must face reality, the family he’s left behind, and the dreams he’s abandoned, all while keeping the restaurant clean to a mirror shine.

From award-winning playwright and author Anosh Irani, Behind the Moon is an achingly beautiful story of love and loss, freedom and faith, the meaning of brotherhood, and how we begin a new life.

The play was a finalist for the 2023 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Play.

Why did you write this play?

It was a commission from Tarragon Theatre, Toronto


Space Girl
Frances Koncan
Assistant Professor

View the digital streaming from January 17 through January 28, 2024
Directed by Krista Jackson

What is your play about? 

Lyra is the first person born on the moon, and the number one social media influencer in the galaxy. But her 21st birthday is off to a rocky start – she suddenly discovers that she’s been knocked down to the number two position! Oh, yeah, and an asteroid is heading straight for the earth and all her followers. An emergency escape pod crash-lands Lyra on Earth to begin an epic journey to find her way home, aided by some decidedly odd individuals…plus an ex-Hollywood star who is now farming in Manitoba. What they say is true: “there’s no place like home”… even if your home is on the moon.

Why did you write this play? 

I started writing Space Girl about a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m always most inspired by and interested in dramatic work that is in dialogue with the present, and Space Girl was written in direct response to what I saw in the media over the course of the two years it was in development. I was especially curious and concerned about what was happening with social inequality under capitalism – as depicted by billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – and how the harms of colonization often seem doomed to be repeated as humanity pursues the goal of inhabiting other planets. In a sort of mirroring of the power and influence of people with enormous financial clout, the story itself is told by a young girl, Lyra, who lacks this kind of power in many ways, but discovers access to power through social media, and struggles with what it means to hold that power, and how that power should be used.  For me, this play was a personal reckoning with my own small platform as a Millennial who uses social media.


Women of the Fur Trade
Frances Koncan
Assistant Professor

Play showing January 17 through 27, 2024 in Ottawa and April 9 through 21, 2024 in Toronto

What is your play about? 

In eighteen hundred and something something, somewhere upon the banks of a Reddish River in Treaty One Territory, three very different women with a preference for twenty-first century slang sit in a fort sharing their views on life, love, and the hot nerd Louis Riel. This lively historical satire of survival and cultural inheritance shifts perspectives from the male gaze onto women’s power in the past and present through the lens of the rapidly changing world of the Canadian fur trade. Directed by Renae Morriseau.

Why did you write this play? 

I started writing “Women of the Fur Trade” shortly after Lin Manuel Miranda premiered his musical, “Hamilton”, on Broadway. I had just finished graduate school in New York and had moved back to Winnipeg, and I was searching for ideas that resonated not only with myself as a person and a writer, but with the world around me. As I was researching the history of Treat 1 territory, I was frustrated by the lack of female perspective and voices in the documentation and material I was collecting. And instead of complaining about it on social media (or maybe in addition to complaining about it on social media), I maturely decided to channel my anger and annoyance into a new play!


Bompa’s Insect Expedition
Tanya Kyi

Children’s book co-authored with David Suzuki and illustrated by Qin Leng

What is your book about?

This exploration of the extraordinary world of bugs is inspired by David Suzuki’s adventures with his own grandkids.

Why did you write this book?

Because when someone calls you up and invites you to write a book with David Suzuki, you don’t say no.


Sharp Notions: Essays from the Stitching Life 
Nancy Lee
Associate Professor

Nonfiction anthology co-edited with Marita Dachsel

What is your book about?

Knitting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, beading, sewing, quilting, textiles – the fibre arts fuel intense passions that can often border on obsession. As we struggle with the pressures, anxieties, and impacts of daily life, these practices are an antidote, mirror, and metaphor for so many of life’s challenges.

In this anthology, writers and artists from different backgrounds contemplate their complex relationships with the fibre arts and the intersections of creative practice and identity, technology, memory, climate change, trauma, chronic illness, and disability. Accompanied by full-colour photographs, these powerful and inspiring essays challenge the traditional view of crafting and examine the role, purpose, joy, and necessity of craft amid the alienation of contemporary life.

Why did you write this book?

As busy academics, authors and avid fibre arts practitioners, my co-editor, Marita Dachsel, and I were already familiar with the solace, peace and refuge activities like knitting, embroidery and quilting provided, and, during the pandemic, it seemed people around the world also made this discovery. Marita and I recognized that many important events in our lives were connected to our fibre arts practice, and we wondered if others had similar experiences to share. We wanted to challenge the idea of fibre arts practice as “quaint hobby” because it was so much more than that to us. When we put out the call for essays, we were overwhelmed by the response and by the incredible diversity of life experiences, creative practices, cultural connections, and social issues the essays represented.


In Defense of Liberty
Keith Maillard

It’s 1964, and the students at Merida University in Ohio can sense that something is brewing — the campus is rippling with undercurrents of anger and alienation. As they work to make sense of the rapidly shifting cultural and ideological climate, the four main characters of In the Defense of Liberty are also consumed by their own personal dramas.

In this fascinating and fast-paced novel, Keith Maillard expertly captures the ethos of the mid-1960s and explores threads of gender and sexuality, while holding up a mirror to the roots of modern-day American polarization.


Transversions: Archives, Testimony, & Reimagination
Alex Marzano-Lesnevich
Rogers Communications Chair and
Assistant Professor of Creative Nonfiction

Guest-edited issue of Michigan Quarterly Review

What is this issue about?

Transversions contains works of poetry, prose, visual art, and deep hybridity that (to quote the call for submissions that I wrote with MQR’s fabulous editorial team) “innovates or questions the authority of historical archives, repairs or reveals institutional documents or records, and sustains communal memory… seeking a more just conception of the past and an engagement with literature as an act of ethical community and care.” We wanted work that we couldn’t imagine until we saw it, that would make us view the present, the past, and the future differently.

Why did you create this issue?

I’ve long been a fan of the writing published by MQR and I was thrilled to be asked to guest-edit this issue. I knew immediately that I wanted to focus on engagements with, and reimaginations of, the archive, but I couldn’t have imagined the incredibly variety and brilliance of the work we’d receive.


Handsome Molly
Jennifer Moss
Adjunct Professor

YA fiction podcast series based on the novel Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
Co-written adaption by Jenn Moss, Emelia Symington Fedy and June Fukumura

What is your podcast about?

Handsome Molly is an epic adventure-romance story set on the West Coast in the near future. The world – ravaged by climate change and disease – is running on empty. Government and infrastructure are collapsing, and crime syndicates run the cities. Still traumatized by her father’s recent death, 14-year-old Molly Masamoto leaves the relative safety of her isolated Gulf Island. She embarks on a perilous journey into this dystopian landscape to bring medical help to her community. Armed with only her precious fiddle, “Jewels,” she must learn how to survive in the harsh outside world, who to trust, and ultimately – how to forgive herself.

Why did you create this podcast?

I work in the podcasting space, so I know that there aren’t enough great fiction podcasts for young teens – especially ones with strong female leads. This adaptation was an opportunity to bring a great West Coast story to life and update it to make it resonate more deeply with today’s young teens. I first read Joëlle Anthony’s novel about 11 years ago when my eldest daughter was a tween. I loved the way the story felt familiar and possible, yet also had this heightened sense of drama – being set in the dystopian near future. I immediately thought of its potential as a podcast because the main character, Molly, plays the violin – so I could “hear” the string-based soundscape before we even started. I collaborated with Joëlle herself, and also with dramaturgs Emelia Symington-Fedy and June Fukumura, to focus on the action, and bring this grand adventure into compelling sonic form.


Eighty Thousand Steps
Jennifer Moss
Adjunct Professor

Interactive podcast created with former adjunct professor Crystal Chan

What is your podcast about?

There are many walking apps out there. Some are designed to count your steps, while others estimate how many calories you burned. Eighty Thousand Steps is different — this one solves a mystery, one step at a time. Starring author Denise Chong, directed and story edited by writer Jennifer Moss, and created by writer and journalist Crystal Chan, CBC’s Eighty Thousand Steps is a unique immersive and interactive podcast experience that is powered by you, as you walk. It’s about family, migration, and the tales we pass on through generations. Through a vivid soundscape it tells a fantastical story, but as you listen along, you begin to uncover another story — one of survival, heartbreak, and hope through the eyes of a child refugee.

Why did you create this podcast?

This project allowed me to get at the heart of what makes podcasting so great: its mobility. A main strength of podcasting is you can take it with you as you’re walking the dog, commuting across town, or vacuuming the living room. Listening while you go about the business of life creates a feeling of mental and emotional space. We took this idea several ‘steps’ (pun intended) further and embraced the theme of walking within the actual storyline itself. Part memoir, part imaginative fiction, it describes Crystal’s grandmother’s journey out of wartorn China. We must physically walk to keep the story moving. This draws us closer to the main character in a way that transcends words. Walking becomes a metaphor for storytelling and a sign of love. It helps us empathize with the main characters.


How to Be Found
Emily Pohl-Weary
Associate Professor

Young adult novel

What is your book about?

A young adult novel about inner-city teens who live on a razor’s edge and understand that chosen family is just as important as blood.

Michie and her best friend, Trissa, grew up like sisters, but now that they’re sixteen, their differences in identity and experience have caused a rift. Michie’s an introvert obsessed with a book called A Girl’s Guide to Murder. Shiny, extroverted Trissa, on the other hand, dances at the hottest nightclub in town.

One day, Michie wakes up to find Trissa missing. The cops write her off as a party girl who’s probably met a foul end, but Michie refuses to believe it. Enlisting help from her friend Anwar, who she’s been in love with forever, Michie searches for Trissa, knowing she’s the only one who will.

Why did you write this book?

I set out to represent what my teen years were in a novel set in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood about two girls who grow up like sisters but find themselves drifting apart during their teen years. When Trissa suddenly disappears, Michie (the main character) is determined to find out what happened to her. I drew on my experiences of growing up with feminist parents while Paul Bernardo was active in the city. It was the eighties and the idea that “girls could do anything boys can do… better” felt true, except that we had to also live with the constant threat of violence and danger.


My Baba’s Garden
Jordan Scott

Children’s book illustrated by Sydney Smith

The bond between a child and his grandmother grows as they tend her garden together.

A young boy spends his mornings with his beloved Baba, his grandmother. She doesn’t speak much English, but they connect through gestures, gardening, eating, and walking to school together. Marked by memories of wartime scarcity, Baba cherishes food, and the boy learns to do the same. Eventually, Baba needs to move in with the boy and his parents, and he has the chance to care for her as she’s always cared for him.

Inspired by memories from poet Jordan Scott’s childhood, with beautiful, dreamlike illustrations by award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith, My Baba’s Garden is a deeply personal story that evokes universal emotions.