Ania Szado is a the author of Beginning of Was (which was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first book) and the newly released Studio Saint-Ex, a novel about love and ambition set in New York, Montreal and Quebec City during WWII. Ania is a writer who is passionate about bringing real places to life with fiction. Today, she tells you how you can join her in "blowing the dust off memories" by becoming a Page Turner. You just might win Ania's brand new novel in the process.
Before I began writing, I was a painter. My friends and I lived illegally in barely-transformed warehouse and factory spaces—cooking on electric hotplates, scrambling to hide our futons and cats whenever the city inspector made his rounds, growing accustomed to drywall so thin that we could hear the neighbours butter their morning toast.
Here in Toronto, those vast studios have been Cinderella'd into lofts—of the lofty, stainless-steel-and-granite-kitchen sort. But those drafty, old studio spaces found their way into my new novel, Studio Saint-Ex: the heavy oil smells, the rhythmic rumbles of machinery, the sunlight moving across crumbly brick walls and pitted floors. I gave my protagonist, Mignonne—an aspiring fashion designer in WWII NYC and Montreal—my own yearning to live and work in a space that draws one to it like a siren compels a sailor. An honest space: so Mig's studio is described by her lover and creative collaborator, the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
In our own lives, buildings change, cities change, landscapes change. The world spits layers of distraction and detritus over our memories, blunting our ability to taste and smell them. But places in stories remain vivid and evocative. The power and pull they cast on characters and on readers is always there for the taking. Fictional scenes set in real-life places can blow the dust off memories and can transform how we see and understand the spaces that surround us in our everyday lives. All that is needed is a book... or a Bookmark.
Imagine a series of plaques, called Bookmarks, mounted permanently in the real-life places in which corresponding scenes from fiction or poetry are set. That's the vision of Project Bookmark Canada. I hope you will join me in helping to make it a reality, from coast to coast to coast. Help enrich the experience of our urban and rural settings for all Canadians—not only those who stroll with the right open book—by bringing the page to the landscape, words to an urban corner, a paragraph to a storied field or port. Please join me as a Page Turner. Donate $20 today, and you'll be entered into a draw to win a signed copy of Studio Saint-Ex.