Mary on writing and the writing life...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mary Soderstrom is a Montreal-based writer of fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of four works of non-fiction, three short story collections, five novels and one children’s book. In addition over the years she has done a wide variety of reporting on science, urbanism, politics and writing.  She leads book discussion groups in several Montreal area libraries and has a regular blog on books and writing Not So Solitary a Pleasure: A Blog about Books.

In early November 2013, Oberon Press brought out a new  short story collection  Desire Lines: Stories of Love and Geography.  It marked a return to a form that she loves, but in which she had not worked for a decade.  The project was  supported by a generous grant from the Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec.

Also in November  2013 she undertook a research trip to South America for a new non-fiction book Road through Time. She visited Peru to see the Inka Road, travelws the new Estrada do Pacifico that connects the Atlantic and Pacific through Brazil and Peru, and visit Curitiba and Brasília, cities which represent two ways to organize urban life and urban roads.

In addition, her novel River Music is awaiting publication.

Her most recent published book  is:

Making Waves: The Continuing Portuguese Adventure. (Véhicule Press, ISBN: 978-1-55065-292-5)How one small nation influenced the world.

The world is the way it is today because 600 years ago Portugal, a small nation on the edge of Europe, sent its sailors off in search of spices, souls and slaves. In Making Waves: The Portuguese Adventure Mary Soderstrom takes us to places touched by the Portuguese— from India to Brazil, from Newfoundland to San Diego—telling a tale of adventure and triumph, occasionally mixed with a measure of sadness. Portugal’s influence resonates in the 21st century far beyond the 11 million people who speak Portuguese in the mother country, or the other 220 million who speak the language around the world.

The Portuguese—taught the rest of Europe, including Christopher Columbus, how to ride the winds of the high seas; reached the riches of the East decades before their rivals the Spanish; spread their language and culture around the world by making love, not war; traded in slaves but in 1761 were the first Europeans to outlaw slavery at home; pioneered city planning—the rebuilding of Lisbon after the Great Earthquake of 1755 was a visionary rethinking of a city not equaled until Haussmann redesigned Paris a century later; invented standardized building methods using pre-cut wood 75 years before the first balloon frame building in Chicago; and showed how to throw out a dictatorship peacefully and change society profoundly in the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

Also available:

The Walkable City: From Haussmann's Boulevards to Jane Jacobs' Streets and Beyond, Véhicule Press, 2008
ISBN 978-1-55065-243-7

"Mary Soderstrom's The Walkable City addresses one of the most important environmental, economic, social, public health and foreign policy issues of our day that is also the most unexpected and simplest; building walkable urban places. Using an approach I personally enjoy, taking a long historical perspective from pre-history through the various ages of city building, Ms. Soderstrom demonstrates that we as a civilization know how to build walkable cities. We just have to speed up our efforts."
Christopher Leinberger, The Brookings Institution


Mary's latest novel was published in spring 2008 by Cormorant Books
The Violets of Usambara
ISBN 978-1-55065-243-7

“Mary Soderstrom's The Violets of Usambara is a moving novel that explores the possibility of redemption in a morally complex world. Cutting between Canada and tension-filled Burundi, it has echoes of Graham Greene both in setting and tone, but it is above all Soderstrom's intelligent investigation of power and its absence and love over a lifetime of a marriage.”Antanas Sileika

Click here for more about her African trip taken to research this novel.




Publications:

Non-fiction


Green City: People, Nature and Urban Places
How people have brought nature into cities throughout history, told through visits to 11 cities, from Babylon to São Paulo. One of The Globe and Mail's Best Books of 2007.
Véhicule Press. ISBN 1-55065-207-9





Recreating Eden: A Natural History of Botanical Gardens. The founders of the first botanical gardens in the sixteenth century attempted to create a Garden of Eden that contained a complete collection of all things created by God. Although in other cultures it has different names, humans have yearned for this mythic place of pece and joy from which they were expelled. This book explores how these gardens have evolved over the last 400 years by guiding us through nine of the world's most interesting ones. Véhicule Press 2001 ISBN1-550065-151-X


"The Ecology of Botanical Gardens" in The Encylopedia of Ecology, Elsevier, 2008

Other fiction:

After Surfing Ocean Beach, a novel set in San Diego, published by Dundurn Press under its Simon and Pierre imprint. Read about After Surfing Ocean Beach and Mary Soderstrom in the cover feature of the Montreal Review of Books´ Spring 2004 issue







The Truth Is A collection of 14 short stories set in Montreal and told from the point of view of women, Oberon Press, November 2001"when it comes to craft, and particularly structure, these are stories that any writer would benefit from studying. Because the truth is, there just aren't enough stories out there that are this good.








The Words on the Wall; Robert Nelson and the Rebellion of 1837 A non- traditional biography of an English leader in the Rebellion in Lower Canada. November 1998. Oberon Press . French version: Robert Nelson: le médecin rebelle. February 1999 Éditions l´Hexagone Translated by Michel Saint-Germain.




Finding the Enemy 1997, Oberon Press. A collection of short stories extending in time from the day the first Atomic Bomb was tested until the War in the Persian Gulf, and taking place in Los Alamos, Montreal, Bucharest and San Diego. Finalist for the 1997 QSPELL Hugh McLennan Prize for fiction. French version, L´Autre ennemi , November 2000 from Éditions l´Hexagone. Translated by Michel Saint-Germain/ Finalist for the 2002 Quebec Writers´ Federation prize for Fiction.




Endangered Species It's 1990, there's a by-election and a failed attempt at Canadian unity, and Claire Tremblay is faced with her past. Oberon Press 1995






Maybe Tomorrow I´ll Have a Good Time, Human Sciences Press, 1981, New York. A picture story about a little girl starting day care.









The Descent of Andrew McPherson, McGraw Hill-Ryerson Press, l976, Toronto) Family saga novel set in Montreal and Idaho. Short listed for the Books in Canada First Novel prize









French translations:














Short Fiction:

Short stories in such magazines as Maisonneuve, OUI, Chatelaine, Fiddlehead, Exile, Grain, and Galaxy.

Five times a semi-finalist in the CBC Annual Literary Competition:
1988, 1989 and 1998 (short story), and 1990 and 1991 (personal essay).
Journalism:
Frequent contributor and book reviewer for Quill and Quire, Top Five, Canada Business Press awards 2002, for "The Grant Game," published in Quill.

Contributor in the past to Hour Magazine, Books in Canada, Canadian Author, Plant and Garden, and The McGill News.

Freelance journalism over a number of years in the and New York Times, Omni, Montreal Star, The Gazette, The Globe and Mail, Montreal Scene, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Other Literary Activities:

Quebec Writers' Federation Community Award 2008

Boursière, 2001, of a grant from the Conseil des arts et lettres du Québec to support work on a novel tentatively called The Violets of Usambara

Featured participant, Festival littéraire international de Montréal, Blue Metropolis, many times

Appearances at Book Expo Canada,; the Salon du livre de l´Outouais,; Salon du livre de Québec; Salon du livre de Montréal, and Reading as part of the Harbourfront Reading Series, Toronto.

Book discussion series leader, Atwater Library, Kirkland Library, Pierrefonds Library and Bibliothèque Robert-Bourassa, Montreal,
Available for readings and illustrated lectures on all topics covered by her books.

Personal Information

Born November 8, 1942 in Walla Walla, Washington, USA. Childhood there and in San Diego. Resident of Montreal since September, 1968, Dual citizen, U.S and Canada

Bilingual, English-French

Married, with two grown children
Education
Master of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley, 1969 Bachelor of Arts, Major in English Literature, University of California at Berkeley, 1964

Check out Mary Soderstrom's Blog, Recreating Eden