Reading a great book that speaks to you is a wonderful experience that can introduce one to new perspectives and incredible worlds. You can travel a hundred years into the past or future. It’s also possible that you could relate to modern characters with universal problems. Overall, there isn’t anything like discovering a writer or novel that connects with your heart and spirit. And as it turns out, Montreal has a strong cultural identity that is revolved around literature.
Jessica Gottlieb — a local social worker and recent Amazon bestselling author — wrote an educational book called “BEing BEa” that helps children and parents cope with anxiety. A local professional artist named Lisa-Kimberly Glickman put together a bilingual coloring book titled “Whimsical Birds to Color” which teaches people to appreciate nature. The talent and eclectic storytellers we have in Montreal is bountiful. And it has been going on longer than we know.
“The literary community was vibrant and happening. And what’s interesting is, we’d often attract both English and French readers. Even though language divided us, the bookstore was a good meeting ground. Suddenly, we’d all just connect over stories,” Chris Houston said, former manager of the Chapters on Ste. Catherine in the late 1990s’. “We had spoken-word events, little concerts, book launches, and proudly helped aspiring writers get their voices heard through our spoken word events, and by making their self-published chapbooks available in store for a time. Virtually every night something of a cultural nature would be going on at the store. There really was an energy.”
Building on the historical element, Richard King — former co-owner of Paragraph Books and an established mystery author — told The Suburban how modern book retailing was invented here in Montreal. Linda Leith — founder of Blue Metropolis, author, and publisher — gave insight to the number of literary communities in various different languages in Montreal. The level of creativity and vibrancy is inspiring. Quite naturally, it produced great writers.
“Performing at the spoken-word events was important for the development of my voice. I used the audience as my editors because they were intelligent and well-read,” Heather O’Neill said, International bestselling author of Lullabies for Little Criminals and many others. “And I believe that, the more specific and local you are, the more universal you become. That is the funny thing about trying to write fiction. The best way to engage is to be honest with who you are. Eventually, through sharing my work and putting myself out there, I got to where I am.”
From celebrated authors to established names, Montreal’s writing community runs deep. But what about the future? That’s where Ace of Swords (AOS) comes into play — a relatively new, local publishing house that holds quality in the highest regard. But just like every type of business in our social media driven world, it's also determined to make literature mainstream for today’s readers. It respects traditions, yet also has ideas of its own to set them apart.
“Our goal with every book we publish is to create a beautiful art product. From the cover, our marketing on digital channels, and the writing of course, we hope to offer more than just a regular manuscript. We want to show people how amazing books are,” Michael Occhionero said, the Creative Director of AOS Publishing and local author. “That’s also why, with submissions, we can be extremely selective. Everything we take a chance on has to feel promising to us.”
For many years, it’s inspiring to realize just how important and beloved Montreal’s literary community is to everyone who is a part of it — whether they’ve gone on to become authors or are just casual readers. It’s a cultural hub that influenced bestsellers like O’Neill. It’s home to writers of different backgrounds and languages. But most of all, the history of it continues to inspire others until this day. So, why don’t you drop by your local bookstore? Who knows what you’ll find.