Tag Archives: Anna Porter
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series I’m calling The Next Gen Authors, about three Authors I know and have promoted, and their daughters who have also all become published authors – in their own right! Or maybe that could be, “in their own write” in this case … (Part 2, Part 3)
Anna Porter and Catherine Porter
Anna Porter is a former Canadian Publisher (Key Porter Books) and now an author of many non-fiction and fictions books. You may learn more about Anna and her books here in her Authors-Readers International promotion.
Anna’s daughter, Catherine Porter, has recently also published a new book, A Girl Named Lovely. Here’s Catherine’s biography …
Catherine Porter has been the Toronto bureau chief for The New York Times since February 2017.
Previously, Ms. Porter was a journalist at the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest circulation newspaper. She started there in 2001 as an intern, and worked her way up to general assignment reporter, city hall reporter, environment writer, feature writer and finally columnist. She proved herself as an international correspondent, covering the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and returning to the country 18 times to report on its reconstruction efforts. Her book about the experience, entitled A Girl Named Lovely, was published by Simon & Schuster Canada in 2019.
Ms. Porter has received two National Newspaper Awards in Canada, the Landsberg Award for her feminist columns, and a Queen’s Jubilee Medal for grassroots community work.
She received her Bachelor’s from McGill University in English Literature and History, and her Master’s from York University in English Literature. Ms. Porter loves being a stranger in a strange land, and has lived in France, Senegal and India. But today, she resides in Toronto, 20 minutes from her childhood home, with her husband and their two children.
About the Book:
An insightful and uplifting memoir about a young Haitian girl in post-earthquake Haiti, and the profound, life-changing effect she had on one journalist’s life.
In January 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people and paralyzing the country. Catherine Porter, a newly minted international reporter, was on the ground in the immediate aftermath. Moments after she arrived in Haiti, Catherine found her first story. A ragtag group of volunteers told her about a “miracle child”—a two-year-old girl who had survived six days under the rubble and emerged virtually unscathed.
Catherine found the girl the next day. Her family was a mystery; her future uncertain. Her name was Lovely. She seemed a symbol of Haiti—both hopeful and despairing.
When Catherine learned that Lovely had been reunited with her family, she did what any journalist would do and followed the story. The cardinal rule of journalism is to remain objective and not become personally involved in the stories you report. But Catherine broke that rule on the last day of her second trip to Haiti. That day, Catherine made the simple decision to enroll Lovely in school, and to pay for it with money she and her readers donated.
Over the next five years, Catherine would visit Lovely and her family seventeen times, while also reporting on the country’s struggles to harness the international rush of aid. Each trip, Catherine’s relationship with Lovely and her family became more involved and more complicated. Trying to balance her instincts as a mother and a journalist, and increasingly conscious of the costs involved, Catherine found herself struggling to align her worldview with the realities of Haiti after the earthquake. Although her dual roles as donor and journalist were constantly at odds, as one piled up expectations and the other documented failures, a third role had emerged and quietly become the most important: that of a friend.
A Girl Named Lovely is about the reverberations of a single decision—in Lovely’s life and in Catherine’s. It recounts a journalist’s voyage into the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, hit by the greatest natural disaster in modern history, and the fraught, messy realities of international aid. It is about hope, kindness, heartbreak, and the modest but meaningful difference one person can make.
Links to Reviews and praise for the book, and interviews with Catherine Porter.
Simon & Schuster Canada YouTube video: A Girl Named Lovely/Catherine Porter
Maclean’s Magazine, “How a Canadian journalist grew close to a Haiti’s earthquake miracle child” Feb. 27,2019, by Brian Bethune
United Church Observer, Catherine Porter on finding comfort in Church after reporting on Haiti’s Earthquake, March 2019, by David Giuliano
Toronto Star Review by Marcia Kay, “Catherine Porter’s book about Haitian girl Lovely a testament to imperfect optimism,” March 1, 2018
Brit + Co, by Ilana Lucas, “3 New Books About Women on the Front Lines of History,”
March 3, 2019
Winnipeg Free Press Review by Ursula Fuchs, “Journalist compelled to offer help in Haiti,” March 23, 2019
This is the fourth part of a series in which Authors who I’ve promoted in the Authors-Readers International series tell Readers what they’ve been doing during these past few months of self-isolating … See the introduction to Part 1 for a further explanation. Here are links to Part 2 and Part 3. (All links on the authors’ names will take you to their A-RI promotion.)
David Poulsen created a YouTube video for his reading of his book, I Wish I Could Be Like Tommy Blake. As David says on his website: Because it’s written for the little guys, we always have a lot of fun with the character (who like me) wants to be like the cool kid in the school, and, of course, Ron Desnoyers’ amazing illustrations are hugely popular as well. I thought that with kids forced to miss school, sports and a whole lot of other activities, this might be a good time to have some fun with me reading the book exactly like I do in schools.
Hazel Hutchins has also created a video in which she reads from her new book, The Truth About Wind. Publisher Annick Press says of the book: Co-author Hazel Hutchins reads her new picture book The Truth About Wind. A story filled with imagination and the importance of telling the truth even if that means letting go of something you love. And Hazel says: I love the way the new book turned out! But it’s a difficult time everywhere and please know that the globe in the background is placed there purposefully, just as a small note of acknowledgment and support.
I have handed in my new manuscript. It’s fiction, entitled DECEPTIONS but that may change as we go along the editing process. It’s scheduled to be published next March but, as you know, there are very few certainties in today’s Covid-ridden world. I have been reading a great deal, doing some reviewing, and serving on the jury for the National Business Book Awards (more reading). Yes, some ZOOM meetings and FaceTime – not sure which app I hate the most. I am also doing some interviews still with Hungarian media for the Forbes edition of Buying a Better World, my book about George Soros and his foundations. I find that speaking relatively intelligent Hungarian is a huge challenge. I also give some editorial and publishing advice online but do not charge for it because I don’t want it to become a professional service (been there, done that). Love your posts about Bequia! (Thanks, Anna!)
Thanks so much for all you do. You really are a dynamo.
I spent the first few weeks of the pandemic adrift. My thoughts scattered to the wind. The only thing I could grasp onto was the endless loop of bad news, which only compounded the feeling of helplessness. People dying and sickened, people losing their livelihoods, companies failing. Writing felt inconsequential in comparison. My creativity flagged along with my energy. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of the skies clearing over the Great Wall of China and dolphins returning to Italy’s waterways that I was finally able to break free of the negative hold the pandemic had on me. That silver lining, fragile as it might be, helped me find shore again and anchored me.
But I didn’t get back to writing immediately. First I got busy in the garden. There’s something primal about digging in the soil and nurturing plants that soothes me. I also got busy cleaning. The house and yard have never looked so good, and that too, soothes me. And then I tackled a few projects that had been on my to-do list for a couple of years. It took all of that to make me feel like I was in control again. Best of all, my energy came back online and my imaginator kicked in.
I’m still not writing anything more substantial than blog posts, but I’m back to working on the outline for my next book. In addition, I’m scribbling out ideas for a short Christmas story. I’ve taken our local writers’ group of twenty + members online with ZOOM, and my volunteer work on the board of our local Activity Centre, Gym, and Museum has also gone online.
I’m loving ZOOM. Even after this pandemic is over, I won’t be giving it up. In fact, I’ve joined two other authors in a weekly share and brainstorming session. My critique group, also three authors, are local and we’re planning a proper socially-distant meeting on my deck with a glass of wine in the very near future.
I’m reading more and tuning into webinars and live training sessions and learning new skills. Our small island community has pulled together. We’re buying as much as we can locally, but when one of us has to go off island, we shop for as many other people as we can manage. I shopped for six of us at Costco a few weeks ago – could barely push the cart up to the till. In that sense, COVID19 has brought us closer.
This pandemic has been difficult, and it’s not over yet. The future is unsteady for all of us. It takes effort every day to stay positive. Keeping the news loop at bay helps, as does this super supportive writing community. So thank you all, and especially Susan, who’s a ray of sunshine on the darkest days. XO (Thanks, Jo-Anne!)
Please join me for two programmes:
In the third week of July for a one-week online Meditation and Writing Retreat at the Summer Writing School, University of Toronto.
A two-week intensive on Mindfulness and Writing for Discipline & Productivity this July. Time=Life. Learn to master time and live life in accordance with your values and aspirations.
I hate to admit how much work I’ve done these past weeks. But the time has been good, and writing is a distraction from any anxiety… it makes the time feel to have some worth.
So here is my update:
I have been WRITING!
Of course, my teaching moved to being online, but I have taught online before…so it really was about switching modes, and being there to support the students…many of whom have not worked online before. And then grades went in.
Here’s an article I wrote for The Writing Cooperative: Optimal Writing Time: Making time — micro and macro — work for you
In addition to working on a novel for adults, I have been writing short pieces, articles—for Medium—something I’ve not done before—and also for a small number of calls for submissions. I was so pleased to have a story win Sub-Terrain’s Lush Triumphant fiction prize this year, and have been enjoying “writing short” while working on the novel. While I can’t imagine working on more than one long (deep!) project at a time, I feel a need to work long and short simultaneously. It’s an old habit, to deal with writer’s block, and to make use of time (an urge borne of the busy time of raising three children). In the midst of this pandemic time, I have also had another book for young children accepted—a book of sacred texts, a “lectio divina” for children. The research for this project was an amazing journey into so many faiths. As I age, I am finding even more pleasure in setting myself down self-chosen research paths
After having a number of readings and presentations cancelled—as have we all—I have been busy with ZOOM promotion, most recently for All Lit Up, and a woman from the ALS Society in Texas, who has put together an amazing book club every Thursday evening for ALS Awareness Month. I am also taking part in a written Q&A for the Vancouver Writers’ Fest Newsletter. I am so grateful for these opportunities to share my work. And most grateful for this opportunity too, Susan!
It’s wonderful to have you doing this work on our behalf. I am truly grateful.
Here’s what I’ve been doing during the last eight weeks of self-isolation:
First, I’ve been sorting my papers and tossing them by the ton, or else piling them for shredding, whenever I can make that happen, or putting them in neat piles with labels for the millions of hungry scholars who will descend on them – hah hah – for what, I don’t actually know except that throwing them out is just not in me. I’m leaving that up to my son and heir.
Second, I discovered that the difficult and unusual (for me) novel I’d been researching and had begun writing when COVID-19 hit does not respond to my efforts to woo it into compliance. I have had to put it on hold for now. The reason, or the additional reason for this, is that almost at once a great idea for a COVID-19 novel hit me, and like a wood tick, burrowed in, would not let go, until I finally wrote a hundred pages of it. Then I had to stop to gather my thoughts, such as they are, and try to find a way to put the next hundred or so pages into my computer. I hope to start writing Part Two tomorrow. In the meantime, I have written a short magazine piece about the pandemic (500 words) and an essay to go at the end of my as yet unpublished essay collection: This Strange Visible Air.
Third, I have had four literary engagements cancelled or postponed, three of which will (eventually one hopes) still take place in the fall and that will earn me in total a couple of thousand, maybe. I haven’t really been worrying about my writing income because I get OAS and CPP and have a bit of money otherwise – a sadly diminishing pile, though. My heart bleeds for anybody whose entire income is from writing. It’s criminal what’s been done to Canadian writers in terms of income. And just today I got myself a judging gig for summer – one literary competition – with some financial compensation.
Fourth, my agent, Marilyn Biderman at TLA, Freehand Books and I have signed an agreement and I am now a Freehand author. This had to be done because my previous publisher, Coteau Books of Regina went bankrupt in late February. Season of Fury and Wonder will be back in print shortly. In the meantime, copies of it must be floating around in bookstores and libraries. I’m very happy about this, and have always been a big admirer of Freehand and I count myself lucky. That collection, by the way, was shortlisted for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary Prize and the Georges Bugnet Fiction prize. With the bankruptcy I was afraid it was simply dead in the water, but nope, Butala rises again, like the phoenix! (Definitely a joke.)
And, finally for this 4th post of updates, this is the way I like to see things work with all the authors I promote …
Mike Robbins, on his blog, had reviewed the latest novel, Eternity Began Tomorrow, by Kevin Brennan. Then Kevin returned the favour on his blog with a shout-out and a review of Mike’s collection of novellas, Three Seasons.
Now Kevin has just announced that the paperback edition of Eternity Began Tomorrow is available to purchase!
I asked Kevin if he would send me a calming and peaceful photo from one of his walks that I could post here and he said: You could show the nice people this pic of a hiking destination Sue and I made it to recently. Didn’t see another soul, and it was utterly gratifying. Now that they’ve reopened the parks, places like this are packed. (Below is the Middle Fork of the American River, just a stone’s throw from our house.)
Anna Porter has been one of Canada’s most respected book publishers for 30 years. She was co-founder of Key Porter Books, a leading book publishing house, with a wide-ranging and varied list that includes such authors as: Farley Mowat, Allan Fotheringham, Howard Engel, Joan Barfoot, Fred Bruemmer, Norman Jewison, Hume Cronyn, George Jonas, Margaret Atwood, Jean Chretien, Sylvia Fraser, Modris Eksteins, Dennis Lee, John Keegan, Martin Gilbert, Irving Abella, Harry Bruce, Josef Skvorecky, Italo Calvino, William Trevor, Freeman Patterson, Conrad Black, and many others. She sold her interest in the company in 2004 to H.B. Fenn Limited. Well known in the publishing world, she was a regular at international book fairs.
Through the 1990s she served on the Federal Government-appointed Information Highway Council and, subsequently, on the E-Business Round-Table. She served on the Council of the Association of Canadian Publishers and was, once, president of the Association.
She is an Officer of The Order of Canada and has been awarded the Order of Ontario.
Anna was born in Budapest, Hungary. She was educated in New Zealand (BA and MA at Canterbury University, Christchurch) and began her publishing career as a junior editor at Cassell and Company, London, England. She emigrated to Canada in 1970, and worked at McClelland & Stewart for several years before starting Key Porter Books with Michael de Pencier’s Key Publishers.
She has some honorary degrees. She reads and speaks five languages adequately but not brilliantly.
She is married to Julian Porter, Q.C. and has two daughters and four grandchildren.
Anna Porter has lectured and given speeches throughout Canada and elsewhere. A few of her recent topics: the importance of culture and the arts; the future of the book in an electronic age; freedom of speech and why anyone should care about it; morality in times of war; the Holocaust in Hungary; the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and its aftermath; book publishing in Europe and the United States; stories from the past: those who built the Canlit we know today; how literature informs our lives and how to get published; about Europe 1989-2010; restitution and remembrance: the ghosts of central Europe.
When I first signed on to be a sales rep for Stanton & MacDougall, Key Porter Books was one of the publishers the sales agency sold, so I met Anna Porter at my first sales conference in May 1989. I had long known about Key Porter Books, however, having been a bookseller for many years, and I knew their list of solid bestselling Canadian books by authors who were, or were about to become, household names to everyone across Canada. Those KPB sales conferences were held in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Hall (Classy!!! Just have a look at these photos!) and we always left the conferences with some pretty fabulous books to sell to the booksellers and librarians. I had the opportunity too to meet, and squire around, many of those authors whenever they came to Calgary on promotion tours. One memory that stuck with me from 1994 was when KPB published a new book, A Nation Too Good To Lose by Joe Clark, the former Prime Minister of Canada! At that time, Clark and his wife, Maureen McTeer, were living in Calgary – my sales territory! I was able to arrange with KPB for Clark to speak at a regional meeting of managers from one of the national book store chains, and I accompanied him to that engagement. Now THAT was pretty cool!
But it’s Anna Porter’s most recent non-fiction book she’s published that I really wanted to talk about here. I read the book immediately after it was released and I was immediately immersed back into that time of my life when bookselling and sales repping figured large. So much information, so many personalities, so many books and authors, so many memories! Thanks so much for this book, Anna!
In Other Words: How I Fell in Love with Canada One Book at a Time
In Other Words is a lively, charming, gossipy memoir of life in the publishing trenches and how one restlessly curious young woman sparked a creative awakening in a new country she chose to call home.
When Anna Porter arrived in Canada in early 1968 with one battered suitcase, little money and a head full of dreams, she had no idea that this country would become her home for the rest of her life, or that she would play a major role in defining what it means to be Canadian. And where better to become a Canadian than at the dynamic publishing house, McClelland & Stewart, an epicentre of cultural and artistic creation in post-Expo Canada?
Anna Porter’s story takes you behind the scenes into the non-stop world of Jack McClelland, the swashbuckling head of M&S whose celebrated authors — Leonard Cohen, Margaret Laurence, Pierre Berton, Peter C. Newman, Irving Layton, Margaret Atwood — dominated bestseller lists. She offers up first-hand stories of struggling young writers (often women); of prima donnas, such as Roloff Beny and Harold Town, whose excesses threatened to sink the company; of exhausted editors dealing with intemperate writers; of crazy schemes to interest Canadians in buying books. She recalls the thrilling days at the helm of the company she founded in the 1980s, when Canada’s writers were suddenly front-page news. As president of Key Porter Books, she dodged lawsuits, argued with bank managers, and fought to sell Canadian authors around the world. This intriguing memoir brings to life that time in our history when — finally — the voices Canadians craved to hear were our own.
In Other Words is a love letter to Canada’s authors and creative agitators who, against almost impossible odds, have sustained and advanced the nation’s writing culture. Moving effortlessly from the boardrooms of Canada’s elite and the halls of power in Ottawa, to the threadbare offices of idealistic young publishers and, ultimately, to her own painful yet ever-present past in Hungary, Porter offers an unforgettable insider’s account of what is gained—and lost—in a lifetime of championing our stories.
Anna Porter is also the author of four other non-fiction books, including Buying a Better World: George Soros and Billionaire Philanthropy, The Ghosts of Europe, winner of the Shaughnessey Cohen Prize for Political Writing, Kasztner’s Train: The True Story of Rezso Kasztner, Unknown Hero of the Holocaust, winner of the 2007 Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Award and of the Jewish Book Award for Non-Fiction, and the The Storyteller: A Memoir of Secrets, Magic and Lies. She has also written four novels: The Appraisal, Hidden Agenda, Mortal Sins, and Bookfair Murders — Bookfair Murders was made into a feature film. Ms Porter’s books have been published internationally and in several languages.
Anna Porter is interviewed about her book, In Other Words, on TVO’s The Agenda.
For more information about Anna Porter and her books, please see her website.