Tag Archives: Humber School of Creative Writing

A-R International: Antanas Sileika

Antanas Sileika
Authors-Readers International

Photo credit: Irmantas Gelunas

Antanas Sileika (Antanas Šileika) is a Canadian novelist and critic.

He was born in Weston, Ontario.

After completing an English degree at the University of Toronto, he moved to Paris for two years and there married his wife, Snaige Sileika (nee Valiunas), an art student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.  While in Paris,  he worked as part of the editorial collective of the expatriate literary journal, Paris Voices, run from the upstairs room of the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company.

Upon his return to Canada in 1979, Antanas began teaching at Humber College and working as a co-editor of the Canadian literary journal, Descant, where he remained until 1988.

He became involved through journalism  with Lithuania’s restitution of independence during the fall of The Soviet Union 1988-1991, and for this activity he received the Knight’s Cross medal from the Lithuanian government in 2004.

A past winner of a national magazine award, he retired in June of 2017 as the director for the Humber School for Writers in Toronto.

After writing for newspapers and magazines, Antanas published his first novel, Dinner at the End of the World (1994), a speculative story set in the aftermath of global warming.

His second book, a collection of linked short stories, Buying On Time (1997), was nominated for both the City of Toronto Book Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, and was serialized on CBC Radio’s Between the Covers. In 2016, almost twenty years later, it was long-listed for Canada Reads and the translation was short-listed in Lithuania for Book of the Year. The book traces the lives of a family of immigrants to a Canadian suburb between the fifties and seventies. Some of these stories were anthologized in Dreaming Home, Canadian Short Stories, and the Penguin Anthology of Canadian Humour. Antanas has published three more novels and a memoir.

Antanas Sileika has worked frequently as a reviewer of books for radio, television, and print.

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When I enrolled in the Humber School for Writers in 2006 to their online programme (I was living full-time on Bequia then, so online learning was new to me and very convenient), Antanas Sileika was the director. I did not meet him in person during the course, but I attended a session at Humber College later when I was back in Toronto for a visit, and I met him then. We also met up years later at the University of Calgary when we both attended a Canadian conference on creative writing programmes. I had set up a table displaying books by authors I was promoting, many of whom were also present at that conference. Antanas is now retired from that position of director and is concentrating on his own writing. I’ve read his most recent novel (below) and found the historical fiction about his parents’ homeland of Lithuania fascinating. And, needless to say, very well written! (While Antanas was born in Canada and has lived most of his life in the country, I’m going to add to his A-RI listing that he is descended from Lithuanians, because that country plays a large part in all of his writing.)

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Provisionally Yours

After World War I and the collapse of Czarist Russia, former counterintelligence officer Justas Adamonis returns to Lithuania, a fragment of the shattered Empire. He’s not entirely sure what he’ll find. His parents are dead, he hasn’t seen his sister since she was a teenager, and Kaunas has become the political center of the emerging state. He’s barely off the train when he’s recruited back into service, this time for the nascent government eager to secure his loyalty and experience. Though the administration may be new, its problems are familiar, and Adamonis quickly finds himself ensnared in a dangerous web of political corruption and personal betrayal. Antanas Sileika’s Provisionally Yours is a vivid depiction of realpolitik—as well as an unforgettable story about treachery and the enduring human capacity for love.

Read the review of Provisionally Yours in Publishers’ Weekly.

“Offers the delightful unearthing of a little-known corner of the world—post-war Lithuania. Espionage, illicit love, bureaucratic bungling, marvelous descriptions of food and drink, strong women, desperate men. And subtle humour. And ultimately sadness, brought on by amorality in the struggle for power. A fine read.” —David Bergen, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of The Time in Between

What Antanas Sileika is doing now:  I have a novel manuscript called Skylark, Badger, Mole out for consideration, set in The Soviet Union in the late fifties. And while the acquisition editor is thinking, I am completing a comic novel-in-progress called The Seaside Cafe Metropolis, loosely based on the opera, La Boheme and the Broadway Play, Rent.

For more information about Antanas Sileika, his books and writing, please see his website.

Island in the Clouds – in Kelowna!

This is a friendship that began with an exchange of recipes on the student website during the Humber Creative Writing Program in 2006. Then it moved on to lots of talk about writing, and a sharing of dreams that we would one day see our work published. “I will promote you,” I said to Darcie Friesen Hossack, oh so long ago. And I did too, and was extremely proud that she was the first of our group to land a publishing contract for her beautiful book, Mennonites Don’t Dance.

“Do this,” I would say, sending out lists of orders as to how she should be promoting her new book. Yes, I was a taskmaster, and Darcie was a trooper, getting out of bed before the crack of 11 a.m. to drive all over Alberta for promotions I’d organized for her. But we both enjoyed the results of seeing Darcie’s book gain the recognition it deserved, being nominated for prizes – still being nominated for prizes. Darcie has even become a public speaker, at my insistence. This is not an easy feat for someone who prefers the company of her kidcats and computer to anything human, other than her resident chef-husband. She has done so well with this first publication and I am as proud as a mother hen, let me tell you!

Darcie has also been extremely supportive of me in all my efforts to get Alberta Books Canada off the ground and then to write Island in the Clouds (she was one of my early readers) and publish it. She’s listened to my concerns, worries, excited exclamations – all through email – and shared in the overuse of exclamation marks and capital Es many times over the years. And it all culminates in this – the publication of my new eBook – EEEEEE!!!!!!! (See what I mean? I can’t help it!)

So here is Darcie’s entry for the Where in the World??? promotion. Thank you Darcie Friesen Hossack – for everything!

Susan! I’ve been hearing about Bequia for so long, I loved finally getting to go there via Kobo and “Island in the Clouds.” I’ve been craving chicken roti ever since, and coveting a “copper” of my own. Here in Kelowna, everything outside is brown (still February), so I didn’t take “Island in the Clouds” outside. Instead, this is your book at the antique shabby-chic desk where I work. ~ Darcie