Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Uninvited

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“That Michael Winter,” said Si Si Penaloza on Tuesday night. “What a lovely guy. I met him tonight at the Penguin thing. He’s charismatic.”

“What Penguin thing?” I said, immediately annoyed that I hadn’t been invited.

We were drinking cocktails at a swish party for the launch of a new boutique vodka, Grey Goose Poire. The Poire party was at the Art Gallery of Ontario and it was my first look at the Frank Gehry transformation (it’s surprising how many people haven’t seen it yet. I blame the weather).

“Oh, The Hamish Hamilton launch at Nyood,” Si Si said. Si Si is the editorial director of the newly launched www.woman.ca and an occasional contributor to Globe Style. She is also an Olympic-class schmoozer. She probably had six more events that night.

“Who’s Hamish Hamilton?” Even though I am a journalist, and an author myself, I don’t keep up on publishing (which is why I had no business being invited to the Penguin thing anyway, but still).

“A boutique British imprint. There’s a Canadian version, now – Hamish Hamilton Canada.”

“And Michael Winter’s one of the authors?” I asked jealously. (This is why I don’t keep up on publishing news; it feeds my base emotions.) “Which book?”

“I don’t know which book,” Si Si said. “Anyway the cocktails are better at this party.”

The cocktails were indeed excellent; and in fact I was happy for Michael Winter, who is a wonderful writer and a lovely guy.

I first met him on a blizzardy December night half a dozen years ago. It was my birthday and I had escaped from the Globe and Mail Christmas party with poet/author/columnist Lynn Crosbie and Style section columnist and intrepid trendspotter Karen von Hahn. We ended up at a now defunct local favoured by arsty rabble and hardcore boozers (one of the things I love about Karen and Lynn, they are not too snobby for a pint at a seedy pub).

The place was dimly lit and deserted except for a sauced fortune teller in one corner and a pair of men at a table whom Lynn knew. They turned out to be two Toronto literary lights, Michael Winter and Ray Robertson, and we spent a delightful hour or so with the pair of them, snapping photos and quaffing brews.

Then Karen paid the fortune teller to read my palm (something about big plans paying off, heard that one before) and Lynn disappeared to talk to the bartender, a gruff but kindly pirate with a big beard.

A few minutes later the pirate appeared out of the shadows bearing a small bonfire in his meaty hands, and everyone started singing Happy Birthday. It was a Sara Lee ice cream cake, spiked with a dozen blazing candles, and the most ambrosial birthday cake I’ve ever tasted.

1 comment

Love the honesty in this post! Hey, what did you think of the Frank Gehry transformation?

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Sheree-Lee Olson

Sheree-Lee Olson is a Canadian novelist, poet and journalist. Her first novel, Sailor Girl, was published in 2008 by The Porcupine's Quill.

Go to Sheree-Lee Olson ’s Author Page