Heather O’Neill: Hotels, Orphans, Geniuses @ Toronto Public Library

I remember when I fell in love with a work of fiction. 

The year was 2014, and I was underground riding the TTC. Sitting alone and smiling to myself after a particularly whimsical sentence, I was halfway through reading Heather O’Neill’s second book, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. Suddenly a shadow fell over me, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. Jarred out of my reverie, I looked up. A scruffy man with kind eyes was staring down at me.

“Pardon me, miss – but I just had to say,” he began timidly.
“Yes?” I questioned, unintentionally annoyed at the interruption.
“I- I just had to say that the book you’re reading must really be wonderful… your face and your smile were just shining with happiness.”

I was taken by surprise; I lowered my eyes and blushed.
“It makes me want to read that book, too,” he quickly added, backing away.

“The book is called The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by a Canadian author from Montréal, named Heather O’Neill,” I blurted out, not wanting him to feel bad for embarrassing me in such a sweet way.

He scurried away, ready to exit the train. “You can get it from your local library!” I called out after him. He turned back to thank me, then stepped out of my life forever.

This book, that sentence, and the moment solidified my love for Heather O’Neill. I have an unshakable loyalty to people, things, and situations that leave an impact on my life.


I had previously read Heather’s debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals – a sad tale set in Montréal revolving around a twelve-year-old protagonist named Baby. I’ve always had a love affair with Montréal, and the charming island city is featured in all three of her novels. Heather’s playful, romantic style infused with a melancholic reality speaks to me in a way that I’ve never encountered before. By the time I had finished her second novel, I was hooked.

Not too long ago, I noticed by chance that she would be visiting the Toronto Reference Library to promote her new book, The Lonely Hearts Hotel. I was excited; I could make it! I reserved two free seats and convinced a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile to join me at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon for Heather O’Neill: Hotels, Orphans and Geniuses.

We showed up early, ordered fancy wine, and scanned the already-full room. There were seats available at the back… but there were also a few rows available right at the front. We sauntered over; reserved! Dang. We plopped ourselves down anyway and waited to get kicked out.

We didn’t.

What I loved most about this book talk with Heather O’Neill was the sincerity in it; it was more a conversation between herself and Joshua Knelman, (co-founder of The Walrus magazine) about her life, her art, and her views on things. I got a sense of who Heather was by the questions Josh asked, and how Heather answered.

I was a little star-struck, I must say. Heather is an entirely enthralling person to be in the same room with. I left that evening with a dreamy mind and stars in my eyes.


Full house for Josh Knelman & Heather O’Neill at the TPL Appel Salon

An Evening with Maynard James Keenan

Well, what can I say. Back when I was a head-banging hair-whipping teenage rocker gal wearing long-sleeved band t-shirts under my white school uniform dress shirt, I never thought this day would come: sitting in a wooden folding chair, 20 feet from Maynard James Keenan, singer of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer, with a gifted copy of his first book in my hand: A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, listening to him speak about his life at the University of Toronto Convocation Hall.

As soon as I found out that he’d be in Toronto for this unprecedented event, I bought a ticket. I never in a million years thought that I’d be attending alone, but alone I went; no one I’d asked had wanted to go. I’ve been lucky enough to watch Maynard sing countless times before at shows he put on with his various bands throughout the years – but this was different. This time, I would actually be able to hear what he had to say. I could focus, pay attention, and mull. I wasn’t going to miss this for anything.

It was a cool, clear Monday night, and the November full moon was high in the sky as I crossed King’s College Circle to reach the building’s entrance. How fitting. The moon was yellow and misty and uncaptureable by my phone but try I did, because how could I not?

November full moon, taken from King College Circle.

Going to see this man (whose career I’ve followed singe teenagerdom and whom I find to be incredibly intelligent and inspiring to this day) speak about life, art, mistakes, and learning (not losing; “you either win or you learn, losing is on you”) was simultaneously somber and uplifting. Like life.

An audio snippet I recorded of Maynard reading aloud from his book.

I was reminded that I should never expect things that inspire me to necessarily inspire others; what I find amazing and incredible may not resonate with even those who are closest to me; in the end, my thoughts and my feelings are my own. Despite this, I won’t ever stop going after and talking about the things that I’m passionate about. Be it music, trees, books, or sunsets. We just never know how something we do or say or share might have a deep and lasting effect on those around us.

Thank you Maynard, for sharing your life with the world, and for coming to Toronto to spend time with your fans.