Author Dianne Warren talks about the layers of storytelling

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This year, Canadian Writers in Person series debuted with Canadian author Dianne Warren, reading from her latest novel, Liberty Street.

Canadian author Dianne Warren
Dianne Warren

Liberty Street is a novel about a woman whose memory of her past marriage and lost child is suddenly triggered by an experience she has while on holidays. From there, the reader delves into small-town Saskatchewan and the complexities of living in a place tightly bound by social conventions.

When she visited York, the writer talked about creativity as a set of skills that can be developed. She said that when she first started writing, she would work on something for an hour or so, but then, the better she got at it, the more she could focus on a project. The ability to make connections and to concentrate on a project is something that creative people work at and improve.

Liberty Street began 15 years ago with a first draft titled “My Name Is Cora Fletcher.” Years later, when Warren returned to work on the novel, other characters came into the story and the protagonist’s name and the focus of the story changed.

The writer explained that “When you are writing a book, you create all these layers and then you have to think about how to put them together.” To Warren, the plot is not that important. In fact, she reveals elements of the plot in the first chapter of Liberty Street. She works on the structure of the story, moving around pieces, to see where they would fit best. “I like to use echoes,” she says, “to pull stories together.” Images of figure skating and scars echo throughout Liberty Street, connecting the various stories.

Warren made her debut with short fiction. Her first book of short fiction, The Wednesday Flower Man (1987), was published by the Saskatchewan press Coteau Books. Her next collection of short stories, Bad Luck Dog (1993), won the Saskatchewan Book of the Year Award, “about the same moment that Joe Carter hit the home run that won the Toronto Blue Jays the World Series. The room at the Saskatchewan Book Awards erupted in cheers (for Joe Carter).”

She also wrote three stage plays and her novel Cool Water (2010)won a Governor General’s Award for Fiction.

The Canadian Writers in Person series features 11 Canadian authors who present their work, respond to questions from the audience and sign books. In addition to last week’s author, this year’s lineup features:

  • Oct. 4 – Richard Van Camp, Night Moves
  • Oct. 18 – Olive Senior, The Pain Tree
  • Nov. 1 – Laurie D. Graham, Settler Education
  • Nov. 15 – Helen Humphreys, The Evening Chorus
  • Nov. 29 – Allan Weiss, Making the Rounds
  • Jan. 17, 2017 – André Alexis, Fifteen Dogs
  • Jan. 31 – Lynn Crosbie, Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
  • Feb. 14 – Madhur Anand, A New Index for Predicting Catastrophe
  • March 7 – Katherena Vermette, North End Love Song
  • March 21 – Terry Fallis, Poles Apart

All readings are part of a degree credit course on Canadian literary culture offered by the Culture & Expression Program in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Readings are free and open to any member of the public. For more information, contact Professor Leslie Sanders at or Professor Gail Vanstone at

All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 9pm in 206 Accolade West Building, Keele campus.