Katherine Govier – WOMAN of ACTION™

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A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this woman leader, an Award winning author, one that has used her talents in writing to pen stories and best selling novels, dealing with the serious social issue of modern society; Teen Rebellion.

Today, this woman is also founder of The Shoe Project, an organization that assists new immigrant women in Canada learn English. Whether immigrant or refugee, many women are professionals in their own countries but need to improve their communication skills in English to attain their goals in Canada. Others are homemakers, workers or have had their education disrupted but have the desire to lead.

We want to raise the voices of all.



profile picture of katherine govier wearing teal sweater and black jacket

Katherine Govier

Katherine Mary Govier (born July 4, 1948) is a Canadian novelist.

pencil sketch Portrait-of-Katherine-GovierBorn in Edmonton, Alberta, she was educated at the University of Alberta and York University.

In 1997, she was awarded the Marian Engel Award for a woman writer in mid-career.

Prior to that she was shortlisted for the Trillium Award in 1994, and won the City of Toronto Book Award in 1992. She has been made a Distinguished Alumna of the University of Alberta and is one of York University’s “Famous Fifty” graduates.

She has been Chair of the Writers’ Trust of Canada and President of PEN Canada.

Her novel “Creation” was a New York Times Notable Book of 2003.

On February 9, 2011, Govier wrote an article published in the Ottawa Citizen which discussed a previous January 2011 New York Times article on the disparity of female to male writers who contribute to the writing and editing of Wikipedia. The original N.Y. Times article correctly noted that Wikipedia is unwilling to apply gender based quotas to its contributors –its works have never been subject to such restrictions and can be both created and edited anonymously, with or without a user account.

Govier’s article criticized Wikipedia’s stance on who should be permitted to contribute to the encyclopedia, stating: “Wikipedia disdains rules, hierarchies and orthodoxies. It pledges to be open “even to misogynists.” It will not adopt a new way to gather information. The result is that “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” is in danger of losing its legitimacy.”

The Shoe Project logo

Katherine has been instrumental in establishing two innovative writing programs. In 1989, with teacher Trevor Owen, she helped found Writers in Electronic Residence. Today she is the founder and Director of The Shoe Project working to improve the written and spoken English of immigrant women.

Highlights of Standing Room Only 2, a project developed through The Shoe Project which was performed on June 6th, 2013 at The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto.

Katherine Govier is the founder and program director of The Shoe Project. Please contact her at [email protected] if you would like more information on the project or any other matter.

Thousands of Afghan women have come to Canada and others are on their way. They are leaving their country, professions and dreams behind in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The Shoe Project will be ready with translation, trauma-informed support, ESL training and writing and performance workshops across Canada. Help our members—themselves once refugees from Syria, Eritrea, and other war-torn countries—help these newcomers. They have been ‘IN THEIR SHOES’.

Thanks to Chris Zabriske for his two tracks: “Divider” and “The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan” made available through a creative commons attribution only license. See http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Chr… and http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Chr… for more details.



The Toronto author explores the world of troubled teens

Angel Walk book cover authored by Katherine GovierHer last novel, Angel Walk (1996), was set against Second World War scenery. Flash further back, to 1987 and the novel Between Men, and there was Calgary circa 1889. Sharp interviewers sniffed something: did this mean that Katherine Govier was some kind of – well, historical novelist? “I’m sort of a frustrated historian,” the witness was quick enough to confess.

And yet: “I don’t want to write novels that happen all in the past. I’m very interested in what’s happening today. It’s just that when I look at what’s happening today, I always want to see what’s behind that.”

Any surprise that, back here in the present, Govier’s new novel works in the now and the then? None. What’s new, perhaps, is that in The Truth Teller, past and present often seem to be active on the same plane. Govier’s sixth novel is the story of four central characters, each of whom, in their way, comes of age. It’s also about the characters’ common ground, Toronto’s Manor School for Classical Studies.

Dr. Dugald Laird and his wife, Francesca, run the place on the idea that by exposing – no, more: immersing – their students in the learning of the Greeks and Romans and the Renaissance, they’re doing nothing less than saving their lives. Case in point: the awkward new girl, Cassie, whom Francesca quickly dubs Cassandra, after Priam’s daughter in Greek legend, she who can see into the future, but whose reports of what’s coming are doomed never to be believed. In The Truth Teller, Cassie proceeds to become her nickname – a late 20th-century, Torontonian Cassandra.

“The telescoping of time, that’s something that I find quite fascinating as a writer,” Govier was saying one winter day over tea in a Toronto restaurant. “History and future, you get to conflate. You get to float back in people’s lives, float forward, mix it all up.

“Also, if you look at my work, I’ve written a lot about artists of various kinds. Photographers, dancers, people who put stories together. It’s not that the whole world is fascinated by these particular professions, that’s not why I’m doing it, it’s more that everyone alive is really an artist of their own existence. There’s the story they tell themselves. I’m always looking at that process – that you make yourself, you make your story. And you tell it to yourself.”

Govier borrows from Francesca to describe the way a novel begins for her.

“It’s like she says – you get ‘an agitation that won’t go away.’

For this book, it was a combination of things. When I started, about three years ago, I was fascinated by the kind of lifelong partnership between a man and a woman like Dugald and Francesca that makes them almost one creature. The marriage was something I’ve thought about for a long, long time. I don’t know why. My parents are about to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary, that may be one thing. And I’ve always regarded that [permanence] as an astonishing thing. It’s like a monument in itself.”

A second agitation was teenagers.

“I have two of them. And I spend quite a bit of time with them and their friends. I was interested especially by the way that, girls in particular – they feel they’re junk. They’re treated like junk and they act like junk. That was something I wanted to explore.”

That meant research. Unlike her approach to Angel Walk, where she worked a way into the culture of the Second World War mostly through books, for The Truth Teller she went to the source. It so happened that when she was a month into her writing, an editor at Toronto Life called to ask if she’d write an article about troubled – and troublesometeenaged girls.

“I was astonished when I got the call, because I was embarking on this book. I did the article, in a very deliberate, journalistic way, meeting with three or four of these girls with these extended, horrific stories of being kicked out, living on the street, going back home, beating up their mom, going to court – all of that.”

Closer to home, she called on her son, Robin, and one of his friends. “They were my dialect consultants. I thank them in the book, they’re very pleased. The funny part about that was, I asked them all this stuff about a year or so ago. Then I got the page-proofs and had to go back over them. So I sat down with them last week and they’re telling me, ‘Oh, my god, nobody says that now.’ Oh, they howled. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘you’re so cute.’ For me, all that matters is that it sounds like it’s the teenagers’ language in the novel. I just didn’t want it to sound like the sixties or the seventies.”

Divided into three books, The Truth Teller is also divided in its geography. The middle section turns on an eventful school trip to Greece. First and finally, though, there’s Toronto.

The Truth Teller book cover authored by Katherine Govier“Most of my books have a very strong geography,” says Govier, who, while she’s lived in Toronto for 20 years, was born in Edmonton and raised in Calgary. “Between Men was the first book where I really tried a kind of excavation of a place. It felt easy to me. Western history is really accessible.

“Writing fiction is really difficult if you don’t understand the society of a place. Growing up in Calgary, I know who the people are, I have a sense of what they do when they go home, what their parents might have done.

“Toronto was a bit of a mystery to me when I came here, so I didn’t feel confident when I came here to do that kind of excavation. Even with Hearts of Flame [1991], which was a Toronto book, the people came from Alberta. They were all Westerners.”

In The Truth Teller, Manor School is in Wychwood Park, “a romantic suburb within the vastness of Toronto,” as Dugald rhapsodizes. He has roots here: a hundred years ago, his uncle founded the school. But Dugald talks as if he’s lived here forever – as if the waters of Taddle Creek, the buried water course that lies buried deep beneath the school, also run through his veins. Govier acknowledges that this book more than any of her others is “a Toronto book,” one in which she’s tried to map the city and its people, their histories, their myths.

The Truth Teller also marks Govier’s debut as a Random House author. She was with Penguin and then Little, Brown. When the latter closed its doors in 1998, the move was quick and, she says, natural, coinciding as it did with the appointment of Anne Collins as Random House Canada’s editorial director. In 1971 – long before they’d worked together at Toronto Life (Collins was the editor who’d assigned that troubled teenager story) – the two were students together at York University.

“She was a really big part of this process,” Govier says. “I have never worked so closely with an editor.”

Collins wanted to see the first draft of the book, something that Govier had in the past kept to herself. “She ended up reading five drafts,” Govier says. “She made terrific comments all the way through. She didn’t do line edits, she gave me ideas, helped me shape it. She made about three remarks over the course of the editing that saved me months.

randcorp_smallAnne Collins (born 1952) is a Canadian writer, editor and publishing executive who won the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction in 1988.

Born in Whitby, Ontario, Collins earned a Bachelor of Arts from York University and has held a wide range of writing and editorial jobs in the Canadian publishing and magazine industry. The publisher at Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group and vice-president of Random House of Canada, Collins has also written the award winning The Story of The CIA Brainwashing Experiments in Canada. In the Sleep Room explored the history of Dr. Ewen Cameron and Montreal’s Allen Memorial Institute and was made into a movie directed by Anne Wheeler in 1998.

“It’s the kind of relationship you read about, but I don’t think it exists much in Canadian publishing. I mean, with the last round of changes, the book was in galleys, it had already been copy-edited – Anne was sitting there at the computer inputting the changes herself. That’s really devotion.”

(The devotion at the company level also looks to be long-term: via its Vintage imprint, Random House is publishing three titles from Govier’s backlist this spring.)

Ten years back in her own past, Govier told an interviewer that as a young writer, she tended to write “more sincerely,” out of “pain and feelings,” but as she grew older the feelings were “moderated by world knowledge.”

Today, when she looks at some of her earlier books, she says, “Yes, they do astonish me, that I wrote them. There’s a voice in there, it seems very sure of itself – and I don’t remember having it. It’s not a total stranger. It’s someone, we might have a lot in common. But it doesn’t seem quite my own.

“As a younger person I was quite overwhelmed by my feelings, and the feelings of everyone else. In that scary, unformed way, kind of like Cassie. Like a mushroom that’s just leaped out of the ground – everything will bruise, everything has an impact. I think as I’ve gone along I’ve become more interested in ideas.

More interested in bigger spaces.

“The image I would use is rooms. As you continue to write – mature from a younger writer into mid-career, or whatever – you walk through a series of rooms. Your first novel is a small room. The rooms get slightly bigger each time. I feel I’m in quite a large room, now. In other words, there are many things I can try. I’m not afraid, I can reach further. It’s exciting.”

Having surrendered The Truth Teller to publisher and, soon, public, Govier says she’s already working on another novel – “another agitation that wouldn’t go away.”

“It really is the best thing to do,” she says. “There’s all this time once you’ve finished a book and you’re waiting for it to come out, there are the nerves about how it’s going to go, and a sense of loss. And, you know, at this stage, it’s the first time you really figure out what the novel is, somehow – and then it’s gone. It’s like teenagers: ‘Oh, that’s who you were.’” – Source

katherine govier wearing red dress sitting in a library with floor to ceiling booksWriter Katherine Govier’s floor-to-ceiling bookcase extends along a wall of the “salon” and kitchen in the home she shares with her partner, publisher Nicholas Rundall.

Marian_EngelKatherine’s novel Creation, about John James Audubon in Labrador, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2003. She won Canada’s Marian Engel Award for a woman writer (1997) and the Toronto Book Award (1992).

She has twice been shortlisted for the Trillium prize.

Katherine travels between Toronto and Canmore Alberta, with her partner, a food and wine publisher, and their dog Jasper. She holds a black belt in classical martial arts and loves skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

Comparisons are made anyway.

In articles about Govier, Margaret Atwood’s name comes up a lot, though the comparisons seem unjust. Both women are Canadians and both have decided to strike where no genre exists to tell stories that are close to their hearts. Also, both women’s work occasionally slides into the historical but their styles — personally and in writing — are very different. In 1989, in a Toronto Star profile, Catherine Dunphy wrote that, “if there were no Margaret Atwood in the forefront of the Canadian literary scene, Govier would be in her place.”

Govier’s novel, The Truth Teller, is a beautifully rendered story that deals with illusion and how people use it to color their lives. Govier says that, to her, it is “a coming of age book of an outcast teenage girl.”

Set in Toronto and Greece, The Truth Teller’s main players are attached to The Manor School for Classical Studies in a toney Toronto enclave. The school is led by the ageless beauty Francesca Morrow and her husband of 50 years, Dugald Laird. Cassie is The Truth Teller in question, the outcast new kid who will ultimately be the catalyst of change for the Manor School, for Francesca and Dugald and anyone who has ever based illusion as a shield.

katherine book_ghostbrushKatherine Govier’s most recent novel The Ghost Brush is about the daughter of the famous Japanese printmaker, Hokusai, creator of The Great Wave. It has been published in the United States as The Printmaker’s Daughter, and will appear in translation in Spain, Quebec, and Japan.

The holder of a green belt in Kobuto, Katherine Govier lives in Toronto with her two children, Robin and Emily.

Katherine travels between Toronto and Canmore Alberta, with her partner, a food and wine publisher, and their dog Jasper. She holds a black belt in classical martial arts and loves skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

Govier — now 73 — seems even more ready to bypass the comparisons.

The Shoe Project logo smallOn stages from Halifax, Charlottetown, Antigonish and St. John to Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Canmore and Vancouver, The Shoe Project’s performers have sent their stories straight into the hearts of the Canadian public.

There is more to come in 2021-2022 in Windsor, Brampton, Vancouver and Toronto.

Begun when Canada’s best writers and actors chose to work with newcomers in 2011, today, The Shoe Project comes into its own as a national platform for immigrant and refugee women.

Our members come from all over the world. Whether immigrant or refugee, many women are professionals in their own countries but need to improve their communication skills in English to attain their goals in Canada. Others are homemakers, workers or have had their education disrupted but have the desire to lead. We want to raise the voices of all.

Our program has two major components: the first is a writing workshop. When stories are completed, each woman moves on to personal performance coaching, the second part of our program. The two come together when they perform for the public.

The Shoe Project regularly hosts workshops and performances across Canada. We invite you to JOIN US

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social media wordle in many pastel colorsFIND Katherine HERE:

FACEBOOK – Katherine Govier

Katherine Govier – Twitter – @kmgovier

Katherine Govier – Canada | LinkedIn

Representation Agent: Alexis Hurley, Inkwell Management, New York [e. [email protected] ]

Film rights represented by Suzanne de Poe – Creative Technique Inc.
483 Euclid Avenue, Toronto, ON M6G 2T1 Canada [ e. [email protected] ]

Official Website – Katherine Govier

Curriculum Vitae
M.A. English, York University, Toronto, Canada (1972)
B.A. Honours English (first class), The University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (1970)
Shodan (black belt) Kobudo, ancient Japanese weapons (2002); Brown Belt, Iaido, Japanese sword, 2003
Illustrated Japanese Books, 1 week course, 2006, Rare Books School, University of Virginia


A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this power of example into our global alumni with open arms, embracing the possibility of bettering the lives of our women of youth, making a better future for all.



Brava Katherine!

Original Jan 2014/Up-dated December 2021

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