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the Media Club of Ottawa presents monthly programs of significance
to professionals in all branches of the communications field. 
Our program offers a stimulating variety of speakers.

Qais-Ghanem Dani-Elle Katelin-Belliveau
  Alexandra-Pope - speaker            Qais-Ghanem - speaker                    Amira Eghawaby - speaker                      Dani-Elle Dube - award winner                       Katelin Belliveau - award winner                 Bruce-MacGregor - speaker

December,  2020


,COVID-19 restrictions

Our program has been switched  to
publication of articles by our scheduled speakers on their topic

Publication date:

About Frances Itany

by June Coxon

Ottawa author Frances Itani last spoke at a Media Club meeting in 2008 and would have done so again now if it were possible to hold such meetings. Instead, like others who would have spoken to the Media Club since COVID-19 arrived in Canada, she sent the following item for you to read. First though, here is her brief biography.

     Frances Itani is a Member of the Order of Canada and an award-winning, best-selling author of 18 books (novels, stories, poetry and children’s work). She has published articles, essays and reviews in the Washington Post, Canadian Geographic, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, Saturday Night, Toronto Life, The Canadian Forum, Brick, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Magazine, The Montreal Gazette, The Vancouver Sun, etc.

     Frances was born in Belleville ON, grew up in a small village on the Ottawa River in Québec, has travelled widely and has lived in seven Canadian provinces. She also lived in England, U.S.A., Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Croatia and Cyprus. She worked as a Cost Accountant (in Hull, QC) and Executive Secretary in London, England, but her first training was as a Nurse, studying at the Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and Duke University. She practiced and taught Nursing for eight years. Following that, she earned a B.A. in Psychology (U. of Alberta), and an M.A. in English Literature (UNB).

Her work has been translated in 18 countries and has been widely anthologized. Among her many awards, she is a three-time winner of the CBC Literary Award, won a Commonwealth Award for best book (Deafening), two Ottawa Book Awards, the Kingston Reads Award, MacEwan University Book of the Year Award, the CAA Jubilee Award for best book of Canadian stories, etc. Her novel, Deafening, was selected for CBC Canada Reads (English and French) and was shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin International Literary Award and the William Saroyan International Literary Award. Another novel, Tell, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize (2014). She has written a radio play and several features broadcast by CBC. In 2009 she was awarded a six-week Fellowship by the Civitella Foundation at a castle in Umbria, Italy, the Civitella Ranieri Center. In 2012 she received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and in 2019, the Library and Archives Canada Scholars Award. Her latest novel is The Company We Keep (2020). Frances lives in Ottawa.
     To read more about her and her books check her website:
 - -
  Frances Itany speaks to us, virtually, in writing

The Company We Keep


Greetings everyone:

I am so pleased to be able to join you now and later on the website – even though the meeting is, by necessity, virtual. Seems a long time since ‘lockdown’ began, but I am ever optimistic and look forward to being out and about and seeing friends and colleagues up close once more. Next year! – I write with a sigh. This most unusual year is drawing to a close and we are probably happy to let it go. I know that my own response to this global lockdown has resulted in a lack of focus in my writing. I seem to want to work on many projects at the same time, always aware of the uncertainty around me.
My new novel The Company We Keep, was published in late August and I am still doing promotional work, meeting with book clubs, and giving talks and presentations as a panelist and reader – all virtual. Canadian literary festivals were by and large cancelled during the usually busy fall publishing season, but several festivals sponsored virtual sessions and I was happy to take part.

     Although I didn’t plan this, because the novel took almost three years to write, its release during the pandemic turned out to be eerily fitting. I created six characters (a seventh is a parrot), each of whom is grieving in some way: loss, death of a spouse, parent or friend, loss of sense of self, loss of country, a variety of losses. Grief, a universal condition, holds the book together thematically. Added to that is the human ability to change, to seek company, to reach out and help others. So although this is a story about grief, it is also about hope. The novel, set in the fictional town of Wilna Creek, is not a ‘downer.’ It won’t make you weep and want to pull out your hair. The story has plenty of light moments and is a realistic look at the human condition. The word that comes back to me from readers is that they hate to give up the ‘company’ of my characters at the end of the book. They tell me that the book has been comforting as well as revealing. Encouraging for a writer to hear!

     During the creation of this book, I stayed away from clinical aspects and stages of grief, as well as group-therapy sessions. I wanted my six strangers to meet casually in the backroom of Cassie’s café and, with no agenda, introduce themselves and begin to interact. They begin to tell their stories. (Always, my work is about storytelling.)

First, the reader meets each character separately. By the time the first meeting takes place in Cassie’s backroom, the reader knows far more about them all than the characters know about one another. We learn the back stories, their various professions and vocations, and their interactions with others outside the group. And, of course, I can’t forget Rico, the African grey (plenty of research to create the character of the parrot). Rico’s role is to reveal the depth of Gwen’s character, but he takes up his own space, too, and I became very fond of him while writing the book

   In total, there are four women and two men in the group, ages ranging from 40 to 79. Hazzley, a widow, is 77, born in the UK but a long-time Canadian resident. She is a working editor and her art is ‘the word.’ Tom is 79. He owns an antiques shop and is considering retirement. Tom writes poetry which he never shows to anyone, but he loves the great poets and has a poetic soul himself. Addie, at 49, works in administration in a local hospital, loves classical music, and is caring for her closest friend. Allam, in his early 60s, is a Syrian refugee and a storyteller. He is improving his English and becomes a good friend to Tom. Gwen (around age 60), who was long bullied by her late husband, has a three-month job as a ‘parrot-sitter’ and she pours out her story to Rico and reads Arthurian tales aloud to him. Gwen loves literature. Chiyo is a 40-year-old Japanese Canadian fitness instructor who has a very complicated relationship with her Mom. Her mother was a child in the WWII camps in B.C. when 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forcibly removed from their homes after Pearl Harbor, an experience that deeply affected the generations that followed. Chiyo loves film and dance. Two of my characters will find love in each other and will form a more permanent relationship. All in all, I truly enjoyed bringing these fictional characters together, and I loved working on the book.




 I’m now writing my next novel, which I hope to complete in 2021, and I have just completed a children’s picture book and sent it off to my agent.

  One last note, because I am frequently asked this question: “How did you become a writer after starting out your career as a nurse?”

     Well, for me that was a completely natural transition. I have always been interested in the human condition. My studies at university (after Nursing) led me to Psychology and further investigation of human behaviour.  My nursing background and early studies at several universities while I was doing Graduate Nursing led me to various practical experiences while working as a nurse: Intensive Care Nursing at the Ottawa Civic Hospital; work at the Montreal Neurological Institute; teaching at a Chest Hospital in Montreal on rue Saint-Urbain; Recovery Room Nursing in North Carolina, and general ward nursing on hospital medical floors.

     My transition from nursing to writing is not a surprise to me and I constantly draw on my early background for my work. It’s all about the human condition and reaching out and trying to understand. When I was at the University of Alberta in the mid-70s, I met W.O. Mitchell, my first writing teacher. He became my greatest supporter and dear friend. After working with him, I studied with Rudy Wiebe for a year, also in Edmonton – Rudy is now a long-time friend. When I did graduate work in English Literature at UNB in Fredericton, I studied with the late Fred Cogswell, poet, professor and publisher. He was my thesis supervisor. So I’ve been blessed. Great friends, great supporters.

Books by Frances Itani
1. No Other Lodgings (Poetry 1978)
2. Linger by the Sea (Children’s 1979)
3. Rentee Bay (Poems 1983)
4. A Season of Mourning (Poems 1988)
5. Truth or Lies (Stories 1989)
6. Pack Ice (Stories 1989)
7. Man Without Face (Stories 1994)
8. Leaning, Leaning Over Water (Novel 1998)
9. Deafening (Novel 2003)
10. Poached Egg on Toast (Stories 2004)
11. Remembering the Bones (Novel 2007)
12. Requiem (Novel 2011)
13. Missing (Novella/Adult Literacy 2011)
14. Listen! (Novella/Adult Literacy 2012)
15. Best Friend Trouble (Children’s 2014)
16. Tell (Novel 2014)
17. That’s My Baby (Novel 2017)
18. The Company We Keep (Novel 2020)



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 Executive  2020-21
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