As a writer
Author of eleven books of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, I've been called “one of Canada’s smartest, fiercest and most intrepid writers.” (that was CBC's Bill Richardson, in 2017; and he knows!) An outspoken human rights activist, a polyglot, a provocateur, I've spent extended periods in various European countries, travelled in the Middle East and North Africa, lived in Thailand and on the Thai-Myanmar border among refugee and dissident populations. Three of my books--poetry, fiction, non-fiction--have explored the struggles of Burmese dissidents, political prisoners, revolutionary soldiers, and refugees. My other deeply beloved home is the Greek island of Lesvos, where I've lived, on and off and on again, for over 25 years. I've fundraised for Starfish and other Lesvos-based first-responder organizations that work with refugees. I've also fundraised and done outreach work for PEN Canada and worked with Syrian newcomers to Canada.
The acclaimed novel The Lizard Cage is my best book (in my opinion) because It's epic—yet set in a solitary confinement cell in Burma. It won Britain’s Orange Broadband New Novelist’s Prize and was shortlisted for the U.S.’s Kiriyama Prize.The New York Times Book Review compared this prison novel to the works of Orwell, Mandela and Solzhenitsyn. After a decade of being banned in Burma (Myanmar) it was finally published there in 2016 and became a bestseller. My most recent book is The Change Room, published by PenguinRandomHouse in 2017. It features another unique almost-impossible scenario (in literature anyway): a married woman who engages in a passionate adulterous relationship but does not die by suicide or at her husband's hand by the end of the book. (In 2018 this is still a big deal. The kids don't die either. Not even a bunny dies.) The Change Room has been called “revolutionary” and “boundary-breaking” in its treatment of women’s (harried, crazy-busy) lives and sexuality. After writing about the body in the context of prison, torture, violence political and personal (see Come Cold River) I needed to remind myself and the world that we are actually designed for joy, pleasure, and change.
My writings (books, essays, poems) have been translated into fifteen languages and published in seventeen countries. I live with my family in Toronto and in Greece. For twenty years, I've taught creative writing at the Humber School for Writers and for the last decade I've been an adjunct professor in the University of Guelph’s MFA program, specializing in creative nonfiction.
As a therapist
After almost thirty years of studying meditation and meditative approaches to therapy, I began teaching meditation privately in 2013. I have slowly developed Write-Life,™ a therapist and self-guided approach to healing through creativity and language. We heal by telling our stories, especially the painful and secret ones. Using both Vipassana and guided meditation, empathic talk therapy, Narrative Therapy techniques, and Bowen Family Systems Therapy, I use my long life experience as a consummate listener in a half a dozen cultures and languages to help people tell their stories in the presence of a compassionate witness. It's never too late to welcome peace and change into our lives, to open up to new adventures, and to heal. I consider myself a good working example of this basic truth.
I have been professionally trained in and practice OEI, Observed Experiential Integration therapy, a unique somatic therapy for processing trauma and managing PTSD symptoms. Until I am fully certified in these powerful techniques, I will continue to work under clinical supervision. I’ve also trained at OPC, the Ontario Psychotherapy and Counselling Program.
History of Literary Publications/Works in Progress
(publishers are Canadian unless otherwise indicated)
The Change Room, Random House Canada, Spring, 2017
De meisjes kleedkamer (The Change Room in Dutch) Querido, Netherlands, Fall, 2017
Come Cold River, Quattro Books, Canada, 2013.
Translated into Estonian by Katlin Kaldma in 2015.
Burmese Lessons, Random House Canada, Fall, 2009, Doubleday/Nan A. Talese, 2010
The Lizard Cage , Random House Canada, Fall, 2005
Doubleday/Nan A. Talese 2007
Harvill and Secker, Britain 2007
Buchet-Chastel, France 2007
Querido, Holland, 2006
Frassinelli, Italy, 2006
Grace and Poison ; essay and new edition of poetry, Turnstone Press, 2001
The Border Surrounds Us ; poetry, McClelland and Stewart Publishers, 2000.
The Disorder of Love ; poetry/photographs. Gutter Press, 1997.
One Room In A Castle, Letters from Spain, France, and Greece; Turnstone Press, 1995. Published in Australia (HarperCollins) and the U.K. (Black Swan) in 1997.
Touch The Dragon, A Thai Journal; creative non-fiction-travel, Turnstone Press, l992.
Published in the U.S. as A Dream of a Thousand Lives, by Seal Press.
English language publication in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia in 1994. (Silkworm Books)
Translated and published in Chinese in Taipei, Taiwan, 1995. (Perfect Wisdom Publishing)
Australia (HarperCollins) and the U.K. (Black Swan) in 1996.
Published in German translation (Bastei-Lubbe) in 1998.
This Brighter Prison , A Book of Journeys; poetry/fiction, Brick Books, l993.
The Small Words In My Body, poetry; Kalamalka Press, l990. New edition by Gutter Press, 1995. New edition by Turnstone Press, 2001.
A new novel.
A collections of essays.