Elizabeth Hay, writer (born at Owen Sound, Ont 1951). Elizabeth Hay grew up in what she calls "small town Ontario." She attended the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, and spent a number of years as a broadcaster for the CBC. Travel and her work as a journalist took Hay to Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Toronto, Latin America, and New York City before she settled in Ottawa. She has also taught creative writing at universities in Canada and the United States.
Elizabeth Hay's first collection of SHORT FICTION, Crossing the Snow Line, was published in 1989. A second collection, Small Change (1997), received high praise and was short-listed for many major awards, including the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD for Fiction. Small Change includes the story "Hand Games," which won a Western Magazine Award, a National Magazine Award Gold Medal, and the JOURNEY PRIZE, when it was originally published in the CAPILANO REVIEW. In between these two collections, Hay published two creative nonfiction works: The Only Snow in Havana (1992) and Captivity Tales: Canadians in New York (1993).
A Student of Weather, Elizabeth Hay's first NOVEL, appeared in 2000. The story has a fairy-tale opening: the lives of two young sisters - one beautiful, one decidedly not - are disrupted by a handsome stranger, who arrives during a blizzard. The novel begins in 1930s Willow Bend, Saskatchewan, and follows the Hardy sisters when they move as adults to Ottawa and New York. A number of reviewers observed that although none of Hay's main characters here is likeable, their story of love, rivalry and obsession is seductive and compellingly told. A Student of Weather was short-listed for the SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE. Elizabeth Hay was the recipient of the 2002 MARIAN ENGEL AWARD, a prize given to a Canadian woman writer in mid-career for her body of work.
The weather also plays a big part in Hay's 2003 novel, Garbo Laughs, which partly takes place during the 1998 ICE STORM. The protagonist, Harriet Browning, is obsessed not with another person, but with films. The cinephile's escape that Harriet, her children and a close neighbour regularly indulge in is threatened by the arrival of unpleasant relatives who actually live and work in Hollywood. Garbo Laughs garnered Elizabeth Hay her second Governor General's Award nomination and won the 2004 Ottawa Book Award.
As her titles indicate, Elizabeth Hay's work reflects the Canadian fascination with the WEATHER. The weather is much more than an element of setting in her fiction. It is a plot device that brings characters together and apart, and it affects the way they see themselves and their lives. Her detailed, lyric depictions of extremes - drought, humidity, ice - show the undeniable force and unexpected effects of weather. Hay explains, "What I like is weather as a visual event. Weather as a force of history that moves groups of people from one place to another. Weather as superstition. And weather as story."
Elizabeth Hay won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Ottawa Book Award, and the Libris Award for her 2007 novel Late Nights on Air. Hay draws on her own experience for the novel's setting, which takes place in YELLOWKNIFE, in the mid-1970s. The employees of a public radio station make up the eccentric cast of characters, and the plot follows their intense interactions with each other and with the northern landscape.
In Alone in the Classroom, published in 2011, Hay turns again to an interwar prairie setting - Saskatchewan, 1929 - to introduce us to Connie Flood, a schoolteacher and, later, journalist whose assistance to a young dyslexic boy ends in a deadly tangle of hate and violence. The novel proceeds through the perspective of Connie's niece, Anne, who attempts to piece together the lives and stories of her parents and aunt, while teasing out her own life's new directions. Alone in the Classroom is a meditation on childhood, memory, guilt and the ways we learn and love.