Maggie Helwig

Maggie Helwig, poet, novelist, social activist (b at Liverpool, Eng, 1961).
Maggie Helwig, poet, novelist, social activist (b at Liverpool, Eng, 1961).

Maggie Helwig, poet, novelist, social activist (b at Liverpool, Eng, 1961). The daughter of Canadian writer David Helwig, Maggie Helwig was born in England and grew up in Ontario, in London and Kingston. She attended Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute (1979) and later Trent University, completing her BA in Classical Latin (1983). Helwig has published 9 poetry chapbooks and collections: Walking Through Fire (1981), Tongues of Men and Angels (1985), Eden (1987), Because the Gunman (1987), Talking Prophet Blues (1989), Graffiti for J.J. Harper (1991), Eating Glass (1994), The City on Wednesday (1996) and One Building In the Earth: New and Selected Poems (2002). She has also published 3 novels, Where She Was Standing (2001), Between Mountains (2004) and Girls Fall Down (2008); a collection of short stories, Gravity Lets You Down (1997); and 2 collections of essays, Apocalypse Jazz (1993) and Real Bodies (2002).

In addition to her work as a writer, Maggie Helwig has worked as a music journalist and an international human rights activist. She has travelled to South America and the Balkans, and has been involved with social advocacy groups such as the East Timor Alert Network, the International Federation for East Timor and the Women in Black network.

Maggie Helwig's work is known for its social and cultural commentary, covering themes such as the place of women in contemporary culture, love, and the culture of fear in the modern world. The latter is the focus of her 2008 novel Girls Fall Down. Appearing in the Top Ten Books of 2008 lists of the National Post and NOW Magazine, and shortlisted for both the Toronto Book Award and the ReLit Award in 2009, Girls Fall Down is set in Toronto and follows the city's fall into panic after an unexplained illness befalls a young girl on the subway and spreads throughout the city. A former couple reunites in the midst of the chaos, and Helwig nicely juxtaposes the ease of falling into panic with the difficulties of falling in love.

Maggie Helwig is an active part of the Canadian literary and social scene. She has worked as the associate director of the Scream Literary Festival and has served on the Social Justice and Advocacy Board of the Anglican Diocese of Toronto. Helwig also served on the board of directors of PEN Canada (2004-2005). She was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award (1989) for Talking Prophet Blues. She was also the joint winner of the UK's Blue Nose Poet of the Year Competition (1995) and the Canadian Church Press Award winner for best narrative, fiction or non-fiction (2000).