Zoe Whittall

Zoe Whittall, novelist, poet, journalist (b at South Durham, Que 16 Feb 1976). After growing up on a sheep farm in the rural Eastern Townships of Québec, Zoe Whittall moved to Montréal at age 18 to attend Dawson College and begin her writing career. Whittall dropped out of Concordia University after two years, but completed an MA in creative writing at the University Of Guelph in 2007. Whittall's first published piece, a spoken-word poem, appeared in 1995 and, in addition to her novels, she continues to write poems and short fiction for publications across Canada, establishing herself as a literary voice for alternative cultures in Canada.

Whittall is known as a chronicler of urban life and queer culture, particularly in the cities of Montréal and Toronto, to which she moved in 1997. After publishing two books of poetry, The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life (2001) and The Emily Valentine Poems (2006), Whittall gained literary success with her first novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts (2007). Set in the months leading up to the 1995 referendum in Montreal, Bottle Rocket Hearts is a queer coming-of-age story that features themes that recur in Whittall's work, including self-discovery, the development of personal identity, and the craziness of being in love. Bottle Rocket Hearts is Whittall's biggest critical success, and garnered her a spot on both the Globe And Mail's and Quill & Quire's best books of the year lists in 2007. The book experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2010 when it made the top 10 list for the 10th anniversary of CBC's Canada Reads, the broadcaster's annual "battle of the books" competition. Whittall's second novel, Holding Still For As Long As Possible (2009), focuses on many of the same themes as Bottle Rocket Hearts, this time set in 2005 Toronto and featuring a group of troubled twentysomethings trapped somewhere between growing up and being grown-ups. Holding Still For As Long As Possible was shortlisted for the 2010 ReLit Award. Whittall also published a third book of poetry, Precordial Thump, in 2008.

The success of Whittall's novels has spread beyond literary circles, as both Bottle Rocket Hearts and Holding Still For As Long As Possible have been optioned for film. Whittall has signed on to co-write both of the films. She was the recipient of the Writers' Trust Of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Grant for an emerging gay author in 2008, was the readers' choice for best local author from NOW Magazine in 2010, and was named XTRA!'s best queer Toronto author in 2010. She also received the inaugural Earla Dunbar Consumer Award (2010) for her work to help de-stigmatize panic attacks and anxiety through the experiences of her characters in Holding Still For As Long As Possible.