Amanda Hale is a novelist and poet, and has written for theatre and worked in journalism, publishing articles on theatre, film, literature and various cultural and political events. She has an M.A. in Creative Writing Drama from Concordia University, Montreal, and has taught creative writing at University level and in Continuing Ed. She was a founding member of Toronto’s feminist theatre group, Company of Sirens, and of Red Tree Visual Arts, and was on the Toronto Broadside collective as theatre critic during the 1980s.
She has travelled extensively and has painted murals in Guatemala and Cuba with Toronto artist, Lynn Hutchinson. Together they presented an art installation at Casa Guayasamin, Havana, in 2006, and collaborated on a mural with Cuban arts group, Muraleando. In Spring 2008 Amanda and Lynn presented ‘Ololo’ at Casa Guayasamin, together with a dance performance by Danza Teatro Retazos. ‘Ololo’ is an exhibition of large drawings on the theme of global surveillance. Hale has been a frequent visitor to Cuba since 2003.
Hale’s first novel, Sounding the Blood, was published by Raincoast Books in 2001. It was a finalist for the BC Relit Awards and was voted one of the Top Ten novels of 2001 by Toronto’s Now Magazine. Sounding the Blood has been on reading lists for literature courses at University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Western Washington and University of Victoria. The book was released in the U.S. in the Fall of 2002 and has been translated into Czech and taught in a Canadian Literature course at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic.
Hale’s second novel The Reddening Path, was published by Thistledown Press in 2007. A Spanish edition was released in 2008 by Verdecielo of Panama. The Reddening Path is available from Thistledown Press as an AudioBook.
Her third novel, My Sweet Curiosity, was longlisted for the 2010 Relit award for fiction.
She has published two poetry chapbooks, Crocodile Sugar, 2005, with Lynn Hutchinson, and Pomegranate, a tale of remembering, 2007.
Hale’s poetry and short stories have appeared in Canadian and U.S. magazines, including Arc, Grain, Event, The Dalhousie Review, The Fiddlehead, Room of One’s Own, Other Voices, Contemporary Verse II, Branching Out, Dark Horse, Poetry Canada Review, Minus Tides, The New Quarterly. She won the 2008 Prism International Creative Non-Fiction Award for “The Death of Pedro Iván,” and was a finalist for the Malahat Review’s Creative Non-Fiction Award with “Señora Amable Ponce.”
In the Embrace of the Alligator, a collection of linked fictions set in Cuba, was published by Thistledown Press in the spring of 2011.
A second collection of Cuban stories, Ángela of the Stones, will be published in October 2018.
A fourth novel, Mad Hatter, set in WW2 and postwar England, will be published by Guernica Editions in October 2019.
Amanda is the librettist for an original opera – Pomegranate – to be premiered in Toronto in June 2019. Based on her book of poems set in ancient Pompeii, Pomegranate is a lesbian opera about the endurance of love across time.
Hale divides her time between Hornby Island, Toronto, and Cuba.
An Autobiographical Tale
I wrote my first novel at age 11. It was an illustrated work – a heterosexual love story between two frogs set against the rich cultural background of the rock and roll era – Bill Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, Little Richard … My story hinted at a desire to leave England. The Frogs travelled to the USA for their honeymoon, visited a dude ranch, went dancing and to the movies. In my early 20’s I followed them to North America and settled in Canada. I’ve lived in Montreal, Toronto, and now on the west coast. I studied at Concordia University in Montreal for 6 years as a mature student. It was there that I resumed writing and was quickly channeled into playwriting. Having been a listener for 28 years I had developed a good ear for dialogue. I also studied visual art and, since then, have bounced back and forth between the visual art and literary worlds, often combining them in art installations, especially during the 1980s in Toronto where I was involved in theatre, journalism and the visual arts as a feminist and social activist.
When the forgotten Frog manuscript arrived, unearthed from my sister’s store-room in England, on the same day as the author copies of my second novel, I read it and saw there the seeds of my life, sown so early, and laughed at my hubris, the struggle of my life, the vain illusion that I was breaking new ground, when all the time my course was set so early by the childish wisdom we lose and have to rediscover.
When I began Sounding the Blood in 1996 I had no idea that I was writing a novel. After a couple of months and a full notebook, handwritten, I recognized the process I was involved in and decided to get a computer. The next day my neighbor Jack Kent came to visit. When I told him about the writing he said, I have a computer for you! I’m getting a new one and you can have the old Kaypro. The Kaypro turned out to be a dinosaur, incompatible with everything; however, I was launched into a new world with an old skill, though the novel form was new to me and I had to find my way, guided by excellent editor, Joy Gugeler.
I was always the one in our family who held onto the past, analyzing it, struggling with the unspoken mysteries of it. Why are you always looking backwards? my mother used to ask. But I continued my dance – back and forth, sideways and in circles; the strange geometry of creativity. I write to make sense of things. Writing is an activity, together with painting and sculpture, which has literally saved my life, which makes me as I make it. I used to think there were solutions to be reached, answers to be discovered, but there are no answers, only the slow and painstaking examination of all the evidence as we creep forward. I have learned patience through writing. Novels, poems, short stories, paintings and sculpture are living things and require the utmost care and attention to bring them fully to life. There must be passion – without it who can afford such care?