The 18th edition of Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival takes place April 11 to 17. A highlight is the presentation of The Walrus Talks Resilience on Wednesday, April 13, focusing on a range of perspectives including health, science, and the environment – how individuals and communities survive and even thrive during challenging times. Featured speakers include:

• Neurologist Liam Durcan: the amazing resilience of the human brain.

• Novelist Heather O’Neill: how Montreal has informed her writing.

• Educator Susan Wener: on surviving cancer.

• Poet Rupi Kaur: where he draws inspiration.

• Blogger Nalie Agustin: on living her dreams.

• Justice Murray Sinclair: Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

This event, which starts at 6 pm, is being held at Concordia University (Alumni Auditorium, 1455 DeMaisonneuve West). RSVP is required. Tickets can be ordered at: The purchase of a Blue Met festival Pass ($60) includes free admission to this event. There are more than 250 literary events planned at Blue Met this year. The complete list will be available mid-March at:, as well as on the Blue Metropolis Facebook page.

Novelist Heather O’Neill: Emotionally Resilient

Heather O'NeilSure. Quick. Brave. These are just a few of the words that come to mind after reading several short stories by the irreverent Heather O’Neill. And, having heard her recently at a book launch, I can say she is also an exceptional reader – which explains why she was asked to “please” read another one of her stories to a room full of eager fans. O’Neill, who has a melodic voice, readily complied.

“A short story can be so experimental in a way that the novel can’t,” said O’Neill in an interview with the Montreal Gazette. “My first two novels took place on exactly the same corner, across the street from each other.” However, with this short story collection she expanded her geographical range to include other neighborhoods in Montreal as well as parts of Europe in the 1940s. Still, “Every story has a Montreal connection of some kind,” clarified O’Neill.

Daydreams of AngelsSince the publication of her first two novels (Lullabies for Little Criminals and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night), Heather O’Neill’s prose has come to be recognized for “its imaginative, almost mythological perceptions of Montreal that add a subtle backdrop of magical realism to the gritty lives of her characters,” wrote CULT Montreal in a review of her work. “Now, with Daydreams of Angels, the fantastic frequently comes to the fore as a physical force.”

In an interview in January with Overcast, Newfoundland’s alternative press, O’Neill explained on her first visit there that “poetry was where I first learned to bend language out of shape.” Bend language out of shape? Sounds like the perfect metaphor, coming from one of Canada’s top fiction writers.

A McGill graduate, O’Neill was born in Montreal, lives in Mile End and walks her two dogs in the neighborhood. She is a regular contributor to CBC Radio, the New York Times Magazine, the Montreal Gazette, the Globe and Mail and The Walrus magazine.