Lynn Coady, writer, editor, playwright, journalist (born 24 January 1970 in Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton, NS). An acclaimed novelist and short story writer, Lynn Coady is an acute, often hilarious observer of the absurdities and indignities of everyday life in small town Canada. Her work explores class conflict and the uneasy exchange between local and global perspectives and allegiances. In her works, which are often set in the Maritime provinces, Coady critiques the unthinking deployment of regional stereotype and evaluates the contemporary cultural transformation of the region. At the same time, her writing celebrates regional distinctiveness and belonging.
Early Life, Education, and Career
Coady was adopted into a large family in the small industrial town of Port Hawkesbury, Cape Breton. At 18, in the same year she gave a child up for adoption, she left Cape Breton to attend Carleton University (BA). She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, where she completed her first novel, Strange Heaven, while holding a fellowship in the creative writing program. She has lived in a number of cities within Canada, including Fredericton, Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto.
Coady’s debut novel Strange Heaven (1998) established her as a strong voice in Canadian fiction and was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Literary Award. Coady subsequently won the Canadian Authors Association Air Canada Award for the most promising writer under age thirty, as well as the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction. Strange Heaven, a coming-of-age story that has some autobiographical elements, displays Coady’s instantly recognizable narrative voice: abrupt, wry, perceptive and shockingly funny. Spurning traditional expectations of Maritime fiction as elegiac and quiet, Strange Heaven is a raucous survey of teenage pregnancy, mental illness, domestic chaos, and aimless small-town delinquency.
A collection of short stories, Play the Monster Blind, surveying thematic territory similar to that of Strange Heaven, followed in 2000. It was awarded the Canadian Authors Association's Jubilee Award for Short Stories in 2001 and was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (2000). Saints of Big Harbour (2002) and Mean Boy (2006) — the latter of which won the Writers Guild of Alberta's Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction (2007) — trace the lives of young men breaking free from the familial and cultural restrictions of their small Maritime communities. Mean Boy offers an affectionate but pointed satire of small university life and of aspiring young writers.
The Antagonist (2011) was widely praised and nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The novel plumbs the psyche of young men, this time directly addressing the social expectations and challenges of the "big man" who figures so often in her writing. In the collection of stories Hellgoing (2013), also nominated for the Giller Prize, Coady’s punchy, upbeat prose follows a series of characters as they forge through a fog of discomfort and disassociation, looking for a sense of satisfaction that their searching prevents them from attaining.
In addition to her achievements as a writer, Lynn Coady has written plays, which have been staged across the country. She has edited the anthologies Victory Meat: New Fiction from Atlantic Canada (2002) and The Anansi Reader: 40 Years of Very Good Books (2007), and co-edited The Journey Prize Stories 20: The Best of Canada's New Writers (2008) with Heather O'Neill and Neil Smith. Her stories, essays and articles appear in national magazines and newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, where she writes the "Group Therapy" column. She is also one of the founding editors of the award-winning magazine Eighteen Bridges. In 2005, she received the Canada Council for the Arts' Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for outstanding achievement by an artist in mid-career.