ADDERSON, Caroline

Author Tags: Fiction, Kidlit & Young Adult

Caroline Adderson's first short story collection, Bad Imaginings (Porcupine's Quill, 1993), won the 1994 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the 1993 Governor General's Award and the Commonwealth Book Prize. She has also received the 2006 Marion Engel Award and Adderson's young adult novel Middle of Nowhere (Groundwood 2012) received the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize awarded to the best non-illustrated book written for children in 2013 [as shown, photo by Monica Miller].

A History of Forgetting (Key Porter, 1999) raises disturbing questions: Where did the potency of Hitler's Final Solution come from? Does its malignancy live on? At the heart of the story is a contemporary twist on an 'odd couple' friendship. A gay hairdresser named Malcolm Firth is losing his lifelong partner to Alzheimer's disease; his apprentice at his salon, Alison, is traumatized after one a co-worker is brutally murdered by skinheads. Unable to escape from pain, they move towards it. Malcolm and Alison travel to post-communist Poland to visit the killing grounds of Auschwitz. How can we make sense of a world that is so rife with cruelty? A History of Forgetting was nominated for the 2000 Rogers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.

Adderson's second novel, Sitting Practice (Thomas Allen, 2004) also won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and it also explores enduring pain and grief in different forms. The central character of Ilianna has been stricken by a spinal cord injury, confined to a wheelchair, after her celibate-by-choice husband Ross drove their car into a moving van three-and-a-half weeks after their wedding. A tennis ball rolled onto the floor of the car and… Iliana, two years later, is still lustful and considering infidelity. Adderson visited the Spinal ward at Vancouver General Hospital and attended Buddhist retreats like one described in her novel. "I also came across a fabulous book about women's sexuality and SCI," she says. "It blew me away... I communicated online for about six months with five women with SCI." Sitting Practice is far from bleak. The writing is whip-smart, and amusing. You care. [See review below.] Sitting Practice was shortlisted for the 2004 VanCity Book Prize for best book pertaining to women's issues by a B.C. author.

Nine more stories have added to Adderson's growing reputation for compassionate fiction in Pleased to Meet You (Thomas Allen, 2006). Adderson's first children's novel, "Very Serious Children," was published in 2007. Adderson was born in Edmonton in 1963. Recently she has written a children's book series for ages 7 to 10, illustrated by Ben Clanton.

In Adderson's adult novel The Sky Is Falling (Thomas Allen, 2010), a physician's wife opens the newspaper and learns her old student friend has just been released after twenty years of prison for charges of terrorism. The story is set in an era of where fear of nuclear war leads to political activism and paranoia.

After a year in New Orleans and a year in Toronto, she moved back to Vancouver where she studied at UBC. Her stories have been widely published in magazines and one story, 'Oil and Dread', was selected for the Journey Prize Anthology 5. She has taught ESL at a community college and twice won prizes in the CBC literary competition. Adderson has had a radio play broadcast on CBC Radio's Morningside and her feature-length screenplay, Ying-Yang, has been produced in Vancouver. Her papers are at SFU Special Collections.

As the only author to have won both of B.C.'s top fiction prizes--the Ethel Wilson Prize for adult fiction (in 1994 and 2005), and the Sheila Egoff Prize for children's literature (in 2013)--Caroline Adderson continued with her split writing personality in 2014, releasing A Simple Case of Angels (Groundwood) for children aged 8 to 11, as well as an adult novel, Ellen in Pieces (Crean / HarperCollins).

In the former, hoping to rehabilitate the reputation of her adorable but overly-mischievous dog June Bug, Nicola decides to take her pet to visit the shut-ins at the new Shady Oaks nursing home, but Nicola's mother won't allow her to go alone. She is forced to accept the company of a new girl she doesn't like in order to discover that more than a few of the elderly patients are being kept against their will. June Bug and Nicola become involved in an escape plan.

In the latter, as told through the eyes of a lover, an ex-husband, two daughters, a grandson, and a friend, Ellen in Pieces is the story of Ellen McGinty, who, in the middle years of her life, sells the home in which she raised her daughters, finds a lover twenty years her junior, and begins to explore love and the possibility of recovery from regret. Advance chapters won the 2013 national Magazine Award Gold Medal for Fiction and the 2013 Alberta Magazine Association Gold Medal for Fiction; and were shortlisted for the 2013 National Magazine Award for fiction, the 2013 Western Magazine Award for Fiction.

Caroline Adderson's series of books about a spirited only child named Jasper John Dooley dotingly echo her experiences of observing childhood as a parent. Written for ages 7 to 10, her Jasper series describes the emotional adventures of a perfectly normal boy who experiences girl-it-is and copes with a sudden, guilty need to imbibe overly-sugared soft drinks. The author tagline for the fourth installment, Jasper John Dooley: You're in Trouble (Kids Can 2015) describes Adderson as someone who lives with her husband, her dog "and the son who lied to them when he said he would always be seven." She simultaneously published a story for children aged 3 to 7, Eat, Leo! Eat! (Kids Can 2015), about a boy who is enticed to eat homemade pasta by the cook’s stories about a different-shaped pasta every week.

Between 2004 and 2015, more than 10,000 demolition permits were issued for residential buildings in the city of Vancouver. As of 2015, an average of three houses a day were being torn down, many of them original homes built for the middle and working class in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Very few are deemed significant enough to merit heritage protection, but Caroline Adderson and other Vancouver writers believed the demoliton of these dwellings amounted to an architectural loss. She therefore spearheaded Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Revival (Anvil 2015), co-authored with John Atkin, Kerry Gold, Evelyn Lau, Eve Lazarus, John Mackie, Elise & Stephen Partridge and Bren Simmers. The introduction is by heritage artist and activist Michael Kluckner--who has published a book called Vanishing Vancouver--and photographs are by Tracey Ayton and Adderson. The book was nominated for a Bill Duthie booksellers' choice award.


Bad Imaginings (Porcupine's Quill, 1993)
A History of Forgetting (Key Porter, 1999)
Sitting Practice (Thomas Allen, 2003 $32.95)
Pleased to Meet You (Thomas Allen, 2006), $26.95
Very Serious Children (Scholastic, 2007) $9.99 978-0-439-93751-1
I, Bruno (Orca Echoes, 2007) $6.95 978-1-55143-501-5
Burno for Real, illustrated by Helen Flook (Orca Echoes, 2009)
The Sky Is Falling (Thomas Allen, 2010) 978-088762-613-5 $32.95
Film Studies (Annick, 2010).
Middle of Nowhere (Groundwood 2012)
Jasper John Dooley: Left Behind (Kids Can) $16.95 978-1-55453-579-8. Illustrated by Ben Clanton.
Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week (Kids Can) $16.95 978-1-77138-119-2. Illustrated by Ben Clanton.
Jasper John Dooley: NOT In Love (Kids Can 2014) $16.95 978-1-55453-803-4. Illustrated by Ben Clanton.
A Simple Case of Angels (Groundwood 2014) $9.95 978-1-55498-430-5
Ellen in Pieces (Patrick Crean / HarperCollins 2014) 978-1443426787 $22.95
Jasper John Dooley: You're in Trouble (Kids Can 2015) $16.95 978-1-55453-808-9. Illustrated by Ben Clanton.
Eat, Leo! Eat! (Kids Can 2015) $18.95 978-1-77138-013-3
Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Revival (Anvil 2015), co-authored by Caroline Adderson, John Atkin, Kerry Gold, Evelyn Lau, Eve Lazarus, John Mackie, Elise & Stephen Partridge and Bren Simmers. Introduction by Michael Kluckner. Photos by Tracey Ayton and Caroline Adderson. $32.95 978-1-77214-034-7
Jasper John Dooley (Kids Can Press 2016) 978-1-77138-015-7 $16.95

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2015]

Sitting Practice reviewed by Carla Luccetta

By Carla Lucchetta -- This review is reprinted by permission of the freelance owner of the article. Permission granted on October 8, 2003,

Vancouver writer Caroline Adderson, whose third book, Sitting Practice, has just hit the bookstores, has a recipe for a successful writing career. That recipe-talent, encouragement, community and commitment-has garnered her critical praise, an Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, a Governor General's award nomination and a place on Margaret Atwood's hot list of Canadian women writers to watch. Not bad for someone who fell into creative writing by happenstance.

Born in Edmonton, Adderson moved to Vancouver in 1983 to complete an education degree at UBC, but halfway through, fate stepped in and changed the course of her life. Her roommate, a biology PhD student, successfully pitched and sold a story to the New Yorker. "He was flashing this around like it was some kind of acceptance and I thought, 'Hmmm... people always tell me I'm good at letter writing,'" says Adderson. So, she put a creative writing portfolio together and was accepted into third year in the creative writing department.

There, she was lucky enough to come under the tutelage of writer Andreas Schroeder, who encouraged her to apply for a Canada Council grant, which she received the first time out. "So, my first job after university was to write a book of short stories," she says. During that time she taught English and ESL, attended the Banff Centre for the Arts writing program, landed a couple of coveted positions teaching creative writing at UBC, including at Booming Ground, a yearly intensive book publishing conference, and took part in a writers' trip to Cuba at the invitation of Margaret Atwood.

After six years and lots of hard work "writing out the crap and finding my stride," Bad Imaginings was published to high praise in 1993.

Adderson gives the impression of a hard-working and committed, no-nonsense professional who, rather than being born to write, lucked into it, but her work reveals the acute sensibility of a true artist. Her characters are ordinary enough but the life challenges she gives them are extraordinary. The subjects she is "drawn to"-Alzheimer's, hate crimes, the Holocaust, living with a disability, religious extremism-are the antithesis to her seemingly uncomplicated Kerrisdale life, complete with her husband of six years (filmmaker Bruce Sweeney) and four-year-old son. "I draw on the emotions I have felt, I'm not writing about anything that has happened to me," she says.

For that, she relies on the kind of research most people would consider too heavy to tackle. Her first novel, A History of Forgetting, about a man who loses his partner to Alzheimer's and a co-worker to a gay-bashing murder, required a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Poland. For Sitting Practice, about a newlywed couple whose relationship is forever altered by a tragic car accident, Adderson engaged in Internet discussions with women suffering spinal cord injuries. She wanted to accurately portray Iliana's transformation-with all its emotional texture-from a tall, athletic, carefree young woman to one whose life is confined to a wheelchair.

Despite her topics, Adderson is often a humorous writer and is at her best creating three-dimensional characters, who are equal parts endearing and ugly. Ross, Iliana's doting new husband, and his neurotic, single mum twin sister Bonnie are two characters you love, then hate, then love again. "I think it's important to be empathetic. That's how you develop a character," she says.

It's also important for Adderson to situate her fiction, at least partly, in Kerrisdale, which she feels has a unique quality of community. A History of Forgetting takes place mostly in a hair salon on 41st Avenue. In Sitting Practice, Ross and Iliana start out in Kerrisdale and end up in Duncan, home of the world's largest hockey stick.

"I think we should start accepting Canadian locations in fiction the way we accept American and British ones. I mean, when Annie Proulx writes about Wyoming no one asks her why," says Adderson, who also advises her students to leave their Canadian locations in their stories.

Since Adderson was first published in 1993, the publishing world has gone through a kind of youth-oriented shift-novice writers are getting big publishing house contracts straight away. Adderson considers herself one of the last of the generation of writers following a traditional career track in publishing, moving from small press to larger, with the room and encouragement to develop with every publication.

"Writers are not figure skaters," she says. "We don't peak at 19. Talent has nothing to do with age. It has to do with how long you've been writing, how much you read, and how open you are."

When it comes to teaching creative writing, she maintains that although she can't really teach the talent part, she can offer encouragement, a sense of community and commitment-everything she's been lucky to have received.


Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for Sitting Practice
Press Release

Monday May 3, 2004 – Caroline Adderson has been awarded the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize for her novel Sitting Practice (Thomas Allen Publishers). The award was presented Saturday night at the Lieutenant Governor's BC Book Prize Gala Dinner at Government House, Victoria. The BC Book Prizes, established in 1985, celebrate the achievements of British Columbia writers and publishers. Finalists for the 2004 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize were:

Caroline Adderson, Sitting Practice (Thomas Allen Publishers)
Claudia Casper, The Continuation of Love by Other Means (Penguin)
Steven Galloway, Ascension (Knopf Canada)
Kevin Patterson, Country of Cold (Vintage Canada)
Janet Warner, Other Sorrows, Other Joys: The Marriage of Catherine Sophia Boucher and William Blake (St. Martin's Press)

In Sitting Practice, Ross Alexander is driving home from a tennis game with his new bride when a wayward tennis ball rolls under his feet. As his wife Iliana removes her seatbelt to retrieve the ball, a truck slams into the car, and she ends up paralyzed and in a coma. With this extraordinary novel of love and desire, loss, betrayal and redemption, Adderson shows us how entire lives can be changed forever because of one fateful moment. Following the devastating car accident, Ross struggles with his guilt over the consequences of his wife’s paralysis and for the imagined life that is now forever lost. He turns to an exploration of Buddhist principles to ease his pain. He must also contend with his co-dependent twin sister, Bonnie, mother of his adored nephew, who is jealous of the other woman in her brother’s life. Iliana must deal with her new existence as a wheelchair-bound wife, her husband’s feelings of alienation, and their aching and growing lack of intimacy. An unexpected twist in the story will surprise.

Pleased To Meet You
Review (2006)

Holder of two Ethel Wilson Fiction Prizes and three CBC literary awards, Caroline Adderson has followed her two novels and one previous story collection with Pleased to Meet You (Thomas Allen $26.95). Each of her nine new stories reflects a differing reality with meticulous precision, describing all-too-believable characters who run the gamut from suffering and seedy, to compassionate and culpable.

In the title story, Hauska Tutustua—a Finnish phrase that means pleased to meet you—David Elton has lost his beloved wife and finds it hard to cope a year after her death. As a volunteer with the Hospice Society, he visits and assists a dying man from Finland. Oddly touched by the bachelor’s lonely death, Elton attempts to find the daughter the dead man abandoned at birth in Finland.

In Ring, Ring we meet the indolent young mother of a mentally challenged boy; the last person who should have responsibility for a special needs child—the kind of parent who makes us want to pick up the phone and call the authorities.

“Dumpster stench, fried chicken stench. She flicks the lighter, dully expecting the unmoving air to ignite. A moustache of perspiration sprouts as she sucks the hot smoke in….The balconies of the facing building expose themselves: bicycles, junked furniture, mops, buckets, toys, coolers, bleach bottles, mattresses, dead plants in plastic pots. Some are fringed with laundry. Rap music punches out.”

By selecting images, styles and syntax to reflect the environments her characters inhabit, Adderson succeeds in creating a specific mood for each story. At every conclusion we find ourselves uplifted, disgusted, angry or depressed. Her skill is so insidious we’re hardly aware of it.

Readers may not be pleased to meet some of the characters in Pleased to Meet You, such as Manfred, the decidedly unpleasant protagonist in Spleenless. As a shallow, selfish, and womanizing bachelor who is recovering from an emergency splenectomy, Manfred suffers loneliness and an agonizing nightmare. The ex-wife he’s decided he really loves is not masochist enough to leave her new husband and baby for another tortured round with him, and his current love abandons him to go on the trip the couple had planned to take together.

In Adderson’s deftly drawn Shhhh. 3 Stories About Silence, readers accompany a reporter and photographer on a frustrating assignment during which a casual relationship shifts and shimmers with the possibility of seduction.

In The Maternity Suite, a reluctant husband, who is about to become an even more reluctant father, stews over his wife’s pregnancy. The use of subtitles: The Reluctant Grandmother, The Expectant Mother, The Suspecting Father, and The Unexpected, serve the author well as she shifts from the various points of view.

Adderson is also adept at portraying her minor characters. These include the degenerate elderly woman who agrees to ‘babysit’ the handicapped boy in Ring Ring; the reporter’s depressed, cartoonist husband in Shhh: 3 Stories About Silence; the pregnant woman’s jealous sister in The Maternity Suite; and the feisty dying Finn the widower has been visiting in Hauska Tutustua.

The collection also includes gentle, sympathetic stories about the ordinary people who enhance our lives; people like the underwriter in Falling, a graceful tale about a middle-aged, staid husband and father who is jolted out of his daily routine by his wife’s minor accident with his car. Forced to take a bus, he is exposed to poetry that shares space alongside the bus’s advertisements. Amazed that poetry still exists, he reads a poem fifteen times and finds himself subtly and unexpectedly transformed towards grace.

Every story delivers just enough to disturb, delight, and fascinate.

-- by Cherie Thiessen

I, Bruno (Orca $6.95)

from Louise Donnelly
Ages 4-8

Caroline Adderson has written her first book for young children. In six short tales I, Bruno relates the adventures of Adderson’s son Patrick, the “boy inspiration.” Energetic illustrations by Helen Flook reveal a stalwart defender of dragons disguised-as-fire-hydrants, the Queen in all his white-glove and red-velvet-cape glory and a reluctant primary-grade printer who cleverly comes up with a one-letter moniker for himself.


[BCBW 2008] "Kidlit"

Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition & Revival
Review (2016)

from BCBW (Spring 2016)
Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition & Revival by Caroline Adderson et al. (Anvil Press $32.95)

The average lifespan of a house in Vancouver is becoming less than a human lifespan.

Spearheaded by Caroline Adderson, Vancouver Vanishes: Narratives of Demolition and Revival is a shared attempt to document and protest the rampant destruction of perfectly fine family dwellings in Vancouver for no reason other than speculative profit.

Between 2004 and 2015, more than 10,000 demolition permits were issued for residential buildings in the city of Vancouver. As of 2015, an average of three houses were being torn down per day. Many of these homes were built for the middle and working class in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.

Although these “disappeared” houses are not deemed significant enough to merit heritage protection, Adderson and the others believe their removal amounts to an architectural loss—and much more.

As a novelist, Adderson contends suburban renewal is tantamount to a loss of shared narratives. Even if that perspective seems a tad airy-fairy to you—Hey, don’t those new mega-houses, often owned by folks from afar, constitute the growth of new stories in other languages?—it’s a lot more difficult to debunk her contention that wide-scale destruction of wooden houses is antithetical to the conceit of Vancouver City council to make Vancouver into the greenest city on the planet.

No matter how many miles of prescribed bike lanes city planners allocate on a map in order to compete with Copenhagen and Amsterdam—whether cyclists are actually using Cornwall in Point Grey or not—it’s pretty hard to condone widespread domestic demolitions from an environmental perspective.

Heartfelt and smart contributions have been made to Vancouver Vanishes from the likes of heritage-meister Michael Kluckner—who wrote Vancouver The Way it Was way back in 1984—as well as Vancouver Sun mainstays John Mackie and Kerry Gold, heritage honcho John Atkin, poet Evelyn Lau and the increasingly pervasive and essential Eve Lazarus who concludes, not without a whiff of anger:
“Legg House, an Arts and Crafts house built in 1899, managed to hang on all the way until June 2014 with heritage A status on the city’s Heritage Register. That should have been enough to save it from demolition. It wasn’t.

“The house’s century-plus solid old bones lost when the public decided it would rather save a massive old tulip tree on the site. Legg House was demolished in June 2014.”

Also featuring contributions from Elise and Stephen Partridge and Bren Simmers, Vancouver Vanishes is replete with photos by Adderson and Tracey Ayton.

Redevelopment can’t be stopped. Memory must be erased. Developers have co-opted the word development. We must become world class. Give us thy $8 loaf of bread with ‘farm-to-table’ self-righteousness, over-priced Canucks tickets and huge vehicles that half of the drivers can’t park. Try to stop it? Ha. Go ahead, make my bulldozer. THIS is what Vancouver is all about. Profit.

The aforementioned Michael Kluckner has been trying to blow the whistle for thirty years. In 1990, he published Vanishing Vancouver, followed by Vanishing British Columbia in 2005 and Vancouver Remembered in

Roland Morgan, a Georgia Straight editor who exiled himself back to London where he continued to live by his wits, beat Kluckner to the punch with Vancouver: Then and Now (Whitecap, 1983), arguably the first book to alert the Vancouver populace to its own loss of architectural memory.