Celebrating 20 years of Writers & Company

Eleanor-200.jpgFirst aired on Writers & Company (10/31/10)

This year marks the 20th anniversary season of Writers & Company. Since 1990, host Eleanor Wachtel has been bringing an in-depth exploration of the lives and work of writers from around the world into the homes of Canadians.

Recently, Writers & Company celebrated this milestone by hosting a special panel at the International Festival of Authors at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre. The discussion focused on the changing face of the book world over the past 20 years, and ranged from how the panelists got their start in the literary world to the newest trends to hit the written page.

You can hear the full discussion in the clip above. Below is a brief biography of the four panelists who took part.

Dionne Brand is an acclaimed poet, novelist and essayist who was born in Trinidad in 1953 and moved to Canada when she was 17. A powerful voice of insight on the nature of identity and a compelling voice of social conscience, Brand won the Governor General's Award and Ontario's Trillium Book Award for her 1997 book of poetry Land to Light On. Her newest work is a book-length poem called Ossuaries. In 2009, Brand was appointed poet laureate of Toronto.

Margaret Drabble had been writing fiction for 45 years. The prolific British fiction writer published her first novel, A Summer's Birdcage, in 1963 when she was only 24. Her work is engaged with the changing lives of women and, more broadly, British society as a whole. More recently, Drabble has tackled subjects she's described as "the most difficult," such as in the novel The Peppered Moth, where she merges fiction with memoir in an attempt to capture the life of her mother. Drabble was made a Dame of the British Empire in 2008 for her contributions to contemporary literature.

Deborah Eisenberg writes short stories that are so layered and rich, any one of them could be a novel. Born in Chicago in 1945, Eisenberg has lived in eastern New York for almost 40 years. Eisenberg is no stranger to winning awards — she's won the O. Henry Award, which annually recognizes the best short stories published in North America, three times and last year was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (commonly known as "the Genius Award"). Her latest work is a nearly 1,000-page omnibus of her collected stories.

Andrew O'Hagan is a novelist and essayist. He was born in Glasgow in 1968 to a working-class family. After graduating from university with top marks, he moved to London. At the age of 23, he beat out 200 contenders and became deputy editor of the London Review of Books. His debut novel, Our Fathers, was shortlisted for a slew of awards — including the Man Booker Prize and the Whitbread First Novel Award. He has been called been the best essayist of his generation. His newest novel is The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe.

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