'Montreal is in my DNA': Meet Joshua Levy, CBC/QWF's 2018 writer-in-residence
An ex-Montrealer who has just returned to the fold, Levy is passionate about city's history
CBC Montreal is proud to announce writer Joshua Levy will be the 2018 CBC/Quebec Writers' Federation writer-in-residence.
The poet, writer and storyteller recently moved back to Montreal from Toronto, but he has deep roots on this island.
Levy's great-great-grandfather, Boris Kaplan, emigrated from Russia as a teenager in the early 1900s, working odd jobs to bring over the rest of his family and founding a construction company in 1915. Kaplan built the oldest synagogue in Canada still in operation today, the Bagg Street Shul.
Levy was raised on tales about that great-great-grandfather, whose Hebrew name of Baruch he bears — including the story of how he had 15 minutes to woo his future bride.
- Listen to Levy's story of finding his great-grandfather's home recordings, which aired on CBC Radio's DNTO in 2015.
The streets of Dollard-des-Ormeaux are named after Levy's relatives: The city on Montreal's West Island was founded by Levy's grandfather, David Zunenshine, who, along with his brothers, ran Belcourt, a property development company that began with the construction of a handful of rental apartments in the early 1950s.
All these connections make Levy passionate about Montreal's rich history.
"I have a special interest in bridging the gap between past, present and future, as well as in connecting the dots between seemingly unrelated people and events," Levy said in his pitch for the writer-in-residence position.
The QWF/CBC 2017 Writer-in-Residence is Joshua Levy <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/QWFAwards?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#QWFAwards</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCMontreal?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCMontreal</a> Recently moved to Montreal and is “on a mission to prove to his wife that Montreal is the best city in the world.” <a href="https://t.co/kKclXJh1Sa">pic.twitter.com/kKclXJh1Sa</a>—@OfficialQWF
Levy has found homes for his stories on CBC's DNTO, Wiretap and Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, has performed lives stories for QWF's This Really Happened, The Moth Toronto and The Raconteurs, and his work has been published in literary magazines including Maisonneuve, the Malahat Review, Event, Queen's Quarterly and the Rumpus.
Just last month, he was longlisted for the CBC Nonfiction Prize, for his story My Brother's Engagement Party.
3rd year for writer-in-residence gig
2018 marks the third year for CBC/QWF writer-in-residence program, which is open to emerging and established writers in the greater Montreal region.
The selected writer produces a series of nonfiction blog posts published on the CBC Montreal website and makes guest appearances on both CBC Radio and CBC TV.
"We had a slate of very strong applicants," said Kim McNairn, CBC Montreal's senior digital editor, who sat on this year's jury. "And any one of our three finalists would have made an outstanding writer-in-residence."
Aside from Levy, those finalists were:
- Dan David, a Mohawk freelance journalist and writer from Kanesatake who has published widely in Canadian magazines and newspapers, worked for CBC, TVOntario, Vision TV and APTN News, and trained journalists across Canada and as far away as South Africa.
- Julie Barlow, a regular contributor to l'actualité and the co-author, with her husband Jean-Benoît Nadeau, of the bestselling books Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, The Story of French, The Story of Spanish and The Bonjour Effect.
'Soak it up,' says Sarah Lolley
"Soak it up," Lolley advises Levy. "Let yourself be immersed in the aspects of Montreal life that most puzzle you, delight you, frazzle you and inspire you, and write from there."
"It's funny how the more personal we make our stories, the more powerfully relatable they are."
Read Sarah Lolley's blogs:
- How far is a Montreal mile?
- A gallery with a toddler? The fine art of parenting in a Montreal winter
- Unearthing Montreal's hidden gems
- The curious insights of my Montreal 'frenamies'
- In praise of Terrasse Day, and other unofficial Montreal holidays
So Levy is in great company.
"Josh Levy will make a great CBC-QWF writer-in-residence," sums up Lori Schubert, QWF executive director. "His enthusiasm and out-of-the-box thinking will lead, I am sure, to some interesting stories."