Day 6

'Collected Tarts': Tabatha Southey's acerbic wit lives on in her new book, as she moves on from The Globe

Until recently, Tabatha Southey was a wildly popular columnist with The Globe and Mail, known for her cutting wit. She's no longer with The Globe, but she's still wildly popular and funny as heck.
Tabatha Southey is a former columnist and author. (Basil Southey/Douglas & McIntyre)

Until recently, Tabatha Southey was best known as the acerbic columnist and political satirist for The Globe and Mail.

She's still acerbic, and a satirist, but she's no longer with the The Globe. Earlier this month she and fellow-columnist, Leah McLaren, were both fired by the paper.

Southey is hugely popular online, and her 50,000 Twitter followers were quick to denounce The Globe for her dismissal. So much so that the topic of her firing became a trending topic on social media.

For her part, Southey has moved on.

"I feel when any relationship ends you should try very hard not to say anything negative about the other party. You should do this for the sake of the children. And if there are no children involved you should do it for the sake of your soul," she tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

For her fans, Southey's biting wit is still available via her new book, Collected Tarts & Other Indelicacies.


The accidental writer

In her book, Southey explains that her career as a writer was happenstance.

"[It was] entirely by accident," she says. "My first few pieces of writing are laminated because I thought they'd be something fun to show the children when they got older, that Mommy had done this."

It really was a privilege to hear from readers from all across Canada and from all different walks of life.- Tabatha Southey

She acknowledges that she is "a talker," and that she was in a car with a friend who kept asking "do you write, do you write? In the same way that you'd say: 'do you ever shut up'," jokes Southey.

At the time, Southey told stories to her children, which she wrote up at the request of this woman and those stories became a book. The same woman then went on to work at The National Post, and kept asking Southey to write for her, which she eventually did.

"So if you want to write, just keep writing," Southey advises.

From The Post, Southey went on to write for Elle Canada, The Walrus and she spent 11 years writing for The Globe.


"Collected Tarts"

Southey's columns in the The Globe were called "Tarts."

She explains that when she started writing for the paper, she was asked for a name for the column. And at the time, the word 'tart' — and all of its meanings — just happened to be in her head.

I think all animals, and in particular monkeys, are innately funny.- Tabatha Southey

"Tart, a woman of questionable virtue. And tart, meaning acerbic. You know, a tart comment. And actually, I'd been thinking about butter tarts," she recalls.

To her surprise, the paper accepted the name 'Tart' for her column. And thus her collected tarts began.

Southey agreed to write the column for one year, in part to prove to people — and herself — that she could do it. She ended up stretching that out to more than a decade, in large part because of her readers.

"It really was a privilege to hear from readers from all across Canada and from all different walks of life," says Southey. "Guys from military bases would write to me, and retirees, and young people would write to me if I ever wrote about how Millennials aren't actually evil … they appreciated being reflected in the paper that way."

Southey acknowledges that hers was a unique voice at The Globe. Many of her columns involve talking animals.

"I think all animals, and in particular monkeys, are innately funny," says Southey. "Those were the columns that wrote themselves. The monkeys wrote those for me."

"I didn't write to be in The Globe. It often surprised me that I was." - Tabatha Southey

But she also wrote biting criticism, albeit funny criticism, of politicians and government officials.

When asked if she thinks she was fired because of her political writing, and because she was not a right-leaning writer, Southey shrugs.

"I don't know what The Globe wants to do. They don't want me to be a part of it. I know I had a lot of readers, and I'm assuming that my readers are possibly not the readers that they're seeing as potential subscribers," says Southey. "But I don't know what their plan is."

Of the readers who spoke out in support of her, Southey says she is very grateful.

"I can't express how grateful I am for the emails I've received," she says. "I'm very grateful if anyone spent four minutes with my column every week, and I loved the people who would write to me and say: 'I read it to my wife'. Or 'my daughter sent it to me'. I loved that exchange went on."

When asked if she misses writing about the news of the day, she says she isn't done.

"I didn't write to be in The Globe. It often surprised me that I was. So I'll just keep writing one way or the other."


To hear the full conversation with Tabatha Southey, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.