Reading Like a Writer: Authors and their beloved books

On Sunday October 28th, a group of novelists and industry professionals gathered at Harbourfront Centre to discuss how authors can read “as professionals.”  The round-table discussion was led by novelist and Humber School for Writers director Antanas Sileika. Others on the panel included novelists Christine Poutney, Kylo Maclear, James Clarke and Susan Swan.

The following poem was prepared by Susan Swan especially for the IFOA discussion and reveals as Brianna Goldberg writes: “how fervently authors love to openly feed off the literary fruits of those who have gone before them—and the ones that go alongside them, even now.”

For more discussion on IFOA events as well as Briana Goldberg’s full article on the roundtable discussion please visit:


On My Tombstone, You Can Put the Words, Susan Swan the Writer May Be Dead but Susan Swan the Reader Read and Read and Read

From dawn to dusk,

From cradle to grave,

From Peter Rabbit to D.H. Lawrence

From Betty Friedan to Alice and the two Margarets,

From the I Ching to Machaivelli,

From Canterbury Tales to Macbeth,

I can trace the lineage of my ideas

The way others relive their past

in popular songs.


As a girl, there were animal stories

by Thorton Burgess and The Secret Garden,

by Frances Hodgson Burnett,

teaching tenderness for all smaller, lesser

creatures, including myself.

And let’s not forget Little Women,

which showed me how to stick up for my dreams.

Then, as a young woman––the Russians,

Too many to count here and later,

the old unmarried couple Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre.

And what about the Americans!

Once upon a time, reading Norman Mailer book by book

Felt like taking a personal history tour of the Sixties.

And finally, the Canadians starting with No Clouds of Glory by Marian Engel,

who also gave us The Writers’ Union, the novel Bear and a literary perspective I hadn’t known before although there was a Morley,

and a Uncle Hughie, the only Canadian writers among the British names

in my school text books.

And after that more books than I can shake a finger at––

Tumbling my way by page and screen …Yes!

On my tombstone, you can put the words, Susan Swan,

The Writer, may be dead but Susan Swan The Reader

read and read and read.

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