An Evening of Conversation with the 2021 Hill Canadian Author

On March 1, BSS was honoured to host Souvankham Thammavongsa, author of the Giller-prize winning short fiction collection How to Pronounce Knife, for the annual Hill Canadian Author speaker series.
The Hill Canadian Author Fund supports our students' exposure to Canadian authors and provides them with unparalleled opportunities to work directly with esteemed writers, both emerging and established. Ms. Thammavongsa’s fiction has appeared in Harper's, Granta, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best American Non-Required Reading, The Journey Prize Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. Her debut book of fiction, How to Pronounce Knife, was the winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize and one of Time's Must-Read Books of 2020. The title story was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Thammavongsa is also the author of four poetry books: Light, winner of the Trillium Book Award for Poetry; Found; Small Arguments, winner of the ReLit Award; and, most recently, Cluster. Born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, she was raised and educated in Toronto, where she is at work on her first novel.
At a special virtual assembly for Senior School students, Ms. Thammavongsa shared the short story “Randy Travis” and a poem called “Perfect,” which took her decades to write, along with several anecdotes about her education, and her perspective on writing fiction. She also spoke in a small group session with the Writer’s Craft class, where she emphasized the importance of “kind feedback” in the writing process.
This year, we were pleased to extend this opportunity to our whole community, including BSS alumnae, parents and caregivers. This evening session opened with an address from the Head of School, Dr. Angela Terpstra, and included a reading of Ms. Thammavongsa’s fiction and poetry, as well as a Q&A moderated by BSS parent and University of Toronto Associate Professor of English Maria Assif.
This year's program honoured the memory of R. Alverna Hill and celebrates her generosity and foresight in establishing the Hill Canadian Authors Fund in 1985 with her husband Harry. We are grateful for the Hill family’s ongoing support and their extensive ties to BSS, which span two generations and include six Old Girls: Meredith HILL Robitaille '76, Megan HILL '78, Marta HILL '81, Paisley HILL '85, Sarah CRANSTON '09, and Grace GARVEY '18.

Photo credit: Sarah Bodri