“A Day in the Life” with Toronto writer Harriet Alida Lye

When Harriet Alida Lye was a little girl, her father, an aeronautical engineer, visited her at camp in a float plane that he landed on the lake. It was so fantastic that the girl standing next to Harriet hugged her gleefully. By this time, Harriet had lost the British accent she’d had as a wee toddler. Soon, she would be a beautiful and self-possessed Juliet in the school play. Soon she would have cancer. Soon she would live in the hospital for months and months, maintaining her poetic good nature in a hinterland between adulthood and death.

When I met Harriet she was deftly running a literary magazine called Her Royal Majesty, the acronym for which also represented Halifax Regional Municipality, the East Coast city where we went to college. She looked like a painting, and wrote a poem so beautiful I based a scene in a movie around it.

More surprising than that she survived the murderous cancer of her teen years, is how little it dissuaded her from living. Or maybe that’s what happens, you’re not afraid to move away to school, or to move to Paris when you graduate, when you know that it’s now or actually never. Harriet lived in Paris for seven years, working a variety of jobs and living at Shakespeare and Co like a bookstore cat. And writing, always writing.

-by Laura Dawe

Me with my partner, Cal, and our son, Arlo. Having two dogs is a good reminder to make sure we are spending time every day outside, which is really nice.
Me with my partner, Cal, and our son, Arlo. Having two dogs is a good reminder to make sure we are spending time every day outside, which is really nice.
Cal and I met at the dog park when we each got puppies. Fox, here, was my dog, and Disco was his. Fox is 50 pounds but still wants to be a lap dog.
Cal and I met at the dog park when we each got puppies. Fox, here, was my dog, and Disco was his. Fox is 50 pounds but still wants to be a lap dog.
Friends of mine built a sauna on Toronto Island as part of an artists’ residency and I try to go as much as I can during the wintertime.
Cal and me at my book launch for The Honey Farm two years ago - I was three months pregnant then. He isn't a writer, and isn't really a big reader, but he's just the biggest support for me, and an incredible reader and critic for my work. I show him everything first, and last, and his thoughts are always spot-on.
Cal and me at my book launch for The Honey Farm two years ago – I was three months pregnant then. He isn’t a writer, and isn’t really a big reader, but he’s just the biggest support for me, and an incredible reader and critic for my work. I show him everything first, and last, and his thoughts are always spot-on.
I narrated the audiobook for Natural Killer and had so much fun working with the team in the studio. I’ve always loved reading out loud, I read so much to my son, but Cal and I also read out loud to each other in the evenings sometimes, more-so now during this international quarantine.
Arlo is about a year and a half now, and he's so much fun. I'm home with him almost full-time, but have a lot of support with family, and my wonderful literary agent and I have a part-time nanny share, too.
Arlo is about a year and a half now, and he’s so much fun. I’m home with him almost full-time, but have a lot of support with family, and my wonderful literary agent and I have a part-time nanny share, too.
This was me at my virtual book launch, which was generously hosted by the local bookstore in Thornbury, so that I could have privacy from my rambunctious toddler and a stronger internet connection. I sewed my dress - I’ve taught myself to sew during the pandemic, and it’s been the most fun and rewarding hobby: it’s like an antidote to all the chaos.
This was me at my virtual book launch, which was generously hosted by the local bookstore in Thornbury, so that I could have privacy from my rambunctious toddler and a stronger internet connection. I sewed my dress – I’ve taught myself to sew during the pandemic, and it’s been the most fun and rewarding hobby: it’s like an antidote to all the chaos.
I've always cooked a lot, and loved that, but now having to feed a hungry baby I cook what feels like all of the time. Arlo loves to get involved, but it's kind of hard at this stage to make sure he isn't doing one of the million things he wants to do that will end in certain harm, ha. We make cornmeal buttermilk pancakes every Sunday, it's all very cute and domestic.
I’ve always cooked a lot, and loved that, but now having to feed a hungry baby I cook what feels like all of the time. Arlo loves to get involved, but it’s kind of hard at this stage to make sure he isn’t doing one of the million things he wants to do that will end in certain harm, ha. We make cornmeal buttermilk pancakes every Sunday, it’s all very cute and domestic.

What ‘hood are you in?

I live in Roncesvalles, and I love it so much. With two dogs and a baby I’ve had lots of reasons to meet the neighbours and build community, and this neighbourhood really feels like a tiny little village in a big city. I love being close to High Park, a great farmer’s market, the lake, and all the amazing local businesses on Roncesvalles. I’ve come to know many of the business owners, and it just feels pretty magical.

What do you do?

I’m a writer. This means I also read a lot; review new books; do freelance editing, branding, and writing projects; spend time with my son; refresh my emails; go for walks; try to stay open to the world.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on promoting my newest book, a memoir called Natural Killer. I recently co-wrote a children’s book about a snail without a shell who learns to accept himself just as he is. I’m in the early stages of a new novel, too, which is based on this incredible Hungarian Jewish physicist who invented so many things, including the nuclear bomb and the modern-day radiation machine, and all he ever wanted was to save the world.

Where can we find your work?

My first novel, The Honey Farm, and my new memoir, Natural Killer, are available wherever books are sold!

 

 

About Joel Levy 2135 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography