The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.


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“Award-winning author Emily Pohl-Weary’s latest young adult novel is How to be Found. Her previous books include three novels, two poetry collections, a biography, a series of girl pirate comics. In 2022, her audio play The Witch’s Circle, based on a Baba Yaga folktale, was produced by Odyssey Theatre.”


When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Reading and making up stories helped me survive childhood and my teen years. However, it wasn’t until my twenties that I realized I wasn’t particularly good at anything else. So, in a sense, I had to become a writer. It was a process of elimination. I started working at the age of fourteen, but none of my jobs felt like a good fit. Stories were the only constant and what I always wanted to return to in my spare time.


Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

I started keeping journals when I went through puberty. Had to tear out the pages and hide them so my mother and siblings wouldn’t read them. Around that time, in Grade 6, I rewrote the Wizard of Oz as a play in French and cast all my classmates. For some reason, I made myself the scarecrow!


How did you develop your skills?

The only way to get better is to write. Lots. I learned early on to love editing–that’s when the magic happens. I was part of a supportive writing group in Toronto and our only rule was that in order to attend, you had to bring a new piece of writing. We called ourselves the Hoity Toity Writing Group. It was a great way to create deadlines for ourselves and to make friends with other writers. I also published my own writing in zines–small photocopied books–and traded them with other people, sent them out for review, sold them in stores and at fairs. I learned about the industry by making zines.


Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?

My first literary influences were undoubtedly Isabel Allende, Francesca Lia Block, Piers Anthony, Banana Yoshimoto, Carolyn Keene, and my grandmother Judith Merril.


How would you describe your work?

That’s a hard one. A journalist once called me “the new sleazy Judy Blume,” which is probably true.


What’s your writing process like?

Chaotic, like my brain. I daydream all the time. If I don’t have a story in progress, I get this spiritual itchiness. I’m terrible at setting daily goals for myself–usually 1,000 words a day when I’m going full-tilt–but I revert to that when I’m able to dedicate most of my time to writing. Because I’m also a professor at the University of British Columbia, I usually can’t write much from September to April.


Tell us about your most recent book.

How to be Found is a highly autobiographical novel set in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood about two girls who grow up like sisters but find themselves drifting apart during their teen years. When Trissa suddenly disappears, Michie (the main character) is determined to find out what happened to her. I drew on my experiences of growing up with feminist parents while Paul Bernardo was active in the city. It was the eighties and the idea that “girls could do anything boys can do… better” felt true, expect that we had to also live with the constant threat of violence and danger.


Here’s the back cover summary:

“A young adult novel about inner-city teens who live on a razor’s edge and understand that chosen family is just as important as blood.


Michie and her best friend Trissa grew up like sisters in a ramshackle duplex owned by their single moms. But now that they’re sixteen, their differences in identity and experience have caused a rift. Michie’s an introvert obsessed with a book called A Girl’s Guide to Murder, and her mom has an organic weed and mushrooms grow-op in the basement. Shiny, extroverted Trissa, on the other hand, dances at the hottest nightclub in town, while her mother holds an ultra-responsible job at City Hall.


One night, Michie wakes up to find Trissa missing, having left only a cryptic note. The cops write her off as a party girl who’s probably already met a foul end, and the mothers fall apart from fear and grief, but Michie refuses to believe it.


Enlisting help from her friend Anwar, who she’s been in love with forever, Michie sets off to look for Trissa, knowing she’s the only one who will. The search takes them into unfamiliar, dangerous territory: the backrooms of Trissa’s luxury nightclub, dark alleyways, the online sex industry, and rural cottage country.


As she begins to unravel Trissa’s secrets against a backdrop of cold authority figures, shady characters, and a serial killer who’s been active in the city, Michie knows she’s plunging into danger – but she’s determined to find her chosen sister and to bring her home safe.”


What are you working on now/next?

I always have several manuscripts underway. I’m working on a new young adult novel about a girl who lives in a squat when an arsonist burns it down, my third collection of poetry, and a collection of essays about my lifelong chronic illness.