Andrea Curtis wraps up the 2017-18 Illuminating Conversations series in Barrie May 14. The award-winning author recently launched her first young adult novel, Big Water, a tale of love, loss, and survival.

“I thought I’d never write about shipwrecks again after I wrote Into the Blue,” said Curtis, of her first book, a creative nonfiction work that combined a mystery with family secrets. “It was a family story and I was interested in the family part of it and my grandmother even more than the shipwreck but this story just kept coming back, so finally, I said I’m going to make it into a novel.”

The true story, which emerged during research for Into the Blue, captivated her children and gripped the Grade 6 students in her creative writing workshop, in part because it centered on two teenagers, the lone survivors of one of the worst shipwrecks in the history of the Great Lakes. Curtis grew up in Barrie – in fact, her parents still live here – but she settled in Toronto after graduating from McGill University and landing a job at a national magazine. She turned to freelance writing after the birth of her first son 19 years ago.

She has written about a wide variety of subjects from food to social justice, health, and the environment. She follows her curiosity and if there is a through line to her work, it is stories about people.

More recently her focus has been on books.  Earlier this year, Curtis released a non-fiction picture book for children age nine to 12 called Eat This. It follows the success of What’s for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World, published in 2012. She is currently working on two more non-fiction books and one adult novel.

The May 14 conversation is a new experience for her but one she is looking forward to very much.

“It’s pretty unusual and I think that’s the great success of what they’re doing – they have these in-depth conversations,” said Curtis. “The neat thing about Illuminating Conversations is it can range around and be a true conversation, the kind of thing you might have with someone you want to get to know.

“I love that – it’s so rare in my world to actually have people engage in a sustained way with what you’re doing. It’s cool.”

The series began several years when Beth Foster and Lin Wilson speculated that other like-minded, curious people would be interested in learning more about a wide variety of people and topics. Foster facilitates the live conversation and then opens it up to the audience for a Q&A. Afterward, there is an opportunity to talk with the guest one-on-one and, for those who have books, a book-signing and sale.”

The conversation unfolds at 7:30 p.m. on May 14 at the Five Points Theatre. Tickets are $17.50, available at the box office, 705-739-4228.

Photo: Andrea Curtis. Joanna Haughton photo.

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