Julie Mannell is Next Up

Julie Mannell is Next Up


Screen shot 2022-02-15 at 10.01.27 PM.pngJulie Mannell bears her Red Cross Peace commendation as a humbling reminder of her precocious time in gothic southern Ontario, a tradition she shares with recent Nobel Laureate Alice Munro, whose grandstand started in the minnows of a regional hub. Julie is noted for having worked her way through a four-year scholarship and a string of auxiliary jobs. Fonthill, overlooking the Welland River, is a township located in the heart of the Niagara Region of Ontario. She describes the region as one of marked beauty, filled with pluggable character. Inspiration, as it were, is the oft forgotten faculty of the writer. Be that as it may, moving to Montreal was a logical step for a burgeoning writer.

At McGill she spearheaded their Writing Society, encouraging students to enlist and produce work during the busy academic calendar. The turnout was decent enough. Students assembled sometimes twice a week at the Arts Lounge to workshop, the main drag being that courses of that nature were not being offered for credit. Julie Mannell seems very comfortable in that role, that of a community builder. She also shared an editorial role on the staff of the Scrivener Creative Review, a Canadian Literary Review, first printed in 1980 and based out of McGill. This is how I first engaged with Julie's work--at a Scrivener reading on the east side of town in a receptive room for which I refused to remove my shoes, but that's besides the point. She read from her on-going project titled Little Girls, a manuscript that untangles the mysteria of her hometown, somewhat indirectly. She is indeed cutting the content over the fold; blending childhood accounts with a peculiar insight that is hers and hers alone. Southern Ontario Gothic, a term she has underpinned, plays on the similarities of subject matter in writing from Southern Ontario and the South of America, comparable in that they are both small, insular, Christian communities that are somewhat rural. The rural/urban divide in Canada plays a giant role in her writing because she has spent the past seven years travelling between the two.

Her involvement in social justice as a young adult showed her the power and resilience needed to gear up against extraordinary challenges. Leading the double exile in Quebec is no small feat. Montreal, for all its charm, lacks industry. Julie understands that art collaboration extends community, even if recent laws passed by the PQ government have made it very difficult to practice her written language in the province. As an Anglo descendent of French Canadian immigrants she is kind of displaced. Even so, she considers Quebec her home now. In Fonthill and neighbouring counties, manufacturing work is fast becoming sparse. The country as a whole is showing a disinclination of work and a dip in the dollar value of that sector. Julie is but one of many who aspire for otherness in these remote and isolated communities. Her penchant for social justice afforded her, among other opportunities, a scholarship to McGill. But this process began earlier than University. By the age of ten, she joined Free The Children, a program working both domestically and internationally to defend children against exploitation. She credits the staff at Free The Childrenfor encouraging her writing and with giving her access to special kinds of knowledge, for which they went above and beyond their work as humanitarians. Nowadays her literary agent cleans up well and she seems to be at the center of a vibrant creative writing scene, popping up at local readings rather frequently. She is notably the first woman to have her work published in the Barnstormer, a journal that celebrates the intersection of sports and literature. Rightly so, she plays the role of a young female Anglo writer in Montreal, a role that is positioned in a unique way where our generation is the first to be poorer than our parents' generation, funding for the arts is minimal, and new government laws are aimed at pushing out Quebec's Anglo population (as well as immigrants of other religious, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds).

Her soon-to-be novel is about two girls who go to Catholic school in Fonthill, and then in Welland, and for various reasons they are labeled 'promiscuous' and shamed by the community. The two protagonists, instead of accepting the label on its own merit, decide to reinvent God as a woman and then go on an adventure trying to find the perfect iconography. Her two female protagonists, inspired by women she knew growing up, experiment with their own identity in conjunction with other female identities they witness in the media. In her own words, the book scheduled for publication in 2014, will be political, funny, and maybe just a little bit naughty. 




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