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Colleen Curran aims for the stars

Grad’s novel longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour
April 23, 2020
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By Richard Burnett, BA 88

Colleen Curran, BA 76 Colleen Curran: “This is something I’ve always really wanted!”

For Montreal author and playwright Colleen Curran, BA 76, it’s a dream come true: her novel Out for Stars (Bandstand Island Books) has been longlisted for the prestigious 73rd Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.

Curran, who has four novels and more than 20 plays to her name, is part of a renowned Montreal family. Father Pat Curran was a sports journalist who covered the Canadiens and sister Peggy Curran was a longtime columnist for the Montreal Gazette.

Colleen was a chip off the old block too: she wrote for radio and print and worked as a researcher at the CBC. In 1984, she was playwright-in-residence at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre.

The Leacock Medal shortlist will be unveiled on May 1 and the winner announced on June 5. Curran recently sat down to talk about Out for Stars and more.

How does it feel to be longlisted for the Leacock Medal?

Colleen Curran: I am very happy! This is something I’ve always really wanted! They sent the news to the publisher. They don’t say you were longlisted, you just see your name on the list. It was really exciting and to see the book cover there too, that was really nice.

Out for Stars tells the story of hotshot lawyer Diana Kellogg who must spend a month alone in a country cabin. How did you come up with that idea?

CC: I have this cottage in Vermont that I adore and I thought, what if someone were stuck in a place they hated? Then I came up with the idea that the main character would be stripped of everything, from social media access to all of her power.

Are there similarities between Diana Kellogg’s situation and being quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic?

There are, except we are lucky because we have television, the internet, all this wonderful stuff. We are still able to communicate.

Are you worried about how artists will survive the pandemic?

Yes, but I think we will survive. Artists are used to adversity and have to adjust as we go along. I believe the future will be better, it’s just a matter of when.

Your book is published by Bandstand Island Books.

Out for Stars book cover Out for Stars was self-published by Curran’s Bandstand Island Books.

My three other novels were published by Goose Lane Editions, but when I shopped this new book around, sometimes I would have to wait a year for a reply. I was waiting and waiting until my sister Peggy and I decided to start our own independent press and self-publish.

Peggy was my editor, my friend Bertrand Simard did the graphic design and Diane Labelle O’Neill was our cover artist. It was a great team and my book is a triumph of a small homemade company. When others won’t publish or produce your work, then sometimes you have to do it yourself.

Do you prefer writing novels or plays?

What’s fun about plays is that they are performed in front of an audience, so the feedback is immediate. But I love them both, it just depends on how the story wishes to be told. When I began writing my first book, Something Drastic, I didn’t realize it was a book until I started writing it.

How did your time at Concordia help shape you and your career?

Studying at Loyola was a fabulous experience for me. I took every writing course that I could because I knew I was going to be a writer. There was a lot happening: there was The Actor’s Company, Loyola Musical Theatre and Thé-Arts. I made all these fantastic friends who are still friends today and they all agreed to be in plays I wrote. My first full-length play, Nieces, was mounted at the university a year after I graduated. Some of the best times of my life were at Concordia.



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