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Marilyn Carr’s memoir of ‘a town begging to be written about’

December 2, 2020

Marilyn Carr (MFA  Class of 2020) knew she wanted to write a book. She even knew what it would be about — her hometown of Deep River, Ontario, population barely 4,000. “Everyone thinks the way they grew up was normal,” she says, “until it becomes clear, usually through time and experience, that perhaps it wasn’t.”

Deep River? Where else could you find “a test-tube baby town that sprang fully formed from the bush north of Algonquin Park, an enclave with more PhDs per capita than anywhere else on earth, a town that harboured a Russian spy, spawned a serial killer and appears on the resumes of two Nobel prize winners in physics? It was a town begging to be written about.”

But it wasn’t until Carr saw an ad in Walrus magazine for the University of King’s College Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction program that she determined how to turn the idea into reality. “Prior to the program, I had no idea how to write a book.”

During the two-year limited residency program — “not having to disrupt my whole life” was one of its attractions—Carr learned how to write a book proposal, craft a pitch, understand the publishing industry, forge “strong connections” with fellow students “I know will persist,” and, oh yes, write a book

Nowhere like This Place: Tales from a Nuclear Childhood, was published by Iguana Books in November.

The publisher too has a connection to Deep River, which she describes as “the geographic equivalent of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Carr had “slogged through a long list of agents and publishers who did not see a market for my book” before submitting to Iguana. Greg Ioannou, founder of Iguana Books, had spent time teaching business writing at nearby Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories “and knew exactly who the market was.”

Carr is currently busy promoting her new book, doing a degree in English “for fun,” and, oh yes again, finishing the final chapters of “the next installment of my memoirs, How I Invented the Internet.”