RYE GRAD MEDITATES ON CHICK-LIT

In Arts & Life /

By Chloe Shantz-Hilkes

When Chantel Simmons joined her first book club, she found herself with a massive copy of Jonathan Franzen’s, The Corrections in hand.

Simmons, a 31-year-old Ryerson grad, did her best to plough through the 600-page tome and reach the other side alive.

“I would rip out the pages as I finished them so that I wouldn’t have to carry as much of it around,” she says.

Years later, a published author herself, she says, “if somebody ripped my book I would just cry.”

Simmons seems almost taken aback by the success her first novel, Stuck in Downward Dog, has encountered.

“Well, I think that’s a pretty good sign,” she says. Her manuscript has recently been repurchased for a second publication in paper-back form this spring.

Simmons is practically dwarfed by the giant beige sofa she’s sitting on. It’s one of two that furnish the beautiful living room of the downtown apartment that she shares with her management-consultant husband, Brent.

The place is impeccable and looks ready to appear in next month’s House and Home magazine feature on decorating small spaces.

Simmons herself looks like she’s about to walk onto a photo shoot. “I work full-time at Elevate magazine,” she offers as explanation of her perfectly manicured nails and uniform complexion.

She and her staff regularly get to test out new beauty products for free as research for their articles. “Now it’s an addiction.”

When she’s not editing for Elevate, a Canadian beauty magazine, Simmons is doing her own writing. “I was always making up stories,” she says. “My mom would always have to say to me, ‘is that true?’ So it’s a pretty hard line for me in journalism.”

Simmons is among the first to admit that her book is not of the highest literary grade. “It definitely falls into the chick-lit category,” she says, “I’m O.K. with that. I could try to write a literary classic if I wanted to, but that’s not me.”

“Michael Ondaatje is a great writer, but I’m not him.”

She does, however, insist that her book is different from regular chick-lit.

As Simmons explains, the genre is typically all about getting the guy and she was determined not to take that approach.

The book tells the story of a young woman trying to become a sophisticated grown-up after her boyfriend dumps her and she’s forced to reexamine her values.

As the title suggests, her quest involves some serious yoga. This empowered approach to chick-lit has received a warm reception.

The book is on the Winnipeg Free Press’s bestseller list, a Vancouver Sun Editor’s Choice and has amassed critical acclaim from a number of other notable sources.

It would appear that there is an innate wisdom to Simmons’s writing that one hardly expects to find while reading an author whose website is so predominantly pink.

When asked how she would describe her book in a sentence, Simmons tilts her head ponderously to the left and says carefully, “It’s our faults that make us who we are. They’re what make us people.”

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