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Olivia Chow to rewind her life and times in new memoir

NDP MP Olivia Chow asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013


Events seem to move fast in Olivia Chow's world.

One weekday afternoon a month ago she placed a phone call to Toronto literary agent Bruce Westwood, telling him she was about to catch a flight to the Ontario capital from Ottawa and could she meet with him? Two hours later, the New Democrat MP and widow of former NDP leader Jack Layton was in Westwood's office. A couple of hours of conversation later, they had a deal – the deal being that Westwood would find a publisher for the memoir that Chow, 56, had been busily writing "in her spare time." A few days after that HarperCollins made what proved to be a successful bid for the as-yet unfinished manuscript, with HarperCollins vice-president, publisher and editor-in-chief Iris Tupholme announcing the acquisition Wednesday afternoon.

The purchase price was not revealed but both Tupholme and Westwood indicated the so-far untitled book would be published in the early part of 2014 as a hardcover and would cover pretty much all of Chow's life, including her immigration to Canada from Hong Kong at 13.

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"A lot of the book will be written by Olivia," Tupholme noted, saying the parts she has read so far, dealing with the politician's childhood, show "she has a great voice on the page." Later, an editor/writer, likely, according to Westwood, Kingston author Larry Scanlan, who worked on Margaret Trudeau's 2010 memoir Changing My Mind, will be brought in "to even it out and help with the organization," Tupholme said.

2014 is shaping up as a key year for the aspiring author: The Toronto civic election is set for that fall and discussion is rampant that Chow, who was a Toronto city councillor for almost 15 years, will challenging incumbent Rob Ford for the mayoralty. "God, I hope she does," said Westwood. "She'd be an extraordinary mayor." He quickly added that "that decision [to run] certainly has not been made. I can say that emphatically." But if it happens, "it will be included [in the book]."

Calls to Chow in Ottawa were not returned Wednesday. Asked for comment or speculation, current Toronto councillor Josh Matlow observed: "Whether Ms. Chow is timing the release of her memoir to support a mayoral bid, allowing speculation about a mayoral bid to help sales of her memoir or [whether] this is all just a big coincidence, I have a feeling that, unlike many other memoirs, this one will not only be a look back but also … an appeal for things to come."

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James More


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