bio

Beth Kaplan graduated at the age of twenty-one from one of the foremost British theatre schools, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She worked for a decade as a professional actress, then left the stage to earn an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Scores of her essays and articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail, in other newspapers and magazines, and on CBC radio; a play of hers won the Canadian Jewish Playwriting Competition. She has taught memoir and personal essay writing at Ryerson University since 1994, and since 2007 also at the University of Toronto, where in 2012 she was given the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Her book about her great-grandfather Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: the Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin was published in 2007 and appeared in paperback in 2012 with a blurb from acclaimed writer Tony Kushner. Her next book, All My Loving: Coming of Age with Paul McCartney in Paris, came out in 2014, as did True to Life: 50 Steps to Help You Tell Your Story, a concise guide to memoir writing based on her teaching and the textbook for her courses. Loose Woman: my odyssey from lost to found, a memoir about the year her life changed completely, came out in 2020.

A bit about my life …

I’m an example of what my scientist father called “hybrid vigour” – both American and Canadian, Jewish and not Jewish, my mother born in a thatched cottage in an English village and my father from Manhattan. I too was born in Manhattan but grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with two childhood years in London, England and one in Paris. The Beatles played in Paris in June 1965 while we were there and I saw them twice in one day — described in ecstatic detail in All My Loving.)

During my years as a professional actress, mostly in Vancouver, I performed in nine tours, including one that went right across Canada – a country-western musical based on Othello in which I played the pivotal role of Debbie-Lou Belinsky the barmaid. In 1978 I was given a “Best Up and Coming Actress” award, but in 1980, pregnant with my first child, I went back to school to prepare for a new career as a writer.

In my forties, a single mother raising two children in Toronto, I started to publish essays in magazines and newspapers and embarked on a different kind of fulfilling work: teaching creative non-fiction writing at Ryerson and the University of Toronto. I also began to work from home as a writing coach and editor as well as a writer.

Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: the Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin, a biography of the famous Yiddish playwright who was my great-grandfather, took more than twenty years to grow from an MFA thesis into a published book. My next publication, Yours Truly, a book of the blog, is a compilation of blog entries centered on a five-month journey through France in 2009.

All my Loving: Coming of Age with Paul McCartney in Paris, my memoir set in the mid-Sixties, is the story of a fascinating but lonely year in Paris with my complicated family and features romantic tales I wrote at the time about my love life with Paul. True to Life: 50 Steps to Help You Tell Your Story leads readers down a clear and encouraging path to good writing. My 2020 memoir Loose Woman: my odyssey from lost to found details the dramatic year when one unusual decision – to travel alone through Europe and then to stay for a few months – led in short order to a completely new course for my life.

Except for an occasional bout of sadness about the state of the world, I am a ridiculously cheerful person.