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Alissa York was born in Athabasca, Alberta and grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. She studied English Literature at McGill University and the University of Victoria, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1993. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph in 2016. Her thesis, “How Do I look?: In Search of the Female Gaze,” was a work of creative nonfiction blending memoir and interviews.
In 1999, York published a collection of short stories titled, Any Given Power (1999). She is the author of four novels, Mercy (2003), Effigy (2007), Fauna (2010), and The Naturalist (2016).
Her novel, Effigy, was short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and her short stories have won the Journey Prize and Bronwen Wallace Award.
York’s writing process involves a year of research where she gathers notes, writes character sketches, and arranges her notes. She then writes her novels' scenes in long-form from the perspective of every character. She cuts up the script into pieces and arranges it on her kitchen floor in various orders, then tapes the pieces to create scrolls or "assemblies." She repeats the process until she finds an arrangement which will constitute the order of the final book. The end result is a narrative form in her novels in which the point of view shifts constantly.
York lives in Toronto with her husband, the artist Clive Holden.