Author, critic and former Humber College faculty Antanas Sileika may be a recent retiree, but the Canadian writer is keeping himself more than occupied during his post-career life.
Sileika, making a literary reading appearance at the Lakeshore Grounds’ Assembly Hall earlier this month, read from his second book, Buying on Time. He said he’s somewhat surprised but flattered by the continued appreciation for the work.
“The book came out in 1997,” Sileika said. “It’s amazing to me that a 21-year-old book still seems to have some resonance. That’s kind of fun.”
The event is Sileika’s first official visit to the college since retiring as director of the Humber School for Writers last June. However, technically speaking, it’s not his initial visit to campus since then.
“I’ve got to confess, it’s the second,” Sileika said.
“The first time, I had a laptop computer glitch,” he said. “I ran down to Lakeshore and [it] took about three minutes [for the technical support team] to fix. So, even in retirement, Humber’s been helping me out.”
The host of the occasion, Humber English professor Ben Labovitch, said Sileika’s return evokes fond memories for him.
“He kept everything going, he kept the students happy, paid so much attention to detail…it’s welcoming back one of our great stalwart Humber heroes,” Labovitch said.
As for why Sileika decided it was time to leave his post at Humber, there were more reasons than one.
“I had a good long run,” he said. “I had a lot of fun. But it was becoming a little bit of the same thing and I knew we needed fresh blood. [I was] ready to go.
“The real kicker is, I’ll be 65 this month,” Sileika said. “I just need more time to get [the books I wish to write] down.”
Currently, Sileika has five published books, with a sixth expected in 2019.
Though retired living hasn’t taken the writer out of Sileika, there’s new aspects of life he’s in the midst of discovering.
“Here’s the big difference in my life: I never knew what was going on in the world. Everyday I’d come home from Humber, eat early and go upstairs to write until 9,” Sileika said.
“Now, I write all day, come home, have dinner, and, look, there’s Netflix, wow! I haven’t seen anything on TV since Gilligan’s Island, and that’s more than 40 years ago,” he said.
The resident of Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood said coming back to the college and the nearby Assembly Hall means more than revisiting where he used to work.
“I knew all the nooks and crannies [in the Assembly Hall]. I knew where to sneak out to have a quick smoke where nobody sees you, if someone’s taken off, where they’re hiding,” Sileika said.
“It’s kind of like coming home,” he said.
Many of Sileika’s students, including Canadian writer Gillian Best, the author of the 2017 book The Last Wave, have gone on to become distinguished writers themselves.
Sileika said although at times a game of push and pull, his many years as a teacher provided him with a special kind of satisfaction.
“[When you’ve] won your students…that’s the best part of teaching. It makes me really happy.”
Humber may no longer have Sileika full-time, yet the author can’t seem to get away from the college, at least, not entirely.
He said the new director of the Humber School for Writers has assigned him a few correspondence students
“So, I got a few students, a little finger in the game, and having a good time,” Sileika said.