Michael Hlinka

Michael Hlinka was born the youngest of two children in Etobicoke, a Toronto suburb. He considers himself extraordinarily blessed because his family, including his grandparents on his father’s side, shared three lots. His grandparents’ house was on one; a fruit and vegetable garden stood in the middle; and his house took up the third lot. It was almost like growing up on a farm in the middle of the city! That was the only home he knew growing up. He can’t imagine loving a pile of bricks and mortar more, or having had a better childhood.

There were two things he was passionate about: sports and reading. One of the family rituals was going by bike with his mother and sister every Friday to the Brentwood Public Library to take out books for the week. The one he remembers most distinctly is Rifles for Watie. It was set during the American Civil War—and although he hasn’t picked it up in over 40 years, he thinks he still remembers the name of the protagonist.  

When he wasn’t reading, he was playing baseball in the spring and summer, football in autumn, and hockey in winter. Norman Rockwell would have approved!

His most distinct memory from high school was spending time in the library. He had many wonderful teachers—Mr. Ed Cooke, Economics; Mr. Gerry Baker, History—who stoked his imagination and provided wonderful guidance about how to channel his natural curiosity. History was his favorite subject, but as he got older, he began to realize the decisive impact that economics had on the world, which made Economics a natural area of specialization for him.

He graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in 1980. Because he felt that his marketable skills were lacking, he returned to university and earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration in 1986. He had a varied business career which went from groceries to property development to the securities industry, but fortunately, he found his true passion: teaching. He has been a tenured professor at George Brown College since 2000, and is proud to also be an instructor at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.  

Writing has always been part of his life, so he was very fortunate when the journalism work he did led him to do radio commentary with CBC Radio. He has been a regular business commentator and columnist for the better part of a decade now. He sometimes pinches himself because he can’t believe his good fortune! It was at CBC that he had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Sylvester, and working with him on Follow Your Money: Who Gets It, Who Spends It, Where Does it Go? (Spring 2013).

His advice for any young person who wants to be a writer or illustrator … or in fact do anything … is this: Life is not about nouns. It’s about verbs. Don’t worry about being a writer. Don’t worry about being an illustrator. Instead, write or illustrate. And remember that the only person who can ever really limit you, is you.

Annick Press books
by Michael Hlinka