5 Questions with Ian Kamau

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We asked Ian Kamau five questions about writing as we gear up for the launch of The Unpublished City collection on June 22.

IFOA: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Ian Kamau: Everyday life and memory. The smallest things. Moments. A feeling.

IFOA: What’s the story that you have to write no matter what (at some point in your life)?

Kamau: I am writing the history of my family in combination with my present.

IFOA: Where do you write? Is there a specific place you do your writing?

Kamau: Somewhere quiet. In private, in public, on paper, on a phone.

IFOA: If you could ask your favourite author a question, what would it be?

Kamau: How did you keep going? What have you lost because of your work?

IFOA: What are you writing now?

Kamau: A story about my father and I. Stories about my neighbourhood. Stories about my inner world.


Ian Kamau. Author. The Unpublished City. BookThug. IFOA. Ian Kamau is a writer, music maker and designer; an artist who believes in the pursuit of actualization, especially by marginalized individuals and groups. He is interested in exploring the value of art to society. Born and raised in Esplanade—a neighbourhood in downtown Toronto—to Trinidadian parents who immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. His parents are documentary filmmakers; his mother a producer, his father a writer and director. He grew up around ideas, social movements, education and all forms of creativity.

Kamau is one of the authors featured in The Unpublished City: a collection of works by Toronto’s emerging literary talents. IFOA and BookThug invite you to the collection’s release on June 22 at 7:30 PM as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series.

For more information, click here!

5 Questions with David Bradford

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We asked David Bradford five questions about writing as we gear up for the launch of The Unpublished City collection on June 22.

IFOA: Why do you write?

David Bradford: I think Elizabeth Gilbert once said she writes because otherwise, she’d chew her own arm off; or something like that. There’s too much in here, and I need to channel it through something kind of healthy and writing has worked out in that regard.

But beyond that, my writing comes from the same urge behind most repetitions (mine anyway): to convince that the way I think is real.

IFOA: What are some of the themes that you explore in your writing? Why

Bradford: I really value just doing the day in, day out practice thing, and I’m happiest just following my more reflexive readings within it.

However, my work often deals in the fleshiness of words invested in what I think of as a non-linguistic end (i.e., making any sense of things), and the faith built into and out of that. That is, some things cannot be known, or explained. But then we all put words to them anyway. Words are slippery from the get-go, but we still go about trying to be known by them.

If there’s a place I return to, it’s the life that comes out of performing, that largely unresolvable discrepancy; the frontispiece liminality of any practice, to me, worth its salt. Within that scope, themes I return to include complications of identities, partnerships and totalizing cultural spaces.

IFOA: What are some of the genre you explore in your work?

Bradford: I primarily write poetry, but I’ve also grown into playing with lyrical essay and new narrative elements in my work. For instance, an upcoming chapbook of mine with Blank Cheque Press is a winding, gushing monograph about novelist Nell Zink.

IFOA: Who is your favourite author, poet or writer?

Bradford: My favourite poet as a reader right now: Allison Titus. My favourite poet as a poet: maybe Mary Ruefle or Fred Moten.

IFOA: What inspires you?

Bradford: I’m currently working on finishing up a shape-shifty poetry manuscript concerned with what the various strategies for making sense of the world via something as contrary to it as poetry may look like. It’s something like my attempt at a personal ontology of uncertainties. It deals in trauma, totalities of knowledge, community, and sex. It’s all over the place.


David Bradford. Author. The Unpublished City. BookThug. IFOA. David Bradford is an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph and leads the Slo-Po group reading series. His work has appeared in a variety of places, including Lemon Hound and Prairie Fire, and his latest chapbook, Call Out (Knife|Fork|Book), is forthcoming in 2017.

Bradford is one of the authors featured in The Unpublished City: a collection of works by Toronto’s emerging literary talents. IFOA and BookThug invite you to the collection’s release on June 22 at 7:30 PM as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series.

For more information, click here!

5 Questions with Canisia Lubrin

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We asked Canisia Lubrin five questions about writing as we gear up for the launch of The Unpublished City collection on June 22.

IFOA: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Canisia Lubrin: Staying curious and open to “inspiration” from anywhere is important to me. I suppose this means that I value how the facts of life, things as they are—imperfect, worthy, enervating, senseless, the full range—offer an abundance of descriptive impulses that send me slipping into many imaginary spaces.

Once I can recognize a descriptive escape-route into a subject, I will follow nearly every clue down its road, usually the more challenging the better.

IFOA: What’s the story that you have to write no matter what (at some point in your life)?

Lubrin: Stories that I end up writing are carried around with me until I can feel and trust their wholeness. In that sense, the story isn’t named and claimed until I write some draft of it. Some doubt in me—as much as I’d like to offer an absolute answer—toward the very act of naming and claiming that very thing is keeping me from offering a more concrete response.

I’d like to think that every story I write is part of the larger “story” that I absolutely must tell. Perhaps I’m just doing so interstitially because of the forms of storytelling that currently exist. I’d offer that each part of that story is given its own name and identity, much the same way as the arm’s identity differs from that of the head and torso even though these are all parts, ostensibly, of the same body.

IFOA: Where do you write? Is there a specific place you do your writing?

Lubrin: I think I can write almost anywhere as long as the space isn’t moving. I suffer terrible motion sickness. I’m always after the feeling though. Feeling that lets me break into a heightened attention to the craft and the subject of the work. Place can do that for me but not always. What is clear is that my intention is rarely ever a big factor: I may want to spend an hour in the forest or by the river or in an alley or on the beach because I feel something of the place will open up a kind of knowing in me.

But, more and more, I am learning to trust that my impulses and motivations for writing rarely ever come from a place of knowing, but from my need to question things that confound me. I’m after discovery.

IFOA: If you could ask your favourite author a question, what would it be?

Lubrin: What is the one thing you know now that you wished you knew when you first started writing?

IFOA: What are you writing now?

Lubrin: There’s no shortage of writing for me right now: I’ve just finished editing my first poetry collection and my first novel as well as a collection of short stories currently take up most of my writing time.


Canisia Lubrin. Author. The Unpublished City. BookThug. IFOA.Canisia Lubrin serves on the editorial board of the Humber Literary Review and on the advisory board of the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. She completed an MFA in fiction at Guelph-Humber and is the author of the poetry collection, Voodoo Hypothesis, forthcoming this fall from Wolsak & Wynn.

Lubrin is one of the authors featured in The Unpublished City: a collection of works by Toronto’s emerging literary talents. IFOA and BookThug invite you to the collection’s release on June 22 at 7:30 PM as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series.

For more information, click here!

5 Questions with Catherine Graham

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Catherine Graham discusses her debut novel (Quarry), the 80s in southern Ontario and juggling different writing projects in our Five Questions series. She’ll be participating in IFOA Weekly’s ‘What’s Life Got To Do With It?’ panel discussion on Wednesday, March 7th at 7:30 pm.


IFOA: Quarry is your debut novel. Tell us a little bit about the different creative processes you went through while writing your first novel?

Catherine Graham: As a poet, writing prose was a very different experience for me. With poetry, I work with fragments, images and often incomplete thoughts to give the reader space to develop their own interpretation. Prose, on the other hand, demanded expansion. It was a place to round out thoughts and images by building scenes and bringing them to life through character, description and dialogue.

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5 Questions with Sanchari Sur

We asked Sanchari Sur five questions about writing as we gear up for the launch of The Unpublished City collection on June 22.

Sanchari Sur. Author. The Unpublished City. BookThug. IFOA.IFOA: Why do you write?

Sanchari Sur: I am not quite sure. I have tried to give up writing for a long time, convinced it was only this idea of grandeur that I was allowing myself to believe in. There is a certain bit of je ne sais quoi that accompanies the idea of being a writer.

But the stories wouldn’t stop coming, and writing was the only recourse.

IFOA: What are some of the themes that you explore in your writing? Why?

Sur: Again, I do not choose the stories (and by extension, the themes). However, I suppose some themes haunt my narratives like familiar ghostly encounters.

I am most interested in the idea of gender and sexuality as malleable concepts. The binary of masculinity and femininity is frankly quite boring, and slightly clichéd. Another theme that crops up a lot is the idea of negotiation of different parts of one’s identity such as race, class, age, caste, (dis)ability and so on; that is, navigating one’s spectrum of privileges and the lack thereof.

IFOA: What are some of the genres you explore in your work?

Sur: I started out writing poetry and genre fiction (mostly, horror), but it is literary fiction that I have gravitated towards time and again. Currently, apart from my academic work, it is writing short literary fiction that consumes my writing hours.

IFOA: Who is your favourite author, poet or writer?

Sur: The book that started it all was The God of Small Things. So, in that sense, I will forever be indebted to Arundhati Roy for turning me into a lit fic enthusiast. Reading her book (several times since I was fourteen) made/makes me think: if only I could write an ounce of what she has written…

IFOA: What inspires you?

Sur: Random things. Some of my stories are based on very real experiences and some are just by-products of the theory I have been reading for school at the moment. And some are based on news items I come across on CTV when I am doing my thirty minutes of cardio at the gym.

Mostly however, it is usually an image, or a scene, or even a feeling (or, as Sara Ahmed would say, an “affect”) that sticks to me, and haunts me for days until I give in and try to figure it out through writing.


Sanchari Sur is a feminist/anti-racist/sex-positive/genderqueer Canadian who was born in Calcutta, India. A doctoral student of Canlit at Wilfrid Laurier University and a curator of Balderdash Reading Series, her work has been published in Jaggery, The Feminist Wire, and Matrix.

Sur is one of the authors featured in The Unpublished City: a collection of works by Toronto’s emerging literary talents. IFOA and BookThug invite you to the collection’s release on June 22 at 7:30 PM as part of the Toronto Lit Up book launch series.

For more information, click here!

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