In Conversation with Eleanor Wachtel

Award-winning poet, biographer, and anthologist Rosemary Sullivan sat down with Eleanor Wachtel to discuss her latest work, The Best of Writers & Company, and her many contributions to Canadian cultural life.

TIFF Books on Film and IFOA present Helen Macdonald on Kes

Books on Film header image-1The Toronto International Film Festival’s Books on Film series has been exploring cinema and literature for six seasons, bringing readers and viewers together for screenings, talks, and discussions about the challenges of adaptation and the versatility of storytelling. Books on Film is hosted by Eleanor Wachtel, host and co-founder of CBC Radio’s Writers & Company and Wachtel on the Arts.

The IFOA is thrilled to partner with TIFF to bring Helen Macdonald to discuss her memoir, H is for Hawk, alongside a screening of the 1969 British classic, Kes. While created almost half a century apart, both of these works examine the curious relationship between falconry and combating personal grief.

Kes (1969),

Kes (1969)

Directed by Ken Loach, Kes is one of the British Film Institute’s best British films of the century. Billy, who lives in a mining town in northern England, is bullied both at school and by his half-brother at home. He finds escape from the coal dust and abuse in Kes, a kestrel he raises and trains.

Helen Macdonald – scholar, writer, artist, falconer – writes for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of three collections of poetry and Falcon, a cultural history of falconry. Her latest book, H is for Hawk, is a memoir of her experiences training a goshawk in the wake of a family tragedy.

Join TIFF and IFOA for Books on Film on Monday, June 27th 2016. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit, and learn more about the Books on Film series here.





Marilynne Robinson and Colm Tóibín at IFOA 35

In case you missed it live, Eleanor Wachtel‘s conversation with authors Marilynne Robinson and Colm Tóibín during #IFOA35 aired recently on CBC’s Writers & Company. Listen to the interview (in full) here.  

IFOA begins with Rohinton Mistry’s music

By Janet Somerville

For many years the PEN Canada Benefit has had the privilege of the opening night slot at IFOA. Its essential work defending writers, promoting literature and preserving freedom of expression makes it a natural partnership. This year the Empty Chair on every IFOA stage is filled by Eritrean journalist and playwright Dawit Isaak, imprisoned since Fall 2001.


Thursday night’s event found a robust crowd filling the Fleck Dance Theatre eager to spend an evening in the rare company of Giller Prize-winner Rohinton Mistry, a longtime supporter of PEN Canada and its mission. Billed as an evening of words and music, I wondered if the notoriously shy Mistry would break into song, accompanying himself on a ukelele.

There were no stringed instruments on the stage, but Mistry’s warm buttery baritone filled the room as he read from a new piece grounded in his father’s gramophone records and he sang in Gene Autry’s voice “Don’t Fence Me In”—”Oh give me land, lots of land, under sunny skies above, don’t fence me in.” Utterly charming.

Musing “where did it begin for me the journey from there to here,” Mistry suggested that his “long and winding road from Bombay to Toronto” started with the shellacked discs of 45s, 78s and 33s his father spun on his gramophone—that magical machine that “shouldered the weight of his dreams.” As a boy, he pressed his cheek against the polished wood and “could imagine the music becoming a part of me.” And, it has.

If you were lucky enough to share in the joy and diversion of the songs that tripped wondrously off of Mistry’s storytelling tongue, you’ll understand why he referred to himself during his conversation with Eleanor Wachtel as “the vocal Zelig.” Next time Mistry appears on stage I hope he brings his guitar and harmonica and performs Dylan AS Dylan. That’d be really something.


When asked what he misses from India, Mistry paused, then declared, “you can be homesick for the past. I miss the monsoon. It’s a grand spectacle. The breeze of the Arabian Sea, like silk upon the skin. Remembering brings with it a benediction. It brings understanding.” I know what he means.

Visit for more event listings. Follow Janet Somerville on twitter at @janetsomerville or on her blog Reading for the Joy of It.