Five Questions with… Iain Reid


Iain Reid, author of the comic memoir The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on My Road Trip with Grandma, answered our five questions.

IFOA: What inspired you to write about your grandmother?

Reid: I’m not entirely sure what inspired me but I think it had to do with her impressive age and demeanor. She’s lived through so many eras, and changes, that are all just part of history for me; to her they’re strands of her life. I’m interested in how perspectives shift and stay consistent over the course of (nearly) a century of experience. We had a lot of long discussions on our trip, on a variety of topics. Both her long life and the way she still lives inspired me.

IFOA: Like One Bird’s Choice, The Truth About Luck is a memoir with you at its centre. How is this Iain Reid different than the Iain Reid we encountered in your first book?

Reid: Well, I’m definitely older. How else I’ve changed is a little harder to know. I’ve moved away from the farm. I live in a different city. I probably spend more time writing now. I cook more the last few years. I don’t feel tremendously different though, just a little older.

IFOA: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Reid: The History of Iceland by Dr. Gudni T. Johannesson.

IFOA: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?

Reid: Probably finishing grad school. Study interests me. But maybe something completely different. My great-grandfather was a baker and I think I’d enjoy that. Like most jobs, I’m sure it would be more taxing and stressful than the excessively placid image I’ve built in my head. But it would smell great all day and I could wear really comfortable clothes.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: It works better if you…

Reid: …go for a walk first.

Reid will appear at Authors at Harbourfront Centre as part of the Ben McNally Travellers Series on March 13.

CBC personalities talk broadcasting and self-disclosure at IFOA

by Iain Reid

Saturday was CBC Day at IFOA. Personalities from the public broadcaster appeared throughout the morning and afternoon. I found my way to the Lakeside Terrace for the last session of the evening. The latish start (9pm) obviously didn’t dissuade the crowd. Most of the chairs were filled when I arrived. I found a single spot near the back.


It was the DNTO readings, hosted (appropriately) by Sook-Yin Lee. First up was Nora Young, host of Spark. Young read a fascinating section from her book, The Virtual Self. The book examines how our immersion in the digital world is altering the rest of our lives. “Seeing yourself as unexceptional can be very profound,” she said.

Young was followed by Wiretap host, Jonathan Goldstein. Goldstein, known for his dry wit and deadpan delivery, didn’t disappoint. His reading about attending the birth of his nephew had the crowd in throes.

Last to read was the host of Q, Jian Ghomeshi. Ghomeshi began with an impression of his father before reading a charming excerpt depicting his 14-year-old self trying to muster the courage to call his older crush on his family’s communal phone.

After the readings Lee sat on stage with the others. This was the first literary event I’ve attended that featured a panel of all radio hosts. There was a noticeable ease and level of comfort in their performance not always seen at readings. There was also a thread of camaraderie that ran through the event and added to the casual manner of the discussion.

The funny and interesting assembly became more group-discussion than one-on-one interviews. It varied from how much CBC censors their other work to how much each reveals about themselves to broader questions of journalism and broadcasting. Goldstein claimed, “I’m not a broadcaster.”

Young said, “I conceal just about everything. It’s not in my nature to talk about myself.”

Ghomeshi explained that, “people do this (broadcasting) different ways.” He talked about how he made it a priority to adopt a more conversational tone to his interviews. Goldstein added, “I do my best work behind people’s back…in the darkness of the studio, like mould.”

A spirited Q&A capped off the evening. By now it was 10:30 but people were still hoping to ask questions. Always a sign of a pleased and engaged audience.

Visit for more event listings. Follow Iain Reid on twitter at @reid_iain.

Junot Díaz & Michael Chabon bring humour and literary insight to IFOA stage

By Iain Reid


A full 20 minutes before Junot Díaz and Michael Chabon take the stage at the Fleck Dance Theatre, a chatty crowd has formed outside. It’s a sell out.

The evening’s moderator, Siri Agrell, welcomes the audience, joking about the possibility, depending on seating arrangement, of being the insides of a “Pulitzer sandwich.”

Chabon reads first. He explains how pleased he is to be included in an event with one of his favourite writers, saying, “I thought he was awesome before you guys did.”

Díaz stands slightly to the right of the podium, shielding his eyes from the overhead lights to get a better look at the crowd. He calls reading with Chabon, “a profound honour.”

Their mutual respect and admiration seems genuine. They appear comfortable together. Along with both authors and Agrell’s inclusion of humour (handfuls of hilarious one-liners that at times border on stand-up) the discussion touches on a variety of more contemplative topics. Chabon and Díaz express their strategic concerns when starting a new work and how it’s essentially a kind of “world building” while creating the proper language.

Also discussed is the practice of writing from the perspective of a different gender or race; its challenges and its potential worth. “Artists aren’t boosters,” says Díaz.

Chabon explains how our desire for strict originality is a relatively new cultural emphasis. Both authors agree a writer is foremost a reader and that it would be impossible to write anything good without attribution. All writers have debts.

12 Junot Diaz and Michael Chabon interview IFOA (c)


Appropriately, during the Q&A someone asks Díaz about the feeling when reading a perfectly constructed sentence. Díaz acknowledges this feeling and references The English Patient, and a single sentence that has stayed with him since his first reading of the novel. Another audience member calls out that Michael Ondaatje is in the crowd. It’s another moment of a writer expressing sincere gratitude to another. “Well, it’s an honour he’s here,” says Díaz. A fitting end to an excellent evening of readings, insights and discussion.

Visit for more event listings. Follow Iain Reid on twitter at @reid_iain.

Meet our bloggers

As part of our commitment to bring you great coverage of the International Festival of Authors (October 18-28), we’ve recruited four stellar bloggers to attend events and share their highlights with all of you. Without further ado, here they are!

Brianna Goldberg is a writer and producer from Toronto whose work has appeared in both of Canada’s national newspapers and on all three radio services of the CBC. She recently returned from two years of travelling through the Caribbean and Africa, where she freelanced on topics ranging from terrorism to lingerie trends to the general awesomeness of Virginia Woolf. Find out more about Goldberg’s work online on her website or follow her on Twitter @b_goldberg.

Corina Milic reads, writes and edits for a living. She is the poetry editor at Canada’s funniest magazine that features a simian, The Feathertale Review. Monkeys don’t pay bills though, so she also works as an online editor and community manager at, Canada’s (legitimately) largest portal. She is currently trying to read every single book in her home. Track her progress here.

Iain Reid is the author of the critically acclaimed comic memoir One Bird’s Choice, which won the CBC Bookie Award for Best Non-fiction Book of the year and sold internationally. His second book, The Truth About Luck, will be published by House of Anansi Press in 2013. He writes regularly about books and writing for the National Post. Follow him at @reid_iain.

Janet Somerville teaches literature at Royal St. George’s College, a school for boys in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood where many of the authors who appear in her courses come to classes to talk about the writing life. A former PEN Canada board member and longtime volunteer, Somerville also curates an annual event called Get Caught Reading to benefit the Children’s Book Bank. She has poems published in Calling Cards: New Poetry from Caribbean/Canadian Women, tweets about books at both @janetsomerville and @TeenBoyLitCrit, and blogs about what she’s reading at Reading For The Joy of It.

Our bloggers are looking forward to the Festival, which begins October 18. For more information about our incredible lineup of authors and events, visit