How quiet the office seems now, a few weeks post-IFOA—such a contrast from the blur of famous faces and inspiring conversations. The Festival was a huge success thanks to the authors and their publishers, the hardworking staff and volunteers, our partners and sponsors and, of course, all of the book lovers who came down to the Harbourfront Centre to soak it all in.
We’re still sifting through the photos taken during the Festival, but in the meantime here are a few.
Thanks also to our fabulous bloggers and everyone who followed the Festival from afar! We’re on to planning IFOA 2013…
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.
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 readings.org for more event listings. Follow Iain Reid on twitter at @reid_iain.
Linda Spalding, author of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and Governor General’s Award-nominated novel The Purchase, will participate in several IFOA events.
© Michael Ondaatje
IFOA: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the Festival?
Spalding: I’m keen to hear Michael Chabon read. He’s a friend of mine and I like his work but have never heard him read. Ditto Louise Erdrich. It’s all going to be fantastic.
IFOA: When and where do you prefer to read?
Spalding: To myself? I love to read myself to sleep, but then that’s just what it is! The best reading time for me is in the morning, sitting up straight with all the attention I can muster and a cup of coffee in hand.
IFOA: The Purchase is inspired by stories of your own ancestors. What made you decide to write about them now?
Spalding: I’ve been working on this book for several years and thinking about it longer than that. Ideas fester like wounds and then they either heal or require amputation. This one healed.
IFOA: You write both fiction and non-fiction, and The Purchase is a bit of a blend of both. What genre will you be working in next, and why?
Spalding: I’ll start another novel one of these days, but it may be slightly interrupted if Maryann Acker gets out of prison. When that happens, I’d like to do a little reprise of her story.
IFOA: Finish this sentence: I can’t write unless I….
Spalding: But I can! When I was a girl I made myself write with my eyes closed on the city bus. It has served me well.
IFOA: Bonus question: International Festival of Authors in one word: