Five Questions with… Russell Wangersky

© Ned Pratt Photography

Russell Wangersky, author of Whirl Away, will appear in three IFOA events this weekend, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize event.

IFOA: Your new short story collection has been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize (congrats!). What is it about short stories that appeals to you?

Wangersky: I like short stories for a simple, greedy reason; they are short enough that I can hold the entire story in my head while working on it. With novels, you end up going back and forth sometimes, trying to remember just exactly where something happened. The legwork is incredible, and, frankly, not much fun.

IFOA: Which of the characters in Whirl Away is most like you?

Wangersky: I think I have to say Tim McCann, the ambulance driver/paramedic in the story “911,” because he drives around with the same passle of self-doubt I do.

IFOA: When and where do you write?

Wangersky: I write at a computer in my kitchen in St. John’s, during whatever time I can steal between a full-time newspaper job and magazine freelance work.

IFOA: If you could time travel, where and when would you go, and why?

Wangersky: I honestly like the right now—but I think that’s mostly because I’m naturally unsettled with new things. I know where I fit in the familiar.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: The best part is…

Wangersky: Dinnertime.

IFOA: Bonus question: International Festival of Authors in one word:

Wangersky: Kaleidoscopic.

For more about Wangersky at IFOA, click here.

Five Questions with… Ned Beauman

Ned Beauman will share The Teleportation Accident in two IFOA events this weekend. He will also travel to Parry Sound with IFOA Ontario.

© Dylan Forsberg

IFOA: If you could be teleported anywhere right now, where and when would you go, and why?

Beauman: I wish I was attending Frieze Art Fair in London. I can’t really justify the flight from Istanbul, because I have nothing to do with the art world, although like many novelists I am always looking for a way to wheedle my way in.

IFOA: There’s been a lot of talk about the fact that you were longlisted for the Man Booker Prize at age 27. Tell us, what’s age got to do with it?

Beauman: I’d like to make a remark here about how I wouldn’t even have been the youngest person ever to made it to the shortlist. But that would make it easy to infer that I’d gone to the effort to check that on Wikipedia. So I had better move on.

IFOA: You’ve been writing since you were a child. What was the subject of the first story you remember writing?

Beauman: I don’t remember. The first story I got published, in a university creative writing magazine, was a sort of Pale Fire knock-off in the form of a DVD director’s commentary on a bad film, also inspired by some of Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell’s similar pieces on the McSweeney’s website.

IFOA: What are your favourite and least favourite words—today, at least?

Beauman: Favourite: “simit”, because it’s one of the Turkish words that I can remember. Least favourite: “afedersiniz”, because it isn’t.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: The Internet is…

Beauman: Peaking.

IFOA: Bonus question: This year’s International Festival of Authors in one word…

Beauman: Junket.

For more about Beauman at IFOA, click here.

Five Questions with… Anakana Schofield

Anakana Schofield, author of the debut novel Malarky, will appear in a second IFOA event on Saturday, October 27.

IFOA: You’ve just written, sold, edited, published and launched your first novel. What’s been the biggest surprise along the way?

Schofield: The incredible response to it! Malarky was selected as a Summer 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. The day I found out I bought a packet of Mrs. Vickies salt and vinegar chips to celebrate with my son. I have been receiving lovely messages from readers many of whom identified with Our Woman in Malarky.

IFOA: What does the word “malarky” mean to you? (Is it fair to ask you to try to sum it up?)

Schofield: Perfectly fair! I think of the word malarky as carry on or behaviour. Technically it means nonsense. My mother used to say stop that malarky!

Now the word malarky also means thanks a million Joe Biden for putting the word on the lips of America and stumping for my novel. Behind every vice president is a Canadian episodic novel.

IFOA: When and where do you prefer to read?

Schofield: I have summer reading rituals and winter reading rituals (see my accompanying blog on this topic). In summer I love reading on Grandma’s deck but I can be found reading all year round, supine on my south facing couch, watching the rain. I also like to walk and read. For meteorological reasons this is less challenging on print ink during the summer. Although this summer plenty print was dripped upon during June.

IFOA: If you could time travel, where and when would you go, and why?

Schofield: I would go inside my son’s computer screen at 6:40 am yesterday and surprise him. I would pop up in one of those Minecraft interfaces with a sign that read “For the 45th time have you brushed your teeth and for the Love of Snoopy put your bloody socks on.”

IFOA: Finish this sentence: It doesn’t really matter if…

Schofield: …you leave the house without your socks on unless you are worried about wet feet.

IFOA: Bonus question: International Festival of Authors in one word:

Schofield: Remix.

For more about Schofield at IFOA, click here.

Five Questions with… Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood, author of The Bellwether Revivals, appears at IFOA on Saturday, October 27. He will also travel to Orillia with IFOA Ontario.

© Mark Pringle

IFOA: What was your favourite book as a child?

Wood: As a very young child it was a tie between Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl and Stanley Bagshaw and the Short-sighted Football Trainer by Bob Wilson. As an early teenager: The Thief of Always by Clive Barker.

IFOA:If you could have lunch with one author, dead or alive, who would it be—and why?

Wood: I’m going to say Paul Auster, because reading his novel City of Glass made me want to be a fiction writer, and I’d just like to thank him for that. Plus, I don’t think I could keep up with the drinking pace of Richard Yates or John Cheever. And I’d be much too in awe of Shirley Jackson or Carson McCullers to chew my food properly.

IFOA:You have a musical background, and music plays a prominent role in The Bellwether Revivals. What is your favourite instrument, and why?

Wood: The guitar is the only instrument I truly understand, so I’ll choose that. If I’m allowed to be picky, though, it would be an acoustic guitar in a DADF#AD tuning. Then I’d feel completely at home.

IFOA:You teach creative writing at Birkbeck, University of London. What’s one thing your students have taught you lately?

Wood: In today’s Intro to Fiction class we were discussing scene building in relation to ZZ Packer’s short story “The Ant of the Self.” It’s an exercise in scrutinising exactly what is on the page, line by line, seeing how Packer shapes and layers each scene through a confluence of differing techniques. We dismantle the first two pages quite forensically in order to understand how the author has assembled them. Then we sit back and marvel at the rest of the story’s magic.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: I write best when…

Wood:  I have a whole scene to tinker with from the day before. (The best part of writing, in my experience, is not the furious application of new words to the page, but the daily refining of ideas already committed.)

IFOA: Bonus question: International Festival of Authors in one word:

Wood: Essential.

For more about Wood, click here.

The Super Bowl of book clubs

© Maayan Ziv

By Ayesha Chatterjee

Words and waterfalls. Already I’m mixing them up. Why code is poetry and poetry, code. I had my first IFOA reading in Markham on Tuesday evening and as we drove up from Toronto, Marjorie Celona and Bert Archer and I talked about a jigsaw puzzle of things that in my mind are now blended in with the memory of the colours of the trees along the Don Valley Parkway, vivid even in the grey of the autumn afternoon.

I felt like a star that night, like J-Lo, with my own personal assistant, a charming young high school student named Ivy who had thought of everything, even an extra pen for me to sign with.  I don’t think I will ever get used to reading in public, always surprised and humbled by the audience’s kindness, the small conversations afterwards, the exchanges of commonalities.

And then Niagara yesterday: the white force of water drenching us all with its indifferent power. The photographs I took of the Horseshoe Falls from the Maid of the Mist look strangely alien, as though I’d taken them on a distant planet with everyone dressed in blue spacesuits. In almost all of them, a seagull circles, smoothly curved, the opposite of the thing with feathers that Dickinson wrote of.

We were introduced by the Mayor of Markham on Tuesday night, who said that the IFOA  was the Super Bowl of book clubs. I rather like that. I’ve never thought of myself as a football player before.

Click here for more about Chatterjee’s IFOA events.
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