“Serious” Authors Can Be Funny Too

By Emily Saso

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The Delegate Programme is an opportunity for local authors and journalists to enrich the level of discussion at select events throughout the International Festival of Authors. Emily Saso—author of The Weather Inside—wrote about her experience as an IFOA 2017 delegate and for her, she found hilarity even in the most serious panels.


I expected many things from this year’s International Festival of Authors: intellectual debates, empathetic insights, writing tips, and the chance to meet my favourite authors. What I didn’t expect, however, was comedy.

As a delegate at IFOA 2017, I was lucky enough to attend seven panels. At none of them was humour explicitly on the table. In fact, one event was actually called—wait for it—Futile Fates. Throughout the festival, the writers before me included literary icons, horror masters and articulate historians. Humorists? No. However, at each panel, I spent half of the time in stitches.

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A Writing Community

by: Amy Jones

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The Delegate Programme is an opportunity for local authors and journalists to enrich the level of discussion at select events throughout the International Festival of Authors. Amy Jones—author of We Are All in This Together—wrote about her experience as an IFOA 2017 delegate and for her, the Festival became a community for writers.


In the six years I lived in Thunder Bay, I never missed a Lit on Tour event that came to town. Every year, it was the event I looked forward to the most—the chance to see writers I admired, to meet up with other book lovers, to attend master classes taught by CanLit superstars, to talk about writing and reading and all things literary.

When November rolled around, we all bundled up and headed out to the Prince Arthur Hotel or the Airlane or the Thunder Bay Art Gallery to see Jane Urqhart, or Ania Szado, or Alexander MacLeod, or Michael Winter. It felt like we had a community; it felt like we were part of something. And for myself at the time, an aspiring writer living in a city that seemed worlds away from the rest of the writing world, that meant everything.

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Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us

By: J. Patrick Boyer

Photo credit to Silvestri Matteo.

The celebrated “gift to see ourselves as others see us” requires gaining an objective distance to appraise qualities hard to recognize from too close up. It can be sobering, and instructive. In 2017, Canadians are celebrating a century and a-half of Confederation under 1867’s Constitution by focusing overwhelmingly on ourselves, a self-referencing paradigm, a mirror not a window.

That’s why it’s doubly good to have a dose of realism about how others see us.

In my book, Foreign Voices in the House, those “others” offering such a vantage point are the five dozen presidents, prime ministers, monarchs, and transnational leaders who’ve addressed the Canadian House of Commons, from their perspective on this country, over the past hundred years.

These exceptionally diverse leaders, speaking at intervals ever since Rene Viviani of France and Arthur Balfour of Britain began the tradition in 1917, offer a kaleidoscopic view on a country evolving from colonial status to independent nationhood, in a world constantly remaking itself in geopolitical, economic, and technological ways.

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Through smoke

By Ayesha Chatterjee

from bottles and bones by ayesha chatterjee

People often ask me if my new collection, Bottles and Bones, has a theme running through it, and I was surprised the first time I found myself saying that it does. I usually have the attention span of a fruit fly and can’t stick to a topic for longer than three poems (if you read my poems, you’ll see how very short they generally are, so that should give you an indication). But a few years ago, I stumbled across a term used in perfumery, fougère, which is a class of fragrances and is also French for ‘fern’. Think Drakkar Noir or Brut. Think oakmoss (a species of lichen. It’s all right, I had to look it up too) and sharp and spicy. But also soundless and green and soft and new. I was hooked.

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A Different Toronto

By Ann Y.K. Choi

K & Y Convenience. Queen and Bellwoods. Photo taken by Ardo Omer. Photo edited by Emily Jung.

As an outsider looking in, our neighbourhood in the 1980s could be perceived as sketchy with the Madonna-inspired prostitutes sitting on the side steps of the imposing Ukrainian church at the corner of Queen and Bellwoods, and the homeless asking for loose change outside our variety store. Our best sellers really did include cigarettes and condoms.

But for my family and the characters in Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, the neighbourhood was a vibrant reflection of the residents and our working-class background. The store allowed us to connect with everyone from immigrant families to starving artists–writers, musicians, and actors–who lived on white bread and cola but paid for brand named foods for their pets. And, although we were robbed frequently and our home vandalized, we felt a strong sense of belonging. People looked out for each other. One vivid memory of this was when someone set the entrance to our apartment (above the store) on fire in the middle of the night. One of the prostitutes who worked on our street corner called 911 and rescued us.

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