Calling all inquiring minds! Non-fiction at IFOA 34

The IFOA is always proud to present the best new writing across genres—and this year, we have an impressive roster of non-fiction authors on stage to present their latest works.

From TVO journalist and personality Steve Paikin to former Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff to renowned Oxford historian Margaret MacMillan, journalists, historians and social commentators offer up food for thought in a series of interviews and reading panels. Nominees for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction will also take the stage for a public reading of their nominated works!

Whether you’re a history buff, political junkie or simply an inquiring mind, come to the IFOA to engage with the latest and best non-fiction.


Friday, October 25

8pm  READING/INTERVIEW: Eric Schlosser interviewed by Tim Cook. Host: Nathan Whitlock

8pm  ROUND TABLE: Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize Finalists. Host and moderator: Rachel Giese

Saturday, October 26

8pm KEYNOTE/INTERVIEW: Charles Taylor Prize winner Andrew Preston interviewed by Jeffrey Simpson

Tuesday, October 29

7pm  READING/INTERVIEW: Steve Paikin interviewed by Bob Rae.

Wednesday, October 30

8pm  READING/INTERVIEW: Margaret MacMillan interviewed by Charlotte Gray. Host:  Alissa York

Saturday, November 2

4pm  READING/INTERVIEW: Michael Ignatieff interviewed by David Miller. Host: Edward Keenan

Sunday, November 3

3pm ROUND TABLE: Messages from the Bottle. Jowita Bydlowska and Ann Dowsett Johnston. Host/Moderator: Siri Agrell


Five Questions with… Warren Clements

Warren Clements, author of Bird Doggerel and a participant in this year’s International Festival of Authors, answered our five questions.

Share this article via Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win two tickets to see Warren on November 2! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA or use #IFOA2013. Good luck!

IFOA: Tell us a bit about birding.

Warren Clements: Birding is a step up from bird-watching in its seriousness of purpose. Birders may travel hundreds and thousands of miles to see and record the sighting of species of birds they have not previously observed in the wild. My partner, Warren ClementsSandra, for instance, has a life list of more than 1,600 birds (and counting). The trouble with birding is that one needs to wake up early and travel to such delicious locations as sewage lagoons to stand the best chance of seeing the desired creatures. This explains why Sandra is a birder and I am not. I hear about the great speckled double-spotted lesser grosbeak at second hand, and feed the details into my verse.

IFOA: Bird Doggerel is your first book of poetry. How did the experience of writing it differ from that of your previous projects?

Clements: The joy of writing doggerel lies in solving puzzles. I set myself a tricky metre or unusual rhyme scheme and figure out how to say what I wish to say within those constraints. In a way, the structure is liberating. Of several lines that may occur, only one may fit the strait-jacket I have imposed upon myself, so I don’t need to spend time anguishing over the lines I have rejected. When I wrote editorials for The Globe and Mail—my main day job for three decades—there was a puzzle in how best to frame the argument and make points, but I spent a great deal of time working on the form the writing would take.

IFOA: You had a long-running comic strip in The Globe and Mail called Nestlings. Which comic strips do you read for pleasure?

Clements: Of the strips that are running today, I particularly enjoy Pooch Cafe, Dilbert, Mutts, Bizarro, Speed Bump and (until The Globe axed them) Fisher and Pooch Cafe. It’s heartening to see so many Canadians in the comic-strip business (e.g. Tina’s Groove, Betty, Between Friends, Pooch Cafe). I turn regularly to books of earlier comic strips: Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Krazy Kat, King Aroo, Pogo, L’il Abner, Rip Kirby, Bringing Up Father (for the amazing early art)—the list goes on. Britain’s Private Eye magazine has a smart strip called Celeb, by the team that used to write and draw the social comedy strip Alex.

IFOA: What do you enjoy most about reading to a live audience?

Clements: The chief element is the thrill of connecting with people, and trying to read in a way that will elicit their enjoyment. Often a simple inflection can mean a difference between getting a laugh and not getting a laugh. It’s a tightrope walk for me every time, and that’s both the scary and rewarding part.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: What surprises me most is….

Clements: …how closely the bird world echoes the human world in its behaviour, and vice versa.

Warren Clements is a writer and sat on the editorial board of The Globe and Mail for many years. He will be reading from his debut collection of poetry with authors Louise Doughty, Charlotte Grimshaw and Lisa Moore on November 2 at 11am.


Sign up now for CBC@IFOA Trivia Night!

Think you know books? Sign up for the CBC@IFOA Trivia Night on October 26 and show us your stuff! CBC Books

Teams can register by emailing Please put “CBC@IFOA Trivia Night” in the subject line. Teams will be registered on a first-come, first-served basis, and must consist of four people. A maximum of 18 teams can take part. Each team will be paired with an IFOA author upon arrival. There are great prizes-—and bragging rights-—to be won.

Spots are filling fast, so sign up today!

Don’t forget to check out all the great CBC@IFOA programming! There’s even a special CBC@IFOA Day Pass. You can find all the details about tickets and events here.

Poetic Conservation

By: Christine McNair

Share this article via Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win two tickets to see Christine at the Poet Summit on October 26! Don’t forget to tag @IFOA or use #IFOA2013. Good luck!

I became a book conservator by chance. Upon graduation from Acadia University, I horrified my professors by turning down a full Commonwealth scholarship to India, where I’d planned on studying the experience of exile in Indian writing in English. I also turned down acceptances to Canadian MA and MFA programmes. Instead, I decided to accept the job of Editor’s Devil at Gaspereau Press, where I did sundry book production and editorial tasks. I immediately stopped writing for no discernible reason.

Christine McNair

(c) Charles Earl

I was exposed to the more concrete elements of design and bookmaking, including assisting with the special edition bindings. This led me to more book work, more bookbinding and eventually to book conservation studies in the UK: the concrete application of one’s hand skills to damaged books. Or even the conscious, intelligent, judicious restraint of using one’s hands.

I say all this because it relates to Conflict. My book conservation work informs my poetry writing practice in part because work with my hands balances work within my head. But there’s something more direct within the book relating to how fragile and resistant the materials of the world are. There are poems within the book referencing themes of the archive, loss, dissolution, damage, restoration. There are words within that I use during my work with the books that I treat. But there is also a marrow of the book relating to the inevitable fragmentation that occurs within relationships and within language. And how intense those fragmentations can be.

It is important to note that I’m not really speaking of craft. There is an ethical barrier in conservation work with regards to what is sometimes called “restoration” (though this is a slippery term), where the goal is to make an artifact look perfect—as though it has never been touched by time or circumstance. Evidence is inherent in the structure of an artifact and to deny that is to slip into a kind of forgery. An erasure of what was for the sake of surface beauty.

I once did an extremely limited edition binding of poems that was bound in hand-dyed black calfskin. Rather than trying to protect the shiny perfection of the skin however, my goal was to allow the books to become battered and marked by the hands of their reader. I wanted the books to retain the physical memory of their past. I want the poems within Conflict to retain some evidence of their past, as well. I want them to be physical, visceral and immediate. They exist in defiance of erasure in spite of the overwhelming weight of everything else.

Christine McNair is a poet and one of the hosts of CKCU’s Literary Landscape programme. She works as a book conservator in Ottawa. Christine will be reading from her most recent book of poetry, Conflict, alongside Warren Clements, Beatriz Hausner, Peter Norman and CBC English Poetry Prize winner James Scoles on October 26.

New tickets available to PEN Benefit with Stephen King!

Stephen King fans, you’re in luck! A new block of tickets to the sold-out October 24 PEN Benefit featuring the horror genius and his son Owen King will be released Tuesday, October 1 at 1pm. They can be purchased from the Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000 or by visiting For more information, please click here.


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