Five Questions with… Arno Kopecky

Don’t miss Arno Kopecky at IFOA in the Ben McNally Travellers Series on Sunday, October 21.

IFOA: Who are you most excited to see at the Festival?

Kopecky: Junot Diaz – the pulchritude! Maybe John Ralston Saul.

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

Kopecky: That I still can’t levitate.

IFOA: You’re a world traveller. Where do you plan to go next?

Kopecky: Was going to try Pluto, but I’m not sure it’s still considered a world or just a frozen ball of gas.

IFOA: Tell us about one book that changed your life.

Kopecky: Voltaire’s Bastards, by John Ralston Saul. It opened my eyes to a lot of things, not least the tyranny of reason and the troubling historical lesson (for democracy) offered by the citizens of Renaissance Paris, who had to be forced against their will to exchange open sewers for indoor plumbing.

But the book’s greatest impact on my life happened after I gave it to my dad to read. He, a conservative Iowan corn farmer by birth and a professor of chemistry by training, i.e. a reserved man all his life, began displaying radical tendencies of the left wing persuasion. He wrapped his arm in a black bandana before going to parties, for instance, to represent the dead in Iraq. His behavior eventually got him excommunicated from the farm of his brother (a Republican), and it took years of back-door diplomacy to bring the family together again.

IFOA: Finish this sentence: It helps if you…

Kopecky:…can swim.

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

Kopecky: Novel.

The Rookie

By Arno Kopecky

Rookie! Rookie! Rookie!

Probably no one’s going to say it out loud but no doubt they’ll be running it over their tongues, this cutthroat confederacy of Litfest vets whose shark tank I’m about to enter.

Was on a sailboat when word came. Day 43, everything going fine. Blue skies over the coast of British Columbia, humpback whales bubble-netting some kind of finger-sized fish all around us. Using their breath as a net. You’re invited to Toronto. Come read out loud. Juno, Jian, M.G. (what do the initials stand for anyway—right, I should know. Rookie.), Alice, Adrienne, Louise—all kinds of grand dukes and duchesses. All gonna be there. Big network. I’ll fit right in, was my first thought. Well not actually. When in doubt of your capacity to measure up, vilify. Yes they seem wise, compassionate, clever and fun as hell to be around, on paper. It’s called Voice. In person they maintain a permanent mental crouch, are constantly prepared to pounce on an upstart Rookie at his very first um with a devastating loquacity that can only be meant to expose its lack in others. How did it come to this?

Started writing poems when I was eight. Bad poems! Parents called them wonderful, kept writing. Got tired of poems and starting writing stories. Bad stories! Teachers called them wonderful, kept writing. Got tired of stories, tried to write a novel. Bad novel! Kept it to myself, kept writing. Got tired of making things up and tried journalism. Mediocre journalism. Better than previous genres. Kept writing. Tried traveling, too. Editors became parents and teachers. Went to South America, wrote a— travelogue, mostly. Just hit the shelves. Who knows what they’ll say. Probably something like, keep writing.

For more about Kopecky at IFOA, click here.