25th Trillium Award

The Festival Series: Five Questions with Claire Tacon

 
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Claire Tacon

Another wonderful season of literary festivals is on the way and what better way to celebrate than with a series about festivals.

Open Book speaks with Claire Tacon, the author of the award-winning novel In the Field (Biblioasis, 2010). Claire attended the Ottawa Writers Festival recently, and is here to tell us about why she loves literary festivals and how they help bring writers together.

Open Book:

Tell us about the first literary festival you attended.

Claire Tacon:

The first literary festival that made a big impression on me was the The World Stage Festival at Toronto?s Harbourfront Centre. In my early twenties, I worked at the Canadian Stage Company and it meant that I got a free pass to a lot of the events. The performance that blew my mind was Carmen by the Broomhill Opera that placed the story in modern South Africa and had the dialogue in Xhosa.

As a participant, the first literary festival I attended was the Eden Mills Festival this past September. The Eden Mills festival has such a warm vibe — the whole community comes out to support the event, volunteering their time and often their homes to the visiting writers. All of the readings are outside, in these beautiful alcoves behind the town?s limestone buildings. It was especially meaningful to be there because I?d performed as part of their Festival Fringe Series back in 2005, when I was just starting to get serious about prose. Having an emerging writers series alongside the main acts can be really inspiring and encouraging for younger writers.

OB:

What was your favourite moment at the Ottawa Writers Festival?

CT:

Seeing Mike Dubue?s musical collaboration was pretty wild. I?d come from the Plan 99 poetry reading and was staying for the ?Truthiness or Dare? conversation, so the musical break was appreciated. The Ottawa Writers Festival does a great job of mixing it up like that. The festival celebrates a wide spectrum of literary arts, which keeps it interesting. Apart from the readings themselves (and getting to perform with the talented Heather Jessup), I really enjoyed the casual conversations in the hospitality suite.

OB:

Why do you think literary festivals are important?

CT:

As a writer, it?s an opportunity to meet people — other writers and audience members alike — and exchange ideas. It?s also a chance to share my work with new readers who might not have heard about the book otherwise. Particularly with a debut book, it can be difficult to get the word out and festivals can act as matchmakers for writers and readers.

On the other side of the coin, as an audience member, that dating service can be equally exciting. Having the chance to hear writers discussing their books often enriches the reading experience. When George Elliot Clarke?s ?Execution Poems? came out, he did a reading at Acadia, and Gaspereau Press?s Andrew Steeves talked about the letterpress edition. Clarke?s description of how he first heard about George and Rue Hamilton, and Steeves? passion for well-crafted books has always stayed with me. Across Canada, festival organizers bring large numbers of writers to audiences, acting as passionate curators of the year?s crop of books.

OB:

When it?s time to take the stage, what do you like most about being in the spotlight?

CT:

When a book gets published, there is no live-cam of readers? reactions. You might get feedback from people who enjoyed the book (or disliked it), but it?s always after the fact. Reading the text aloud, there?s no hiding when an audience connects or doesn?t connect with the words. That unpredictability of an audience?s reaction lends an incredible tension to being on stage, a feeling of being very present, very alive. It?s also the closest novel writing gets to theatre, my first literary love.

OB:

Will you be attending any other festivals this year?

CT:

No, but I?ve just finished a cross-country reading tour with poet Jamella Hagen. After a month of driving from Guelph to Victoria and back again, it?s time to get to work on the new book.


Claire Tacon is the winner of the 2010 Metcalf-Rooke award for her first novel, In the Field. Her fiction has been short-listed for the Bronwen Wallace Award, the CBC Literary Awards and the Playboy College Fiction Contest, and has appeared in journals such as The New Quarterly and sub-TERRAIN.

Visit the Open Book Archives for more Festival Series interviews.

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