25th Trillium Award

The Festival Series: Five Questions with Marianne Apostolides

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Marianne Apostolides (Photo Credit: Jorjas Photography)

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 Marianne Apostolides, the author of Voluptuous Pleasure: The Truth about the Writing Life. She attended the Ottawa Writers Festival last April and shares with us her thoughts on festivals.

Open Book:

Tell us about the first literary festival you attended.

Marianne Apostolides:

My first festival was the Feria del Libro in Madrid. That was back in 1999, when my first book was translated into Spanish. The festival is the largest in Spain; it?s organized like Word on the Street, with tents set up along the main road in Madrid?s largest park. On the morning of my reading, I stole an hour to attend the Reina Sofia Museum. I thought I might check out the paintings by Dali and Miro, as well as Picasso. Instead, I spent the whole time in the gallery with Guernica. The canvas moaned with grief ? a grief that is both universal and particular to Spain and its history.

After my reading at the fair, my publisher took me to a small flamenco club hidden discreetly on a side street. We descended the dark stairs and pulled back the velvet curtain at the club?s entrance. Through the smoke, I could see the dance floor packed with dancers who faced each other across an invisible line. Their pride was exquisite ? the closeness along with the slightest disdain, desire, as they danced without ever touching. After a few drinks, I joined in. I didn?t know what I was doing at first, but I followed along; by morning, I?d picked up a few moves, and a bit of the attitude?.


What was your favourite moment at the Ottawa Writers Festival?


Hearing Vincent Lam?s story about busking in Ottawa?s ByWard Market?. A few of us were having breakfast at the hotel; we kept adding places to the table as other writers ambled into the restaurant. Our conversation wandered from literature to politics, from Greece to Poland and back to Ottawa, where Lam relayed his story about his busking days?.
Breakfast conversation, fueled by coffee and good food: it?s a fine way to interact with other writers.


Why do you think literary festivals are important?


Literary festivals serve as a gathering place for writers and readers. In a world where we?re all so ?interconnected,? we rarely have the chance to connect in an interpersonal way. Although readers have unprecedented digital access to writers ? they can read authors? blogs, follow them on Twitter, or watch them read excerpts of their work on YouTube ? digital interaction lacks the profundity and specificity of sitting in the same room, sharing the same atmosphere as ideas and words are exchanged.

In addition, literary festivals serve an important curatorial function. As space for book reviews shrinks in our newspapers, festivals can become an even more important arbiter, signaling to readers which books deserve their attention.


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


I don?t enjoy being in the spotlight, per se, but I love the opportunity to discuss literature, language and the writing process ? especially in a sustained forum with an attentive audience and fascinating interlocutors. That was a true gift!


Will you be attending any other festivals this year?


I don?t have anything scheduled thus far. I?ll keep you posted?

Marianne Apostolides is the author of four books, including Voluptuous Pleasure: The Truth about the Writing Life (BookThug, 2012), and the novels Swim (BookThug, 2009) and The Lucky Child (Mansfield Press, 2010). Marianne is a recipient of the 2011 Chalmers Arts Fellowship.

Visit the Open Book Archives for more Festival Series interviews.

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