25th Trillium Award

The Festival Series: Five Questions, with Nerys Parry

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Nerys Parry

Another wonderful season of literary festivals is well under way, and what better way to celebrate than by asking authors what they love about travelling to these events and gathering with other readers and writers.

Open Book speaks with novelist Nerys Parry, the author of Man & Other Natural Disasters (Great Plains Publications). Nerys attended the Ottawa Writers Festival last April and tells us about the thrill of reading from her debut novel at what has long been her favourite festival.

Open Book:

Tell us about the first literary festival you attended.

Nerys Parry:

As a reader, the Ottawa International Literary Festival was the first one I ever attended. I started going in the spring of 2003, just after I returned to Ottawa
from New Zealand, so you can imagine my excitement when they asked me to
read there with my debut novel! It was a dream come true, to go from the stands
to the stage at my favourite festival.


What was your favourite moment at the Ottawa Writers Festival?


My favourite moment was meeting up with the festival volunteers after the
show — and not only for the free eats. We are fortunate in this city to have
such a committed team of writing-devotees who work all year long to draw
the most amazing minds and talents into Ottawa to talk books and big ideas.


Why do you think literary festivals are important?


I think literary festivals are important for the same reason I feel literature
is important: it helps us better understand our times, others and ourselves.
This is increasingly important in a world where we now talk to each
other more on screens than face to face, and in increasingly shorter sound
bites. Under these conditions, it?s hard to obtain the depth and level of
understanding we need to navigate a complex world. The written word, and
particularly the well-written word, demands that we forget ourselves, if
only for a few paragraphs, to live the pain and joys of another human being,
and I believe that the more we do that on the page, the more we can do it
as neighbours, lovers, colleagues and friends. Literary events facilitate this
process by bringing together the top books and top minds all in one place
and one time.


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


I love it when I am halfway through a reading and I look up from the page to see
the audience completely engrossed. There?s a wonderful feeling of magic when
we are all trapped together in an imaginary world, bound by story.


Have you attended any other festivals this year?


Along with fellow writers Sandra Nicholls and Jasmine Aziz I participated in
the Three Women/Three Books/Three Cities tour as part of the Niagara Arts
Literary Festival, where we took our ?Tackling Taboos: Sex, Politics and
Religion in Writing? on the road to Ridgeway, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Welland. I was also in Toronto at Humber College on July 15th as part of a panel of former
alumni discussing Success Stories.

Nerys Parry?s debut novel, Man & Other Natural Disasters (Great Plains Publications), was a finalist for the Colophon Prize and tied for seventh in the Giller Prize Reader?s Choice Awards. Her writing has been described as ?gorgeous throughout? (Kerry Clare, editor of Canadian Bookshelf), ?compulsive reading? (Katherine Lyall-Watson), ?engaging and thoughtful? (Winnipeg Free Press), and has been shortlisted for several awards, including the Kenneth R. Wilson Canadian Business Press, Event Creative Non-Fiction, and FreeFall?s Fall Fiction Awards. An engineer with a passion for hidden history, Nerys holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Queen?s and a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from UBC. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and two children. Visit her at her website, nerysparry.com.

Visit the Open Book Archives for more Festival Series interviews.

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