Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Kingston WritersFest Interview Series: Diane Schoemperlen

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Diane Schoemperlen is a Governor General's Literary Award-winning author known for her innovative short fiction and novels, including Forms of Devotions (HarperCollins Canada). Today Diane Schoemperlen talks with Open Book for our Kingston WritersFest interview series.

Kingston WritersFest is one of Ontario's most popular literary events, drawing guest authors from around the world as well as from the dynamic and well-established Kingston literary community.

Visit Open Book: Ontario throughout the month for more interviews with KWF authors!

Open Book:

Have you been to or lived in Kingston before? If so, what are some of your favourite spots? If not, what are you most looking forward to about visiting?

Diane Schoemperlen:

I have lived in Kingston since the fall of 1986. Originally from Thunder Bay, I moved to Banff, Alberta in the fall of 1976, after attending the summer Banff Centre writing program. In the summer of 1986, I first came to Kingston to teach at the Upper Canada Writing Workshop, a week-long workshop run by Quarry Press and held at Queen?s University. Here I met Bronwen Wallace, David Helwig, Tom Marshall and a number of other writers. I fell in love with Kingston, where I felt I could find the writers? community I had been longing for. So two months later I packed up everything including my year-old son, my ten-year-old cat and over 100 boxes of books and moved to Kingston. I have never regretted it.

Over the almost 25 years of living here, my favourite spots have changed and evolved. Chez Piggy has always been one of them. Currently, my favourite lunch spot is the Wolfe Island Bakery on Queen Street.


Tell us about what you?ll be reading at this year?s festival.


I will be reading from my newest work which is something of an extension of my earlier book, Forms of Devotion: Stories and Pictures which won the Governor General?s Literary Award for English Fiction in 1998. That book was a collection of short stories illustrated by black-and-white collages I made myself. My new book is called By the Book and it too is a collection of stories illustrated this time by full-colour collages. The stories in this collection are drawn in various ways from a number of old textbooks from the late 19th and early 20th century. I have lifted bits and pieces of text from these old books and rearranged them to suit my own purposes. The process is not unlike doing a jigsaw puzzle and ending up with something entirely different than the picture on the box. I have illustrated each of these stories with full-colour collages. Individual stories have been published in The New Quarterly and Exile: The Literary Quarterly, with another forthcoming in the Fall 2011 issue of the Queen?s Quarterly.


What?s the best advice about public readings you have ever received?


The best advice about public readings that I have ever received came from Leon Rooke, outstanding writer and consummate performer. Chatting with him after one of his spectacular readings, I bemoaned the fact that I felt so nervous before a reading that I could hardly stand it. He said he was always nervous, sometimes to the point of vomiting. I found this hard to believe! He told me that if you aren?t nervous before giving a reading, you are not going to do your best. Since then I have become more comfortable with my pre-reading nerves and try to think of them as the adrenaline that will fuel my performance and make it the best it can be.


Tell us about one or two of the best Canadian books you?ve read recently.


I try to keep up with new Canadian books but there are so many good ones, I sometimes fall behind! Recently I have read and very much enjoyed The Obituary by Gail Scott, This Book Will Not Save Your Life by Michelle Berry, The Last Rain by Edeet Ravel, A Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor, and Curiosity by Joan Thomas.

Diane Schoemperlen is the author of Forms of Devotion, which won the 1998 Governor General?s Award for Fiction; In the Language of Love, which was chosen by Toronto Star critic Philip Marchand as one of the year?s 10 best novels; and Our Lady of the Lost and Found, her most recent national bestseller. She has also written six short story collections, including The Man of My Dreams, which was nominated for the Governor General?s Award for Fiction and a Trillium Book Award. She lives in Kingston, Ontario, with her son.

For more information about Forms of Devotion please visit the HarperCollins website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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