25th Trillium Award

The Kingston WritersFest Interview Series, with Wayne Grady

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Wayne Grady (Photo Credit: Don Denton)

It's here! The Kingston WritersFest is in full swing, and writers and readers alike are already buzzing about what's on. Open Book: Ontario has been giving you a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of the festival all month long, so that when you finally meet some of your favourite authors face-to-face, you'll know everything from what books they've got in their bags to how they're calming their nerves.

In our final Kingston WritersFest interview, we speak with Wayne Graday, the Kingston writer who published his first novel, which has been percolating for 15 years, this summer. Emancipation Day (Doubleday Canada) is the fictionalized story of his father, a black man who passed as white in 1950s St. John's and later in Windsor.

Wayne will moderate Friday's session The Cathedral & the Courtesan, featuring Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk. On Saturday, September 26, he'll be presenting a sold-out Writers Studio class about Writing Family into Fiction and will later be reading and conversing with Saleema Nawaz in the afternoon event Writing Through Race. You can also find Wayne at the Saturday Night SpeakEasy.

For more details, please visit the Events page. You can purchase your tickets here.

Open Book:

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

Wayne Grady:

I?ll be reading from my novel, Emancipation Day.


How do you manage the shift between being a solitary writer and a public reader?


I don?t find it difficult. I enjoy both the intensity of the writing process, the way it is necessary to focus and exclude outside distractions — being able to grab fifteen minutes of writing time in an airport, say — and the energy that comes from reading to a live audience. The one feeds the other.


What is one luxury you allow yourself when you go "on tour" with a book?


Good food. When travelling it?s tempting to eat badly and often. Trying to eat well on the road makes the trip more pleasant, and choosing local restaurants also helps me to get to know the city I?m visiting in a way that eating in a fast-food chain or a pub would not. Fortunately, the restaurant in the Holiday Inn is quite good, and there are also several really good restaurants close by: Chez Piggy, Olivea, Curry Original. After standing and delivering, it?s a welcome luxury to sit and be waited on.


What book will you have with you in your bag while you're attending the Kingston WritersFest?


I?m interviewing George Packer later in Vancouver, so I?ll probably have his book The Unwinding, a modern history of the collapse of the American economy, always fun to read about. And I?m looking forward to reading Margaret Atwood?s new novel, MaddAddam.


What are you most looking forward to about this year's festival?


Reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones. One of the best things about literary festivals is talking to other writers about the trade, commiserating and celebrating, toasting and getting to know the people behind the books. Writing is a solitary pleasure, but it is also a communal effort.

Wayne Grady's most recent book is the novel Emancipation Day, published this August by Doubleday Canada. He is also the author of more than a dozen books of nonfiction, including Breakfast at the Exit Cafe, co-authored with his wife, Merilyn Simonds, and The Great Lakes, which won the National Outdoor Book Award in the U.S. He has translated 14 works of fiction from the French, and won the Governor General's Award for his translation of Antonine Maillet's On the Eighth Day. He is the recipient numerous National Magazine Awards and four Science-in-Society Awards. He lives near Kingston, Ontario, and currently teaches creative writing online with the MFA optional-residency program at the University of British Columbia.

Find out more about Wayne Grady's Kingston WritersFest appearances here.

For more information about Emancipation Day please visit the Random House Canada website.

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

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