25th Trillium Award

On the Road with Cordelia Strube: The IFOA Ontario Interview Series

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Photo Credit: Ruth Kaplan

Many of Ontario's most passionate and dedicated readers live in communities spread across the province, so the International Festival of Authors (IFOA), now in its 33rd year, is taking its show on the road to bring its exciting program of literary events to 14 locations throughout Ontario. From October 16th to November 2nd, outstanding authors from Canada and across the world will visit Barrie, Brantford, Burlington, Hamilton, Markham, Midland, Parry Sound, Picton, Orillia, Owen Sound, Thunder Bay, Uxbridge, Windsor and Woodstock.

Open Book speaks with Cordelia Strube, who will be reading in Woodstock today, October 17, along with Tanis Rideout, Kjersti A. Skomsvold and Linda Spalding. In her interview with Open Book, Cordelia discusses her new novel, Mi?osz (Coach House Books), her IFOA reading and the shift between solitary writer to public reader.

For more information about the IFOA Ontario: Woodstock, visit our Events Page.

Open Book:

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

Cordelia Strube:

I?ll be reading from Mi?osz, a novel about family — the blood kind, the accidental kind and the kind you rediscover on reality TV. The many subplots involve brain injury, possible murder, an actor who?s forgotten how to act, a Polish DP (Displaced Persons) camp survivor, a muscle bound Cuban migrant worker, a junk remover suffering from erectile dysfunction, a British septuagenarian, a vegan painter and the shooting of a Nazi movie. Usually I read from the beginning of a novel to avoid having to explain what the novel is about; but with Mi?osz, wanting to highlight some of the humour in the book, I?ve strung together a few scenes, mostly dialogue — more fun to read — involving some of the above mentioned characters.


What are you most looking forward to about reading in the town of your IFOA Ontario event?


It?s enjoyable to get away from the Big Smoke, so I always look forward to soaking up the atmosphere in Ontario?s small towns. And, as I?ve never been to Woodstock, I?m anticipating spending whatever time I will have outside the event exploring the townscape, finding old shops and family businesses, and moving at a much slower pace than I?m used to.


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


I try to let the characters pull me into the story. Readings are challenging (you as the author are supplanting the reader?s mind?s eye), so I?m always nervous before events, although I?m told I don?t show it. I acted professionally for seven years, so I?m familiar with my old friend, stage fright (if I weren?t nervous before a reading, I?d worry about not being nervous). As my books are often outrageous in places?reflected in my animated readings — I continually hope that I don?t offend some innocent bystander who?s wandered into the venue by chance.


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


I allow myself not to feel guilty about not writing. I don?t take a laptop, a notebook or even research material. When in cities, I lounge on the hotel room bed, watching commercial TV because I don?t do it at home, and frequent hospitality suites (when available) to consume hors d?oeuvres, cheese and crackers, and, on a good day, grapes. When in the small towns I look for those human qualities that make these settlements so attractive.


What book (aside from your own) will you have with you in your bag while you travel to the location of your IFOA Ontario reading?


I suspect I?ll still be reading Nicholson Baker?s latest essay collection, The Way the World Works, hoping to actually understand the way the world works. I?m also keen to check out Richard Ford?s Canada. I had the opportunity to attend his reading at the Winnipeg Writers? Festival and quite liked his wonderfully sly-witted and unpretentious reading. Like his prose.

Visit litontour.com for more details about IFOA Ontario.

Cordelia Strube (Canada) won the CBC Literary Competition for her play Mortal and the Toronto Arts Foundation Proégé Award. She has also been shortlisted for the Prix Italia and a Governor General's Literary Award. Her eight novels include Milton's Elements (HarperCollins Canada), Dr. Kalbfleisch and the Chicken Restaurant (HarperCollins Canada), Planet Reese (Dundurn) and Lemon (Coach House Books), which was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award. In Strube's latest novel, Milosz (Couch House Books), a man down on his luck befriends an 11-year-old autistic boy.

For more information about Mi?osz please visit the Coach House Books' website.

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

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