Monday, October 31, 2011

IFOA post mortem

Thought I'd share a few impressions of my week at IFOA as I roll towards Montreal on the train.

The number one impression is the incredible hospitality I enjoyed while I was at the festival. Geoffrey Taylor and his staff, as well as the many volunteers, do a top-notch job of making writers feel like royals, while also managing their slew of events with military efficiency. Kudos! I'll never forget this incredible week.

While I encountered a lot of stimulating writing at IFOA, I was just as impressed with the people who produced it. I met so many warm, witty, whipsmart people in Toronto, people from all over the world, some of whom I have the feeling will be friends for a long time. Rachel and I had a particularly fine time in the company of some Scots writers our own age, Alan Bissett, Kirstin Innes and Rodge Glass. Also the German novelist and journalist Thomas Pletzinger, English novelist Linda Grant and Danish poet Niels Frank. And this is only naming the people we talked to the most. Too many smart and gracious folk to name.

Highlight readings for me were Daniel Woodrell and Zsuzsi Gartner, who had the crowd at the Giller shortlist reading in stitches with her spirited reading from an absolutely explosive short story. I'm very sure that I missed a number of equally good things because they were on at the same time as events I was attending or participating in.

My own readings went well. The highlight for me was being approached by an audience member for a signature and being told, "This is the first book of poems I've ever bought." This kind of reader is inordinately important to me. Usually, I just have to imagine that he or she exists, so I was humbled to actually meet one face to face.

I can't wait to see my son after more than a week away, and I'm looking forward to getting more landscaping done before the weather turns cold, but I have to say, real life has a tough act to follow.

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