Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

How to IFOA

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With just a few days until the 33rd annual International Festival of Authors (IFOA) kicks off at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, there are many questions on everyone’s lips. Will this year’s focus on science and fantasy fly? Will the Scots get us riled up on the subject of a National Literature? Will an event titled “The First Cut is the Deepest” find itself with an audience full of confused Cat Stevens fans? Will Annabel Lyon wear those fabulous sparkly shoes she wore in 2009 (and Dear Internet, why do you have no photos of this?!)? Will Anansi bring a giant white, yellow and black cake for their 45th anniversary celebrations like they did for their 40th (hint, hint Anansi). Rachel McAdams sometimes attends, so does that mean Ryan Gosling won’t, ever …?

A question to which the answer is already assured is this: Will IFOA 33 be fabulous, fun and festivally? And the answer, of course, is yes.

With 71 unique events featuring 208 participants, Toronto’s TIFF of the literary world is about to rev up its engine. Herewith, a handy festival-goer’s guide to IFOAing without breaking the bank.

Deciding what to do

1) Pick up a Festival Guide from Harbourfront Centre, local bookstores, consulates and cultural centres involved in IFOA’s Found in Translation program and branches of the Toronto Public Library. 2) Try not to burn your retinas looking at the neon pink cover. 3) Spend some time looking through the author bios, featured events and round-table topics. 4) Check out the IFOA Blog for some author Q&As and guest posts to pique your interest. 5) Check before committing to purchase just in case there’s been a last-minute change to the schedule.

Getting there

Ride the Rocket to IFOA at your peril (or leave an extra hour of commute time and pack an improving book for the journey). The 510 Spadina streetcar is running a replacement bus service until mid-November, as is the 509 car along Queens Quay. Bike or shank’s pony are the ways to go, and Lower Simcoe now has a well-lit underpass and bike lanes to help you do either. For getting home after dark, cabs are plentiful outside Queen’s Quay Terminal. If driving, parking will cost you a few bucks, but as Harbourfront is keen to point out, the money goes back into programming.

Picking a reading

Reading is a performance. Many do it really badly, some do it very well. I wasn’t a fan of Richard Ford’s latest novel, but I would still go and hear him read from it (Fri. Oct. 26). Norway’s Kjersti A. Skomsvold (Oct. 20 & 21) received her IFOA invitation on the strength of her reading performance at a Beijing festival so is definitely worth investigating here. Even if crime fiction’s not your thing, Mark Billingham (Oct. 23 & 24) is always brilliant and hilarious. Ditto A.L. Kennedy (Oct. 27 & 28). They both do stand-up as well as write.

Networking and tips on breaking into The Biz

As part of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference, a delegation of “young” literary types has been invited to attend certain IFOA events and to contribute to audience Q&As with big-picture, books-and-publishing-in-society type discussion. Especially worth checking out is the event on October 25, with keynote addresses from China Mieville and Miriam Toews. Look online for details of all events that come under this umbrella. Who are the delegates? I’m one of them, along with many other past and present contributors to Open Book: Toronto.

Also try Novelists for a New Age on Sunday, October 21, in which recent creative writing grads and now published novelists Matt Lennox, Stacey Madden, Grace O’Connell, Aga Maksimowska and Tanis Rideout talk about how they got their break.

How to max out your festival enjoyment on a $25 budget

IFOAing can be expensive, and as such prohibitive to the younger literary set who are such an active year-round part of Toronto’s very sociable book culture. Here’s how to make the most of IFOA on a small purse:

Your $25 will get you a ticket to one regular-priced event ($18), but potentially a full festival evening of fun. Both IFOA venues have a bar so you can use the extra $7 to have a drink while you wait or watch (two out of four theatres allow drinks inside). Attend a free signing in the Festival Hub (times listed on p20 of IFOA’s printed festival guide — no online version). Schmooze in the Festival Bookstore (there are always authors to schmooze with), then visit this year’s free, book-themed visual art exhibit in the York Quay Centre: a showcase of Canadian fantasy book covers from the personal collection of Peter Halasz, administrator of the Sunburst Awards.

Make that $25 stretch even further by trying to get in on some of these promos too:

Free tickets! — Students and book lovers under 25 take note: subject to availability, you can get FREE tickets to regular priced events (that’s everything with a ticket price of $18). Book by phone or in person. Remember to take your ID when collecting your tickets.

Half-price tickets! are available to members of TWUC, the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the League of Canadian Poets. If this is you, make sure you ask for your discount!

More free tickets! — Contests will be running at the 49th Shelf, Now Magazine, through IFOA’s Twitter and eNewsletter, Type Books, and of course through the very website at which your eyeballs are pointing right now.

Entirely free events! — The publishing keynote address on Monday, October 22 is free to attend, and, being replete with serious publishing types addressing current publishing issues, might be a good place to network too.

Swag! — Try using your $18 ticket money to attend an event that advertises a $500 door prize (look for the neon starburst in the Festival Guide). You might win yourself a little library.

And finally

Stages and official signings aren’t the only place to see authors at IFOA. An author may be onstage for two hours but at the festival for three days, which leaves lots of time for them to be attending events themselves and browsing in the bookstore. They’re easy to spot even if you don’t know them by their faces because they’re usually wearing name tags. Asking an author to read your work-in-progress is NOT COOL, OK? But asking them about their work most definitely is. Ask them how they’re liking Toronto, too. Just don’t advise them to try getting the TTC when they go exploring north of the Gardiner.

What the Open Book: Toronto and Open Book: Ontario staff is most looking forward to attending:

Caitlin, Fundraising Director: 

Cordelia Strube (Oct. 25 & 27). I heard her read from her amazing first novel Alex & Zee many years ago and was completely drawn into the world of her characters. I’m looking forward to reading Milosz.

Clelia, Editorial Director:

If I have to pick just one event, I'll go with Captured: The Poem as a Matter of Record on Sunday, October 28. It features poets Roo Borson, Lise Downe, John B. Lee and Steven Price in conversation with moderator Tim Conley. Such a smart and talented bunch will surely have a lively and illuminating conversation. 

Erin, Contributing Editor
I choose IFOA Orillia, my father's hometown, and because the writers reading there are also teachers — an admirable profession! 
Sunday, October 28, 7:30p.m. Bill Gaston, Linda Holeman, Benjamin Wood.

Grace, Contributing Editor:

Saturday, October 27, 2p.m: Readings by Bill Gaston, Rawi Hage, Kyo Maclear and Tanis Rideout. 
My reason: A brilliant group of writers reading from books that each sound, to me, absolutely fascinating. It's an amazing concentration of talent and creativity in one event — these are true storytellers.

Phil, Open Book: Ontario intern:
In Conversation with Salman Rushdie. Friday, October 26, 7p.m. Hamilton. 
I'd like to highlight the IFOA Ontario event with Salman Rushdie because I’m more familiar with Rushdie’s works than some of the other authors in IFOA. Hamilton is also the closest venue to where I live.

Tickets to Toronto events are available at the Harbourfront Centre Box Office. Tel: 416-973-4000

Tickets to In Conversation with Salman Rushdie are available from: Box Office: A Different Drummer Books | 905-639-0925 |; or Bryan Prince, Bookseller | 905-528-4508 |

Becky Toyne is a publishing consultant specializing in manuscript development and book promotion. She is a regular books columnist for CBC Radio One and Open Book: Toronto, and a freelance publicist for many of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s literary award and fundraising programs. One or two days a week Becky works as a bookseller at Toronto indie Type. You can follow her on Twitter: @MsRebeccs

You can find past columns by Becky Toyne in the Open Book Archives.

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