Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Word on the Street interview series: Cordelia Strube

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Cordelia Strube

For the second installment of our The Word on the Street interview series, we are talking with Cordelia Strube, author of Lemon (Coach House Books).

Open Book's interview series features authors appearing at the Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent, a brand-new element at WOTS which is supported by the OMDC (Ontario Media Development Corporation), and which features some of the best fiction, poetry and non-fiction being produced by writers and publishers in our fine province.

Stay tuned to Open Book: Toronto this month for more interviews and a series of exciting contests in partnership with Word on the Street!

Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent.

Cordelia Strube:

I’ll be reading from Lemon, long-listed for the Giller, nominated for a Trillium. Heather Mallick put it on of her ten best picks for 2010, describing it as “an un-Canadian novel about a stroppy, acidic-smart teenage girl called Lemon who has an impossible life.” That pretty much sums it up. What’s been revelatory about the response to Lemon is that people of all ages and genders relate to her. Which suggests there’s a kick-ass rebel in us all.


Have you attended Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?


A favourite WOTS at Queen’s Park memory is sitting in the sun-drenched Gardiner Museum resto, enjoying yummy snacks, great java and chat. Authors don’t always hang out with authors. Bumping into one another at lit events is always a thrill, particularly in a beautiful building while munching yummy snacks. WOTS on Queen had a different feel, more hectic. Having Queen’s Park Circle shut down to celebrate books is a brilliant idea. On a lovely Autumn day nothing beats wandering the park, bumping into publishing types and readers. This year I’m hoping to bump into Rob Ford, or even Doug, as I’m pretty sure they’ll speed down on their bikes to show their support for the book biz.


The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book.


I was a juror on the Trillium Awards this year so read many astounding Ontario authors. A non fiction book that not only grabbed me but made me look at China and the world differently was The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road and the Rise of Modern China by Eric Enno Tamm, about a Finnish count who worked as a Russian spy at the beginning of the last century. Tamm follows Mannerheim’s route by train, horse and foot from Moscow to Beijing, providing incites and vivid images to contrast then and now.


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


I’ve never been given advice about public readings but I try to follow Noel Coward’s advice: “Speak clearly and don’t bump into the furniture”. I’m very animated when I read. Recently a photographer handed me 20 shots of me reading at the Leacock Festival. He told me he loved photographing me because I’m “very expressive”. As much as I appreciated his interest and the gift of the photos, they also scared the hell out of me. Who was that woman with the elastic face? I try to inhabit my characters when I read and it shows. Picture those candid shots of celebs looking hideous, only I look even more hideous. Almost made me stop reading publicly. Fortunately I had to read in Montreal soon after the photo trauma and forgot all about my hideousness and went all elastic again.


Word on the Street happens simultaneously in Toronto, Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener and Halifax. If you could be in two places at once, which WOTS festival (in addition to Toronto) would you attend on September 25?


I’d like to be in Vancouver, inhaling ocean air and staring up at mountains.


What can you tell us about your next project?


Talking about work in progress spooks me. As soon as I try to describe something rather than write it down, the energy dissipates and the novel idea no longer seems novel. I can say I’m working on a novel because I’m always working on a novel. It keeps me sane, creates the illusion of control in an uncontrollable world.

Born and raised in Montreal, Cordelia Strube trained as an actress, moving to Toronto in the ’80s. She turned to writing plays for stage and radio, and in 1987 won the CBC Literary Competition for her play Mortal. She has also won the Toronto Arts Foundation Protege Award and been shortlisted for the Prix Italia, the Books In Canada First Novel Award, the ReLit and the Governor General’s Award. Her seven novels include Milton’s Elements, Dr. Kalbfleisch and the Chicken Restaurant and Planet Reese. Lemon, her latest novel, was shortlisted for the 2010 Trillium Book Award and longlisted for the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

For more information about Lemon please visit the Coach House website.

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

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JF Robitaille: Minor Dedications


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