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Stephen Collis

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

I was reading a poem once at Pulp Fiction Books in Vancouver, standing with my back to the front door. A crowd of people outside on the sidewalk suddenly began to talk very loudly. Without pausing in my reading, I turned, kicked the door open, and yelled at them to be quiet. Then continued with the poem, without really missing a beat. The people outside scattered. Everyone at the reading seemed to enjoy the incident as an extension of the poem—loudly—into the public sphere.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

If that latest book is The Red Album, I’d say go read anything by Borges.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

It’s pretty predictable—wall-to-wall poetry and philosophy—but there’s a sizeable section of new-age and self-help stuff from years ago, which I try to hide behind paintings my kids made.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

Dirty Science sounds interesting, though it may not be what I think it is.

Michael Crummey

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Pig's knuckles and cheese at a pub in Brno, Czech Republic. Also, read to a classroom of Grade 8 kids in Rigolet, Labrador, who protested being taken out of gym class to hear me by sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting nonsense syllables. Still not quite over that one.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

A little book called Hard Light, which came out with Brick Books in 1998. Some of the best things I've ever written are in that one. Harder to find, but still in print.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

A bookshelf is like an 18th century insane asylum. You shouldn't be surprised to find anything there.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I am really hoping to hit the Galloway Shuffle Board Night at the Legion this trip. Missed it last time through. Hey Steve! Save me a spot, would ya?

Sarah de Leeuw

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Given the…well…the rather adult-oriented and explicitly-raw sexual nature of my most recent book of poetry (Geographies of a Lover), I was very surprised to have once been paired with a children's author for a reading at local bookstore in a smaller BC community. In addition to not being interested in insulting anyone's sensibilities (especially those of a seven-year old!), and also wanting my writing to resonate with an audience, I just elected to side step poetry that evening and read some new creative non-fiction essays, including one about the death of a family dog. That seemed to be pretty well-received, although someone did observe that it was still "pretty harsh" for an audience that had come, in part, to hear readings by an up-beat children's author!

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

If they've not already done so, Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is a must. Although it might  not be an 'expected' suggestion given Geographies of a Lover's dialogues with literatures that engage women's sexuality from a feminist and ecological perspective, I'm a great fan of paired-down, bruised-up, muscular and masculine short fiction. To this end, I fully recommend Living In Water by Jess Walters, Once You Break a Knuckle by D. W. Wilson, Rust and Bone by Craig Davidson and (of course!) short stories and poetry by Raymond Carver.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

I may have just answered that question (see above) but, along the same lines,  people have expressed some surprise about the number of noir detective fiction books I own. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett is still one of my favourite all time books, as is Double Indemnity by James Cain. Once or twice when people drop over who don't know that my "day job" is working in a faculty of medicine, there's surprise expressed at the number of textbooks I own on medical humanities, medical education, and working with health professionals!

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest? (a writer, an event, a local experience etc.)

All if it! Honestly – I'm no good at prioritizing and I'm just really thrilled at the idea of being part of the absolutely inspirational assemblage of writers and events.

Amber Dawn

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Once, I saw poet and scholar Sonnet L'Abbe do a set of push ups while reciting her poetry. A smart and strong woman, she is!

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

I would recommend other memoirs that are written with a non-chronological sense of time and an intentional slant to the narrative arch. Three more recent titles I suggest are Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's The End Of San Francisco, Eileen Myles' Inferno (a poet's novel) and Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?.
 
What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Like many readers, my books vary in genre and style. No surprises. Just a rather towering collection of books I adore.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

In January 2011, I had the pleasure of reading at Incite with Andrew Pyper, who was touring with his novel The Guardians at the time. I was so compelled by his work. I am looking forward to seeing him read again. My other must-see is Xiaolu Guo. I only know her as a brilliant filmmaker. I am always curious when writers work across other creative disciplines, especially one as highly collaborative as film.

Saleema Nawaz

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Nothing terribly unusual has happened yet. My favourite experience is when a literary festival brings people out of the woodwork: old classmates, ex-boyfriends, former teachers, friends of friends. It's a really fun way to catch up with people you might not otherwise have seen in a while.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

If they hadn't already read them, I would suggest The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy, which is heartbreaking and beautiful, and The Girls by Lori Lansens, which is the story of two very different but uniquely close sisters. If they'd already read those, I'd suggest Malarky by Anakana Schofield, which is my favourite book I've read so far this year.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

I guess it depends how well you know me. I still have almost all of my books from when I was a kid. Among them I have a large collection of Trixie Belden girls' mystery stories. They were still publishing new titles when I was a kid in the 1980s, but my favourite editions are these ones from the early 60s.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I'm pretty much beside myself with excitement, to tell you the truth! One of my events is with Wayne Johnston, a writer I've admired for a very long time. I remember going to see him at a writers festival after The Navigator of New York came out, so it's a neat kind of thrill to be reading alongside him a decade later. We're also reading with Maria Semple, whose novel Where'd You Go, Bernadette I really enjoyed earlier this year... plus she worked on Arrested Development, which makes me feel sort of impossibly star-struck. I'm also just really excited to hang out on Granville Island and try as much new B.C. craft beer as I can!

Ross King

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Most of my talks, luckily, have been incident-free. However, I was speaking in Philadelphia about ten years ago when a fire alarm went off. We all filed dutifully out of the building and stood in the street chatting and shivering (it was the middle of winter, of course) before we were told it was safe to go back inside.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

I would in all modesty direct them to one of my other books! But anyone wanting to know more about Leonardo could do no better than to read Charles Nicholl’s biography, Leonardo da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind. It’s not just a great biography of Leonardo; it’s a great biography, period.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

My bookshelf isn’t just laden with weighty tomes on art and history. I have a number of books that I read when I was a kid and that I like to reread. One of them is Astrid Lindgren’s Mio My Son, which is a charming children’s story that I first read when I was 8 or 9 and which I still love.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I’m looking forward to catching up with a few friends who live in the area, including Susin Nielsen and her husband Goran. Susin and I were GG laureates together last year in Ottawa, and it will be fantastic to see her again.

Douglas Glover

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Well, there was the time I got into a fistfight in the bar at the Frontenac Hotel in Kingston, Ontario, during a conference organized by John Metcalf, Leon Rooke and David Helwig. This was in the early 1990s. I still remember the look on John's face as the bouncers pulled me away. The next time I was invited back to Kingston, the organizers had to pay the hotel a damage deposit before they could book me a room. Naturally, I expect nothing like this to happen in Vancouver as I have mellowed over the years.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

My other books? Is that what you mean? I read authors, especially, ones I am interested in, all the way through. There's no other way to appreciate what they are doing. It's like watching a boat burn down to the waterline; you want to burn through your passion right to the end, till its exhausted, till it has nothing more to give.
 
What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Perhaps my collection of study Bibles and reference texts would surprise the casual reader. Reading and rereading the Bible (KJV) is one of my longstanding side projects. I came to the Bible late in life, finishing it all the way through for the first time in 2005. I have a tendency to become obsessed with texts, and so about once a year I have to say to myself, quite sternly, No, Douglas, you are not going to write a book about the Bible.
 
What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

To tell the truth what I am most looking forward to is having lunch with my old friend Caroline Adderson, who insists on living far away among the sybarites and fleshpots of the West Coast, that and walking around the city a bit to see how it has changed since I briefly went to Simon Fraser University as a graduate student decades ago. (In 1969, I was the British Columbia 5,000 metre track champion. Can you imagine? I used to go for long, long runs all over the city.)

Alan Weisman

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

The most unusual would be the 2011 Rome Science Festival, the theme of which—I hadn't known until I arrived and a translator explained—was "The End of the World: A User's Guide."  After that, I wondered, what's left to write about?  I appeared on a panel with three I-told-you-so-type authors, each who seemed smugly pleased to greet the Apocalypse. All were disappointed, even disapproving, when I explained that while, yes, I'd written a book called The World Without Us, my motive was really because actually I want one with us.  Moreover, I believed—and still do—that it's possible. Otherwise, I said, why bother writing at all?  Writing's hard. Why not just drink?  Passing by the bar later, and then still later, I noticed that they'd all apparently taken my last remark to heart.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

People who love my latest book, Countdown, generally ascribe to it adjectives like powerful, vivid, provocative (finally, thank God, some add: hopeful). All deeply appreciated, but after the high dose of reality I dredged up in 21 countries, I recommend they next read what I did when I finished writing it: fiction.  Or poetry.  In these crucial times, faced with potential destruction by our own heavy hand, it's absolutely indispensable to remind ourselves how beautiful, and beautifully creative, our species can be—and to realize, as with the rest of nature, that we're worth saving, too.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Again, all the fiction.  People, I've learned, will read any hard truth as long as you can weave it into a good story, so as a non-fiction writer I read novels and short stories constantly, to absorb their narrative vitamins. Growing up in Minnesota, I read every word F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, and my prose is better for it.  This past year I've read George Eliot, Adam Johnson, Howard Norman, Penelope Lively, Herman Wouk, Chad Harbach, Bruno Schulz, and Tom Perrotta. Louise Erdrich is next in the queue.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

Too many fine writers are appearing to single out, so I'll just mention an obligatory Vancouver pilgrimage I hope to make: a long bike ride through Stanley Park—and, with luck, timing it right for wine and Pacific sockeye at the lovely Fish House.

Janie Chang

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Since my novel is set in 1930’s China, I am always happy when people come up and say “I didn’t know much about that era of Chinese history and now I want to learn more”—because prior to writing this novel, I didn’t know that much either!

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

Peony in Love by Lisa See or The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo all feature a Chinese afterlife. If the reader is more interested in Chinese family dynamics, they should read Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. And if they enjoy total immersion in a historical world, The Ghost Brush by Katherine Govier, set in 18th century Japan, is one of my favourites.   

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Science fiction and fantasy. A lot of it: Iain M. Banks, Asimov, Bradbury, Sherry S. Tepper, Ursula K. LeGuin. I will buy anything about Eleanor of Aquitaine. And I have a big book about Cistercian monasteries, which I’ll use someday to plan a vacation to see them all.    

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I missed From the Rock last year, and refuse to miss it this time. The line-up of authors is just too good and I’m in total fan-girl mode already at the thought of getting Wayne Johnston to autograph my copy of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.

Scott Turow

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

A few years ago, when my non-fiction book about capital punishment came out, I was somehow paired with my pal Dave Barry, the great American humorist, at the Miami book fair.  Speaking after Dave is hard no matter what, but talking about sentencing people to death after Dave had them rolling in the aisles was pretty much impossible. And just to be sure I looked like a complete idiot before I started, Dave brought his guitar to the podium and made me join him in a chorus of "wild thing," my "signature" number in the Rock Bottom Remainders, the writers’ rock band in which Dave plays guitar and I play the fool.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

Evon Miller, one of the protagonists from Identical, appeared earlier as a major character—in her former life as an FBI agent—in Personal Injuries.  That would be a good place to go next, as the events of Personal Injuries are often referred to in passing within Identical.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Probably the books about phenomenology I read in college and graduate school by authors like Heidegger.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

That's easy—Vancouver itself, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  I was there most recently in 2011 when my last book, Innocent, was filmed in the city—the Vancouver Art Gallery was turned into a courthouse.  And if the opportunity presents itself, it would be great to cross paths with George Packer, whom I’ve not seen recently, but first met when he was sixteen, and I was a writing fellow at Stanford.

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