Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Word On The Street Interview Series: Cordelia Strube

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Cordelia Strube (photo credit Mark Raynes Roberts)

Cordelia Strube occupies a unique niche in CanLit — known for both her witty storytelling and slyly comic approach to fiction, she's also praised for her keen emotional insight and layered, sophisticated narratives.

Her 10th novel is On the Shoes of Darkness, There is Light (ECW Press), which was recently shortlisted for the City of Toronto Book Award, and which Quill & Quire called "A masterful blend of comedy and tragedy...richly detailed and profoundly moving".

If you're in Toronto, you have the chance to catch Cordelia in person at The Word on the Street, in the Vibrant Voices tent, which highlights Ontario's homegrown literary talent.

We're excited to speak with Cordelia today as part of our series celebrating The Word on the Street. She tells us about her favourite memories from The Word on the Street festivals past, recommends an overlooked gem of early Toronto writing, and paints a gorgeous picture in words of her favourite spot in Ontario.

Don't forget to mark September 25, 2016 on your calendars to catch Cordelia and dozens of other fantastic authors at The 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 the first chapter of my 10th novel, On The Shores Of Darkness, There Is Light, a story awash with jauntiness and bone-deep sorrow.


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


My favourite The Word on the Street memory is that of sitting in the VIP lounge (rarely are authors considered VIP) in the Gardiner Museum, munching delicious sandwiches while September sun spun through the windows. What I am looking forward to most is mixing with writers and readers by what, I hope on the day, will be a sparkling lake, and savouring goodies in the VIP lounge/tent. Free food is always popular with me.


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


The Booky trilogy by Bernice Thurman Hunter, has stayed with me since I read it to my daughter. Hunter lived through the Dirty Thirties in Toronto and wrote the city as she saw it from her Scarborough viewpoint. The Gerrard streetcar had wicker seats, Eatons (then considered the height of sophistication) was located in what is now the College Park mall, the Elgin and Winter Garden theatres were thriving, offering distraction from economic gloom to those who could afford it. Reading about our city in that era made me understand and appreciate it even more. I'm from Montreal and conditioned to think of Toronto as not as cool as La Belle Ville. But I have grown to love this lake-side, ravine-rich city and it's diversity. I call it home.


What's the best advice you've ever received or the best advice you would offer about public readings?


Do not read for more than 15 or 20 minutes. Get energized, punch it up, look at your audience, invite them into the world you have so carefully built.


Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario?


Many. This province has everything: rolling hills, flat lands, lakes, rivers, forests, water falls, beaches, dunes, mountains, caves (petroglyphs!). But a spot that lifts my spirits no matter how weighted is up high on the cliffs over-looking Bluffers Park and a vast expanse of Lake Ontario. The water is as changeable as my moods, some days looking like the Mediterranean sea, other times glass smooth, other times as choppy as our country's coastlines.


What can you tell us about your next project?


I avoid talking about a novel in progress because I never know if it is a novel until I finish it. I can say that it takes a look at the 21st century's seemingly unending war in the Middle East, and corporate greed. As always with my fiction, the sneaky humour evolves from a varied cast of characters in unpredictable situations. I like to think of my novels, despite their sometimes difficult subject matter, as situation comedies.

Cordelia Strube is an accomplished playwright and the author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Alex & Zee, Teaching Pigs to Sing, and Lemon. Winner of the CBC literary competition and a Toronto Arts Foundation Award, she has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the City of Toronto Book Award, the Trillium Book Award, the WH Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Prix Italia, and long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. A two-time finalist for ACTRA’s Nellie Award celebrating excellence in Canadian broadcasting, she is also a three-time nominee for the ReLit Award.

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