Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ann Ireland

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Ann Ireland was born and raised in Toronto and is a graduate of Jarvis Collegiate and University of British Columbia (BFA in Creative Writing). After knocking around New York City and Mexico, she settled back in Toronto where she works as Coordinator of Writing Workshops department for The Chang School of Continuing Education, Ryerson University. The Blue Guitar is Ann’s fourth novel. She also writes creative non fiction– most recently profiles of artists for Canadian Art Magazine. Recently named contributing editor of on-line magazine Numero Cinq, she has published fiction and interviews there and expects to pitch in with more very soon. Ann was the winner of the $50,000 Seal Book Award for her first novel, A Certain Mr. Takahashi and it was made into a feature film. Her other novels have been nominated for national awards. She is a past president of PEN Canada.

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Ann's website is Find her on her Facebook author page.

The Proust Questionnaire, with Ann Ireland

Ann Ireland is Open Book: Toronto's May 2013 Writer in Residence. In her answers to the Proust Questionnaire, Ann tells us her chief characteristic, the qualities she admires most in people and her dream of happiness.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.

The Blue Guitar

By Ann Ireland

From the publisher's website:

At the International Classical Guitar Competition in Montreal, top-flight musicians fly in from all over the world to compete in a gruelling week. A career can be made or lost here, and the slightest mishap — a lapse of memory, a shaking right hand, a broken fingernail — can ruin years of preparation.

More than a decade ago Toby made the finals in a similar competition but suffered a breakdown and is only now venturing back into the fray. Middle-aged Lucy is tired of playing bar mitzvahs and weddings and is determined to perform the recital of her life. Trace is a kayaking teenager from the West Coast who seems careless in her talent.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Indigo Bay & Bloor Presents Ann Ireland


Friday, June 21, 2013 - 7:00pm


Indigo Bay & Bloor
55 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON
M4W 1A5


Join award-winning author Ann Ireland for a live discussion about the critically acclaimed novel The Blue Guitar.

The evening will include a live classical guitar performance by Adam Batstone, an audience Q&A, and an author signing.

This event is free and open to the public.


Indigo Bay & Bloor
55 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M4W 1A5 43° 40' 12.3492" N, 79° 23' 27.8124" W

Ann Says "Farewell".

Now it’s time to say goodbye
To all our Company.....
This is my final blog, more of a blogette.
Maybe you enjoyed reading some of teensy essays. I quite liked writing them, though I confess that I felt the pressure of writing four a week for a month. Feel free to leave Comments on any of the blogs from May.

I bought this book in Oakland a few days ago: A Book Of Silence by Sara Maitland. I liked the idea of a book about living alone in the middle of semi-nowhere and being silent. Guess what? You can go without Internet and other people for extended periods, without going mental. It’s inspiring and I feel silent and better, just reading it.
Buying it was a signal that the blogging month is over. Time to pull the blanket back over my head.

Writing Retreats


From time to time I’ve organized a writing retreat for myself. Once it was a cabin, another time a nuns’ retreat centre with meals provided, and later, space at the delightful, even bucolic, Gibraltar Point.

In each case I stayed about two weeks. In each case I felt each day as holy, as so fully centered in silence and work that I came to the conclusion that this was the perfect way to work on a project. Each day at retreat I’d sit at desk or chair or beach towel and write by hand, pages and pages. The writing was coming from a deeper place, with no internet, no family, no phone, no domestic concerns.I was writing close to twenty pages a day.

Touching the Hem of His/Her Garment

The Hem of His Garment.

Or Her garment.

It’s important for young writers to get a sniff of a real live writer, not just from the page but up close. I had my share when I was young –or ‘emerging’ as the saying goes.

When I was 14 years old I went to my girlfriend’s parents' party and met Austin Clarke. He danced with me. He may not remember this.

Creativity: That Live Wire word

Creativity: that live-wire word.

The words ‘creative’ and ‘creativity’ usually signal a yearning for the path not taken, a sense that a more interesting life lurks elsewhere. If only I...
If only what?

If only I had more time, fewer responsibilities... a more obvious talent and direction.

It’s notable that people who live the life of an artist rarely use the word, except in reference to money. As in: ‘My creative work versus my wage-earning work.’

Other Peoples' Houses


We’ve been staying in other peoples’ houses in Berkeley for the past four years, often for a couple of months at a time. We’re up to nine different houses at this point.

Clean up the Toronto house and take off, to inhabit the lives of others. I feel a certain giddy freedom as I step into the Berkeley house, noting the lilies climbing up the front yard, the palm tree, and sometimes a deer poking around the garden.
Check out the view of the Golden Gate bridge sketched against the sky and water, and the shimmering white towers of downtown San Francisco.

Scouting Berkeley/Oakland bookshops

Scouting Berkeley/Oakland Bookshops

“Someone should open a store dedicated only to the work of Joyce Carol Oates.”
“There’d certainly be enough.”
I’m browsing the stacks of Diesel Book Store on the border of Berkeley and Oakland and listening to the booksellers as they shelve.
"Are we re-ordering Telegraph?"
She’s referring to the latest by local bestselling novelist, Michael Chabon: Telegraph Avenue.
“It’s over. Off the lists.”
Ouch, I think.
“When’s Fathers’ Day?’
“Third Sunday in June.’
“Because we need to start thinking of adding Dads to the Grads table.”
Dads and Grads. Of course. I’ve spotted U.C. Berkeley grads in their black robes and mortar boards all day.

Can Writing Be Taught?

Can Writing Be Taught?

Of course.
Well, sort of.
I’ve been teaching writing since I was in my twenties and I am a graduate of the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing Department. I’ve been to a workshop or two in my life – put it that way.

What I find remarkable is how much CAN be taught, even in the ten-week classes I and my colleagues teach at Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education.

Over and over again, students come in with a vague idea of a story or a creative non-fiction piece they’d like to write, and they walk away, ten weeks later, with a publishable article or a much improved tale. And I know that they walk away with a sense of how to live in the world as a writer, with a writer’s sensibility and observant eye.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader.

Hello Reader. I love you. I’m in love with you. Please sit next to me on the couch- right here. See, I’m patting a spot for you and feel free to drop your feet on the coffee table. I hope you like Earl Grey tea. Sorry that these cookies are a touch stale, but as we know, sugar isn’t good for us. I opened the window to let some of that tasty urban air stream in. Now we can knuckle down and talk. What’s your name again? Pardon? Will you spell that?
By the way there is no ‘e’ on ‘Ann.’

Why I Read Poetry

Why I Read Poetry

Poetry is a dense brew for the mind and eye. It kick-starts my mind and heart in the morning, as I sit with tea at my desk, cracking open the cover of something new, something borrowed, something blue.

The first author reading I attended was Irving Layton at the ROM- I was maybe sixteen and I went by myself, already fashioning the idea that I was a writer. I wore black and felt very self-conscious. Layton was exactly my idea of what a poet should be. He had the knack for that, the wild hair and off-colour language and overt sexuality.

Giving Voice


‘I want to give voice to the voiceless’.
We often hear writers saying this as they describe their work.
Why does it make me so uncomfortable?
Why do my toes curl?
I think it’s because it sounds like, well, the writer has the voice and those other poor sods don’t.
Well isn’t it that EVERYONE has a voice, but we just aren’t listening. So maybe it’s not about giving voice to the voiceless at all, but about LISTENING.

Editing Other People's Work

It’s been an intense week of editing other people's manuscripts. I feel their voices slosh around my brain. I can’t do my own writing at the same time as I edit other people's. Can’t find that corner of mind that contains my own voice.
Head out for a hike once the last critique has been written. Sing as I go. It’s the passage from outer to inner worlds.

When a new manuscript arrives, I tell myself that I’ll work on a bit at a time, say, an hour a day. This never happens. I’m too damn curious, so I pounce on it and read it right through before I start editing. It pulses on my desk. It glows in the dark. I have to lift the cover and see what’s there, what’s brewing. It fascinates. I can’t wait to get back to it.


Was My Face Red

Do you ever feel waves of retroactive embarrassment? I’m more embarrassed now by events that happened decades ago than I was at the time. Given a prod, I’ll replay those situations in my mind and I can feel my toes curl.

My favorite column in Calling All Girls, a pre-teen magazine back in the 60’s, was called: Was My Face Red. Readers would write in with their stories of humiliation.
Sarah and I would collapse in merriment on the sidewalk, reading these letters aloud. We were 9 years old.

Practice, Practice, Practice

6. Practice, Practice, Practice
When I pick up my classical guitar these days, I’m aware that whatever ground I covered a dozen years ago while taking lessons has been lost. The left wrist is fried, ditto for the thumb. Too much typing. Playing music goes back to childhood and the years of being a teenager when I was obsessed with classical music, sneaking into rehearsals of the opera company, the symphony, chamber music groups, hacking around on an array of instruments: oboe, classical guitar, cello, piano...there was even a double bass one summer. It’s how I got through high school, how I made sense of those years. I loved closing the door to my bedroom and tackling something hard, playing the same bar or phrase over and over until I’d nailed it. Not a wasted effort, despite a mediocre talent. It trained me up for novel writing, an enterprise that entails tenacity to the umpteenth degree, and many hours alone in a room. I got used to working alone, to the idea of a ‘project’ that felt interior and intimate, and full of frustration as well as giddy joy and satisfaction.

You Can Draw

People are always saying they can’t draw. They confess this with a certain shame, like not being able to carry a tune. It’s hard to fake carrying a tune, but if you look at something for a long time, a door, or the facade of a building, or a picnic bench– and you put the nub of your pencil on the paper and draw what you see, then you are drawing.

Ann being interviewed in Montreal- for

Jonah Snyder of interviewed me on stage at the recent Montreal International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition.

I'm having fun with this 'niche' marketing -to classical guitarists. Because they appear in my novel, The Blue Guitar.


Reading as a Writer

Reading As A Writer

You remember how as a kid you’d check a book out of the library– a hardcover with residues of ketchup stuck to the pages – and curl up on the sofa and soon you were lost. Maybe you set off on an ice floe with your harpoon; launched a Viking ship– or went spelunking in a cave. You slipped the novel under your plate with the grilled cheese sandwich and ate without tasting, letting crumbs fill the spine of the open book, as others had done before you.

Getting Mindful


It’s everywhere these days, mindful this and mindful that. This is what happens to so many useful concepts– they get appropriated and become corny as hell. Mindful cooking/sewing/parenting/gardening/trumpet playing.
And yet. The concept of mindfulness is real and it is helpful.


I follow the directions offered up by the sleep doctor in today’s newspaper. Don’t work in the evening. Don’t watch TV close to bedtime. Don’t read in bed; bed is only for sleep and sex. No vigorous exercise after 6. No spicy foods or large meals in the evening. Stay away from the News. Take a hot bath with aromatherapy oils. Make sure the bedroom is dark. Turn off phones and LED lights and electronic devices.

Check. Check. Done.

So how come I’m lying here in bed, basted with fragrant oils, pell-mell thoughts and re-creations of the day swarming in. Head squashed into the memory-foam pillow, I’m raring to go. Someone didn’t tell the sleep area of brain that it is time to call it quits.

Mowry Baden art opening

Mowry Baden in Town:

It was a gathering of the clan last evening at Diaz Contemporary Gallery.

First thing you see when you walk into the light-filled space on Niagara Street in downtown Toronto (across the street from the old abattoir– bye bye piggies) is a piece involving mirrors and handles that the viewer uses to move the sculpture. As you roll the piece along the floor and peer down into the mirrors, it feels like you are walking along the ceiling.

Musicians and Authors

If you think it’s rough publishing a book, waiting for critical response, hoping for the best – then you haven’t entered a music competition. Weird concept, the idea of competing for a music prize, but this is how careers are launched in the classical music world. You can go from zero to ten overnight if you pull off a win.

I just got back from participating (as an author, not a musician) in the Montreal International Guitar Festival and Competition organized by the amazing Patrick Kearney and his team. What a riot - for me. Jangled nerves, sweeps of excitement, inspiration, and yes, disappointment, for the other participants who were guitarists entering the competition and taking master classes.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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