Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Read Ontario, with Kate Cayley

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Kate Cayley

Ontario boasts a wealth of fantastic writers and amazing stories, and this fall the Organization of Book Publishers of Ontario is highlighting a selection of the province's finest writing from great Ontario publishers. There's no better time to “Read Ontario”!

Today we speak with Kate Cayley, the author of When This World Comes to an End (Brick Books). Kate's work has been described as "brimming with revelations and wonder" and "warm and inquisitive...full of irresistible thought experiments".

Kate talks to Open Book about writing talismans, her Brontë fangirl era and a collective office with a bed in it.

Visit a participating Read Ontario independent bookstore to get a copy of When This World Comes to an End and click here for details on how you can enter to win 42 exciting Read Ontario books!
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Read Ontario: Kate Cayley — Where Do You Write in Ontario?

I used to write wherever, in whatever scraps of time were available, at night when my girlfriend was at work, in odd moments in a café, in a small notebook on the subway. Then I got older and was able to write more, through the blessing of grants and the occasional commission or advance, coupled with an emerging discipline of my own, a dawning awareness that if I was going to write anything halfway decent, it couldn’t be done in the corners of my real life, I had to carve out a space.

Now I’m married with two young children and on the days I get to write, I do it in a small office in my house in Toronto or at an office at Tarragon Theatre, where I’m a playwright-in-residence. At home I can just fit a chair, a desk, an armchair and a lot of books, but there’s not much room left to move around — I squeeze myself into the chair. When I want to pace I go out in the hall. The floor is generally covered with papers and the desk with mail. Besides the mail there’s a corner of the desk reserved for talismans that I look at even when everything else is a mess: two pens that belonged to my grandfather, an inkwell that belonged to my great grandfather, a chestnut from the front lawn of my grandmother’s house in England, a piece of wood from the walls of our house, found when we were undertaking a do-it-yourself renovation a few years ago, and a rock from the Yorkshire moors I picked up as a Brontë fanatic, aged eighteen (Villette and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall still stand up). The wall behind the desk is plastered with post-its: points of narrative action to remember for the current project, snippets of dialogue I don’t want to lose if I’m working on a play, stray notes for poems. I usually keep the door open. In another, more orderly life, I will shut the door and keep the space immaculate, but chaos is inevitable at the moment, so I might as well embrace it.

My office at the theatre is shared with several other playwrights (Tarragon is bursting at the seams with playwrights-in-residence). The room is orderly, neutral, and large, with big windows and a big desk. It even has a bed in it that one of the other writers sometimes likes to nap on. I’ve also napped on it from time to time. I keep a few things at that office, but mostly I try to relish how blank the space is, how much the opposite of my very personal home space. And above the desk is a huge stencil of the word “Remember,” which has been there for many years and which I love to look up at. So clear, so simple and basic an injunction for a writer: remember. I think of it as a reminder to look inward and outward at the same time, to honour history, and to think often of whoever it was who came before you, who sat at the same desk, trying and failing and sometimes succeeding, like you, to work it out.

Kate Cayley’s poetry and short stories have appeared in literary magazines across the country. Her play, After Akhmatova, was produced by Tarragon Theatre, where she is a playwright-in-residence, and a young adult novel, The Hangman in the Mirror, was published by Annick Press in 2011. She is also the artistic director of Stranger Theatre, and has written, directed and co-created eight plays.

For more information about When This World Comes to an End please visit the Brick Books website.

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

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