Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Word on the Street Interview Series: Catherine Gildiner

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Catherine Gildiner

It's nearly time for The Word on the Street! This Sunday, writers, publishers, booksellers and book lovers will gather in Queen's Park in Toronto to read, talk, exchange ideas, ask advice, buy books and much more.

We're thrilled to celebrate The Word on the Street with our annual interview series featuring authors from the Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent. Today we speak to Catherine Gildiner, whose memoirs Too Close to the Falls and After the Falls became sensations. Cathy returns this fall with a continuation of her gripping, witty, unpredictable story in the form of Coming Ashore (ECW Press). In this third instalment, we follow Cathy to Oxford in the '60s, to a racially-charged Cleveland for a teaching job and to Toronto, where we encounter FLQ members, drug dealers and a new love.

Today Cathy tells us about communing with a blue-haired fan, why it's important to love the sound bite and her favourite Ontario writer.

Don't forget to mark Sunday, September 21, 2014 on your calendar and be sure to visit the Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent to catch Cathy and other fantastic readers!

Open Book:

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

Catherine Gildiner:

I will be reading from my new memoir titled Coming Ashore (due out Oct.1, 2014). It is the third and last in my memoir trilogy. The first is Too Close to the Falls, and the second is After the Falls.
Coming Ashore is about my life in the late 60’s and 70’s. The book covers three countries: my life at Oxford in England in Swinging London; teaching in Cleveland in the Hough ghetto as it burned; and finally moving to Toronto in 1971 during the FLQ crisis and living in the drug haven of Rochdale College. My talk will focus on my time at Oxford when I met Jimi Hendrix in London and all of the outlandish events that ensued from that meeting.

OB:

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?

CG:

I last spoke at WOTS in 2009 or 2010 about my last book After the Falls. I like WOTS because it does not just have your usual festival goers. It has families and marauding teenagers travelling in packs. My favourite moment was when I was sitting at a bench eating near a falafel wagon on Queens Park Circle and one of these blue haired multi-pierced teenagers joined me at my picnic table and ate his falafel with me. He told me his single mother had loved my first book Too Close to the Falls and had read it aloud at dinner. We had a long talk about memory and how he would look at his life in forty years. His friends sat silently and listened. This could only have happened at WOTS where everyone is welcome to the carnival atmosphere.

OB:

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

CG:

My favourite Ontario author is Wayne Johnston. He writes about Newfoundland and although I’ve never been there, I feel through his books I’ve visited often. My favourite of his books is The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. There is a character is that book called Fielding who leapt off the page and captured my heart. Then he brought her back in another book of heartbreaking tenderness called The Custodian of Paradise.

OB:

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

CG:

Remember the sound bite is your friend. Keep it short and pretend you are reading to your best friend or else pick some smiling warm face in the audience and speak to her. As a rule, people like Q&A better than readings.

OB:

Word on the Street is happening simultaneously in Toronto, Lethbridge, Saskatoon and Halifax on September 21 this year (as well as in Kitchener on September 20). If you could be in two places at once, which WOTS festival, in addition to Toronto, would you attend?

CG:

I’d take Halifax. The ocean is beautiful, the east coasters are warm. (Also I like those white lobster bibs!) A few years ago I did some research for my book on race about the original Halifax Black community and I’d like to see it.

OB:

Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario?

CG:

I love sitting in my old wicker chair on the front porch of my old 19th century farm house in Creemore watching the cows across the street. (Wow, have I gone from meeting Jimi Hendrix to a rocking chair in the country? I guess so. Dear God!)

OB:

What can you tell us about your next project?

CG:

I am writing a non-fiction book on psychological heroes. I am sick of hearing about men who had a testosterone tear during a war and did something heroic for one minute. What about all the people who were raised in terrifying circumstances, but never gave up and fought every day of their lives and their sanity? I am writing about brave patients from my twenty-five year private practice in clinical psychology to show that heroism is achieved over time and not just through one act.


Catherine Gildiner has written the best selling childhood memoir titled Too Close to the Falls. It was on the Globe and Mail’s best sellers’ list for an amazing 157 weeks. A decade later, she published a sequel, a teenage memoir of life in the 60’s called After the Falls. Now she has written her third and final memoir called Coming Ashore, which covers her life as a student at Oxford in England, teaching in the burning ghetto in Cleveland, and finally her graduate school years in Toronto. She has also written Seduction, a novel about Darwin and Freud, which has been an international bestseller and was listed by Der Spiegel in Germany as one of the year’s ten best mysteries. While she was a psychologist for 25 years in private practice she wrote for various newspapers and magazines. She has three grown sons and lives in Toronto with her husband.

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