Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Word On The Street Interview Series: Matt Cahill

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Matt Cahill

One of our favourite things about The Word On The Street is that not only do we get to hear from many of our favourite authors, but it's also a great place to discover new voices. Every year, the festival selects some of the most exciting debut authors in Canada to highlight. This year one of those new talents is Matt Cahill, who will read from his first novel, The Society of Experience (Buckrider Books) in the Vibrant Voices of Ontario Tent.

This year's Vibrant Voices line up is a fantastic one, with exciting authors like Matt anchoring a great day of readings, conversations and on-stage interviews. We're thrilled to host several of the Vibrant Voices authors on Open Book for interviews about what they'll be doing at The Word On The Street, their favourite spots in Ontario and much more.

Matt tells us about portraying Canada as Canada (even if it's impolite), the allure of fall fairs and a magical new project.

Don't forget to mark September 27, 2015 on your calendars to catch Liz 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.

Matt Cahill:

I’ll be reading from my debut novel, The Society of Experience, which is being published through Buckrider Books, an imprint of Wolsak & Wynn.


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?


I make it out to The Word On The Street whenever possible, but this is my first year as a presenter. I always feel more connected to publishers, writers and readers — the ecosystem of literature — after attending. It’s seeing the readers, ultimately, that I find exciting. These are people who are curious, who want to come out and connect with their literary interests, whether that be watching an author present their new book, or locating publishers who are selling works that interest them. Without curious, engaged readers, we as a society are doomed (you can exchange “readers” with other words, too, like “citizens”).

It’s important to note the awesomeness of what WOTS is: a giant outdoor celebration of reading, located in the newly renovated Queen’s Quay/Harbourfront district. And if there also happens to be a beer tent, would that not make it kinda perfect?


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


There’s Ontario and then there’s Toronto. Although downtown Toronto is my home, I know the sticks and the burbs pretty well. I grew up in places like Rockwood and Onondaga, so I have an abiding respect for the countryside. My family moved to Alberta for a brief period, and I was stuck in a Grade 9 English class (to make my life more miserable I discovered Grade 9 was part of middle school over there, not high school as it is here) and the teacher asked if anyone could name a Canadian poet. I reluctantly put up my hand: “Pauline Johnson?” I asked. The teacher smiled, and in evoking her name and having it recognized I felt I had a connection to something that gave me a sense of identity, which, for someone who moved a lot as a kid, was important.

I make the separation between Ontario and Toronto because I find it is easier when you spend time in the smaller towns and cities of Ontario — whether it’s Catchacoma or Kitchener — to create stories and narratives that weave together what’s clearly evident: a genuine charm, and a genuine darkness.

With Toronto, it’s hard to get a lock on it. Always changing, yet always the same (like some rock bands I love), there’s something about big cities that, through their constant remaking, make it hard to convey their subconscious rivers without losing site of the whole. You find yourself speaking only to a district or a street corner. And yet still they inspire us to reach out and grab them, to want to wrestle them as a whole into language. I want to portray Toronto as I’ve seen it and felt it, the details of which would not necessarily make for a successful tourism campaign.

There’s always pressure (though less than there used to be) to turn Canadian places into nameless universal locations, ostensibly out of fear that no one outside of the country will be able to visualize us. I refuse, and furthermore, I ask: aren’t we allowed to visualize ourselves? I decided early on that when it comes to identifying place, I’d rather be direct and impolite than vague and gracious. It’s not like we live under a vindictive political regime that will punish us if we come too close to the truth, sort of.


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


I’m going to take my own advice: have a good time, don’t speak from a script or invoke a bad valedictorian, and try to connect with some of the reader-visitors who have gone out of their way to come to the Vibrant Voices Tent. And keep the swearing to a minimum.


Do you have a favourite spot in Ontario?


I don’t believe in favourites, but among the things I love are rural fall fairs. The smell of horse manure and back bacon; ribbons awarded to corpulent pumpkins and chicken with feathery feet. Orange leaves on dark limbs, the siren of the Tilt-A-Whirl. Such a treat for the senses.

Anything that takes place anywhere in Ontario in the autumn is inevitably beautiful.


What can you tell us about your next project?


I have a few projects on the go. A sequel of sorts (same world, different characters) to The Society of Experience is being written; however, I’m leaning heavily towards another novel that I’ve started, focused on someone who — for lack of a better word — uses magic. Add lemon, stir.

I’m always working on short stories and essays. Keep your eyes open (or just use a search engine if that’s too much work). My site is I’m active on Twitter also.

Matt Cahill is a Toronto-based author and psychotherapist. He writes novels, short fiction and essays, and has contributed work to Ryeberg, BlogTO and Torontoist. His short story, “Snowshoe,” appeared in September 2014 with Found Press.

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