By Tanis Rideout
I’ve attended readings at IFOA for years and been obsessed with it for even longer. Back when I lived in Kingston, I would enviously scan the names of authors and speakers, wishing I could be there in the audience.
When I moved to Toronto, I went to the festival as often as I could and listened rapt to my literary heroes, and I have to admit I may have even daydreamed that one day I’d be up there reading. I imagined my introduction and practiced my flattered but humble smile – like an Oscar-nominated actor who knows the camera’s on them as their category is announced. I interviewed myself in the shower, like Jimmy Rabbit in The Commitments, and tried to be witty and charming and not too clever.
Last year I was invited to attend a few festival parties – I was introduced around and felt like a debutante. And like any debutante, mostly I hoped I wouldn’t trip over the hem of my dress and land on my face, or say anything stupid I couldn’t take back. I met authors and editors and publishers and agents and an army of organizers and publicists. All of them were witty and charming and perfectly clever. And many of them assured me I’d be onstage next year. I smiled that flattered, demure smile I’d been practising.
It’s now a year later: my first novel, Above All Things, has been out for a few months, and in just a couple of weeks I will be on one of those stages at IFOA – first, as part of a panel with a slew of my friends and peers who all put out novels this year, and then I’ll be reading alongside Rawi Hage, Kyo Maclear, and Bill Gaston. It’s nerve-wracking and exciting and extremely flattering. After years of attending and hoping, that’ll be me up there.
But I’ll also be in the audience. Because that’s a pretty damn good place to be too.
For more about Rideout and her IFOA events, click here.