Anna Bowen speaks with Cordelia Strube, author of On The Shores of Darkness, There is Light
Profile Leon Rooke
The Millwright Book Club This month’s recommended reading 
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Eden Mills Writers' Festival
September 16-18th 2016

July 2016

The Millwright:

Musings from the Eden Mills Writers' Festival

Vol. 27 No. 4


This month we are delighted to present a profile of the festival founder, Leon Rooke, as well as a Q&A and podcast with On The Shores of Darkness, There Is Light author Cordelia Strube. If you missed the special edition newsletter with this year’s lineup, check it out here for the full list with author bios. We are thrilled to welcome our poets and adult, YA, and children’s authors to the stage, as well as Guelph’s slam poetry team  and Vocamus Press’ presentation of local authors.


Cordelia Strube on On The Shores of Darkness, There is Light (2016)

By Anna Bowen

Listen to the podcast here.

Cordelia Strube is a playwright and the author of nine critically acclaimed novels.  Her novel Lemon was shortlisted for the 2010 Trillium Book Award, and longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.  Two of her earlier novels, Alex and Zee and The Barking Dog, are being reissued this fall with ECW press.  Strube’s most recent novel, On the Shores of Darkness There is Light, is written from both the point of view of Harriet, an 11-year old girl, and of Irwin, a 14-year old boy with hydrocephalus. 

MW: How would you describe the book?
CS: It’s looking at, with humour, the challenges of living with chronic, potentially fatal illness. I think what got me interested in the idea is what happens to the caregivers when someone is physically compromised. We always pay attention to the sick person, but what about the other people? What about the collateral damage?

MW: How do you manage to write about such difficult things with humour?
CS: Well if I brought you into a heavy topic and I don’t make you laugh you are going to put the book down.  So if I am going to take you into a dark place I better show you some light. The backdrop of this book is what’s going on now in the world. I think that if we look at things more closely they become less scary … I find the human condition against the backdrop of the 21st century fascinating.

MW: What sustains you as you go into these dark places?
CS: I find it incredibly cathartic … When I go into that world oddly enough it makes me feel way better about my own -- exploring other peoples’ lives and the obstacles that people face that reveal nobility and grace. I’m interested in people who are kneecapped and get up and keep moving. I’m not interested in people who have it easy, sit around, order a macchiato and whine about what’s going on at the fitness club… although I might use that. 

MW: What was it like to write from Harriet’s perspective?
CS: It was tough. I knew that I wanted to write a book from the point of view of a child … I had never trusted myself to completely sustain [the child point of view] through a novel. It was kind of crazy because I was so afraid of sounding twee … I can’t stand precocious kids in fiction or movies. What I kept stumbling into with Harriet was just pure survival; she’s a survivor and she figures stuff out, and she’s a problem solver.  But she can be quite jarring and disturbing and, frankly, bitchy. She’s not like a cuddly toy, this character.  People love this character because there’s a bit of Harriet in all of us. Harriet just tells it like it is.

Listen to the rest of the interview on our podcast where Cordelia Strube talks about growing up in Montreal, having a teenaged daughter and how she knew what was going to happen in On The Shores of Darkness.

Author Profile

EMWF founder Leon Rooke

By Anna Bowen

Leon Rooke is the author of 28 books and almost 300 short stories.  A Governor General’s Award winner, Rooke founded the EMWF in 1989 with the launch of his book, A Good Baby, on the steps of the Eden Mills General Store. The book is being re-released with Biblioasis this fall. 

Rooke’s newest book, Swinging Through Dixie (Biblioasis) which includes two novellas and three stories, will be launched at the festival this year.  Rooke describes the book: “Each novella depicts the citizenry of two actual but very different places on earth -- akin, let’s say, to what Dylan Thomas was doing in Under Milk Wood, and Sherwood Anderson in Winesburg, Ohio.” 

Rooke has also recently collaborated with painter Tony Calzetta. He describes the process of writing prose and poetry to accompany Calzetta’s paintings this way: “Tony presented to me a handful of rough-cut drawings; my job was to create a story for each. He was expecting perhaps five or six in return, but I surprised him with narratives for about twenty-seven drawings.” The resulting book, Fabulous Fictions & Peculiar Practices, is now available from Porcupine’s Quill.

His advice to aspiring writers is to read. He writes, “Overcome your fear of the page. Do you want to beat Chekhov, or Dan Patterson? Consider the source offering this advice. If they tell you to focus only on ‘what you know,’ run screaming from the room.”

Photo Credit & Permission: Tony Saxon, The Guelph Mercury

The Millwright Bookclub

Looking for something to read?
Take a look at these Eden Mills Writers' Festival featured YA reads.
Lisa Moore
Lena Coakley
Worlds of Ink and Shadow
Liane Shaw
Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell
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