INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair: last, and shortest, set of notes

There were two things I wanted to attend on Sunday, before heading out for my flight. The first was 1015’s “Polish-Canadian Voices,” in part because of a conversation at the Polish Consulate/Polish-Canadian Institute booth the previous day, in part because of the large Polish community right here in Ireland. (What does the literature of the Polish diaspora look like, I wondered? And found some answer to what the Canadian kind does.) It featured Andrew Borkowski and Ania Szado, the children of Polish immigrants, and Jowita Bydlowska and Eva Stachniak, themselves immigrants from Poland. Stachniak was the writer I was very interested to hear from, because not only is she a professor of literature in Canada who moved there in 1981, she writes historical fiction set in Russia around the time of Catherine the Great. (Yes, I bought a book and asked her to sign it. History: I like it.) It was a very interesting, albeit poorly-attended panel, and I have to wonder how the literature (and experience) of the post-Communist immigrant generation will differ from what they were talking about.

I did not have any plans until Maggie Stiefvater’s 1500 main stage panel, and so took the opportunity not only to see the CN Tower (it’s a nice view, I guess, but I don’t see what all the enthusiasm is for and why they bother with bomb-sniffing machines) but to get another meal of poutine before returning to the fair to poke my nose about and ask some attendees and booth-runners what they thought of the fair itself. A couple of random locals I asked believed that there was definitely a niche for the book fair, particularly with a big-name author present they wanted to see every day. They thought the line-up was fantastic, and were very surprised that a first-time fair attracted so many high profile names. Most of the booth-people I talked to considered that they would have liked the fair to be busier – more footfall and more sales – but (with a handful of exceptions) generally felt that they’d got their money’s worth out of the event. (I will confess to not asking the indie-publishing booth-runners, for fear of encountering indie-pubbing evangelists.)

I hung out for a while longer in the geek corner, and had a couple of pleasant conversations with Michael and Matthew and Julie Czerneda, before catching Stiefvater’s panel. Stiefvater is one hell of a performer, that much I will say: knows how to hold and entertain an audience.

And then – farewell, Toronto.

Don’t ask about my flight home.