Bestselling author Miriam Toews coming to Festival of Words

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Lisa Goudy
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Award-winning author Miriam Toews is one of the author on the line-up for the 2014 Saskatchewan Festival of Words.

Miriam Toews can’t wait to interact with readers and authors at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words.

“With any festival, there’s that opportunity to sort of get an immediate response to your work, to meet readers and to see that there are actually people reading your books,” she said. “A lot of us, if we have books out in a certain year, we travel the same circuit at festivals and so it’s always nice to catch up with friends of mine who are writers.”

The author of many bestselling and award-winning books such as A Complicated Kindness (2004), Summer of My Amazing Luck (1996) and The Flying Troutmans (2008), Toews has been invited several times before but, as her kids were growing up, she was unable to attend until this year.

“I’m excited about it. I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I’ve heard over the years a lot of great things about this festival from other writers, from audience members.”

At the festival, she will read from and discuss her latest book, All My Puny Sorrows (2014). The book is about two sisters, Elfrieda, a world-famous pianist who wants to die, and Yolandi, her younger sister and writer of teen books who really wants Elfrieda to live.

As the girls’ father committed suicide some years earlier by stepping in front of a train, it would be the second suicide in the family. Eventually, Elfrieda aska Yolandi to take her to Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal.

“A lot of my stuff is inspired by my own experiences,” said Toews. “So I like to process those through fiction, reordering events and shaping into something that makes sense to me, something that has a narrative thread.”

Toews’ older sister Marjorie committed suicide on June 5, 2010 and her father committed suicide 12 years before that. The novel, which is her sixth, mirrors her real life experiences. She will discuss her book at the Great Big Book Club during the festival. It is limited to 25 participants.

Her previous books have drawn from her life as well, including A Complicated Kindness, which won the Governor General’s Award, among several others.

Toews grew up with Mennonite parents in Steinbach until she turned 18. She lived in Montreal and London before settling in Winnipeg. She has a degree in film studies from the University of Manitoba and a degree in journalism from the University of King’s College in Halifax.

She added she’s been writing books for 20 years.

"I guess if there had been something else that I could’ve done, I would’ve done that, but I’m not sure what that would be,” she said.

She said she has been to Moose Jaw many times before.

“A cousin of mine was born in Moose Jaw because her mother was on a train between B.C. and Manitoba and went into labour in Moose Jaw,” said Toews, adding she is looking forward to the festival. “I think it’s a really beautiful part of Saskatchewan.”

The Saskatchewan Festival of Words will take place from July 17 to 20. Passes are available for $175 until June 1 when the price is $200. Flex passes for individual sessions are $100.

For more information, visit www.festivalofwords.com or contact the office at 306-691-0557.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: College in Halifax, Great Big Book Club, University of Manitoba University of King

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Steinbach, Montreal London Winnipeg B.C. Manitoba Saskatchewan

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