Rewind more than a decade into the past and Mark Medley wouldn’t have thought he’d be the book editor of The National Post.
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Mark Medley, the book editor at The National Post, will be at the 2014 Saskatchewan Festival of Words.
“I love it. If you would’ve asked me 15 years ago when I was an undergraduate student what I wanted to do, if you told me I’d get paid to read books and interview authors for a living, I wouldn’t have believed you,” he said.
“There are very, very few of us left and when I say ‘us’ I mean books editors. There’s only a handful of people who have the position anymore just because of newspaper cutbacks and so I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do.”
Part of his job allows him to explore Canada and attend festivals. He is one of the guests who will appear at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words this summer.
“I’m just looking forward to — besides going to all the other events that are taking place throughout the festival — just hanging out in Moose Jaw,” said Medley. “I mean, I’ve never been before ... It seems like a very interesting small city and whenever I’m not doing anything related to the festival, I’m just going to wander around.”
He first met Sarah Simison, operations co-ordinator with the Festival of Words, at an Ottawa International Writers’ Festival in the fall. A few months later, she emailed him asking him if he’d like to be a part of the festival.
“It took me all of 10 seconds to agree. I haven’t spent much time in Saskatchewan. I haven’t been out to the Prairies in at least a decade. I said yes before I even knew what I would be doing,” said Medley. “I’m thrilled to be invited. I’ve heard many good things about the festival over the years.”
At the festival, Medley will talk with Steven Galloway from Vancouver about his novel The Confabulist on July 18 and he’ll do a one-on-one with author Miriam Toews and talk about her new novel, All My Puny Sorrows on July 19, both at Mae Wilson Theatre.
On July 20 at Mosaic Place, he’ll moderate two panel discussions. The first is a panel with Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady, two married writers from Ontario.
“The scope of our conversation is going to be how do two writers co-exist under one roof,” he said.
The second panel will be on Saskatchewan fiction and the province’s landscape used by writers.
The authors at the panel will be Anthony Bidulka, Gail Bowen, Kim McCullough and Mary-Ann Kirkby.
He said he isn’t as familiar with some of those authors.
“I have their books on my shelf at home and I’m actually starting the process of reading them right now. I’m actually most interested in that one,” said Medley. “I know all the other writers I’m talking to quite well. I’ve done events with them in the past. So this is the one I think I’m going to get the most out of.”
He has been with The National Post for seven and a half years, has written about books for 10 years for various publications and has been the book editor for four and a half years. He has also written other arts and culture pieces in addition to writing about books.
Having interviewed actors, directors and musicians, he said authors are the “most generous” with their time.
“You can sit down with an actor who’s in town for a movie, you’ll get eight minutes with them and you are one of 50 people who is sitting down with them … For many of the writers I talk to, I might be the only person interviewing them so I can spend an hour, two hours really getting inside their heads which you don’t get to do in a lot of other cultural journalism,” said Medley. “I struggle to think of writers I haven’t talked to. I’m a complete book nerd, but that’s just who I am. So I’ve had the chance to talk to some of my favourite writers and it’s always thrilling.”
The Saskatchewan Festival of Words will take place from July 17 to 20. Passes are $200 and flex passes are $100. For more information, visit www.festivalofwords.
Lisa Goudy can be reached at 306-691-1289 or follow her on Twitter @lisagoudy