Friday, October 16, 2009

Interview with Guest Artist Ivan Coyote

Photo by James Loewen

Ivan Coyote was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. An award-winning author of five collections of short stories, one novel, two CD’s, four short films and a renowned performer, Ivan’s first love is live storytelling, and over the last fifteen years she has become an audience favourite at music, poetry, spoken word and writer's festivals from Anchorage to Amsterdam. The Globe and Mail called Ivan "a natural-born storyteller" and Ottawa X Press said "Coyote is to CanLit what k.d. lang is to country music: a beautifully odd fixture." Toronto Star praises Coyote’s “talent for sketching the bizarre in the everyday”, and Quill’s Magazine says Ivan has a “distinctive and persuasive voice, a flawless sense of pacing, and an impeccable sense of story.” Ivan’s column, Loose End has appeared monthly in Xtra West magazine since 2001. Her first novel, Bow Grip, was released in the fall of 2006, and was awarded the Relit award for best fiction and named by the American Library Association as a Stonewall honor book in literature. Ivan recently completed an eight-month writer in residence at Carleton University in Ottawa, and is hard at work on her second novel. Her fifth collection of stories, The Slow Fix, was released in September, and has been nominated for a Lambda award.

Visit Ivan's website at

Tell us about your with with story? Have you always been a storyteller?

I come from a huge Irish family, born and raised in the Yukon. I learned storytelling around my grandmother's kitchen table from my relatives, who are master storytellers disguised as mechanics, carpenters, car salesmen, telephone operators and little old ladies.

What is one of your favourite storytellers/spoken word/story artists?
Sherman Alexie. Tom Waits. Sam Shepard. Richard Van Camp.

What will you be telling at FOOL?
I haven't decided everything I will be telling yet. I usually have to see what the audience is like first, what the other tellers have to say, what is happening in the world on or around those days. That said, I have a couple of new ones chomping at the bit a little.

Tell us about some of your influences.

I am influenced by many singer songwriters who pay attention to story and language and the pacing of lyrics, such as Veda Hille, k-os, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, and that list could go on for a long time. Playwrights have also been creeping in to my conscious writing mind these days. Sam Shepard. Writers like John Irving, Tom Spanbauer, Thompson Highway, Sherman Alexie, some poets too. And then there are the filmmakers. I guess I am moved by the myriad of ways a good story can be told.

Why do you think story is important in this day and age?

I think story is important in every day and age.
Why do we need oral traditions when we have television, radio, internet?

For a lot of reasons. One that I have been thinking about a lot lately is that many of the ways we currently communicate (facebook twitter, skype, the internet in general) are not as accessible to people say, 60 years and older. This means we are cutting our elders out of the communication loop. They are not speaking to us as much and we are not listening. Think about the implications of this, on our histories, our inheritance of memory.

What inspires you?

life. people. how complicated and messy both are. How we are all so different and yet can have so much in common and not even know it.

How do you create your stories?

I drag them out of my head kicking and screaming using a combination of boiling hot water and verbal threats. Then I air dry them.

Advice for aspiring teller of tales, word artists, and web weavers?

Tell tales, make art from words and weave webs. As much as you can. Do not measure your success in financial terms. Do not take artistic advice from your brother the bank manager. Get up every day and jump off the terror cliff that is the artist's life. Stay away from hard drugs. Notice everything. Take notes. Repeat.

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