UNCENSORED (PEN Canada) International Festival Of Authors gala with Wole Soyinka, Wayson Choy, Azar Nafisi, Miriam Toews, MG Vassanji and host Ann-Marie MacDonald. Friday (October 20), 7 pm. $20-$175. Convocation Hall (31 King's College Circle). 416-978-8849, www.uofttix.ca.
WHAT: Writers read from unpublished works, either their own or those by authors around the world who have been silenced.
TELL ME ABOUT PEN: "PEN supports and publicizes writers who have been censored, jailed, executed or simply murdered. It does a good job of reminding us that in some places the pen is still trying to be mightier than the sword. Student tickets are only $10; we want young people getting involved with the idea that censorship can harm them in the long run."
HOW ARE YOU PARTICIPATING IN THE PEN EVENT? "I'm reading from an unpublished work. It's the opening of my new book on my near-death experiences."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE EXPERIENCE? "In 2001 I had an asthma attack and doctors induced a coma to save me. On the third day of the coma I had a heart attack. A few years later, two ghosts showed up - very Chinatown-style - which shocked me because the opening line of my working manuscript is 'Ghosts are everywhere, but I do not believe in them.' So I'm trying to wrestle with what all this means."
IS OUR GOVERNMENT TO BLAME FOR CENSORSHIP? "It comes from the government and it comes from people like Conrad Black who have more money than you. It also comes from timid publishers who don't want to risk a fortune fighting for your rights."
ARE HARPER'S ARTS CUTS PART OF THE PROBLEM? "Most people who are conservative are afraid of people who are outspoken and go to the heart of a matter. So I'm not surprised that as we move to more conservative thought, those who risk saying more are going to be attacked."
TIPS FOR AUTHORS WITH WRITER'S BLOCK? "Prayer, even if you're an atheist."
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO READ? "Any place with a comfortable chair."
YOU GREW UP IN VANCOUVER. HOW DOES T.O.'S CHINATOWN COMPARE? "Vancouver's is more preserved. If I go back, I can see the bones of the structures of the 1930s Chinatown. Toronto went through a phase of razing all the neighbourhoods that were signature ghettos of a whole generation."
FAVOURITE ASIAN RESTO IN T.O.? "MiMi's on Gerrard. It's a very friendly place that's sympathetic to writers, and it's neighbourhood."