THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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Ivy Pochoda to talk at London's inaugural Festival America
Ivy tells us about her new novel, Wonder Valley, published Sep 20 by The Indigo Press, and London's upcoming celebration of North American literature
Where are you from, and how did you get involved in Festival America's inaugural London programme?
I’m from Brooklyn, NY (where the novelists come from) but I currently live in Los Angeles which manages to surprise me even after nearly nine years. I have participated in Festival America’s Vincennes program in the past and I believe due to the subject matter of my book (the lost and disenfranchised in Southern California) I was invited to London. Also, my UK publisher, The Indigo Press is involved with the festival.
Festival America is a celebration of Transatlantic literature and culture. How important is it to safeguard and celebrate Transatlantic culture?
For me (and I guess for everyone else) it’s incredibly important, or rather, essential. I grew up reading British authors from Enid Blyton, Arthur Ransome, and Susan Cooper to Henry James, Charles Dickens, and Arthur Conan Doyle. All of these authors inspired me to be a writer. And when I started to write several of my influences, Zadie Smith and Ian McEwan came from the UK. I’m hoping that emerging American writers will be able to draw from an even greater (and more diverse pool) of transatlantic authors to inspire them and to open their eyes to different cultures, manners of speaking, and interests.
How will you be participating in the Festival? Are you discussing a particular work of yours?
I will be discussing my latest novel, Wonder Valley, in conversation with Michael Farris Smith, an author whom I admire greatly.
What makes American and Canadian literature special?
The endless possibility — the wide open expanses, the places yet to be discovered, the way it can take you into tiny, overlooked communities hidden in the mountains or hiding in plain sight in the middle of the city. There’s an unknowable quality to North America that I think is reflected in our literature.
How do you reflect on your cultural connections through your work?
Well, let’s see. Primarily through my work as a creative writing instructor in Skid Row, Los Angeles. I run a small magazine with a wild group of formerly (and a few currently) homeless artists. The beauty and joy I’ve found in this endeavour I hope sneaks through in my novel.
What do you hope visitors to Festival America, and your talk in particular, will take away from the experience?
I truly hope they will learn a little more about a different side to Southern California, that it’s not all Beverly Hills Housewives and Beverly Hills 90210 and Hollywood. I hope they learn to look in the shadows, see the darkness, but also discover the joy that I believe is inherent even in the most depressed circumstances.
What's the best thing about being part of Festival America's London programme this September?
To be honest, I think it’s quite a thrill to be part of the first edition of anything, to get in on the ground floor, to see an event from the very beginning. It’s both a thrill and an honor.
Ivy Pochoda will be speaking at a talk on September 25 at Waterstones Trafalgar Square, from 6:30pm, on the subject of 'Exploring the violent underbelly of North America'. Click here to buy tickets.