The cooler days leading up to fall seem to have set in, and I have taken another step in my "program" of re-writing my novel by the middle of October. In my post two weeks ago, I was both elated about some of the motivating events I was attending and mortified that it was so easy to get distracted from my primary objective. My writing journey this summer has not been easy for a number of reasons, some personal, others simply a consequence of the dog days phenomenon I mentioned in that post.
In July I attended the Saskatchewan Festival of Words which is an annual event for me. It is always so enjoyable to listen to authors talk about their work and read from their books. This year was no exception, giving attendees the opportunity to mingle with and ask questions of writers from many genres -- fiction of all sorts, from mysteries to literary fiction, nature writing and photography, playwriting, poetry, even slam poetry. All this made the hot weather that Moose Jaw traditionally offers up for the festival somewhat bearable.
August brought a new experience my way when I decided to travel to British Columbia for the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts. It was my first time at this festival, in its twenty-eighth season. There was a heat wave happening during the four days I stayed in the little town of Sechelt, but the smorgasbord of authors and their books made it easy to overlook. (Smoke from the forest fires in the B.C. interior had been invading the lower mainland for days, and it was difficult to see across the bay to Vancouver Island which is usually clearly visible.)
There were so many highlights that I hardly know where to begin. The format for each session provided an opportunity for the authors to speak for about half an hour on their writing process, when and how they began to write, and more specifically about their most recent publications. After responding to questioms from the audience, they read from their books for about ten minutes. Most of the authors commented on the luxury of having an entire hour to talk and read about their work, and the extraordinary experience of appearing before such a large, enthusiastic audience. The pavilion seats 500 people and most sessions were packed. Books were available to buy and all the authors were generous with their time for signing.
The opening event on the first evening gave a foretaste of the program in store for the eager crowds. Lawrence Hill spoke about writing his sweeping historical novel,The Book of Negroes, and the reception it has received, including many awards.
Among the authors appearing the next day: Karen Connelly, whose books about Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) are politically charged, talked frankly about her experiences which led to the writing of The Border Surrounds Us, The Lizard Cage, and her latest travel memoir, Burmese Lessons: A Love Story; Adam Lewis Schroeder gave an entertaining account of his novels, in particular his latest, In the Fabled East, which is set in France and Indochina and spans a period from the late 19th century to the 1950s; Gwendolyn Southin, who was instrumental in setting up the first festival 28 years ago, has become known for her popular Margaret Spencer Mystery series set in the late 50s and early 60s, and was interviewed by Louise Penny, who drew a large audience the next day for her session on her own mystery novels and her main character Chief Inspector Andre Gamache.
Bonnie Burnard, whose long-awaited second novel Suddenly recently appeared, and Jack Whyte, who wrote the hugely popular series Dream of Eagles based on the Arthurian legends, the Templar series, and the new Guardians of Scotland series featuring Scottish heroes of the 14th century, closed out the afternoon of the first full day. That evening we heard Ian Brown talk about his book, The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son, which has won two major awards for non-fiction. Last but not least, Nino Ricci inspired us with his account of his approach to writing novels. He tells his writing students that the last thing to think about before writing a novel is theme. Then he pointed out that all his books, including his most recent novel, The Origin of Species, have come about because of his interest in specific themes (e.g. Darwinian theory, Catholicism, how to live a good life ... or at least fake it). A clear case of "do as I say, not what I do."
And so it went, one after the other, for eleven more sessions. The people who lined up to get into the pavilion, hour after hour, were clearly readers who knew and appreciated the works of the authors in attendance. Many of us were also writers who came away inspired and in awe of the array of talent assembled for the program. Pure inspiration! Far from being more discouraged about my writing, I came away feeling uplifted by the example of these authors, many of whom experienced disappointments along the way, but who had weathered the storms and come out on the sunny side. Now I have a renewed commitment to that project that awaits me in my writing gable. The break from writing has fired me up to get back to it with renewed vigour. Needless to say, I have a brand-new list of books I want to read, as well!
I am still on vacation, and today is a travelling day for me. Without my own laptop on this trip, I have been hampered in connecting regularly with emails and blogs. So this is fair warning that I will be unable to take advantage of the wi-fi that is available almost everywhere to respond to your comments. Perhaps by evening that will be remedied. In the meantime, please comment away, and I will be checking in as soon as I can.