Back In Vancouver

During my Biblioasis book tour

I read from Red Girl Rat Boy, sometimes solo and sometimes with others launching new books, in Waterloo, Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto, Windsor, Ottawa, and Toronto again. The venues included two bookstores, two bars (one painted black throughout), and two theatres, one at Harbourfront in Toronto and the other in Windsor — the Old Walkerville theatre, a marvellous renovated art-deco space that had stood unused for decades. The Biblioasis writers plus local musicians were the re-opening act!  Tons of Windsorians came, so it was a lively event.

To be on the road with the other Biblioasis writers was fun! Together we toiled through our hectic series of buses, trains, venues, traffic, readings, and signings. I’ve now read s few of their works — admired Lucie Wilk’s fine novel The Strength of Bone, Maurico Segura’s haunting Eucalyptus, and Alexandra Oliver’s striking collection of poetry, Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway. Should you ever get the chance to hear Alexandra read, do! In a previous incarnation she was a slam poet, and is still an amazing performer. And now that I’m home I’m looking forward to reading the rest: Andrew Steinmetz, Richard Norman, and Norm Sibum.

The two international literary festivals I’d been invited to — one each in Ottawa and Toronto — made quite a contrast. Ottawa: friendly, with a large and responsive audience for short story writers Kelli Deeth (The Other Side of Youth), Lynn Coady (Hellgoing), and me. We three enjoyed each other’s readings, and also the panel discussion that followed, led by a journalist from the Ottawa Citizen. We all sold lots of books and felt happy.
Toronto: huge, machine-like, alienating! However, at a writers’ dinner there I sat next to Alastair McLeod, whose work I’ve admired for years (The Last Salt Gift of Blood, No Great Mischief) who told me wonderful stories.  Also I really enjoyed a panel I took part in with writers Helen Humphreys (Nocturne) and Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings). Susan Cole of Toronto’s NOW Magazine made an excellent discussion-leader.

Throughout the tour I felt the universal literary joy created by Alice Munro’s winning the Nobel Prize! Wonderful for her, for women writers everywhere, for Canadian writing, for short story writers. That Lynn Coady’s story collection Hellgoing won the Giller soon afterwards just spread the icing more thickly on the cake.