Ann-Marie MacDonald, Anne Kennedy, birthday, books, Canlit, Days of the Unicorns, Echolocation, fairy tale life, fairy tales, Garth Martens, glow-in-the-dark nail polish, Halloween, Jeffrey Ricker, Joelle Barron, magazine, nail polish, Neverland, Phyllis Webb, Poetry Bash, Prince George, Sina Queyra, Swoon, teacup, Vancouver, Vancouver Writers Festival, writing process
I can’t believe it’s already November! What a whirlwind fall’s been so far. I’ve been so busy, but having so much fun, too!
First up, the Vancouver Writers Festival happened at the end of last month. Due to my work schedule, I took in a bunch of events concentrated into just a couple days, but they were all lovely events. (Besides, if I went to all the events that I wanted to, and bought all the books I wanted to, my wallet would be whining inconsolably.)
I went to Pure Poetry on Friday morning, where I got to hang out with Garth Martens, who was in town to catch some of the Festival’s events. I remembered to bring my copy of his book with me, too, so that I finally got my copy signed. (Garth read for Swoon back in April.) At Pure Poetry, six poets read from varied and fascinating work: Kris Demeanor, Eve Joseph, Christopher Levenson, Anne Kennedy, Katherena Vermette, and Sina Queyras, whose performance of her quasi-found poem “Elegy Written in a City Cemetery” convinced me to buy her new book, M x T. When I met her after the reading as she signed my copy, Sina Queyra complimented me on my dress. Yes!
On Saturday morning, I went to the reading of Ann-Marie MacDonald‘s new novel, Adult Onset. I mostly went to the event because I was introduced to her work in my first year of the English Honours program at the University of Victoria, in the same class where I met my sweetheart, James. Some of our first conversations about literature and the world began with discussion of Ann-Marie MacDonald’s work. On Saturday, MacDonald was a good reader–very funny, but also honest about the gravity of some of her subjects. I haven’t read the book yet and I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it because I have such an intimating stack of books in my “to read” pile, but I do intend to read it!
In the afternoon, I went to the celebration of Phyllis Webb, which was also a little bit sentimental for me because I grew up reading her poetry and performing it in speech arts festivals. The event was well-curated, I thought, with video and radio clips of Webb interviewing other writers and reading her own work interspersed with very felt and moving tributes to her by a bunch of other talented poets. Phyllis Webb was also in attendance, and spoke a couple words at the end, and signed books. I got my copy of her collected, Peacock Blue, signed, and got to tell her that I performed her poetry as a kid. Have you read her poem “Days of the Unicorns” before? I’m in love with that poem (I’m also in love with the man who hasn’t ever requested that we take my unicorn blanket off our shared bed).
Finally, I went to the Poetry Bash in the evening on Saturday, an event that I haven’t missed since I moved to Vancouver. It was enjoyable, as always. Billeh Nickerson is always such an energy onstage, and it was lovely to hear readings by other poets I’ve heard read before and those I hadn’t. I enjoyed Sina Queyra and Katherena Vermette again, and it was good fun to hear Patricia Young’s poems about the mating rituals of animals and insects.
And now I interrupt your regularly-scheduled blog-reading with an excerpt from my real fairy tale life:
The other thing that happened that weekend was that I celebrated my birthday on Sunday (that’s October 26, if you’re taking notes for next year). My amazing parents actually surprised me by showing up on Saturday afternoon (right before the Phyllis Webb reading, so, because I had two tickets, I brought my mom as my date instead of my husband). Inbetween Festival events, we all spent the day together and it was wonderful.
On my birthday, I worked all day, and then met up with them for dinner. I had had a day full of thoughtful messages, little gifts, and kind words from dear ones near and far, but none from my brother, which occurred to me was strange but I was not suspicious and so completely flabbergasted to see my brother at the restaurant table. He drove all the way from Prince George (10 hours) so he could surprise me for my birthday, even though he just had to leave again first thing the following morning.
After dinner and dessert, I opened up presents from my family, and among them was a beautiful set of fine teacups from my sweetheart.
I exclaimed over how much I love them and said, “Ah! And I was just admiring the pretty teacups at Neverland!”
This sentence was too much for my brother to take (“Neverland?”), who laughed, snorted, and then proceeded to choke on the pink (!) sparkling wine that we served with the cake.
The rest of my family laughed too, and James commented, “Yup. That is an actual sentence that describes Ruth’s real life.”
It’s a good life, guys. Love is good.
Speaking of Neverland–which is an amazingly pretty little teashop in Kitsilano–I want to remind you all of Joelle Barron. She’s the one who introduced me to Neverland, over a year ago, and she’s also the amazing writer I tagged in the writer tag and blog hop in my post with all the photos of the robin. At the last Swoon event in April, Joelle brought Jeffrey and me each a single long-stemmed rose for being good hosts. Ah! Talk about swoony. Anyhow, on her blog post she wrote some fascinating stuff about her own writing process (writing in bed?! I really need to fuss up and get a laptop) that you should really go read. She also wrote some really kind things about me that make me blush a lot. Joelle is such a lovely person–if you don’t know her work, I really suggest you start following her now. I think she’ll change your (reading) life.
A few of my teenage students from The Bolton Academy of Spoken Arts are published on the CBC website right now with their entries in the youth category for the “True Stories of Belonging” writing challenge. I’m honoured that these students entrusted me to help them decide how to tell their stories, and so awed that they are brave enough to share them with the world. My colleagues and students at Bolton are doing all kinds of exciting things right now; check out the school’s website to find out more.
What else can I tell you? Well, I am very excited that my contributor copy of Echolocation arrived in the mail (just one day of shy of my birthday). I took some pictures of it this morning, looking all seductive against my rain-streaked window.
I also had a lot of fun with my family this Halloween, with one last spooky hurrah at my childhood home in Prince George, BC. It was appropriately foggy and atmospheric that night, which added to the fun of our hyperbolically haunted decorations. I had been planning for weeks to just dress up as a witch (I’d packed my carry-on suitcase almost exclusively with black clothing and striped tights), but then my mother re-discovered a really ridiculously frilly pink prom dress in our old costume boxes, so I went as a lady ghost. (It is always really hard to convince me to wear 1. anything pink or 2. frilly. 3. a dress.) I was pretty pleased with how my make-up worked out, all white and ghastly, and the fact that I finally got to wear glow-in-the-dark nail polish.
Don’t forget that Swoon is happening again soon, on Saturday, November 15!