This past weekend, I went to Winnipeg to give a reading at McNally Robinson as part of the Thin Air Winnipeg International Writers’ Festival. I view this trip as a landmark in that it is probably the first trip in my entire life where I did not overly stress out about packing for it in advance. (Yes, it’s only a weekend trip, but that hasn’t stopped me from insane packing stress in the past.) I spent almost no time packing and my suitcase was even really light (especially for me)….until this happened:
A fundraising book sale for the Thin Air festival...can't beat those prices!
My friend K enabling me. Her hubby A. carried their adorable baby
while my books got wheeled over to the hotel.
I know my husband and I need to go through and prune our collection…and I know we just paid a back-breaking sum to clean the ones we have, but I couldn’t help myself. This was actually the restrained pile because as I was browsing I noticed a bunch of books (mostly CanLit) that I’ve purchased over the years and STILL haven’t read. With my selections this time I tried to take into consideration a) what I will actually read and b) what is not likely to be available at the university library (hence the inclusion of more than a few mysteries/thrillers/YA books). Unfortunately, I was so excited about my purchases that I actually managed a faux-pas of plugging the used book sale while at the bookstore for my reading (doh!!) But in my experience, book lovers aren't deterred from buying new books by the prospect of buying used books at some point later, so I hope no harm was done.
Thanks to some very accommodating friends, I was able to pre-schedule seven separate hang-outs over the course of the weekend, along with the planned bookstore reading. I saw new babies, new houses, and shared a cup of bacon. I had the most delicious homemade brunch in St-Boniface, a wonderful salad at Prairie Ink, and gin and tonics in Wolseley. I dished with poets, fiction writers, graphic novelists, and above all, loved all the low-key hanging out and catching up with friends. I miss you, Winnipeggers! So nice to see you all. The reading itself went well, I think, and at least was not entirely populated by people I know. Most importantly, there were people there (never a guarantee!). Thank you so much to everyone who showed up!!
Check out this amazing display!!! McNally Robinson is the best.
Me and the indefatigable G.M.B. Chomichuk, just before the reading.The few parts I’ve been reading from Bone and Bread at different events didn’t seem to be quite long enough for the time I needed to fill, so I decided to read a section that I haven't read aloud in ages.
Before the reading, I had a nice dinner and chat with fellow Banff alumnus and brilliant novelist (and reviewer, as previously blogged here) Joan Thomas, whom I'm sorry I didn't get a picture with because she was looking lovely and so summery. On the other hand, it gives me an excuse to post this photo instead, from a few years back, that I don't think I ever blogged:
Hanging out in the Rideau Hall bathrooms
at the Governor General's Literary Awards (2009?)
I last read it at the QWF mentorship reading many moons ago, and I remember hearing my voice high, tight, and probably near-hysterical sounding. Definitely my worst reading ever. For some reason, the section felt so strange and raw and interior, and I could sense it wasn’t connecting with anyone in the audience. I think it’s possible the readings or some selections of them were being recorded for broadcast on the radio (and this might have contributed to some extra nervousness), but I’m sure they wouldn’t have used mine.
So I was happy I decided (at the very last minute…while standing at the podium!) to read that part and kind of own it, for lack of a better term. It might not have been the most brilliant delivery in the world, but it wasn't awful, which was the previous baseline. I don’t think the passage has changed at all (if so, only very slightly) in the intervening years, but I’ve changed, and the way I was able to read it in front of an audience has changed, and that makes me really happy.
The next three photos below all courtesy of my friend Greg Chomichuk (you can follow him on Instagram here):
Me in conversation with the lovely Charlene Diehl,
the warm heart at the centre of Thin Air
the warm heart at the centre of Thin Air
Signing stock at McNally Robinson
After the reading, I went out with some friends, most of whom used to be part of a writing group I was in that grew out of a class with Dennis Cooley at the University of Manitoba. At least four people from our class have now published books (some more than one), and I expect that list to grow in years to come.
Writers group alumni! (Can Lit quiz: can you spot the
experimental Canadian poet and critic?)
All in all, it was the perfect trip (including being bumped up to first class on the way in!!) except for a small hiccup in calling a cab to pick me up from the Neighbourhood Bookstore and Cafe, which was so neighbourhoody it didn't appear to have a street address! The guy who was working asked me to check my receipt and then ran outside to look, to no avail. And apparently if you only provide an intersection, the taxi company doesn't actually dispatch you a cab...although they don't tell you that until you call back fifteen minutes later after being eaten alive by mosquitos and getting anxious about missing your flight.
Even the employee couldn't figure out where it was.
A la prochaine, Winnipeg!