6 events in 2 days. Now, this is my idea of fun. Yes, I am a pencil neck geek (thanks to Grant Lawrence for getting this particular phrase stuck in my head).
However, this year is a little challenging. Andy is only 9 1/2 months old and I am still getting up once or twice each night. Hence the rubber-chicken, head bobbing, about-to-drift-off-to-sleep routine while attending the evening lectures. My deepest apologies to Judy Fong Bates and Giles Blunt for my sleep-deprived rudeness at their events.
My first event at the writers’ fest was to listen to Charles Foran. Who? A rock star according to all the people waiting in line around us. They can’t wait to hear him, their excitement buzzes around us. Okay, sure. We take our seats and scan the front of the auditorium and see a somewhat dishevelled, greasy-looking, used-car-salesman-look-alike chatting to some festival organisers. No – say it ain’t so. This cannot be Charles Foran, he looks so… well… icky. I should know better – and be less judgemental. He is brilliant. His discussions about and readings from his Mordecai Richler biography are riveting. I’m not a Mordecai Richler fan, so I’m very pleasantly surprised to hear about both the rude, belligerent and tender, caring sides of this larger-than-life Canadian personality.
Our next event, this year’s Bruce Hutchison Memorial Lecture, has Judy Fong Bates speaking about growing up as the only Chinese girl in her community. She opens the lecture by speaking directly to the audience; lively, warm and her comments are heartfelt. Then she starts to read directly from her notes. Ugh. I wish she had just made a few point-form notes and spoke to us in the direct, relaxed manner she used at the beginning of her event. While her topic is interesting, her soft-spoken gentle voice lulls me to sleep. I keep waking up with my head jerking up from my chest. Dad isn’t faring any better. She drones on about half an hour beyond her scheduled time. Honestly, it feels like this event will never end.
Every year that I’ve attended the first event on Sunday mornings the audience has been sparse and rather sleepy. The audience at this year’s early morning event proves to be no different. However, we’re in for a treat. Wayne Grady and Merilyn Simonds are hilarious! Their lively banter and witty remarks keep the audience in stitches for most of the lecture. Together, but very much on an individual basis, they wrote a book about their trip from Vancouver to Toronto via the U.S. coastlines (picture their route as a giant smiley-face). Merilyn’s sections begin with an ‘M’ and Wayne’s with a ‘W’. As they take turns reading excerpts from the book, they emphasize the M or W – entire audience chuckling at the wee joke. Merliyn chats about relationship-related things while Wayne speaks of facts and figures – audience chortles in response to spousal digs and jabs between the two of them. We all leave feeling quite awake and cheerful, those of us with books to sign bolting up to the tent to have a quick chat with Wayne and Merilyn and get their autographs.
Next up: Grant Lawrence. OMG. This event was my only personal choice, all the others had been selected by Dad. As Dad is an avid reader, I’m always more than happy to attend events chosen by him, but I am also glad we didn’t miss out on this one. A self-professed pencil-necked geek, Grant appears as anything but. He’s handsome (actually gorgeous with brilliant blue eyes), muscular and speaks with such animation that I think the entire audience is quite captivated. I know I am. He reads from his book titled “Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck.” We’re all having a great time, it’s like he’s speaking to each one of us individually. I suppose his background as lead singer for a band and hosting radio shows on the CBC have provided him with a lot of public speaking practice. I can’t wait to tuck into his book.
After spending a pleasantly exhausting lunch break with Mom N, Mom J, Daniel and Andy, Dad and I are already quite tired by the time we find our seats for Giles Blunt’s lecture. You see, after our lunch at the A and W we went and tired ourselves out swimming at the pool in Sechelt. Fighting the current in the river run and tossing a ball around wore us out. Unfortunately, Giles’ gory readings aren’t quite enough to keep my mind focused, his monotone voice lulls me into a fixed-gaze zombie state while I desperately try to stay awake by gouging my nails into my palms and thighs. I think I managed to avoid a repeat performance of my rubber chicken impression from last night. It was a close call.
Dad and I saunter down the street to have dinner at the local Indian restaurant; each having the lamb curry and freshly prepared chai tea. Satiated, we head back to the festival. After an unsuccessful quick search for caffeinated products we nervously head over to our final event. We’re nervous about whether or not we’ll be able to keep our eyelids open the entire time. Fingers crossed – me with my nails gouging into my palms for good measure.
When I first read the festival write-up about Ivan Coyote and Veda Hille I wondered if Dad had lost his mind in making this selection. Of course not – their performance is absolutely fantastic. If you ever get the opportunity to see Ivan and Veda perform together – seize it! Ivan tells various stories about her life with Veda playing musical pieces in between. Sounds dull doesn’t it? Wrong!!! Do the exclamation marks get my point across? Probably not. I couldn’t find a clip of them performing together, but to prove how good they are here are clips of Veda Hille singing her song LuckLucky and Ivan Coyote speaking at the Vancouver Poetry Slam to give you an idea of the talent they bring to the writers’ fest. We’re all enjoying their event so much that towards the end when we’re asked to join in a round of “Tuktoyaktuk Hymn” we all sing along. The auditorium is filled with a giant choir of discordant voices. Glancing around, other audience members are blissfully singing along, in tune, out of tune, everyone is happy.
So, on this cheerful note, another writers’ fest wraps up. Having had our literary fill, Dad and I return to the house happily chatting about the festival and its the highs and lows. Yet again I’m in awe of the speakers and the efforts of the festival staff and volunteers that make this such a memorable event.
I wonder who’ll be on next year’s schedule?