The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Connection is Everything

by Tricia Dower

Who knew a book tour could be so much fun? Part two of mine took me to Vancouver and Calgary where other writers with whom I’ve been “virtual” friends for years showed up to hear me read. You’d have thought we’d known each other since grade school. Hugs all around. Non-stop chatter. Tamara Lee, Patti Parkinson, and Hannah Holborn in Vancouver. Jen McDougall and Heather Eigler in Calgary.

The surprising, glorious Vancouver sun spilled into the open door of Café Montmartre where three other authors (Julie Paul, Madeline Sonik, Pamela Stewart) and I read from a small stage. Our friends and families filled the room, creating an intimate atmosphere. The talented performance poet Radar was part of my entourage. Colin and I had followed her career in Victoria and we’ve missed her since she moved to Vancouver. Her BF plays acoustic guitar and mandolin in the band Headwater and we—Hannah and her husband Ian, Tamara, Radar, Colin and I—headed over to the Libra Room after the reading to hear them play what they’ve dubbed “tractor jazz.” Colin and I had happened across one of their impromptu performances on a BC ferry in February so we knew that meant ‘a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll.’ Can’t say we gave them our full attention. Too busy talking about books and writing, joy and angst. Losing every other word in the din. Revelling in the affirmation and kinship.

More sun along with kilometres of wow mountains and lakes on the drive to Cow Town. Posters announcing the reading as we entered McNally Robinson’s downtown store, my book in the window—a different kind of wow. The three-story, 20,000-square foot store is impressive and we made our way to the top floor and the restaurant, Prairie Ink, where the reading would take place. More posters along the way. “Hey, there’s Pasha’s book!” I said, pointing it out to Colin. Pasha Malla’s The Withdrawal Method in its bright blue cover.

We were there on that specific date because of the Calgary Freelance Association. They hold their annual meeting/dinner at the bookstore each year and request a “literary event” as a sort of dessert. Madeline and I were it. So I was pleased to see them, about twenty strong, in Prairie Ink when we arrived, tables pushed together for their meeting. We wouldn’t be playing to an empty room. But the store was in a bit of disarray. It’s closing in August and the event coordinator had quit—suddenly, I gathered—leaving the bookkeeper to look after the evening. I last saw him leading the editors on a tour of the store before the reading. We never saw the editors again, either. Another employee was enlisted to introduce Madeline and me.

“I’m the only one who isn’t afraid of public speaking,” she said. “Had I known I’d be doing this I wouldn’t have worn my Pooh shirt.”

She did a fine job and, despite the AWOL editors, the room was full thanks to Colin’s family (two sisters, one brother-in-law, two nieces, four nephews, two with their fiancées); two of his former business associates; Jen’s parents, sisters and book club; Heather and her sister; and the Calgary friends of two members of my Victoria writing group. The best part for me was engaging with people after the reading, answering their questions, talking about the stories. Jen’s book club has chosen to read Silent Girl this month. They’ve never tried a story collection before and I enjoyed exploring with a few of them how they might approach a discussion of it. Hanging out with the family afterward was great fun, too. Jared and I want you to read the whole book to us, Colin's niece Katherine said.

After a wonderful evening the next night with Jen’s incredible family, it was back on the road again for more wow scenery and an appearance at Inanna’s booth during the Congress of the Humanities at UBC. Hawking books with my editor, schmoozing professors of women’s studies and literature, suggesting they consider incorporating my book in their coursework. What a joy to find people eager to talk about Shakespeare and feminism and social justice. I met a woman from the National University of Ireland who’s completing her doctorate in Shakespearean influences in Canadian literature. She was as excited as I was that she’d discovered my book.

All of these experiences confirmed that what I most enjoy about this publishing experience is having my stories “out there” at last. Sharing them with more and more people. And the best part of the readings is connecting with old friends and making new ones. As Angel in my story Cocktails with Charles says, “Connection is everything.”

Top: Reading at Café Montmartre in Vancouver. (In the immediate foreground, Hannah and Tamara.) Right: A poster from McNally Robinson.


Blogger Jacqueline said...

That all sounds so wonderful. I imagine the connection makes all the hard work and time worth every second.

It's inspiring to me to read this post because I am beginning to feel I have some books percolating to the surface.

I will remember your experiences when I have that moment or many moments where I think 'why did I ever get myself into this!?'

Thu Jun 05, 10:36:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

So cool! Keep it going, Tricia!

Thu Jun 05, 11:07:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, you two. Glad to hear ideas are percolating in your creative brew machine, Jacqueline. It sure is a different experience though -- the marketing versus the writing.

Thu Jun 05, 02:19:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I love that you are truly enjoying your book tour!

Fri Jun 06, 07:14:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

It was great to meet you, too. It did feel as though we'd known one another for years.

And her performance, folks... Just like Andrew reported earlier. Fabulous with the voices.

Fri Jun 06, 01:32:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Anne. Thanks, Tamara. And, you know, we HAVE known each other for years; its just a different kind of knowing -- through our writing and reflections on the writerly life.

Fri Jun 06, 03:04:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

That blue baby carriage over your head is freaking me out, Tricia.

Mon Jun 09, 04:09:00 pm GMT-4  

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