Dispatch #2 from the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival 2014

A few days have passed since the Denman Island Readers Writers Festival.  Although this 2nd and final post touches ever so lightly on my observations on the Festival, I confess that I was more concerned that the world beyond our esoteric activity was in discord; the shooting down and massacre of the lost souls on Malaysian flight MH17, the eruption of warfare and death in Gaza and Israel; the unending atrocities around the world; and even, on a much less apocalyptic, but much more personal dimension, my good friend and neighbour Mike’s hospitalization and the search to understand what had impacted him. Writing matters, of course, but on a different scale, I think, to the agonies (and the joys) large and small that seem unending…

Here is a brief summary of some of the Festival events…

July 18, 2014

This morning I participated in Caroline Adderson’s workshop on  How to Get That Novel Done.

It was a no-nonsense session that offered a panoply of approaches to help authors get a move on with their work. One of Caroline`s very helpful exercises was for workshop partners to create a list of lightweight and weightier questions to ask of our characters.  As authors strive to create real representations with a deep back story, it helps to view our creations with an historical clarity. One way to do this is to write obituaries for our characters. Obituaries are often concise and information-laden short stories that tell the history of the deceased, the style and the substance of their lives. While there is usually some fictional glossing over, the facts are rarely to be disputed. For an author to know a character as deeply as someone in real life is to enhance not only the reading experience but the writing experience as well.

I hope I have that grasp of the depth of my characters. The final arbiter is always the reader, of course.

July 19, 2014

This was a busy Saturday for me at the festival. I began with Pauline Holdstock’s workshop, Vanishing Tricks- Taking the WRITER Out of the Writing. While this might seem a peculiar workshop for me to take (I have no choice but to sheepishly own up that most of my writing is rife with ME) it turned out to be an enlightening experience. The first assigned task Pauline gave us was to write a brief personal story, hopefully pungent and meaningful. Then, each of our 3-5 minute bits of word wizardry was circulated to another random participant who was asked to rewrite the material, sticking to the given facts, but with fresher eyes. This interesting exercise clearly demanded, on rewrite, that the original author be excised.

In the afternoon, I attended a reading by multi-talented poet, teacher, unionist and environmental activist Rita Wong.

Following Rita’s powerful appearance, 7 local authors presented. Here they are and their specific genre (and a link if I can find one.) Lucy Dabbs – Fiction; Del Phillips – Sci-Fi novel;  Lorraine Martinuik – Poetry; Butch Leslie – Fiction; Annie Siegel – Memoir ; Hillel Wright – a select reading from his novel, Border Town and other writings; and Hersh Chernovsky – Satire

In the evening, we attended a Main Stage event, “The Writing Life”  where editor and publisher Douglas Gibson moderated a panel that (and here I am cribbing the promo notes) got inside the heads and hearts of four talented writers – Angie Abdou, Caroline Adderson, Pauline Holdstock and Richard Wagamese – as they shared their stories about becoming writers and surviving in the challenging world of Canadian literature.

They were a complementary group and the evening swum by effortlessly. At least for me as I sat in the audience.

July 20, 2014

The final half-day of the festival began with readings by 6 local authors, including yours truly. Host Keith Keller introduced each of us and hardly ever had to use the hook to pull any of us off the stage for going beyond the 12 minute time limit. Jo-Anne (JP) McLean – who read from Redemption, the third novel in her The Gift trilogy; Mica Gries – a self-described Weird Fiction writer; Howard Stewart – a Non-Fiction piece about the Salish Sea; Yours truly (again) reading from the first chapter of Drawn towards the Sun, my prequel to my first novel, Like a Child to Home;  Susan Marie Yoshihara, fiction; and Stewart Goodings – A delightful memoir about Petula Clark.

The final event was a Main Stage highlight. Moderator Des Kennedy, Maude Barlow and Chris Turner.

These three active environmental campaigners, each approaching the assault on our environment from a different platform, offered the standing room only audience attending this final show at the festival a strong sense of their hope and commitment.

July 21, 2014

The festival had ended, but life went on. In fact, I attended a celebration of life for long time Islander, Zella Clark, much of the afternoon.  Suffice it to say, it was an amazing experience, a total community activity, a reminder, perhaps, that life and art can be the same thing, at least every once in a while.

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