Archive for the ‘Drew Hayden Taylor’ Category

Lovely Eden Mills…

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I spent a good part of the weekend in the picturesque village of Eden Mills less than an hour’s drive west of Toronto, for the 23rd annual Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. What a wonderful festival. I drove down on Friday night with the hilarious writer, playwright, and broadcaster Erika Ritter. We both read at the Gala dinner that kicked off the festival. The audience was large, warm, and welcoming. After the after-party, Erika and I drove back to Toronto. This was truly a commuting festival for me as I made three trips in all.

The book table at Eden Mills efficiently managed by the good folks at The Bookshelf.

On the Saturday, I drove back to Eden Mills for the Author Dinner on the beautifully landscaped grounds of a volunteer’s home. Festival founder Leon Rooke spoke, we were serenaded by an amazing guitarist, and we ate until we could eat no more (at least , I did). It was great fun and very relaxing to be among so many wonderful writers and festival volunteers. It was during the Author Dinner that I crossed another threshold in my writing career. All writers hit these milestones as you progress in your journey. You know what I mean, your first book, your first reading, your first prize, the first time you see someone on the subway reading your book, etc., etc. Well at the Author Dinner, I was named in my first ever writer Port-a-Potty tweet. I’m not sure what to make of it but I think it means I’ve somehow “arrived” even though I had just “gone,” if you know what I mean.

On Sunday, it was another enjoyable commute to Eden Mills in the company of Erika Ritter. My reading was at 2:30, at the Mill. It’s a beautiful outdoor venue on the side of a gentle grass slope that runs down into the river. It seemed to go well, although the allotted 20 minutes flew by. I signed books at the outdoor book store afterwards and chatted with readers, which is always a favourite part of any festival.

There was another great dinner Sunday night as the proceedings wound down. They must have served a dozen different kinds of pie for dessert. I may have had a piece of each one but I can’t really remember now. I think it’s possible that I was drunk on pie.

Over the course of  the weekend, I reconnected with lots of other writers and bookish people who I’d seen at other festivals and reading gigs including Drew Hayden Taylor, Robert Wiersema, Clare Hitchens, Andrew Pyper, Bill Deverell, Nino Ricci, John Vaillant and Alissa York. I also spent some time with writers I met at Eden Mills for the first time including the Booker longlisted Alison Pick, Sylvia Tyson, Dan Vyleta, Lorna Crozier, and Giller winner Johanna Skibsrud among others. It was my first time at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, but I really hope I get the chance to go back. My thanks to the more than 100 volunteers who made it all happen. Hope to see you next year…

My Canada Reads Gift Guide

Friday, December 24th, 2010

CBC asked all of the Canada Reads finalists to answer a kind of holiday gift guide questionnaire. Today was my turn. (Excuse the crazed photo. It’s not CBC’s fault. It’s tough to get a good shot of me. Tell me I don’t always look like this…)

Back from a great couple of days in Vancouver

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I arrived on Vancouver’s funky and artsy Granville Island on Thursday afternoon for the 23rd Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival. The fun for me actually started in Toronto’s Peason airport. I was grabbing a bite to eat before my four and a half hour foodless flight when I struck up a conversation with a lovely woman from Edmonton sitting next to me at the bar. I was checking the festival schedule on my iPad when she asked if I were a writer. I replied in the affirmative (still thrilled to be thought of as a “writer”). She asked what I had written and I mentioned my two novels. Well the guy sitting next to her looked over and said “You wrote The Best Laid Plans? I loved that book!” He lives in the Kitchener Waterloo region and he and his wife had both read the novel for One Book, One Community (for me, the program that keeps on giving!). What a small world. It was quite surreal. He even took a photo with his cellphone to prove to his wife that we’d actually met. I have yet to stumble upon a subway rider reading one of my novels, but this little encounter came close. After some more lively conversationwith my two new friends, I had to dash to catch my flight.

The Westjet crew are always a little more laid back than on Air Canada. My favourite line from the flight attendant leading us throught he pre-flight emergency procedures was “If you would give us your undivided attention for the following safety demonstration… we’d be shocked.” Nice one. The flight was uneventful and we landed on time in Vancouver. I was met at the airport by Andrew, a friendly festival volunteer, and we jumped in his car for the drive to Granville Island. They really treat you royally at VIWF. I checked into the beautiful Granville Island Hotel, the headquarters for the festival, signed in at the authors’ registration table, picked up my author’s kit, and set out in search of food. I was starving after the long flight. I grabbed a bite at a local restaurant and mapped out my thoughts for my two panels the next day. Despite the time change, I decided to go to one of the evening sessions. Authors can attend any session for free, space permitting. So I sat in on a session called “Old Friends” with msytery/thriller writers Linwood Barclay, Gail Bowen, and scotsman Quintin Jardine. It was all about the challenges and glories of writing recurring characters, book after book. Hence “Old Friends.” I thoroughly enjoyed the session. Listening to Quintin Jardine’s thick Scottish brogue made me realize what a terrible, pseudo-Scottish accent I give to Angus when I’m recording the podcast or doing a reading. Oh well. I’ll keep working on it. Still on Toronto time, I was exhausted by the end of it and even skipped the authors’ hospitality suite in the hotel to head directy to bed.

Thursday morning, after breakfast, I attended a session called “Raw Material” with four very well known writers: Jack Hodgins a brilliant Canadian novelist I’ve enjoyed for years; Charlotte Gray, the award-winning non-fiction writer who penned Reluctant Genius, the wonderful bio of Alexander Graham Bell; Terence Young, a very talented short story writer; and Don McKay, a celebrated Newfoundland poet. I was already familiar with Hodgins and Gray, but I was really happy to be introduced to views and works of Terence Young and Don McKay. They discussed how they found and used the “raw material” that they eventually shaped into their award-winning works. It was very interesting.

Then it was time for the first of my two panels/readings: “Day Job.”

The point of the session was to explore how our day jobs influenced our writing, for better or worse. A good crowd showed up and the moderator, Ian Weir, author of the great novel, Daniel O’Thunder, did an admirable job drawing us out and keeping the discussion lively. We all read a selection from our novels before Ian led us into conversation and then opened the floor for questions.

Later on in the evening, it was time for my second appearance for a session called “Funny Guys.”

Ken Finkelman was supposed to join us but in the end was unable to make it out to Vancouver. It was nice to renew contact with Drew Hayden Taylor, with whom I’ve read on several occasions in the past couple of years. I blurbed his novel, Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, which was just shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. A very funny guy, Charlie Demers, a local stand up comic and author, hosted and moderated the discussion. He did a wonderful job and had clearly done his homework by reading all of our books. Anosh Irani was concerned beforehand that his novel isn’t really that funny, and was never intended to be. But in fact, both he and his novel were hilarious. As usual, we all read first before diving into a discussion about humour writing. Afterwards, we answered audience questions, signed books, and generally chatted up the crowd.

Later on that night, I attended the musical tribute to Paul Quarrington featuring his band, Porkbelly Futures, and Dave Bidini. The music was fantastic, but it was also sad without Paul there to enjoy it too.

I had such an amazing time at the festival. There’s something about being immersed in the world of writers and readers that made the few days I was there, memorable and fun. I also got to meet and speak with a number of big name writers including Steven Galloway, Camilla Gibbb, Kathleen Winter, Dave Bidini, and Charles Foran. For the most part, I remained calm when meeting these literary superstars. I even got to have lunch with the 2009 Leacock Medal winner, my friend Mark Lerien-Young and his other half, Rayne.

While it’s nice to be back home, it sure was great participating in the Vancouver International Writers Festival.

Heading back to the Headwaters Arts Festival

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Shortly after McClelland & Stewart published The Best Laid Plans in September 2008, I was invited to appear at the Headwaters Arts Festival in Caledon, Ontario alongside Giller winner Joseph Boyden, and prolific writer Drew Hayden Taylor (on whose new book Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, a blurb from me appears). I was over the moon to be sitting at the front of a packed house next to these wonderful writers. We all spoke for a bit and then read a piece from our respective books. Finally, the audience could buy books from the good folks at Booklore and we signed them. (To be clear, we each signed our own books.) It was a memorable night for me as you can read.

Well, I get to do it all over again this coming October. Yes, undoubtedly against the organizers’ better judgement, they’ve asked me back, this time to read from The High Road. Even better, I’ll be joining three other accomplished writers, one of whom I already know. Cathy Marie Buchanan, NY Times bestselling author of The Day the Falls Stood Still is married to a fellow ball hockey player in the Withrow Park Ball Hockey League. I attended her book launch last fall and I’m delighted to get the chance to read with her. Terry O’Reilly, the author of The Age of Persuasion, based on his excellent radio show, and Kate Taylor a Globe and Mail columnist and novelist round out the line-up. It’s still a couple of months off, but I know this will be a great night.

My thanks to Nancy Frater at Booklore for inviting me back.

I’m going to be the MC for the 2010 Leacock Gala

Friday, January 29th, 2010

In the last couple of years, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Orillia at various Leacock-related events, and getting to know the folks at the Leacock Association who do so much to breathe life into the great Canadian humourist’s legacy. I’ve been to two Leacock luncheons, one Friday night soiree, two Leacock Galas, a couple of great parties, the Leacock Summer Festival, and even a local book club meeting. I’ve also had a piece run in the Orillia Packet & Times. I’ve enjoyed them all. I was already planning to attend this year’s luncheon and gala but it seems I’ll now have some additional responsibilities. I was thrilled some months ago to get a call from outgoing Leacock Association President, Wayne Scott, inviting me to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the 2010 Leacock Gala (!) on June 12th, on the shores of Lake Couchiching. I’m excited and nervous at the same time.

You see, I have big shoes to fill. Last year, the hilarious and talented writer, Drew Hayden Taylor, ran the show.  And the year before that, the amazing satirical songwriter, Nancy White, was in charge. Tough acts to follow, to be sure. I’m honoured to have been asked and have embarked on a rigorous training regimen that includes 30 minutes in front of the bathroom mirror every day speaking into my hairbrush. So far, it’s going well. I hope to be up to the challenge by June.

“Testing, testing one, two, three, testing. Is this thing on?”

My article runs in Writers’ Union of Canada mag

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Early in the fall, I was asked to write a piece for the fall/winter edition of WRITE, the official magazine of the Writers’ Union of Canada (WUC). The magazine is now out there, with Paul Quarrington on the cover, and focuses on Canadian humour. I was only too happy to oblige. I joined the WUC in the fall, figuring a contributor to the magazine better be a member. I wish I could actually reproduce the article here, but the magazine is only available to WUC members, and I wouldn’t want to be drummed out of the organization within a few months of joining! After all, membership has its privileges! Other contributors to this humour edition include my friend and fellow Leacock Medal winner, Mark Leiren-Young, the hilarious Drew Hayden Taylor (whose new novel I’ve recently blurbed), and the very funny Erika Ritter, among others. The magazine is great, and well worth reading, even with my piece! (Psst! The article I contributed is quite like the essay that ran on the Globe and Mail books site last spring.)

My first blurb…

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Another threshold crossed in my unexpected literary journey. I was directed to the Random House/Knopf Canada website today where I found Drew Hayden Taylor’s new novel listed. It’s due out in March. Drew is a very funny guy and an accomplished writer. I’ve shared the stage with him several times in the last year at various readings and authors festivals and I’ve always enjoyed our time together. The folks at Knopf Canada, his publisher, contacted me earlier in the fall to see if I would read Drew’s manuscript for his new novel, Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, and provide a suitably supportive sentence or two. I was thrilled to be asked. They sent me the manuscript and I thoroughly enjoyed his brilliant new novel.

A few weeks ago, I sent in my “blurb.” When I reached the website today, I saw that my comment is sandwiched between wonderful quotations from Joseph Boyden (last year’s Giller winner) and Ian Ferguson (2004 Leacock Medal winner). What amazing literary company I’m somehow now keeping. Very cool. As I read Drew’s manuscript, I couldn’t help thinking about a line my friend and fellow writer Mike Tanner kindly wrote to help promote TBLP before it was published. It seemed to fit how I felt about Drew’s writing. So I modified the sentiment but felt I owed Mike at least a footnote.

Drew Hayden Taylor blurb graphic

Headwaters Arts Festival

Monday, October 6th, 2008

This past Friday night, I particpated in the Headwaters Arts Festival in Caledon, Ontario.  What a wonderful evening it was.  Billed as Armchairs, Authors and Art, I joined two very accomplished authors, Joseph Boyden and Drew Hayden Taylor for an evening of talking and reading before an audience of over 200 book lovers.  Then afterwards, our books were on sale and there was a book signing.  What a wonderful group of people.  Nancy Frater and the good folks at BookLore put on a great event.  Here’s the ad that ran in the local magazine: