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BC Book Prizes On Tour

April 25, 2008

trust the process


I don’t know how the Kootenays tour went by so fast. While I enjoyed hearing everyone read (crying my eyes out at one of Meg’s readings, admiring the vivid flow of David’s writing, jumping into Heather’s interactive writing exercise and musing over her thoughtful words), it was the question and answer periods, the live discussions, that especially made the trip worthwhile, reminding me of how reading and writing feed and generate a larger dialogue that keeps flowing, a larger sense of community, an ability to imagine, to empathize, to keep learning.  Funny how we spend so much time both face-to-face and online doing just that.

Thanks everyone!

Posted by Rita Wong | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 2 Comments | Permalink

April 25, 2008

Nothing Stops the BC Book Tour ...

...although the near-white-out blizzard over Kootenay Pass last night came close. At first it was like we were in the Starship Enterprise, with millions of tiny asteroids flying at us and not much else in the blackness to give a sense of perspective. Very surreal. “We’ve reached warp speed,” Mr. Spock, I mean David, said, though in fact Bryan was inching along at a judicious 10km/hr or so, ready to stop and/or turn around the second we started sliding. For a few alarming moments somewhere short of the summit we were indeed in a complete white-out, and it looked like we’d be slouching back to Creston for the night .... but THEN, ghostly lights appeared up ahead; we crawled on and found ourselves behind the shield of a towering 18-wheeler with its hazards on. Other transports had pulled over, so we could only hope we weren’t following the path of Bob the Crazed Trucker of the Kootenays (if we were, I suppose we could only hope at least one of us would survive to write the story). Over the summit we went, and gradually the snow lightened. Some cocky youngster in a hot little car raced past us at 30 km/hr. Who knows what his/her fate was. We four travelling authors were safe and sound with Our Man Bryan. We love Bryan.

I should say that our visit to the Cranbrook Library last night was worth the adventure. One of those intimate gatherings with interesting questions and discussion ... and several keen folks walking away with four new books in hand. Yay! The matter of money-making occasionally comes up during Q&A sessions, and while we all ardently, and honestly, insist that our motivation for writing and touring comes from a passion for those endeavours (and that going into the writing biz for the money is usually a wacky idea), it’s always heartening to have people show their interest and their faith in our work by getting themselves a copy.

Signing off with best wishes from the Kootenay Roast coffee shop in Castlegar ...


Posted by Heather Burt | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 1 Comments | Permalink

April 25, 2008

The Writers Among Us

As those of you following this blog must be aware by now, every evening the four writers on the Kootenays leg of the B.C. Book Prizes tour visit a different public library or café. After Bryan Pike pays homage to the legion of corporations and organizations that have funded the tour, he introduces us and we each read from our books.

None of us is being mobbed by the kind of audience that you might imagine one meets on a book tour—people who have read our books and are dying to meet their authors—fans, in other words. Speaking for myself, I don’t think I’ve run into anyone on this tour (other than a teacher or librarian setting up the reading) who has actually read my book. Now, if this sounds like a complaint, believe me, it’s not. I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time to show up at these events and listen to us.

Most of the people who turn up fall into one of four categories:

1) People who are literary buffs who track these sorts of things.
2) People who spotted the poster in a bookstore window and found themselves free that evening.
3) People whose children saw us at school earlier that day.
4) People who just happened to be at the library, minding there own business, when these literary hooligans tumbled out of a minivan and started reading out loud, making it impossible for them to concentrate on whatever it was they really came there for.

But always lurking among them are the writers–-the people just as keenly interested in the craft as we are. You can see their eyes glittering from the back row.  They’re often shy. Polite. Tentative-–sometimes to the point where you have to coax it out of them: “So . . . do you write yourself?” I’m not the most intuitive guy in the world, but I can usually spot them. At least, I think I can. Who knows how many more are out there, wearing camouflage just a little too effective to pick out of the crowd?

The fact is, most of them want to be spotted. I always love meeting these people. I know some writers don’t. They keep waiting for that 800-page manuscript to thump to the floor between them and their new best friend to say, “Did you drop something? Oh, wait, that’s my novel. How did that get there?”

I don’t know why I like talking to these people so much. Maybe it’s the anticipation of that moment when the admission that they, too, are writers spills from their lips. Maybe it’s because sometimes I have the impression that right then, when they’re saying the actual words to me, is the first time they’re saying it aloud. Or even to themselves. And as I do my best to embolden them, usually just by talking about writing—the process, what it’s like when it’s going badly, what it’s like when it’s going well—I can see them warm to the idea before my very eyes. “I am a writer. I must be. After all, I’m talking shop with other writers!”

At the same time, these conversations are always just a little awkward for me. That’s because these people seem to assume that I have some advantage over them, that I know some secret they don’t, or even, perhaps, that I am a better writer than they are. That may or may not be true. I believe that getting published is a combination of talent, hard work, and luck. You need all three in some proportion. If you’re hugely talented, you need only a little hard work and luck. The world will beat a path to your door. If you’re incredibly lucky, you don’t need much hard work or talent. And if you work really, really hard—well, you still need some talent and a bit of luck. But for me, becoming an author has been a long and incremental process.

So I never know quite how to address these people, because I look at them and I still see me. Maybe they’re not published because they’re unlucky. Usually, I suspect, they just haven’t given it quite enough time. My point is, I never really know if maybe I shouldn’t be asking them for advice. There’s no way for me to know until I’ve read some of their work.

Which happens, sometimes. A man approached me this evening after we gave a reading to a small but enthusiastic crowd at the Cranbrook Public Library. He had written and illustrated a children’s book, and asked me to take a look at his manuscript. I’ll be reading it on the drive home to Vancouver, tomorrow. I don’t know if I can do anything for this man, but the least I can do is read the work he gave me. He was polite, he was brief, and he was direct—oh, and he also bought one book from each of the writers present and then asked him or her to sign it. 

In addition to being talented, hard-working and/or lucky, it doesn’t hurt to be smart about it, too.

Posted by David Jones | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 2 Comments | Permalink

April 24, 2008

The Top Of The Pass

A pleasent drive over Kootenay Pass

Meg and David enjoy a nice walk outside as we reach the sumit of Kootenay Pass

Posted by Bryan Pike | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 1 Comments | Permalink

April 24, 2008


We are sitting in the pub at the Mount Baker Hotel in Cranbrook.  I had a delicious poutine with really good gravy.  All five of us are typing away on our laptops.  Music blasting, guitars squealing.  Loud raucous male laughter from the table behind me, the dialogue interspersed with a lot of bulls__t.  Bulls__t?  Bulls__t!  No kidding me?  Bulls__t.  And then, “HA…HA…HA…HA…HA!”  These guys know how to enjoy life.  It makes me smile listening to them.

But on to more important matters.  The reason I feel compelled to write on this blog before I write on my own personal blog is I want to talk for a moment about Amy Woodland Elementary.

I LOVE this school.  Love it.  The minute you walk into the school, you can feel the commitment and dedication of the teachers.  These kids are so lucky with this staff.  I got such a wonderful feeling from every single person I met on the staff.  And you can feel it with the children.  Their enthusiasm, their eagerness to ask questions, the way the teachers were there supporting this event, involved.  It is a wonderful heart-warming thing to see.

And then, to make this visit even more special…

Bryan had driven by the school around 45 minutes before we were due to make sure we knew where it was and didn’t get lost.  And to my delight, we were treated to the sight of kids running, playing, swinging, in their pajamas.  PAJAMA DAY!  My favorite!  Then when Bryan drove back into the part of town where the shops were, I saw a Salvation Army and it seemed like a sign if I ever saw one.  So I decided to forgo the coffee shop and went into the second-hand store and bought myself some pajamas instead. 

How much fun is that?!  When we got to the school, I disappeared into the Staff bathroom and changed out of my carefully chosen authorly clothes into some lavender pajamas and a wonderful fluffy pink robe that was so soft.  I love that robe.  It is definitely coming home with me.

I feel such gratitude to the organizers of the BC Book Prizes for giving me and David the chance to experience this wonderful school.  I feel so happy that we were able to be here.  Talk to these kids, slip a few life lessons in on the sly.  Feel so fortunate.


Posted by Meg Tilly | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 1 Comments | Permalink

April 24, 2008

What to Read?

Figuring out what to read at a public event is always an interesting challenge. In the case of novels, you want the reading to be interesting/exciting, but you don’t want to give away too much ... something that’s self-contained but that will inspire the audience to track down the book and read more. Some scenes work just fine on the page but don’t translate very well to the spoken word. Scenes with dialogue require a certain amount of acting — a special challenge for solitary, writerly types! I had a couple of readings that I was happy with, but yesterday I was feeling itchy for a change (I have great admiration for theatre types who do long runs — night after night of the same role). Anyway, with David’s suggestion of a particular scene (he’s very kindly read my book) and Meg’s coaching in the area of making distinctions between different characters, I decided to try out a new reading — a tense scene with a lot of dialogue. I rehearsed at the back of a café in Creston, and last night’s event at the Creston Library offered the perfect audience — intimate, friendly, and very welcoming. I had a great time trying something new and am psyched to do the same scene again tonight in Cranbrook.

The event at Prince Charles Secondary in Creston ended with one of our best Q&A sessions so far (one student wanted to know if Rita had been influenced by Allen Ginsberg), and I’m indebted to Lynn the librarian for rescuing the new thermos I’d left behind at the school. Thanks, Lynn!

At Mount Baker Secondary this afternoon I got to try out another new presentation. The group was small enough for an interactive, creative writing type activity, and, considering it was last block of the day, with a Pro-D day tomorrow, the students were very kind to us (not to mention the very groovy librarian and English teacher who hosted us)!

Signing off from the Colonel Baker Lounge in Cranbrook, where we’ve got five duelling laptops set up (nothing anti-social intended ... we really dig each other ... we’re just incorrigible email/blog addicts) ....


Posted by Heather Burt | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 0 Comments | Permalink

April 23, 2008

Adopt a Library donations in Nelson

Mike Berg from Columbia Basin Trust with Donation to Redfish Elm in Nelson

Mike Berg from Columbia basin Trust with Donation to Redfish Elm

Nelson and District Credit Union donation to LV Rogers Secondary school in Nelson

Nelson and Distract Credit Union donates to LV Rogers Secondary School

Posted by Bryan Pike | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 0 Comments | Permalink

April 23, 2008

drinking green tea and blogging

Rita and Heather are at Prince Charles Secondary in Creston and Bryan had a bite to eat with David and me at A Break In Time Cafe.  It’s funny how on the road we choose where we want to eat, not by by the delicious smells that pour out of the doors, but by whether or not the place has free-wireless Internet.  Luckily we’ve been pretty fortunate and many of the coffee places that are forward thinking enough to install free-wireless are usually geared towards a younger more hip, multi-piercing, flowing skirts and have home baked foods with thick multi-grain bread. 

Okay, actually, that’s not true at all.  The free-wireless the day before yesterday, dealt out huge stacks of homemade french fries and thick chocolate shakes.  Delicious, but not exactly healthy.

Hmm…I just realized I am blogging about food again.  I do not have a one track mind.  I am in control of my fingers.  On to another subject.

I am very thankful that I was thrown into a van with this particular group of authors and Bryan.  It’s like our stories and poems and life perspectives, have woven this diverse multi-colored huge hammock that is stretched out under a vast canopy of trees.  And then there we are taking risk, learning to fly, sometimes falling, but not far or fatally because the rest of us are there, arms, hearts outstretched, holding, gently cradling the others to the ground. 

David.  I really appreciated our talk in the van when Byran walked Rita and Heather into the school.  Heather, I admire your generosity, and the fact that you decided a couple years ago to learn how to swim.  That says so much about how you live your life.  Rita, thank you for the quiet comfort it brings me by just being in your company.  And Bryan…I don’t know how you do it, but I am grateful.

Posted by Meg Tilly | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 0 Comments | Permalink

April 22, 2008

Wigeon Wal-Mart

Nelson is a great town. Having feasted on organic goodies from one of the many fine Baker Street eateries, and window shopped for a while, I set off on my run (which morphed into a run/walk ... should have window shopped and digested a while longer!). I followed a beautiful waterfront trail, with Kootenay Lake and snowcapped mountains to one side, parkland and more mountains to the other.

A few highlights ...

1) Spotting a group of young people sitting in a circle on the grass, playing guitars together (one guy stood with an upright bass).

2) Possibly spotting the charming young novelist with whom I chatted at L.V. Rogers Secondary this morning. I’m not sure if it was him, but I think sitting on a bench with a friend, watching the water, is a fine thing for an aspiring writer to be doing. (Rita and I had an excellent time at the school, by the way, and very much appreciated the hospitality and interest of staff and students!)

3) Experiencing first-hand Rita’s poem “Recognition/Identification Test.” This needs some explanation. The poem pairs up names of plants and names of corporations and implicitly asks the reader/audience to think about which are more familiar and why. Rita and I read it together this morning: she read the plants; I read the corporations; we said “blackberry” together at the end (“Blackberry” in my case). Anyway, at one point during my walk/run, I paused to read an information board titled “Know Your Ducks,” from which I learned that the bird swimming down below me was a wigeon — a local duck with reddish-brown and grey plumage. Never heard of it, I said to myself ... then I glanced across the park at the all-too-familiar Wal-Mart and thought Hmmm

A lively and fun reading at the Nelson Library this evening. Thanks to all those who came out! Away to Creston tomorrow ....


Posted by Heather Burt | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 4 Comments | Permalink

April 22, 2008

A proper desk

I know that many of the readers of this blog are already published authors and people in the book world.  But I imagine that there are quite a few followers of this blog, who perhaps hope to be published and what-not, and perhaps there is a reader or two.  So, I thought, in the spirit of building community and breaking down the gap between the mysterious world of the author and the rest of the world, that I would let you see how a right, proper writer’s desk should look.

On the off-chance that someone might think that is too much candy for one person to have managed to accumulate in the only two and a half days on tour.  I shall not sign my name.  I shall be…the mystery blogger!

Hmm…I wonder if they put our names at the bottom of these things.  I should have looked before I wrote this.

Oh well.

Posted by Meg Tilly | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 5 Comments | Permalink

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