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BC Book Prizes On Tour

April 22, 2008

Tough Acts to Follow

My tour mates are mighty impressive folks. Yesterday and today I had the pleasure of watching large groups of high school students groove to the poetry and inspiring commentary of Rita Wong. I think my sense that thoughtful, thought-provoking poetry might be difficult to pitch in a contemporary high school setting reveals my underestimating of both teenagers and poetry. At the same time, I think it took Rita’s passion and warmth to make the connection between her poems and her audience happen. And happen it did! I was too gripped by Rita’s words to be studying the audience very carefully, but even my brief glances found many sparks of excitement and recognition in their eyes. That was tough-act-to-follow number one. The next was Meg Tilly’s reading from her novel Porcupine. I’d been getting to know Meg as my very kind, funny tour mate (funny as in good sense of humour!) and had sort of forgotten that she’s also a stunning actor — that is until she launched into her reading last night at the Cornerstone Café in Trail. Holy captivating performance, Batman! She read an extremely tense scene with a lot of dialogue, and she so completely inhabited each of the different characters, through voice and gesture and a certain je ne said quoi I can only imagine, that there seemed to be five completely different people battling it out on the little stage. Wonderful imagery in the prose as well — I remember in particular the vivid image of a character’s eyebrows coming together in a storm cloud over her face. Ooh. And, last but not least, I’ve spent some of my most enjoyable free time over the past couple of days devouring the novel of my third tour mate, David Jones. Baboon is terrific — totally compelling. This novel achieves something that never fails to amaze and impress me: it tackles important philosophical/existential questions in a page-turning narrative. A boy turns into a baboon! It’s such a weird and wonderful idea, and David has tapped into all the practical and philosophical implications in striking and often hilarious prose. I could go on ... but it’s a sunny, warm(ish) day here in Nelson, I’ve got a few hours off, and I need to justify the space being taken up in my backpack by my running gear. But first ... lunch.

We’re reading at the Nelson Municipal Library this evening, 7:00, and if you happen to be in the vicinity, we’d love to see you!


P.S. Happy Earth Day!

Posted by Heather Burt | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 5 Comments | Permalink

April 22, 2008

Tonight We Put Meg Tilly in Her Place

Well, it only took us two nights to figure it out: There are four of us on the Kootenay Leg of these tours and when we hold a reading, someone has to go first and someone has to go last.

The good thing about going first is this: Everyone’s always a little nervous at these things, and if you go first you get your reading out of the way quickly and then you can just relax and listen to the other authors. The good thing about going last, on the other hand, is that your reading is freshest in the minds of the audience when it’s all done, and so people often ask better questions about your book. Also, you get some time to gauge the audience and decide what material to present.

But what you don’t want to do is follow some Oscar-nominated, Golden-Globe winning actress strung out on Gobstoppers reading from her book because . . . well, let’s face it, you’re bound to sound kind of lame by comparison. This isn’t just a reading I’m talking about, it’s a performance. And by the way, if you think for one second that I’m implying Meg’s reading is some kind of compensation for weak material, think again. Porcupine is beautifully written and superbly plotted. I know because I started it before I even embarked on this tour and it’s a terrific read—even when read using only the voices available in my head. Well, come to think of it, that’s a disturbing number of voices but maybe that subject is best left for another blog entry.

The point is, I think I’ve heard her read from Porcupine maybe four times, now, and each time I find myself tearing up a little more. It’s especially hard not to look like a crybaby when people in the audience start bawling.

Nonetheless, something had to be done, and so tonight we put Ms. Tilly in her place: We made her read last for our appearance at the Nelson Public Library, because nobody wants to be the anticlimax.

Not that touring with her hasn’t been fun, as she does everything she can to deflect attention from herself in the most generous way, but if I am ever fortunate enough to go on this tour again, do you know who I want be booked with?

Stephen Hawking. You heard me. Sure, he’s a pretty good writer, but him I think I could outperform. Not to brag, but my voice is just way more expressive than his and I believe I can even read faster than he can, if push comes to shove.

Afterwards, I could challenge him to a foot race if I really wanted to feel good about myself.

David Jones reporting from Nelson, B.C.

By the way, bonus reason for having Hawking along? I’ll bet he could explain the cosmic significance of my hotel room being a perfect cube.

Posted by David Jones | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 3 Comments | Permalink

April 21, 2008

The life of an author is oh-so-glamorous

There was a little problem with the Internet Service because of the brick walls in this old hotel.  Some people have it, and some people (Byran and me) don’t.  No problem, I have found a section of the corridor where the Internet signal comes through, so I snagged a passer by and had her take a picture so you could see how clever and resourceful I am.

At present David and I are hunkered down in Scoot Cafe.  There is a sign on the women’s bathroom that says “Women and Cross Dressers ONLY, Men go down the hall.”  I ate as much as I could of a salad that had so much garlic that my hair is still standing straight up in the air.  I am breathing fire!  So, anyone who is planning to come to the reading tonight, don’t stand too close to my flame-throwing breath.  I don’t think tic-tacs are going to do the trick.

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

April 21, 2008

Lunch in Trail

Just a quick note from the Scoot Café in downtown Trail, where I’m enjoying lunch with my secondary school partner, Rita Wong. We’re looking forward to our visit to J.L. Crowe Secondary School this afternoon, and it seems we’ve managed (hopefully!) to inspire one or two of the Scoot Café patrons to attend the reading at the Cornerstone Café tonight. Twenty minutes till Bryan picks us up ... let’s see if we can drum up some more interest!


P.S. It’s snowing!!

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

April 21, 2008

Glenmerry Elementary School

Today,  we drove to Trail for our first scheduled reading. On the way from Nelson, we encountered our second blizzard, although thankfully the snow isn’t sticking to the roads. But even after the highway drops down out of the low pass and into the Columbia River valley where the town is located, it looks pretty bleak. The olive-coloured river, the dull green of the conifers smudging the brown rock that is the reason for this mining town’s existence, the grey skeletons of larches—they’re the colours of camouflage, mountains trying to hide themselves. I’m thinking this place must be quite beautiful in summer. Or maybe in fall, when all those larches turn yellow, or even in the dead of winter when it’s blanketed in perfect white. But we have definitely arrived in the grey season.

But just as we approach our destination–Glenmerry Elementary—the sun breaks out from behind the clouds. It’s recess, and the schoolyard is filled with shouting kids in their colourful clothes—okay, a few of them are wearing camouflage. Probably here as part of some kind of witness relocation program: “Have you seen Trail in early spring, chief? No one will ever find them there.”

The bell sounds just after we pull into the parking lot, and all the children are sucked back inside the school like fry into an Egyptian mouthbreeder.

As I’m walking down the hall toward the Library, I’m thinking I ought to be more nervous, but somehow the sight of all the kids settling back into their classrooms makes it impossible to worry about anything. I haven’t been in a place so full of life and enthusiasm in a long time. I glance inside one of the rooms and several kids are huddled around a hamster or a gerbil cage. They’re so enthusiastic and absorbed in the animal and each other that the notion that whatever I say or write could affect them seems preposterous, but a moment later we’re greeted by the school’s teacher/librarian, Louise Sidley, and she reminds us that children are as passionate and enthusiastic about reading as adults are. Looking around at all of the colourful artwork covering the walls in the school’s perfect library, proclaiming the value of books and reading, you don’t doubt it for a second.

And then they’re all pouring into the room, arranging themselves in rows, sitting cross-legged on the floor and studying you with their eager eyes, like nestlings waiting for the worm, and you know why you’re here.

It’s great to be on tour.

Posted by David Jones | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 1 Comments | Permalink

April 20, 2008

Greetings from Nelson


The drive from Vancouver to Nelson went by quickly thanks to Bryan Pike’s excellent driving, Meg Tilly’s delicious home-baked cookies, and Heather Burt and David Jones’ friendly conversation and company (well, everyone was friendly and generous, actually).  What did I do?  Mostly slept, catching up on rest after a hectic week of late nights and marathon grading.  Had a yummy mushroom and tofu hotpot for dinner, at the New China Restaurant. I didn’t take the photo here, but uploaded it because it expresses how grateful I feel for all the work that makes such a road trip possible.  All you might see is the little green shoot above the ground (or the writers parachuted into the classrooms and libraries), but so much is going on underneath to make it possible. Happy to be here with such wonderful travel mates, and looking forward to the week.  Tomorrow, we hit Trail!

Posted by Rita Wong | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 0 Comments | Permalink

April 20, 2008

The Trip to Nelson

The drive has been most pleasant, with Bryan and the writers and getting to know each other as we travelled the highway winding from Vancouver to Nelson.

_DSC0002As I reminisce about cycling this same way on the rail bed of the Kettle Valley Railway just a few short years ago, I notice my van-mates’ eyelids begin to droop, and soon they are fast asleep—all except for Bryan’s, of course. A veteran of the steering wheel, his steely gaze is fastened to the yellow line snaking toward us as we swerve down Highway 3.

Highlights, (in order of importance):

1) Meg Tilly’s homemade cookies.

2) The K burger at our lunch stop in Keremeos.

3) A brief but ineffectual blizzard. Apparently, I’m riding a juggernaut. The tour is unstoppable (except by 2—see above)

4) The sighting of the marmot at the side of the road. I believe it was trying to flag us down, but Bryan’s policy on hitchhikers is unswerving —particularly when a member of the ground squirrel family is involved. We drive on as if it wasn’t even there, and I can only hope that it wasn’t some kind of medical emergency.

Through much of it, I’m trying to compose something worthy of the attentions of the students of Glenmerry Elementary school, whom we shall be visiting tomorrow morning. No doubt, they’re expecting me to say something fascinating and I have to hold up my end of the tour.

At last, we arrive at the New Grand Hotel, where we’ll be staying for the week. As I lie back on my comfy bed and gaze up at the ceiling—which is an impressive distance above me—I suddenly realize that my room is a perfect cube. I don’t know whether this is by accident or design, and I haven’t actually measured it, but I’m almost certain that it’s exactly as tall as it is wide as it is long.

I’m sorry if the photo doesn’t do it justice as the lens I’m using introduces some distortion. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

Someday, all hotel rooms will be like this.

David Jones
posting from inside the Cube

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

April 19, 2008

BC Book Prize Soiree

I have returned home from the Soiree where I met three out of my four road trip companions and I’m not nearly so nervous now. 

Bryan, the man who gets to hold the steering wheel gave my husband the heads-up on a romantic retreat that he had purchased at the auction the year before, and apparently “my eyes lit up” so Don outbid the other eager bidders and scored it for me.  Go Don!

I met Sally, who was so lovely that I got tongue-tied and inarticulate.  Odd how that happens sometimes when I think someone is nice. 

And then towards the end of the evening I had the good fortune to meet Gayle Friesen, the author of For Now.  Also up for the Sheila Egoff Children’s Literature Prize and her dashing husband whose name eludes me.  And there was none of that dancing around stilted conversation, it was like we had known each other before.  Had dinner, flopped on the sofas afterwards, comfortable, feet tucked onto the sofa or stretched out and propped on the coffee table. 

I hadn’t planned on buying her book, because I have a stack of books a mile high that I have in my to-read pile, but now I am going to have to.  Want to.  If her book is half as generous and honest as she is, it will be a fabulous read.

Me, Gayle and husband.  (Her husband.  Mine is wielding the camera.)

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

April 19, 2008

The April 19th In-Progress Shelf


If I were an efficient person, what I’d be doing on this Saturday morning is packing for my trip to the Kootenays (about which I’m VERY excited), or practicing my tour presentations, or even figuring out what to wear to the Soirée tonight. Instead, I’ve been browsing the Guardian’s feature on writers’ rooms — kind of addictive, if you’re into that sort of thing — and experimenting with photos of my own writing space. If my Flickr capabilities are up to snuff, what you see in the attached photo (in addition to my bicycle-cog clock and my grandmother’s 1915 music diploma) is the little shelf in which I keep books that are in some way “active” in my writing/reading life. In here I’ve got books I’m currently reading, books I plan to read very soon, books I’ve recently finished but haven’t yet transferred to the regular shelves (because doing so always involves a certain amount of shuffling and — eww — dusting), books that are somehow connected to my current writing project (the still embryonic second novel), as well as one or two books that have no particular reason for being there other than that’s just where they got put. The presence on this shelf of my fellow Ethel Wilson nominees has certainly brightened up not only the shelf itself but also my recent reading life ... and I’ll soon have to make room for the works of my Kootenay tour-mates, which I plan to acquire at the Soirée tonight. It’s an honour and a pleasure to be in such impressive company!

Hope to see you tonight or on tour next week ...

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

April 14, 2008

Getting ready for the Kootenays road trip

Hello BC BookTour Blog readers, Meg Tilly here.  I’m afraid the blog postings from me, shall not be literary or clever, or well-crafted.  The reason is not because I don’t admire the people who blog like that.  It is because I know my own limitations and phobias and I know that if I felt I had to be those things, I would not blog at all. 

I shall merely do as I do on my own personal blog.  Log in, and post what-ever it is that decides to fly out of my fingertips.

I picked up David Jones: Baboon: A Novel this weekend.  I intended to read a couple of pages every now and then, since we are going to be visiting and reading at a bunch of Kootenays Elementary Schools together.  I figured this way, I could hold a reasonably intelligent conversatation about it, and he’d never need to know that I’d been unable to plow my way through.

Plow my way through?  HA!  It was anything but a “plow.”  I love his book, couldn’t put it down.  It was everything I believe a middle school book should be.

“So, what did you think?”  My husband asked when I reluctantly finished Baboon and placed it with a sigh on our coffee table.

“It’s so good,” I said, still half lost in the world that David created.

“Not as good as yours though,” my husband said, not like a question.  More a statement of fact.

“Maybe even better,” I said.  “I don’t know.  It’s hard to say.  His book and mine are totally different.  The only way I can describe it is that if David wins the prize, I wouldn’t feel bad, or like I was robbed or anything.  I’d feel happy for him.  It is a beautiful book.”

And here I am, two days later, images, sections of his book still dancing around me.  I loved how he combined the mystery of the unknown with science.  The harsh reality of life, nature woven into fiction, learning without the reader even being aware that they are, so caught up in the story.  I think everybody would enjoy this book.  Unless you’re a squimish sort.  Then this book is not for you.

Posted by Meg Tilly | Filed under: Kootenays Leg 2008 | 3 Comments | Permalink

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