Imaginairium: Wordfest 2019

The days are getting crisp…things are going to sleep for the winter.  I’m not writing as much, but I AM reading.  When this weather arrives, it’s wonderful to curl up and read.  In preparation for Wordfest, I read Birth House for the second time and loved it just a much or more than the first.

Birth House by Ami McKay is right up there among my favourite books.  I’ve read a lot of books by this time and so, there can never be a favourite, but there are heaps of favourites.  I couldn’t afford the time or the money for a lot of sessions at Wordfest’s annual event, however, I made certain to register for two of the sessions where Ami would be speaking and I purchased her most recent book, a memoir, Daughter of Family G.

The first session was delightful, a Cabinet of Curiosities, and featured a number of writers including Ami.  These authors each brought a single object to share, an item that connected with their books, process or lives.  It was an intriguing grouping, covering a big array of topics and styles of writing.  I picked up a few books that night.

Anthony De Sa shared a GI Joe camo jacket.  He shared a heartfelt story that I will not soon forget about Christmas at home and a loving gesture from his mother.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.  Anthony is writer of Children of the Moon.  This is now in my collection and I am looking forward to reading it.  Eloquent!

Marina Endicott shared her first Greek book.  It was a book that her Greek Teacher gave to her.  “Wherever you go, there you find your teacher’.  Her teacher, she shared, was her first home.

Cecil Foster writes for his grandmother.  His talismans are ideas.  As he writes, he takes pause and contemplates what might make his grandmother laugh or what might make her cry.  The material, he described, doesn’t really matter.  The idea matters.  He lifted a glass at the conclusion of his presentation and made a toast to his grandmother.  His most recent book is on my ‘to read’ list, They Call Me George.

Michael Christie’s new book, Greenwood, is also in my collection.  He shared with us the story of building his new home on Galiano Island and about how, during a huge storm on the family’s first days in the house, blew over a tree that crashed into the family Subaru.  He shared a slice/coin of the big branch that caused the destruction.  His reading caused me to weep.

A magnificent novel of inheritance, sacrifice, nature and love that takes its structure from the nested growth rings of a tree, Greenwood spans generations to tell the story of a family living and dying in the shadows cast by its own secrets. With this breathtaking feat of storytelling, Michael Christie masterfully reveals the tangled knot of lies, omissions and half-truths that exists at the root of every family’s origin story. (From McClelland ​​​​​​& Stewart)

Ami McKay shared something her mother/grandmother said, “All of the flowers that our blooming in our todays are to be enjoyed because of the seeds that were planted in our yesterdays.”

Terry Fallis was very animated and shared several items via Powerpoint imagery; his fountain pen collection, a framed image of Robertson Davies and an old typewriter that he keeps close by.

And finally, Anosh Irani shared a map of one district in Bombay.  His story and the poetic gifts that he shared that evening, were beautiful.  I purchased his book, The Parcel.

What a tremendous evening.  Thank you, Wordfest.

The next day, I had the opportunity to hear Ami McKay talk about her family, in detail, and her struggles and strength as both connect with her life.  The initial disease suffered by my brother was Colorectal Cancer and so I was very interested in what Ami shared about her family’s journey with Lynch Syndrome.  I really appreciated the time that Ami took with me personally as I found myself first in line to have my books signed by her.  This was an inspiring book talk and I am presently 100 pages in to the book, Daughter of Family G: A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate

I met Aracely outside of the Memorial Branch library.  Aracely is the moderator for the book discussions that I enjoy at the Fish Creek Library once a month.  She is smart, fun and very generous.  She is also in love with reading!  I was swooped up by her enthusiasm and headed over to the Central Branch for the Humble the Poet presentation.  Am I ever glad I went!  Such a timely and inspiring talk!  While I didn’t purchase it that evening, I’ve added Things No One Else Can Teach Us, to my list.

Good to meet dear friends, Diane, Bill, Catherine and Bob, sitting directly behind me.

Wordfest never disappoints.  I hope that next year I have it in my schedule to take in even more of the book talks.  They open up the mind, the heart and put you in touch with other big time readers!  Thank you, Wordfest!

Recent Reads

Are my readers thinking that I’ve only been picking up litter the last while?  Might it be the quality and content of my posts that are giving them this impression? Suffice it to say that many other things have been keeping me busy as well.  It has been a varied, and in many ways challenging, Lenten journey, thus far.  But, in so many ways, I’ve grown in understanding, interests and spirituality. 

Given my typical ‘heady’ choice of reading, I have spent the past few weeks reading novels that move rather quickly.  I even took up my friend’s challenge to read a mystery book, a genre that I avoid for some reason.  At her prompting, I picked up The Lighthouse by P.D. James.  While I can’t say that I would read another James mystery,  it served its purpose by taking me to another place and causing me to escape for a while.  I liked the Combe island setting very much and found myself, at times, wishing to visit such a dramatic and inspiring coastline.  I remember that while spending a week in North Rustico on Prince Edward Island this past summer, I sometimes experienced a sense of mystery because of the sound of raindrops on the roof of the cottage at night…the isolation from other properties.  When I looked out into the dark of night, it was a complete darkness…such a huge contrast to living in the city.  Staying on an island, surrounded by the power of the Atlantic Ocean, gave a sense of vulnerability.  The book, The Lighthouse stirred up that remembrance.

The next book I read was The Divide by Nicholas Evans, author of The Horse Whisperer.  From the outset, the book was captivating, given the discovery of the body curled up in ice.  For me, the novel didn’t sustain itself, although I did take an interest in the different expressions of activism, portrayed.  Again, I responded to the rich description of the landscape and what the divide had come to mean to the various characters in the narrative.  This, again, was a setting that I would love to experience for myself, in fact, I feel as though I HAVE been in such places.  The relational content, the broken marriage, was not as interesting for me.

And finally, in the past three weeks, I’ve read The Birth House by Ami McKay.  Dora Rare is a beautifully written character.  I was once again, taken by the setting, Nova Scotia during wartime.  I enjoy the type of novel that shows us strength and resilience in characters.  Ami McKay achieved that very well.  Dora is resourceful and strong and works against the attitudes of her wee village.  Throughout the novel, she is in search of a particular sense of freedom and needs to challenge the ideas of her family and the culture of her community.

I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal