I hadn’t read their books, but now I want to! David Bergen, Richard Ford, Mike Grandmaison, Sarah Klassen and Carrie Snyder are just a few of the authors I enjoyed at Winnipeg’s annual celebration of writing called Thin Air. The festival is ongoing and I’d love to dip into more of its pleasures but I’ll need to be satisfied with the rich experiences of the four sessions I attended. Each of the writers I heard were promoting new or nearly new books, none of which I’d read. They did their job well, because in most cases I became intrigued enough to want to read their latest work. However I haven’t succumbed to any purchases for myself yet since I bought a raffle ticket which just may win me a basket containing all the books featured at the festival!
Sunday night I walked down to the Forks and settled myself on the hard steps of the Oodena amphitheatre. I found a spot where I could lean up against the stone wall. I had brought mitts, a wool toque and two jackets expecting a chilly evening but even after the sun had set it was unexpectedly balmy for an autumn Manitoba night. Five diverse writers shared their work under the three-quarter moon and in the shadow of the new Human Rights Museum. I admit my favorite was Sarah Klassen. Sarah and I were both writers for a magazine called The Mennonite Mirror decades ago and recently I ran into her at an MCC thrift store where we are both volunteers. She has a new book of poetry out called Monstrance.
Her poems on Sunday night focused on Winnipeg bridges and experiences connected with them. I was especially moved by the one about the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge named after a colorful Winnipeg politician affectionately known as The Mayor of the North End. Yet Sarah focused not on Slaw, but on his mother and her journey through life. I also liked her poem about fireworks and the way she compared the various bursts of colorful light to flowers–begonias and birds of paradise.
Chadwick Ginther was reading from his book Thunder Road about an unemployed man from Alberta driving to Gimli with a trickster god named Loki. It was delightfully bizarre to hear science fiction/ fantasy that included places like Lower Fort Garry and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre.
Tuesday at lunch I was at the Millenium Library to hear photographer Mike Grandmaison talk about the array of lush and diverse images in Prairie and Beyond. His photos are truly works of art and many look more like paintings than photographs. I have to admit the passage he read from his book seemed a little didactic but Mike’s photos are simply stunning. It’s honestly hard to know how he could have captured some of his wildlife shots like an owl framed perfectly in the window of an abandoned house
two male polar bars sparring with each other. I will definitely visit the Pixels Gallery where his work is on display.
Tuesday afternoon saw me at McNally Robinsons to hear Carrie Synder and Cordelia Strube read and discuss their books. Cordelia’s latest book is Milosz. She described how she crafts a novel by taking intriguing bits of news and information from non-fiction writing and somehow connecting them and weaving them into her narrative. She said that “if you scratch below the surface of anyone you reveal massive dysfunction” and that’s where she finds interesting stories.
I bought Carrie Synder’s book The Juliet Stories as a gift and had her autograph it. I’m madly trying to read it before I give it away. Her book is about peace activists who relocate their three young children, including their daughter Juliet Friesen to Nicaragua in the 1980’s. Although Carrie said her book is fiction; her own Mennonite parents were peace activists who took Carrie and her siblings to Nicaragua. Carrie went back to Central America with her husband and children to do research for the book. She didn’t let her parents read the novel till it was finished and Carrie loved what her Mom said about the mother character in the book. “I know it’s not me, but I wish it was.” The host of the Tuesday afternoon event Charlene Diehl made reference to Carrie’s blog Obscure Can Lit Mama and I read several posts with amazement. It so hard for me to find time to blog every day yet Carrie does it while raising four kids, cooking, running long distances, promoting a novel and writing free-lance pieces.
Dave Bergen and Richard Ford shared the stage at the Shaw Performing Arts Centre at the Forks on Tuesday night. A glass of wine, some New Bothwell cheese curds and pretzels in the form of alphabet letters got attendees in the right frame of mind for the evening. Both writers began their readings from the first pages of their books which contain attention grabbing events. Bergen’s The Age of Hope opens with a plane crash and Ford’s Canada with a robbery.
I am especially looking forward to reading The Age of Hope since its main character is based on Dave Bergen’s mother-in-law, someone I knew while growing up in Steinbach. During the book discussion in the second half of the evening I was impressed how familiar Bergen and Ford were with each other’s books. The questions they asked each other were as interesting as the ones versatile hostess Charlene Diehl had prepared. The theatre was full and long lines of people were waiting to have their books autographed by the authors.
I entered my name in a draw to win the Bergen and Ford books on Tuesday evening but didn’t win. I hope I fare better with my Thin Air raffle ticket or I just may be buying a whole raft of books in the coming weeks. The draw is on Friday night! I’ve got my fingers crossed.