Friday, March 09, 2007



After much behind-the-scenes planning by the Kootenay School of Writing (no, not the Vancouver one, long story, one of these days I'll blog about it), Selkirk College, and Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson, Victoria writer John Gould is in the Kootenays this weekend giving readings and workshops. Yesterday started well when his flight came in. We encouraged him to use Pacific Coastal, the little airline that flies into Trail instead of Castlegar, partly because of times and partly because of the track record for getting flights into Trail vs Castlegar. Anyone who's flown into either airport tends to appreciate just having landed, and John was no exception.

Tiger Dreams author, Almeda Glenn Miller, who runs the writing program at Selkirk College, collected John at the airport and introduced him to an audience of about thirty who came to hear him read at noon hour in the College library. Apologies for the grainy pictures, but I was unable to make the flash go off (my techno-bad) so I had to fiddle with the pictures in order to be able to see faces, and that meant losing the gorgeous background John was reading in front of, including a section of the Columbia River and some of our gorgeous purple mountains.

I first met John when he was coordinating the literary component of the late, lamented BC Festival of the Arts. A multi-disciplinary event that showcased both visual and written arts, the BCFA was held in a different city or town each year. In 2000 it was held in Nelson, and I was one of the many volunteers who helped make it a success. A couple of years later, when it was held in Surrey, I got to go as a delegate (I got in under fiction, not poetry, as it happened), and there was John again. Then, in 2005 when I attended the Victoria School of Writing, John was one of the workshop facilitators.

John read some of his wonderful short stories, one from The Kingdom of Heaven and the rest from Kilter: 55 Fictions, the book that got him a Giller nomination in 2003. Afterwards there was a vigorous Q & A session where John attempted to unravel some of the mysteries of the writing process.

Friday he worked with some of Almeda's students and gave a workshop at the College which was attended by several people from the community.

Then, Ted and I drove him to Nelson for his reading at Oxygen Art Centre Friday night.

Saturday, there was a workshop. For four hours 22 writers—the published, the burgeoning, and the curious—participated in a lively discussion of what makes writing come to life and did a couple of writing exercises.

After the workshop was over, some of the group adjourned to the Vienna Café for tea or coffee and more book talk. The Vienna Café is also home of Packrat Annie's, where you can get wonderful new-to-you books. (It's where Nelson poet, Tim Shay, hosts monthly poetry readings as well.) Here's John with Bessie Wapp.

There was a little excitement at the Trail Airport when it looked like the flight might not be able to land, but it did. Note the fireplace in the background, complete with the propeller over the mantle. This airport is definitely a blast from the past.

Still, after watching the clouds whirl around in the sky, and the mountain that never quite cleared of cloud cover, I didn't leave till the plane did.

The Canada Council provides reading fees and transportation costs so writers like John can come to communities like ours. Workshop fees and donations at the readings help cover meals and accommodations. Thanks to Canada Council, Selkirk College, Oxygen Art Centre, the Baker Street Inn, and to all the people who came out this weekend. And HUGE thanks to John for providing the spark that lit this fire. Come back soon!


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