This year at Word Vancouver, I decided I’d go to sessions that I might not typically be drawn to, especially comic books and Kids Lit.
First stop was a panel of children’s authors. One of the authors walked us through the steps she takes to create an animal character as the subject of a rhyming poem. I really enjoyed that. Four authors spoke about how much going into the schools and reading to kids is an integral part of what’s required of children’s authors. That sounds like a fun thing. And as always happens, which is why it’s important to attend events such as this if you write, my own ideas came bubbling up as background all throughout the talks. Think of it as creative mind mapping, silently but stealthily, a running commentary of possibilities mingled. Creative thought begets creative thought.
I listened to Caroline Woodward, who had worked in the publishing industry for 30 years. She was speaking about living at the Lennard Island Lighthouse at the entrance to Clayoquot Sound near Tofino. Being one half of a lighthouse keeper has enabled her to get back to her first love, writing. Her latest book, Light Years, is about her time at the various light stations where she and her husband, Jeff George, started as relief lightkeepers. George’s photographs in slideshow format were a nice touch. Woodward’s favourite lighthouse is Nootka because of its history and its natural beauty.
I didn’t even know there were still people working at lighthouses anymore. Apparently seven of the 23 people who are stationed at lighthouses in B.C. are couples.
I listened to John Vaillant whom, of course, I’d heard about but had never seen in person or read before. He gave a compelling intro to his book The Jaguar’s Children and the life and death crossing into the USA of an illegal immigrant. His reading and the prose was so precise that it was a clear lesson in how a compelling presence mixed with vivid language does indeed go a long way towards selling books. He said a teenage boy’s voice came to him clear as day one day while he was working on something else. He felt compelled to carry that voice onto the page. This happened while he spent nine months living in Oaxaca with his wife who is a potter. Perhaps the spirits visited him. Perhaps they knew he was someone who could do their story justice.
It was cool to hear the journey of The Flour Peddler by brothers Chris and Josh Hergesheimer. Their original focus on local grains and farmers’ markets in B.C. (starting in Roberts Creek) eventually took them on a global journey to South Sudan. Their bicycle-powered flour mill is adding efficiency to small farmers there. Chris is now in Ecuador doing Ph.D. work through UBC’s Land and Food Systems faculty.
I found it kind of sad to hear the trials of cartoonist David Boswell and the trajectory of his comic, Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman. What began as just a one-off, one pager for The Georgia Straight back in the day, developed a small cult-like following with a script eventually optioned for a movie at Warner Brothers Pictures only to be quashed at the 11th hour by the executives who just didn’t get the humour. That’s funny actually! The script remains locked in the vault there, stuck in limbo, history. Boswell showed a movie that one of his nephews made about him with guest appearances by Matt Groening and others who sang his praises and the genius of the character, Reid Fleming.
The last session I attended was by Michael Kluckner. The local artist and heritage advocate has put together a graphic novel, a love story, called Toshiko. I was surprised to learn that not all Japanese families were interned during WWII. Some lived independently, specifically up in Tappen, B.C., and Squilax near Salmon Arm where they worked on a farm called Calhoun’s.
I really tried not to buy but resistance is futile when it comes to books. I have to laugh at my purchases though which are more a reflection of proximity and mood than a strategic plan since I didn’t actually end up buying The Jaguar’s Children. I bought The Flour Peddler, Toshiko and Amber Dawn’s How Poetry Saved My Life. Boswell was selling his comic book, a signed copy for a Toonie, so I got one of those as well. Go figure?
Did you go to Word this year? What stood out for you?