Tavia's blog

Shane Koyczan: Five Interesting Facts

Internationally recognized spoken word performer Shane Koyczan has emerged in a new wave of twenty-first century poets. Since his performance of “We Are More” at the 2010 Winter Olympics, the world has taken notice of Koycan. His anti-bullying “To This Day” video has reached over 14 million viewers and has led to a collaboration with TED Education.

On October 7th, Koyczan will be in Vancouver to discuss the process of transforming his book Stickboy into a contemporary opera. He will be in conversation with James Wright, the General Director of Vancouver Opera. Until then, get to know Koyczan.

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Bruce Cockburn: Five Interesting Facts

Bruce Cockburn: Canadian Music Icon, Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee, Order of Canada inductee, winner of 13 Juno Awards and most recently, Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award honouree during Canadian Music Week 2014. He boasts a truly extensive career, garnering praise from fellow musicians, activists and academic institutions. With 30 albums, Cockburn has earned high praise as an exceptional songwriter and pioneering guitarist, whose career has been shaped by politics, protest, romance, and spiritual discovery. His remarkable journey has seen him embrace folk, jazz, blues, rock, and worldbeat styles.

Bruce Cockburn will be in Vancouver on November 10th to talk about his about his long-awaited memoir, Rumours of Glory—a chronicle of faith, fear, and activism that is also a lively cultural and musical tour through the late twentieth century. Until then, get to know Bruce Cockburn.

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Alan Doyle: Five Interesting Facts

Canadian musician and actor Alan Doyle enters the literary world with his new memoir, titled Where I Belong. Doyle has described his work as a “rowdy journey through the cod tongues, altars, girls and guitars of my young life in Petty Harbour.” Already a lyrical storyteller as front man of the band Great Big Sea, he describes his transition from writing music to writing a book as “natural and enlightening.”

Doyle will be joining us for an intimate evening on Granville Island on November 13th. In anticipation, get to know a bit more about him with these five interesting facts.

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Louise Penny: Five Interesting Facts

Louise Penny is best known for spinning her mysteries with sustained suspense and psychological drama, all while weaving in the unique flavours of the region in which her stories are set. Born and raised in Toronto, Penny worked as a journalist and a radio host for CBC before settling in Montreal, where she began dabbling in the mystery genre. Quebec is an important place for Penny; many of her novels are set in the small villages of the Eastern Townships, which combine New England charm with a Quebecoise flair.

Her forthcoming novel, The Long Way Home, returns to the mythical village of Three Pines, the setting for her Chief Inspector Gamache mysteries. You’ll hear Penny’s own insights on her latest book at our special event on September 3rd. Until then, get to know a little more about Penny, Three Pines and Chief Inspector Gamache.

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Anne Giardini: Rotten Shark and Writing in Iceland

It is Day One of the Iceland Writers Retreat and Andrew Evans, a seasoned travel writer, is speaking about ways that writers can create a strong sense of place in their work. His session is called “The Smell of Elephant Poo” but he has decided to test our writing skills by having us eat and then write a description of something more local – hákarl.  Hákarl is locally-caught shark that has been fermented in a cold damp place, and then hung to dry for several months.

The result of this process is passed around on a plate. It has been cut into cubes a bit larger than dice and the colours of sashimi, cream to pink to red to purple. Only six of us take up the challenge. Several plead their existing or new-found commitment to vegetarianism. Others just say no. Hákarl is, after all, a substance that chef Anthony Bourdain describes as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting” thing he has ever eaten.

In the interests of literature, I ate it.

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Claudia Casper: First Impressions of Iceland

My travel companion, the much-decorated Anne Giardini (and I don’t just mean her necklace and earrings, she has a QC, Jubilee Medal, is president of Weyerhaeuser, a writer, and new Chancellor of Simon Fraser University) and I arrive in Iceland for the inaugural Iceland Writers Retreat. We spend the first night in Reykjavik learning that: Iceland boasts the smallest gender gap in the world; subsists almost completely on renewable energy (geothermal, wind); continues to hunt whales which are then mostly consumed by tourists on a dare or luxury dogs in Japan; and has a pervasive sense of humour that has the quick wit of Westjet attendants but with something mordantly ironic added.

The next morning we pick up our sad car rental on the outskirts of Reykjavik – Sad Car is the name of the rental agency. The car, a red Subaru, has a couple of warning lights on permanent yellow, and a few rattles and dings, but its 240,000 km on the odometer proves it’s too tough to break down, right? Anne and I are taking two days on a tour to kickstart our muses before the retreat, where we will attend workshops lead by authors including Joseph Boyden, Geraldine Brooks, Susan Orlean, James Scudmore, Iain Reid, Randy Boyagoda and Sara Wheeler.

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Get to know Festival volunteer Christine Hayvice

In 2013 Christine Hayvice volunteered for the first time for the Vancouver Writers Fest. We caught up with her as she was preparing to leave for New Zealand, where she will be working on a book about her family at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Auckland.

Why did you decide to volunteer for the VWF this year?
I am retired and for the past few years have enjoyed volunteering at cultural events including the film festival and at the Cultch. I've always attended some events at VWF but either lacked time and/or money to see very many. Volunteering gave me the opportunity to see so much more.

Was the experience what you had expected?
It was more than I expected. I didn't know about the walk-a-writer gig and loved it. A chance to meet and chat with some of the authors.

Highlights?
Seeing and listening to Eleanor Catton, especially the one hour event with her and Hal. And, as I'm a Kiwi, I'm always keen to catch New Zealand writers.

How long have you been coming to the Festival?
Many years.

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Théodora Armstrong

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

My most unusual experience was leaving a Chuck Palahniuk reading with handfuls of candy and a very large blow-up skeleton. My favourite was hearing Richard Ford read last year at the Frederic Wood Theater. The space was intimate and he has that irresistible southern drawl. Also, he wore pink striped socks.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

If someone read my collection and enjoyed it, I’d recommend they search out another BC short story writer. There have been some excellent collections published in the past few years: The Beggar’s Garden by Michael Christie; Once You Break a Knuckle by D.W. Wilson; Better Living Through Plastic Explosives by Zsuzsi Gartner. I’d say read them all.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

I have a well-thumbed copy of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride in my bookshelf. It has sentimental value because it was one of the first novels I read as a child. I’m not sure if that’s surprising, but there are no other books on my bookshelf with the caption “Hot Fairy-Tale Classic” on the cover.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I have been coming to the Vancouver Writers Fest since I was a teenager, but this is my first time participating as an author. I’m looking forward to experiencing the festival from a completely different perspective. Plus Tomson Highway, Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, and more; I don’t think I could be more excited.

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Roberta Rich

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

Three years ago I attended the writer’s conference in San Miguel Allende, Mexico. That night at dinner the woman sitting next to me, whom I had never met before told me that several years ago her father had murdered her mother by flinging her off the balcony of their 14th floor apartment. By the time she was finished with her tale, I needed another margarita.

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

My latest book, The Harem Midwife, is set in Constantinople in the 16th century. The one I am working on now is set in a Palladio villa outside of Venice. I would recommend that reader abstain completely from reading anything whatsoever, not even the directions on a package of muffin mix, until this one is published.

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

The Idiot’s Guide to Making Soap by Sally W. True and The Perfect Aquarium by Jeremy Gay.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

Being on the other side of the podium. I have attended Writers Fest events for years and have always dreamed of being a presenter.

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Brian Fawcett

What has been your favorite or most unusual experience at a reading or a literary festival?

During the 2003 Vancouver Writers Fest, I met a burley Scottish writer named David R. Ross who’d just suffered a mild heart attack and was reluctant to drink or otherwise have fun.  As it happened, I was reading Sherwin B. Nuland’s How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, and happened to have the book with me. So I read him Nuland’s graphic description of what happens when a person dies of a heart attack. The clearly frightened Scottish writer’s face turned white, and he left the room a few minutes later and went for a 4 hour walk.  When he returned we had a long conversation about living and dying, and then we went off to a party together, where I noticed that he was eating and drinking with considerable gusto.  I guess he’d made some sort of fundamental decision that living and dying were different things, and that he’d best have as much fun as possible while he could.  (Ross lasted another seven years, and died of, you guessed it, a heart attack.)

If someone loves your latest book, what would you recommend they read next?

My latest book is The Last of the Lumbermen.  I can’t think of another book that’s like it, so I’d recommend that if they really enjoyed it, they should either read my own Virtual Clearcut, Or, The Way Things Are in my Home Town, which offers the documentary background for the novel. They could also rent the movie, Slapshot, to which The Last of the Lumbermen has a few parallels, particularly when it comes to slapstick comedy. 

What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf?

Probably the percentage of serious science books, or the complete works of Italian writer Primo Levi, who is the writer I most admire, and am, by both temperament and life experience, the least able to emulate.

What are you most looking forward to in coming to this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest?

I lived in Vancouver for 26 years, and because I was an urban planner there for a decade, I have a pretty intimate knowledge of the city and it’s infrastructure. Whenever I’m there, I enjoy wandering around and cataloguing the changes. I also have a large number of old friends to visit, including four ex-wives.  In 2003, after one of my events, I spent 10 minutes talking to an attractive stranger before I realized it was one of my ex-wives.  

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