Hal Wake

Interviewing the Interviewer

Hal Wake and John FreemanConvergences. The final day of this year’s Writers Festival, a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in late October, Granville Island humming with people who seemed happy to be there, and two participants in an event who brought with them overlapping worlds of writers, those writers’ spirits crowding in to the low-lit intimacy of The Improv Centre. “I’m glad we made the effort to come,” my wife said to me at the end of the event. I often feel like that when I leave Festival events. Schedules, busy lives, time pressures, myriad reasons for not doing things, can keep many of us from the things that matter most. After engaging with the minds of writers at the Festival, people who think long and hard about our world and share their painstakingly constructed and personal responses to it, I frequently walk away with a sense of spiritual and intellectual intensification, as if everything has simultaneously been brought into sharper focus and given greater depth.

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A Word from Hal

Relive the memories of your favourite Festival events with our audio archives. We will be posting audio from a 2011 Festival event each week leading up to the 2012 Festival and you can also look forward to a blog post from Hal sharing his thoughts, memories and stories from each event...

"In the lead up to the Festival last year, all I had to do was mention the name "Kate Beaton" to anyone under the age of 30 and they would say 'Kate Beaton is coming the Festival OMG!' And when she came she took the town by storm. Helen Oyeyemi first came to the Festival when she was 19 years old. She is just 25 with three novels under her belt and last year was her third visit to the Festival. We put both of them in the skilled hands of Bill Richardson and lead them to revealing insight after revealing insight, with some humour thrown in for good measure."

 

To listen to Conversations with Bill, click here. 

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A Word from Hal

Relive the memories of your favourite Festival events with our audio archives. We will be posting audio from a 2011 Festival event each week leading up to the 2012 Festival and you can also look forward to a blog post from Hal sharing his thoughts, memories and stories from each event...

"It was truly a gift that we were able to present some of the best writers in Canada, who have written fiction about the Canadian west, at the Festival last year. Guy Vanderhaeghe and Rudy Wiebe have helped shape our understanding of Canadian western history through their work. Marina Endicott and Pauline Holdstock have turned their attention to the west more recently, but their insight and vivid depictions of very different eras are evident in this excellent discussion. Our Wild West is very different from the place mythologized by our neighbours to the south".

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A Word from Hal

Relive the memories of your favourite Festival events with our audio archives. We will be posting audio from a 2011 Festival event each week leading up to the 2012 Festival and you can also look forward to a blog post from Hal sharing his thoughts, memories and stories from each event...

Mea culpa, mea culpa, I had intended to do short blog entries each time we posted a new audio event, but to be honest I have been distracted by the current flurry of activity around our next Festival. So I have to play catch-up here.

Ah yes, our first audio post is Bloody Scotland. Chosen because our three guests were so lively and funny. The moderator Lonnie Propas and I were nervous about asking them why the Scots are so good at writing about crime because we thought they might find the question obvious, tiresome or irritating. Instead they took it quite seriously and their answers were illuminating. Later that week when Denise Mina was getting ready to leave for the airport, suitcases packed and at the ready, she said she had enjoyed the Festival and even better, she had finished her next novel in her room at the Granville Island Hotel! We will be checking the acknowledgements when the book is published.

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Behind the Scenes with Hal Wake

BooksAs a Festival Director, in any art form, you have to get used to rejection. Alright, let’s be fair, it isn’t personal rejection (although it may feel like that), you have to get used to people saying no to you. Writers have many reasons for declining an invitation and most of them are completely understandable: prior commitments, family obligations and perhaps the best reason, because they are immersed in writing. Recently I received an email from a writer who expressed that sentiment in, what I think, is a particularly honest and eloquent fashion. Here is what I received.

"This is the situation: I am working on a new novel, it will, I hope, be ready for a fall release. But I am not sure. It´s not done, there´s still a good deal of uncovered ground. I´m a pretty nervous person and a little superstitious, and before I have finished the book, I am de facto not an author, and cannot be invited as one. So this is difficult, I would love to come to Vancouver, but I can´t say yes at this stage. I just cannot."

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Inciteful Moment

Some time in the early fall last year, the Globe & Mail published an article that decried the impending season of literary readings. Who can endure another mind-numbing, death by droning performance, by a writer who should never be allowed near a microphone, the article’s author asked? You’d be right if you assumed that my initial reaction was defensive, not surprising given that my job is to program readings and convince audiences that attending them is worth their time and money. On the other hand, I have sat through literally thousands of readings and I know they can also be moving, provocative, hilarious and not to be too grandiose about it, soul-enriching.

A week ago the VIWF hosted an Incite event with the Canadian writer Merilyn Simonds and the American poet Tess Gallagher. Merilyn’s new book, A New Leaf, is a gentle evocation of her relationship with her garden. Tess asked me the night before the event if I could bring her a copy of Merilyn’s book. She took it back to the hotel with her and started reading right away. The next morning she selected some of her poems with Merilyn’s tone and sensibility in mind. At the event Merilyn was up first and read a section about pruning an apple orchard that had been neglected by the previous owners of her centuries-old house. When Tess took the stage she read a poem about going into her garden to prune a tree to improve her view of the mountains. Upon discovering a bird’s nest on one of the limbs, she decided to leave it. Then she imagined all the unseen nests that might populate the tree and decided that leaving a home for the birds was more important than her view.

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