Wednesday, April 8, 2009

April 8, 2009 - CAA

This first Wednesday monthly CAA West Coast Branch meeting in the Howe Street Alliance for the Arts Building was certainly racy. Spring was in the air.

I was surprised first to hear vivacious children's writer, K.C. Dyer's ( statement that the "language is much more colourful and varied" in today's children's writing than when she began. Her first book was marketted to young adults. "I didn't know I wrote for young adults. I wrote what I liked to read and found out I was immature." she humorously shared. In response to a question from the audience she replied, "I refuse to write down to kids. I've never used a lesser vocabulary." A Walk through a Window, her fifth book is the first published by Doubleday.

Caroline Adderson ( next stated that she sometimes thought of herself as a 6 foot tall big breasted woman except when she stood beside her 6 foot tall husband which suddenly made her feel a shrimp. Given the laurels she's received for her exquisite writing she probably once was 10 feet tall but has been bent over by the load. She's won two Ethel Wilson Fiction awards, three CBC Literary Awards, been nominated for the Governor General's Award, long listed for the Giller award and much more. Her novels History of Forgetting (Key Porter, 1999) and Sitting Practice (Thomas Allen, 2003) are published internationally. Pleased to Meet You (Thomas Allen 2006) is her latest collection of short stories.
Streaked brown hair, gold necklace, brown wool jacket and blue jeans, she was a beautiful young woman who read excerpts with captivating animation.
Sitting Practice is the story of the love of a nurse and a man who meet and then are in a car accident which causes her paraplegia and is solely his fault. The book is the story of how things fall out. She touchingly shared that as it recently went into print in the US she received a letter from a woman in a wheelchair that said it was the 'most authentic book' she'd read. To research the book Caroline had gone on a spinal chord website where 5 women answered her query going on to answer questionaires and become very intimate in their sharing over the next many months. As well she had a VGH spinal chord unit nurse friend and physiotherapist friend who allowed her to visit and listen. But what had really triggered her interest in the subject had been reading a book about women who had spinal chord injuries all experiencing that their sex lives improved.
This caused 84 year old Gordon Mumford ( to sit straight up and ask if this might help his sex life. Now I'd just read Mumford's 1940's Merchant Navy service memoirs , Dangerous Waters, and thought of him now years later regretting his quick wits and speed that had saved him in those dangerous years. Gordon had Jean Kay, Bernice Lever Margaret Hume, Caroline and the rest of us all laughing good heartedly.
And that seemed to lead right into Caroline telling of writing Children's Literature. Her son , now 10, became her inspiration when he was 5. Very Serious Clowns (published by Orca) her latest work about the children of clowns who run away from the circus, had won the Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan. She said it gave her the greatest pleasure because "Gr. 4 to 6's vote on their favourite book'. The Lt. Governor was there when she received the award. Describing her writing as 'emotional autobiography' she stated the 'feelings are true but most of the rest I make up". Having started as a short story writer, her first collection being, Bad Imaginings, she said she felt short stories were more like poetry where as novels were more like plays and dramatizations. She said she didn't write poetry but believed ,poetry was the highest form because the fewer the words the harder it is to write. On average writing 4 to 7 hours a day, she says she realized from reading with her son that he read to answer the question why and now each day she finds herself asking, "I wonder what's going to happen today". Presently Writer in Residence at the Vancouver Library she was truly an inspiration.
It was good to see Jane Hall again. She really is tiny. Reading her book Red Wall is such an eye opener to the underworld of Vancouver interspersed with her being mistaken as a girl guide when she went as a police woman house to house.
Ben Nuttall-Smith ( told me he'd been up till the wee hours of the morning finishing the last chapter of his latest book.
AnthonyDalton was back and I was glad to buy his book, "Alone Against the Arctic" depicting his open boat journey along the wild northwest coast of Alaska. It's just the sort of book I like to have on my boat to read in the comfort of a cozy summer harbour.
The message I took away from tonight's meeting was "climax". Not what it might seem to some given the robustness of the meeting. In answer to my question about the complexity of novel writing Caroline Adderson had said it was good to have some idea of the 'climax' and that the story should 'aim there'. By golly that's genius. The dog vomit on my hard drive suddenly became rich manure. With that lion tamer's whip I'm ready to begin herding the tabby housecats of my writing. I love the CAA even if it means associating with the likes of writers.

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