Wednesday, July 22, 2009

CAA - Writing Circle

CAA – Writers Circle Summer Social Event

When I arrived the writers were mellow with margaritas at the Dockside Café on Granville Island. It was the kind of summer day Ernest Hemingway might describe before his character caught a fish or a bullet. Idyllic in a pre 2010 Olympics Vancouver way.

“Will there be life after the Olympics,” asked Judith, our American Idol dodger.

“You’re looking at what is mostly post Expo,” responded Perry pointing to all the development of Granville Island, the delightful squares, robust shops, and richly decored restaurants.

While we’d really gathered to talk about Margaret behind her back the theme that developed seemed to be education. Cathy astounded us by sharing childhood experiences of one room school houses. Her school year had to end early so the kids could join in planting and started late after harvest. Cathy, a sophisticated urban poet, doesn’t easily bring to mind the share croppers of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden or Margaret Lawrence’s farming characters. Too much Chanel and the Devil Wears Prada about her.

Meanwhile Judith who taught school and university, mostly special needs, described the ‘hovering’ parents of a gifted child with finger wiggling hands waving about her head, an unforgettable image that had us all laughing. “I told these parents that their grade 6 daughter was functioning at a Gr.12 level in most subjects but she was only at the Gr. 7 level in mathematics. I reassured her that whereas the other subjects were mostly acquired, math was more innate and unless a person had a specific gift in that regard it usually did develop more slowly than the other skills in gifted children. The next day, the parents phoned to re assure me that they now had found a math tutor for their daughter.”

Perry, a genius with words, confessed to getting a “C” in school the year she remembered having the most fun. Judith describing utter exasperation with a student whose reply “I don’t know,” followed her own outburst, “Whatever possessed you to do that!” Laura, an expert on children, and great fan of writer Susan Juby, asked, “ Was she a teen ager?”

“Gr. 7,” replied Judith.

“That explains it. They really don’t know why things happen at that age.”

Perry who creates alternative universe’s in her writing laughed, saying, “that’s true, when you’re a teen ager things just happen. You don’t connect your own part in cause and effect.”

I shared how the government had built windowless schools in Winnipeg to save on heating only to have increasing children go psychotic and need to be transferred to the many windowed pediatric hospital. Labelling discussion followed with Judith sharing the various ‘buzz word’ terms that she’d watched administration go through in her years of teaching and administration.

“Mental retardation. Learning disability. And today’s it’s Aspbergers . If you took all the kids with the different labels and put them together I’d guarantee they’ d all look just about the same. We just wanted services to match the needs of the kids and the administration was forever thwarting teacher and parents best efforts.”

“It’s politically in correct to use the term “mental retardation” in some circles.” I said.

“That was the position of most the parents organizations but in the States when I taught to get the kids grants you had to fill out the government’s form as ‘mental retardation’. We used to say that mental retardation had been resolved everywhere but in the government.’

Entres and salads followed. Beautiful people sat down and left from tables around us. Conversation flowed from education to government to personal tales of frustration and sorrow and moments of elevation outside the mundane.

We were surprisingly well behaved for a group of writer’s. One would have thought from our impeccable table manner that we wrote only non fiction. No one but ourselves knew we also wrote pot boilers in exotic climes, police chases, alien abduction and running gunfights in the streets. Admittedly I’d stood on many tables in my youth reciting poetry in the midst of bar room brawls. It just didn’t seem to be the thing to do at the laid back west coast Dockside Café. I suspected though that were I to hobble up onto the table to belt out poetry I would have been surrounded with stiff competition. I imagine Judith would use her American knee to rise to any such challenge.

Cathy quietly admitted she was writing a travel piece. Judith’s characters remained on the run from the Egyptian police in WWII. I’d just had another medical story accepted by the Medical Post while Perry had made another body holy in her latest detective novel. Laura, a fabulous closet writer, confessed shyly to writing a bit of romance .

“I just love to read all of your writing, “ she said as we each paid our bill and thanked Perry for organizing this break from the solitude of writing. We all couldn’t wait to tell Margaret what a good time she’d missed . The sun was prematurely setting over English Bay. Where had the time gone!

No comments: