Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Canadian Author's Association - West Coast Branch - March 9, 2011

I stepped out of my ORDINARY WORLD into the Art Alliance Building on Howe Street.  The Canadian Author's Association meeting is always a CALL TO ADVENTURE. I am RELUCTANT to join the creativity and genius, thinking I'd rather go home to watch another television episode of CBC's Insecurity or" barf out anotherblog" (as Perry Wilson so aptly describes it). But no ! (sorry Patrick for laughing at my own jokes, and Ed) But No!!!!.  I REFUSE THE CALL!  But I am encouraged by my MENTORS.

Bob  (ROBERT W. MACKAY)  branch president,  has a new book, "Soldier of the Horse" published by Touchwood.  I have to get a copy  before it's sold out.  I am already tasked to get   another copy of Ben Nuttall Smith's, new historical novel, Blood, Feather's and Holy Men too.  Perry Wilson has had her book "Closing the Circle" just released  through Amazon. At least  I can download a Kindle copy. Bernice Lever has had more poetry published.  Jean Kay and Margaret Hume are there.  They're all MENTORS. I was hardly through the door before I was discussing Churchill guide Mike Macri with Anthony Dalton, the president of CAA. I'd just finished his fascinatingly book called, Polar Bears.  I think I recognised, from his detailed descriptions and tales, the very Polar Bear that chased me when I was in Churchill"!"
Patrick Taylor, An Irish Country Doctor, arrived, only to be thronged.  He shared that 50,000 copies of one of his many books had just been printed from the old draft galley without maps and all the typos.  With characteristic wit and humor he described his news  "mixed".
I was at last  in a SPECIAL WORLD.  Worries and cares about'reality' simply slipped away.  "Characters" were all around me.  Genius and entertainment. Writers, authors, poets. The whole circus of story tellers.  A barb here and an eulogy there. Reparte coupled with hyphen, colon and question mark.  Discussions about exlamation marks, for God's sake! The English language sparred with French. Norwegian popped out of somewhere.  A syllable danced with a paragraph.  Hyperbole silenced the period.

Then Ed Griffin was introduced by Perry Wilson.

Ed was a Roman Catholic priest who marched in Selma with Martin Luther King.  Leaving the clergy he married, had 2 children and was a councillman in Wisconsin for years before coming to Canada. He had found creative writing at 47 and began teaching creative writing in jails.  Today he is the writer in residence at the Newton Cultural Centre in Surrey, where he began the Surrey International Writers Conference.   As a volunteer he teaches creative writing in Matsqui prison.  His own books include novels, Prisoners of Williwaw and Veto.  Dystopia written by Ed ,with former prisoner and writing class attendee Mike Oulton tells of the jail experience from inside and outside writer's perspective. It was published 2007 by Trafford Publishing.
Ed's talk was first about the Writer's Journey taken from the Christopher Vogler book of the Mythic Structure for Writer's.  Ed called it the Hero's Journey and shared how he started a book club at the institution and the prisoners, now reading Satannic Verses had just finished Joseph Campbell's , Power of Myth. In his talk he shared Jean Bryant's seven laws of writing which include 'write is an active verb. Thinking is not writing. Creativity follows passion. Originality equals vulnerability. Write for fun. Pleasure precedes profit. Write alot" and more.
I struggle with plot . Ed shared how  the 12 steps of the Hero's journey served to order plot.  . This structure could be found everywhere. It was just good story telling. Describing it in movies like Star Wars and Wizard of Oz we learned that  Margaret Hume knew a surprising amount about the Yellow Brick Road.
Ed went on to talk about the ORDEAL of prisons and the experience of the waste and failure of the system. He offered instead the alternative of  "restorative justice", describing how victim assistance and restitution worked.
The REWARD  was amazing in the question and answer period that followed. Among the writers present there were a former parole officer, a prison guard, a corrections officer and a lawyer.  I was surprised they admitted this after Ed had described the "US and Them" mentality that so permeated the prison system.   Being writers we had committed every criminal act in our minds so naturally identified with  the "US" and began breaking down chairs to make Shivs to attack "Them." Soon everyone was loudly dragging pens back and forth,  back and forth, across our computer keyboards. We were plotting  riot when Ed dragged us BACK to the ORDINARY WORLD , describing  the TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE of several prisoners who had taken his classes.
One is now a writer for the newspaper, The Province, having contributed a piece called "writing changed my life".Now he has the  regular column called the Incarcerated Inkwell.  Ed described how art and faith had helped the DEATH of the criminal past and lead to a RESURRECTION of self for so many.

He read from Dystopia. We all heard the rich creativity of an author whose sole former outlet of expression had been crime. It was a moving night.

By the end of evening we'd all  experienced the ELIXIR of Ed's enthusiasm and committment to writing.

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