Yesterday morning, Kerry Clare and I set off for the Eden Mills Writers Festival, to listen to the readings, buy the books, be short-listed for the Eden Mills Literary Contest (KC's story "Stillborn Friends") and to read at the Mill (RR's story "ContEd"). It didn't start to rain until we were at the rental car place, and it didn't start to pour until we hit the 401. I'm actually a fine driver (far better than you'd think if you know me socially, I'd say) but the 401 becomes whitewater in a downpour, and I am not that much *better* than fine. At least white-knuckling the highway took my mind off my terror about doing the reading.
But we didn't die under the wheels of a semi, and instead arrived in the still-pouring downpour, and sloshed into the, you guessed it, outdoor festival venue. By the time I'd signed in, it was pretty close to my cue to read, but there was of course still time to sneak by the Biblioasis tent and see, for the first time ever, my book.
I knew what it looked like, since I spent three years writing the thing and saw every version of it, and the cover mock-ups, the advanced reading copies, etc. I knew it would be there, since Dan (Wells, Biblioasis publisher) had promised to bring copies. It really should've been a zero-suspense moment, but, um, it was absolutely thrilling. There was *Once*, out in the world, separate from me and all the people who have been working so hard on it--a big stack, looking pretty much perfect, and ready to be taken away and read. Something about the thought that the book is now fully self-contained, that anyone, strangers can read it if they feel like it, is what really hit me at that moment, I think.
Dan put a copy in my hands and hugged me and a photographer took my picture, and someone asked me to sign a copy, and my mentor Leon Rooke suddenly appeared to congratulate me, and I hugged him, and hugged Kerry, and somehow got out from under my umbrella and got wet...
I think, once in a while, something can be exactly as good as you dreamt it would be.
And then I went down to the Mill, which is a lovely setting to read in. There is a hill facing the water, a natural amphitheatre looking out across a tiny inlet to another spit of land where the stage-tent and microphones were set up. Of course, with the downpour ever increasing, all that surrounding water seemed a bit much, and I was rather alarmed crossing the slick-boarded bridge to the stage. But fellow readers Elspeth Cameron and David Chariandy were spell-binding enough to make me forget all the splashing and chill under my umbrella. Almost more amazing than anything was the fact that people stayed to hear me, the last reader. After 40 minutes in the deluge, when I walked to to the podium, perhaps 50 or 60 soggy people peered at me through the curtain of water, waiting patiently to hear what I had to say.
And I didn't die under the wheels of a semi! Or fall into the water, or make any egregious stumbles in my reading. It was probably the most audible reading I've ever given--I'm getting louder! And...and...I read it out of the actual book! Hooray!
Whew. It was all gleeful after that. Stars of the afternoon included Mariko Tamaki, Paul Quarrington, Shari Lapena, Laurence Hill and, of course, Leon Rooke. Another star: the sun! It came out and was lovely warm for most of the afternoonn. My clothes got dry, even my feet. And we were fed dinner in the community centre, served by adorable children so eager in their work that they would sometimes watch you take the final bite of your salad with their hands on the rim of the plate. Hilarious!
And then, after getting briefly stuck in the mud of the parking area, we drove home. I was very very tired and over-stimulated, a state in which it is my preference to drive 20 kilometres under the speed limit. And it is a testament to Kerry Clare's truly wonderful spirit that she neither attempted to decapitate me with one of our Eden Mills Mix cds (which would've been a tragic loss of both me and music), nor closed her eyes and let me get away with disrupting traffic. And we didn't die under the wheels of a semi, or even ding the rental car, thanks mainly to Kerry's gentle guidance, and then we were home.
I am very lucky in my friends, and in many things.
My best friend Leslie said / oh she's just being Miley