I’m a writer, not a talker

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A couple of weeks ago I was filled with a mixture of excitement and dread.

Excitement that I’d be speaking at the Books & Breakfast Event at the Sheraton in Montreal. And dread that I’d be speaking at the Books & Breakfast Event at the Sheraton in Montreal.

The Books & Breakfast series, organized by Paragraphe Bookstore in Montreal and co-sponsored by the Montreal Gazette, raises funds to support literacy. Those who attend are served a hot breakfast in a hotel ballroom and then have a chance to listen to several authors discuss their most recent book and buy a signed copy afterwards.

As one of the guest authors, I admit, the thought of having to stand on a stage in front of a podium and microphone in a large hotel room filled with 150 plus people was more than just a bit intimidating.

At least it was for me.

But I’m learning that not every writer hates the thought of public speaking. Some not only enjoy it, but many are also excellent performers when it comes to sharing or discussing their work in front of a large crowd.

Of course, my turn at the podium had to follow two very accomplished and established writers, including the winner of the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, David Gilmour.

I had worried I’d be so consumed with nervousness just before having to make my own presentation that I wouldn’t be able to really appreciate the writers who spoke before me, but I was wrong. David Gilmour is not only an incredible writer, he also happens to be really funny and had me laughing out loud, like the rest of the room.

Up next was David A. Wilson, another hugely accomplished writer whose most recent book is a second volume on Thomas D’Arcy McGee. He ended his 15 minutes at the podium with a hauntingly beautiful piece he played on the flute.

It hadn’t escaped my notice, as I approached the podium with my type written notes clutched in my sweaty hands, that neither of them had needed any notes or cue cards, either. Fortunately it was a friendly and receptive crowd that listened as I spoke about how my book came about.

Even if I didn’t have anything funny to say or musical talents to share.

 

An open letter to the people of Point St. Charles

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After this review of my book recently appeared in the Montreal Gazette, I understand that a lot of people from the Point are upset with me. And quite frankly, I don’t blame them. If I believed every word in that review, I’d probably be deeply offended as well.

I mean, how could they know that the book is written in the voice of an eight-year-old child, with that child’s limited point of view, ending when that child is still only a teenager in high school? Since they haven’t, you know, actually read the book?

Okay, maybe I would have actually read the book first before threatening to pull my support from Saint Columba House, a non-profit organization in the Point which has been dedicated to making an enormous difference in the lives of countless families for decades now, if they continue to allow my book launch to happen there as planned for November 4th.

But I also understand that feelings can run deep when it comes to many of us who grew up (and still live) in Point St. Charles.

Yet as I recently said during an interview with a writer from Maisonneuve magazine, if I had to grow up poor anywhere, the Point was the best place.  I mean, where else could you have watched a hockey game while walking home, as I often did as a kid, on all of those small TVs perched on chairs on the sidewalks?

I think we all know that terrible things can happen to people no matter where they live. And as I believe I made clear in my book, the ‘enemy’ isn’t Point St. Charles. Of course it isn’t. The enemy is poverty, and what happens when people are powerless, lack hope, and have no voice.

Of course, not everyone growing up in Point St Charles in the 60s and early 70s felt powerless, lacked hope, or were filled with shame over the secrets they were forced to keep as a child. And if my adult self could go back in time, I would tell my eight-year-old self that yes, some people in the Point actually were eating oranges. But that’s the funny thing with children, they believe that what they live is a mirror of the rest of the world. As adults, we know that about kids. I figure everyone who reads my book will also figure that out, too.

I expect, and have always expected, that not everyone will like, agree with, or approve of my book. I’ve never claimed, nor am I promising now, that no one will be offended by what I have to say. But what I have also always been clear about, including in the book, is that this is only one person’s story, and a very personal one at that. I would never presume to speak for anyone else.