I had a wonderful time at the Ottawa Writers’ Festival! I was on a YA book panel “Hiding In Plain Sight” with Charles de Lint and Gary Blackwood. I’ve long loved Charles de Lint’s books, so it was lovely to spend time with him and his partner MaryAnn, and to find I really liked them both as people, and I also really liked Gary Blackwood. Most children’s and YA writers that I’ve met have been lovely people who help other writers.
Neil, the organizer of the Writers’ Festival, was kind enough to pick me up at the train station and drop me off at the hotel, and then pick me and Gary up a few hours later for a meal at Bridgehead Coffee House (an independent coffee house chain in Ottawa selling fair-trade coffee who were one of the sponsors of the festival), and later a quick chat with all three of us writers before our talk.
I so enjoyed talking with Charles de Lint, MaryAnn Haris (his partner), and Gary Blackwood beforehand! It was nice to connect with them–all kind, good people. When we went out for our talk, there was a large crowd! Many people from Ottawa, and some from other regions like Kingston–and even two women who traveled in from Boston to see us! Wow!
I always get anxious, even scared before public speaking–I think part of it is my trauma past (my abusers used to tell me they’d kill me if I talked, so I used to write instead of speak), part of it is that I’m open and honest about my past–it’s part of what I write, and I also want people to know that they’re not alone, part of it is being an introvert, so it can be overwhelming, part of it is being a bit shy, and part of it is perhaps just being a writer and a creative person.
My hands shook early on in the talk–thank goodness we had little mikes at our faces, and I didn’t have to hold one! Though I like talking about my books, so I could talk a bit about each–Scars (Governor General Literary Award finalist), Hunted (Monica Hughes Award finalist), Stained, and even Parallel Visions. And I grew calmer and felt better, especially with such lovely audience response. I even had people clapping for me after my first introductory mini talk, which surprised me but also felt lovely (especially later when I wasn’t so scared ), and I also really liked that people in the audience responded verbally to me and to us all. I grew more and more comfortable as it became a real conversation between Neil, the moderator, and Charles and Gary and me. We had some opinions that differed and some opinions that were the same or very similar, but I think we all came from our own experiences and truths, which is especially true as writers. I don’t think there’s one way to write or edit. We all have ways that work best for us.
Here the three of us are (from left to right): Gary Blackwood, me, Charles de Lint. MaryAnn Harris, partner to Charles de Lint, took the photo at the end of our panel. And I think there’s more photos to come from other people, too.
The audience was really responsive and interested in the talk–I could *feel* them listening–and they asked great questions. And then so many of them bought our books and came to get them signed, which I really appreciated. I also enjoyed talking with the readers, hearing the things they had to say and the ways they related–and it was lovely to hear from many of them that they really appreciated the things I’d said and felt I was brave or strong or compassionate.
I already had two of Charles’ books (Under My Skin and The Blue Girl, both of which I highly recommend!) that were on the table for sale by Kaleidoscope Kids Bookstore, but I didn’t have Gary’s, so I bought to read later. I love good YA books! And I was so happy to see Kaleidoscope selling my book Hunted, and they graciously sold some copies of Scars that I brought in (since WestSide Books closed the company, it’s much harder to get copies of Scars).
I was so disappointed to have to miss Charles de Lint’s writing workshop–how I wish I could have sat in for that!–but it was a long train ride home, and I had to get back.
I enjoyed myself so much at the Ottawa Writers’ Festival–especially because of the people. I get very tired after author events, though, so it was nice to come home to my little dog Petal, who was ecstatic to see me (grinning) just as I was to see her. My lovely neighbor who’d been taking care of her said that she’d had a lot of fun with Petal, and she laughed to see Petal leaping so excitedly around because I’d come home. And then she slipped me a bar of dark chocolate! What a sweetheart. I was so tired I was almost swaying on my feet.
And then I discovered that Charles de Lint did a post about our panel, and bought Scars! (beaming) That felt so good to hear!
And then I read a post that a pre-published YA author wrote about our panel–and she really enjoyed my talk, mentioned a lot of the things I said in the panel, and is going to read and review Scars! (beaming) That also felt good to read. I hope she likes Scars so much that she also searches out Hunted and Stained and Parallel Visions. I always hope for that with my readers. (smiling) It’s what I do when I love an author’s books–I go out and find a bunch of their others.
It was a lovely, satisfying panel and trip to the Ottawa Writers’ Festival. I’m so glad they did a YA panel this year!
You can see a bunch more of the event via YA Now here.
…I forgot to mention, because I only just opened my suitcase (heh) that they also gave us presenters some lovely swag: a WritersFestival backpack, a hardcover blank journal to write in and a pen (what a nice touch), a seed to plant an evergreen tree (lovely!), and a copy of their Writers Festival Review. What a nice touch!