However, the time has come. From my first day to my last, my WIR tenure has been a joy, filled with supportive colleagues; committed emerging writers, rewarding community events and some very exciting special projects.
Warren James and I had a great time working together. Under Warren’s gentle supervision, I visited many branch libraries. Without exception I was impressed with how creatively and effectively each of these very different libraries meets the needs of its community. From the time, I could barely see over the desk of the librarian at Earlscourt Public Library to the present, I’ve always known librarians are very special people., and my visits to the branches proved how right I’ve been to hold librarians in such esteem.
And there were community events. I did two afternoon sessions with the Lifelong Learning writers’ groups. So much interest and so much fun. The Lifelong Learning Centre is a great advertisement for the benefits of stretching mental muscles and meeting the possibilities of every day with excitement. Many of the attendees at my LLC sessions came to see me later for one-on-one meetings about their work, and I was struck by their talent and their determination to write well.
Together, Warren and I planned and executed (with panache) three very different events at Central Library. The first on the very frosty, blizzardy Wednesday night before Valentine’s Day was called either Hot Reads For a Cold Night or 50 Shades of Erotica (depending upon who you talked to). Before the evening, we had an online list of questions about erotic literature and readers were invited to comment (if they wanted to) on the first piece of literature that made their loins twitch. That was a lot of fun, and the evening when we gathered to discuss Erotica was lively. And – huzzah–there were prizes from Love Plus for those who were still contemplating the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for their beloved.
The Banned Books Café engendered some lively conversation with the larger community. I did an hour long radio appearance on Community Radio talking about the subject and then Stefani Langenegger and I did an open-line show on CBC where we asked the question “Is there ever justification for banning a book.” Stef and I were both impressed by the thoughtfulness of the responses we got from callers. Overwhelmingly, the conclusion was that, with the exception of hate literature which is banned by law, books should not be banned.
We had celebrity readers for our Banned Books Café: Stefani Langenegger from CBC Radio read from Alice Munro, Kelly Handerek of U. of R. theatre Department read Walt Whitman, Jennifer Campeau MLA, read a banned childrens’ book and Dean Mike Sinclair of St. Paul’s Cathedral read from Huckleberry Finn. We had a good crowd and again the conversation was lively and respectful.
The Readers Summit in April was the RPL’s first Readers Summit, but it will be not be the last. We started the weekend Thursday night with Dr. James Daschuk reading from his critically acclaimed book Clearing the Plains. Friday night Yann Martel delivered the keynote – a smart and provocative discussion of politicians and reading that centred on his book Letter To a Prime Minister. Saturday morning Dianne Warren talked about the sources she drew from for her G-G award winning novel, Cool Water. Her talk was very informal and a great deal of fun. Alice Kuipers, wearing a gorgeous pair of hand-tooled western boots, sat on the desk and talked about how she handled massive rejections from publishers before hitting her stride with her very successful YA and children’s books. She truly was an inspiration to all writers who’ve experienced the stomach punch of a rejection letter from a publisher. To finish the afternoon Yann Martel talked about the difficulties of finding a fresh way to discuss the Holocaust, a task he undertook in his novel Beatrice and Virgil.
On Sunday, Annette Bower read from her romance novel A Woman of Substance and gave a very frank and helpful talk about how to get published. I finished off the Summit by reading a scene about betrayal from my upcoming novel 12 Rose Street, and having a very moving Q&A with the audience about the theme of betrayal and forgiveness. All in all it was a great weekend.
When I was interviewed for the WIR job, I said that I believed my most significant task as WIR would be to talk to emerging writers about their work. I’ve been a WIR at two other libraries. In both the rule was that each writer could have only one interview. The RPL allows writers to come as often as the WIR has free time, so in addition to having some great one time only interviews with writers, I’ve had the privilege of watching writers bring along their writing by using some of the suggestions we’ve arrived at jointly. I have learned a great deal from the people who’ve come through my door and I am grateful beyond measure for the chance to get to know them.
And now – finally—my thanks to you all for making me feel so welcome and so much a part of the library. Thank you, Andree for being there. Thank you, IT guys for putting up with me. Phil, thank you for making sure I was safe every Wednesday night. Tammy, thank you for always having a smile when I came to pick up my manuscripts. Josie, Ivy and Alice, thank you for being the best neighbours any WIR could wish for. Thank you, Navee for always finding time for a quick but warm chat.
I will miss you all, but I’m hanging onto that old Dr. Seuss line: Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”