Wednesday, October 13, 2010

cabot trail writers' festival (october 1-3)

Every week I come to the blog posting time feeling a number of things. One is excitement, that jazzed up feeling of getting ready to create, of feeling good about creating. Inspired to present my life and my past week, to be inspired by it. The other is a nervousness, somewhat similar to when I write creatively in other ways or paint or make art (although these days I haven't made much art). The difference is that with this creation, once I click on "publish," it's out there for the world to see. That makes me want to spend more time refining it, reading it over, checking it to make sure it's exactly how I want it to be. The impression I want to make (or think at the time that I'm making). And most of the time I don't actually have the time for this kind of revision. In fact, sometimes I even write while at work, while standing at the front desk computer, with the phone ringing and customers coming in and out. Not the best way to focus!

So here we are again. The eve of a Thursday. I'm at the library - although not working! sitting at a computer in the CAP site - thinking that perhaps it's a good idea to invest some downtime into a blog post, so I don't feel rushed and frustrated about it. It's a quiet evening in Baddeck, although there are still tourists around. It's the middle of Celtic Colours week - a 10-day festival celebrating Cape Breton celtic music, and the various offshoots of culture. Like dance, Gaelic, story-telling.

Last weekend, not the Thanksgiving one but the weekend before, I attended the second annual Cabot Trail Writers' Festival, held in North River. I used to spend summers in North River - from 2002 all the way to 2006. I could say more about my time there - and what it was like to go back there - but first let's get started on the photos.

Above: On the way to North River, stopped for construction. This is the season for road-building, it seems. They're re-doing a big stretch of the Cabot Trail on the way to North River, as well as the road between the village of Baddeck and my house. Yes, it's a pain in the butt, and yes, I was late when I took this photo, but at the same time it's fun to watch the work being done, and feel the new, smoother road beneath your tires.

This is the second floor at Kathy and Donald's, the house where I used to board. The feet are all mine.

So I got to North River that Saturday morning and spent the day in workshops with the likes of Michael Crummey and Sheree Fitch. It was really good to sit with other writers and talk about writing. About the guts of it, the mechanics of how it is done. Although, I'll admit, it was scary and kind of intense, too. Mainly because I was tired - and social situations always take a lot out of me. And because it was one of those things where you want to get as much as you possibly can out of it - meet as many folks, learn as many tricks. Which, is tiring.

That evening, after a brief nap and meal back at Kathy and Donald's, I went back to the North River hall. A local playwright had adapted an Alastair MacLeod short story into a cross between a dramatic reading and a play. The above photo is the empty stage waiting for players. And some empty chairs both in the audience and onstage.

And after the play? Music, of course! Festival attendees and local people talked to one another while Rocky Shore played traditional tunes. It's funny how photos are quiet - but the scene when this photo was taken was quite loud!

Up on the stage a little bookstore was set up. A local potter made these little plates.

I stood on the stage to take this photo. I love that my friends Ruth and Aaron are dancing in the background.
The next morning - Sunday. I woke tired, but determined to take in the last of the festival. I left the car at Kathy and Donald's and walked to the hall, the same walk I used to do every day to work in the pottery shop. This is the view from the North River Bridge, looking north.

And this is what you see when you walk across the bridge, turn left onto the Oregon Road, and walk up the hill, turn around and look back.

Then, from the same spot, you look up the road. There is the pottery shop where I worked for six summers! It is in an old schoolhouse, and the building is over 100 years old. Just behind the pottery shop and out of view of this photo is the small community hall which served as the hub of the festival.

That morning we gathered for a panel of the three featured authors. From left: Marq de Villiers, Sheree Fitch, and Michael Crummey. Behind them is the stage with the bookstore. I love how colorful Sheree is!

Another shot of the writers who make a living from their work. (And of whom I am therefore in awe.) That's Frank MacDonald of Inverness, himself a published author, on the right, acting as panel moderator.

On the walk home to Kathy and Donald's, I walked slowly. Letting my brain relax, my legs and arms move. Checking out the beautiful weeds, plants going to seed in the ditches. Like this one.

Kathy's barn. The low mountains beyond. Some colour coming into the trees already. This view is etched into my heart like a wood carving, from six summers of walking by it. Looking out over it.

Kathy's barn as viewed through her gate. K is for Kerr. Pronounced like "car". Can you see the horse between the letter K and the barn? She's brown and small and fades into the background.

And then. Oh, and then. This week, I started to read the copy of Galore I had bought at the bookstore.

A little piece of the Rock for me - and it's the kind of book that sucks you in, holds you hostage. A true "tale". A yarn, spun around rocks and bays and ice floes and people. Tied to your finger. Marvellous, marvellous. A saga - and goodness knows I love a good saga! A Newfoundland outport called Paradise Deep, and its people, its plants and animals, its mystery and magic. This novel is seriously good stuff - you don't even really notice you're reading, your eyes are following words but you're in the story. Man, he is good.

(Not to mention, it has lovely typography.)

Going to the Writers' Festival - and reading the work of someone who is both a Canadian bestselling author and also a down-to-earth person I met and did a workshop with - show me that like yoga, like gardening, like anything you want to learn how to do better, what it comes down to is your daily practice. It's not necessarily a stroke of genius you have one day and then you suddenly spit out a bestselling book. It's putting yourself where your dreams are. Getting out of bed in the morning and showing up to events. Workshops. And practicing. Practicing. Over and over. Beginning again every day.

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