This is the little park at which I stopped to take photos on my way to this year’s Wild Writers Festival. I was running late, due to a croupy son, and half a night spent lying beside him listening to his breathing, and then accidentally sleeping later than expected in the quiet morning house. “Why didn’t you wake me up?” I said to Kevin, as if it were his fault, and he should have been my alarm clock. He whirled me a breakfast shake, and made coffee while I tried to look presentable and gathered my supplies.
The night before I’d been at a book club. Actually, it’s been a busy week, and all the nights seem to have been late ones, with class prep on Wednesday, then class on Thursday, then soccer and running and a book club on Friday, and then the croup. I chugged the shake, slapped on mascara, and took the coffee to go.
But I stopped to take photos.
This was my destination, yesterday morning: the CIGI building in uptown Waterloo, where the Wild Writers Festival was being held; a six-minute walk from home. In some ways, it’s convenient to attend a festival in one’s hometown: the six-minute travel time, for example. But in other ways, it can be harder to leave it all behind and dive in. I knew, six minutes away, Kevin was stuck with two soccer coaching gigs, a sick kid who needed to be taken to a walk-in clinic, and a swim kid to send off to a meet.
But there’s no point in being somewhere if your mind is somewhere else. So I arrived, and dove in.
I sat in on a publishing panel that featured my Canadian editor, Janice Zawerbny. And then it was my turn to lead a panel titled “From literary magazines to small press success,” though I’m not sure we covered the topic, exactly. My four fabulous panelists were Claire Tacon, Colette Maitland, Nancy Jo Cullen, and Elisabeth de Mariaffi, and part of the pleasure of being moderator was getting to know them all, through their writing, in conversation at the panel event, and then less formally afterward, when we were all feeling more relaxed, perhaps even giddy. From here on in, I will hug every moderator of every panel I ever sit on, because oh boy, moderating takes far more effort than I’d previously appreciated. The hour and a half flew, however, which seemed like a good thing.
Then it was on to lunch, which I ate in the green room, catching up with Miranda Hill, who I met while sitting with her on several panels at writers festivals last year. After lunch, I sat in on her panel on MFA programs, which was really fascinating, especially given that I’m dipping my toe in the teaching of creative writing for the first time right now, and still trying to figure out the value of that enterprise — not so much for me, as teacher, but for my students. The session ended movingly with all three panelists (Leesa Deen and Helen Humphreys, along with Miranda) remembering the work of Bronwen Wallace, a Canadian writer who died too soon. It was an unexpectedly moving moment.
It was then nearly 3 o’clock, and I felt, guiltily, that I should go home and relieve Kevin. He’d been texting me updates throughout the day. I was in the green room, gathering my stuff, when I heard that something exciting and romantic was going to happen at the poetry panel, the last session of the afternoon. And then I knew I had to stay.
The panel was terrific: Bruce Taylor, Amanda Jernigan, Kerry-Lee Powell (whose collection The Wreckage I had to buy after hearing her read), and George Murray. And at the very end, as rumour had promised, George Murray read a poem to us all, that was clearly meant for his girlfriend, Elisabeth de Mariaffi, who was sitting in the front row. It was called “The Proposal.” And then he proposed.
It can’t get more wild than that, really, can it?
Then I went home, practically flying. There’s more, but I’m out of time because today I’m taking the child to her swim meet. Which isn’t wild, but shall be done.